New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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T HE subjects included in the following pages consider what seem to me crucial aspects of artistic analyses. Whether one is an esthetician, an art critic, or an art historian, meaning and evaluation should be major sources of interest. The semantic problems in writings about art have rarely, if at all, been considered, and the problems in evaluation, while by no means new ones, require periodic restatement and discussion. Both types of problems, unfortunately, are major sources of difficulty and confusion.
While the purpose of this book is therefore twofold, I wish to insist that the two parts are connected by more than the common importance of their subjects for artistic analyses. Although the problems concerning semantics are in the main "verbal" ones, and those concerning value judgments are in the main "real," the two sorts frequently interlock and overlap: thus the first half of the book at times necessarily anticipates ontological questions, while the second half at times reverts to linguistic ones. From the very nature of the subjects, that is to say, one set of problems leads naturally to the other, so that, logically, these two approaches to esthetics and criticism should be combined. This conclusion seems inescapable, moreover, from my personal experience: during the past several years, meaning and evaluation have been my leading interests, and a study of one of these topics has regularly involved a study of the other. If one remembers the connections, therefore, between the two kinds of problems, it is not surprising that questions dealt with from one point of view in one part will recur in a different context in the other.
Because of the reciprocal influence upon one another of the two sets of problems, it was not easy to decide which essay should come first and which second. A strong argument for