In the world today, medical technology is so advanced that a terminally ill patient can be kept alive for months or even years – sometimes against the will of the patient. When did suicide become a sin, and who decided that it was? “Opinion polls consistently show a majority of people professing all varieties of faiths support a change in the law for voluntary euthanasia. Even amongst Roman Catholics, more people support euthanasia than oppose (a poll in Scotland showed over 50% support), in spite of the church’s opposition” (Religion and the Right to Die 1). And still in the United States assisted suicide is illegal in all but one state, Oregon.
“Official church policies usually oppose euthanasia. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single funder opposed to euthanasia. It invests more money in its fight against euthanasia than all the combined resources of right to die societies around the world many times over” (R
Pragmatic Literary Criticism
Pragmatic Literary Criticism
Pragmatic criticism is concerned, first and foremost, with the ethical impact any literary text has upon an audience. Regardless of art’s other merits or failings, the primary responsibility or function of art is social in nature. Assessing, fulfilling, and shaping the needs, wants, and desires of an audience should be the first task of an artist. Art does not exist in isolation; it is a potent tool for individual as well as communal change. Though pragmatic critics believe that art houses the potential for massive societal transformation, art is conspicuously ambivalent in its ability to promote good or evil. The critical project of pragmatic criticism is to establish a moral standard of quality for art. By establishing artistic boundaries based upon moral/ethical guidelines, art which enriches and entertains, inspires and instructs a reader with knowledge of truth and goodness will be preserved and celebrated, and art which does not will be judged inferior, cautioned against, and (if necessary) destroyed. Moral outrage as well as logical argument have been the motivating forces behind pragmatic criticism throughout history. The tension created between this emotional and intellectual reaction to literature has created a wealth of criticism with varying degrees of success. Ironically, much like art’s capacity to inspire diligence or decadence in a reader, pragmatic criticism encompasses both redemptive and destructive qualities.
Plato provides a foundational and absolute argument for pragmatic criticism. Excluding poetry from his ideal Republic, Plato attempts to completely undermine the power and authority of art. He justifies his position by claiming that “the power which poetry has of harming even the good (and there are very few who are not harmed) is surely an awful thing” (28). Because artists claim their imitations can speak to the true nature of things, circumventing the need for serious, calmly considered intellectual inquiry, art should not be pursued as a valuable endeavor. Art widens the gap between truth and the world of appearances, ironically by claiming to breach it. The artist promotes false images of truth and goodness by appealing to basic human passions, indulging “the irrational nature which has no discernment of greater and less, but thinks the same thing at one time great and at another small” (27). Art manufactures moral ambiguity, and to Plato this is unacceptable. Because it is deceptive and essentially superficial, all art must be controlled and delegitmized for all time.