Nick Smyth in Yeah, Okay, But Still:
On Christmas Eve, millions upon millions of Americans sat down to watch A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, just as they did in 2009, 2008 and so on back into the decades. They found themselves captivated; weeping and laughing, alternating between righteous anger and warm-hearted approval. Many walked away from their television screens with a deep sense of moral strength, knowing in their hearts that that an insatiable lust for money will destroy a person and his community, certain beyond a doubt that greedy, irresponsible lending practices are the scourge of individuals and societies alike.
Hang on…“Insatiable lust for money?” “Greedy, irresponsible lending practices?” Haven’t those phrases been in the headlines recently?
In recent years, many have argued that the narrative arts—theatre, film and literature—are a great boon to the development of an ethical personality. Martha Nussbaum is perhaps the most respected advocate of this basic kind of position, arguing (in “Love’s Knowledge”) that to read a novel just is to exercise our capacity for ethical judgment. Michael DePaul summarizes this idea when he suggests that literature can “supply the kind of experience needed to develop a person’s faculty of moral judgment”. It has been said that a heartfelt engagement with those arts expands our imaginative horizons, engages our emotions of sympathy, and allows us to see the world through other eyes. We project ourselves into the lives of others, and this broadening of perspective makes us more sensitive and empathic.