Volume 33, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Marius A. Pascale
Art Horror, Reactive Attitudes, and Compassionate Slashers
A Response to Di Muzio’s “The Immorality of Horror Films”
In “The Immorality of Horror Films,” philosopher and film scholar Gianluca Di Muzio proposes an analytic argument that aims to prove horror narratives, particularly slashers, unethical. His Argument from Reactive Attitudes contests slashers encourage pleasurable responses towards depictions of torture and death, which is possible only by suspending compassionate reactions. Doing so degrades sympathy and empathy, causing desensitization. This article will argue Di Muzio’s ARA, while valuable to discussion of art horror and morbidity, fails to meet its intended aim. The ARA contains structural flaws in its logic, compounded by reliance on insufficient evidence. Additionally, Di Muzio does not adequately consider or rebut prominent aesthetic concerns, including ontological and moral distance of representations. Lastly, the argument utilizes a flawed classificatory schema that undermines its primary goal. Even narrowly confined to slashers, the ARA cannot explain alternative reasons for engaging with horror, nor does it account for those nuanced slasher works designed to foster compassion. The project concludes by offering a modified ARA with greater potential to accurately analyze the interrelation between art horror and morality.