From Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments:

A trophy of the same kind, composed of the instruments of surgery, of dissecting and amputation-knives, of saws for cutting the bones, of trepanning instruments, etc. would be absurd and shocking. Instruments of surgery, however, are always more finely polished, and generally more nicely adapted to the purposes for which they are intended... The remote effects of them too, the health of the patient, is agreeable; yet as the immediate effect of them is pain and suffering, the sight of them always displeases us. Instruments of war are agreeable, though their immediate effect may seem to be in the same manner pain and suffering. But then it is the pain and suffering of our enemies, with whom we have no sympathy.
Instruments of war are agreeable and instruments surgery are disagreeable. This kind of thinking is, as Smith points out, backward, and it is the job of the critic to point out these kinds of inconsistencies or contradictions in an our culture/thinking/art. Why? Because they expose the ideological distortion in our culture/thinking/art. Ideology is not about reality but interests related to social forms of power. The reality in the case of arms and surgery tools is the opposite of the ideology: we should find beauty (and hang on our walls) instruments that assist life, prevent death, fix what is broken in us.
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  • McMorgan

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