Taste and the Household

The Domestic Aesthetic and Moral Reasoning

By Janet McCracken

Subjects: Gender Studies
Paperback : 9780791451069, 355 pages, September 2001
Hardcover : 9780791451052, 355 pages, September 2001

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Table of contents

Introduction PART I: The Domestic Aesthetic Foundation of Moral Reasoning

1. What Is the "Domestic Aesthetic"?


Phenomenological Intimacy and Distance
Phenomenological Distance and the Concept of Alienation
Decorative Art and the Domestic Aesthetic
The Life of a Household
Intimacy, Drama, and Respect
Women's Roles and the Domestic Aesthetic


2. That Moral Reasoning is Developed through the Exercise of Domestic Aesthetic Skill


Reflection and Moral Learning
Practicing Judgment
Practice and Play


3. Platonic and Aristotelian Ethics and the Domestic Aesthetic




PART II: Theory, the Domestic Aesthetic, and the Historical Relativity of Moral Reasoning

4. Postmodernity and Character


An Unsatisfying Freedom
MacIntyre's Criticisms of Modern Ethics
Material Conditions and the Historical Relativity of Values


5. Ethics and the Labor Theory of Value


Back to MacIntyre: Rethinking the Effect of the Enlightenment
The Development of the Labor Theory from Locke


6. Language and Oppression; Thinking and Working


Poststructuralist Disappointments: Baudrillard, Barthes, and Lurie
Bourdieu's Distinction
Language and the Domestic Aesthetic
Peirce and the Later Wittgenstein

PART III: Techniques of Vagueness

7. Fashion Tactics and the Phenomenological Distance


Weird Signs
The Phenomenology of Fashion Tactics
Fashion Tactics and Entertainment


8. Mass Production, Nationalization, Advertising, and Vagueness


Mass Production and Nationalism
Linguistization and Advertising
Advertising, Gender, and Domestic Aesthetics
Three Tricks of the Trade
The Art Commercial

PART IV: Women, Character, and Domestic Aesthetic Choice9. Four Representative Women Characters

The Feministe
The Model
A False Dilemma
A Brief History of the Woman-of-the-House
The Mom
The Working Woman


Conclusion: Motherless, Friendship, and Criticism


Shows how lousy food, cheesy clothes, and dingy homes can ruin our lives.


By exploring the connections between aesthetic sensitivity and moral character, this book connects them both to the larger cultural malaise. It locates the relationship between human nature and moral reasoning in what the author calls "domestic aesthetic skill," bringing together moral and aesthetic judgment about little things that are close to home—food, clothing, and furniture. McCracken combines the study of modern moral theory with the study of modern economics, contemporary popular culture, advertising, and design, to help understand how heady theories become translated into everyday actions.

Janet McCracken is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Lake Forest College. She is the author of Thinking About Gender: A Historical Anthology.


"I like the author's insightful analyses of the moral importance and moral implications of everyday domestic choices. I especially like McCracken's criticism of the 'phenomenological distancing' and 'techniques of vagueness' of contemporary culture and her relating her ideas to points in Plato and Aristotle. She takes a fresh and interesting approach to the problem of moral choice, showing the relevance of ordinary domestic matters to grand, traditional, ethical topics like virtue, skill, and happiness. " — Donald C. Abel, editor of Fifty Readings in Philosophy