Skip to main content

Are you an immoral accomplice? Music Edition

When are we morally innocent bystanders and when are we immoral accomplices?  THE QUESTION is going to raise several scenarios to provoke your moral intuitions.  In this edition, we will focus on our behavior as mere listeners and consumers of music with degrading, violent, and hateful lyrics.  Many of us listen to such music, purchase such music, and even sing along.  Are we part of the problem or are we innocent bystanders?  Share your thoughts in this blog or on our Facebook page.
Colin Music
Nearly every human being enjoys music.  Many of us enjoy listening to music with lyrics that we would never speak or write. Many of us would never, ever, say the 'n-word' even if it is being used casually in our favorite songs. Some very thoughtful feminists listen to, dance to, and exercise to music that degrades women.  Whether you are listing to pop music, or venturing into artists such as Brotha Lynch Hung (I never heard of him, but one of my students told me about him as an extreme example when we were discussing this question in my philosophy class), a lot of contemporary music contains hateful messages and glorifies violence.  

Put aside, for the sake of this question, any empirical claim that such music actually causes us to act immorally. Also, let's assume, for the sake of this question, that you are not a hater, and that you are morally opposed to racism, sexism, gratuitous violence, etc. Are mere listeners/consumers, morally guilty in virtue of providing a lucrative platform for hateful expression?  Are we, as a mere listeners/consumers, morally guilty in virtue of nurturing a pop culture where degrading ideas are hummed along to and barely even noticed.  Are we immoral accomplices or innocent bystanders enjoying music?

Facebook Discussion