New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"But I am apt to imagine, that, were the imperfections of language, as the instrument of knowledge, more thoroughly weighed, a great many of the controversies that make such a noise in the world, would of themselves cease; and the way to knowledge, and perhaps peace too, lie a great deal opener than it does" (John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding).
"The business of letters, howsoever simple it may seem to those who think truth-telling a gift of nature, is in reality two-fold, to find words for a meaning, and to find a meaning for words. Now it is the words that refuse to yield, and now the meaning, so that he who attempts to wed them is at the same time altering his words to suit his meaning, and modifying and shaping his meaning to satisfy the requirements of his words" (Sir Walter A. Raleigh, Style).
"It has been often said in various forms, but hardly ever without truth, that all dispute turns upon difference of definitionand that, if people were only clear-witted enough and even-tempered enough, the arrival at definition would be the conclusion of the whole matter. For their differences of opinion would either disappear in the process, or they would be seen to be irreconcilable, and to possess no common ground on which argument is possible" (George Saintsbury, Shakespeare and the Grand Style).
The first part of this book aims to show in what ways and to what degree linguistic confusion is responsible for the inadequacy of contemporary art criticism and esthetics. To accomplish this, it will first be necessary to explain, as briefly and simply as possible, the nature of verbal problems, the kinds of confusion which may be caused from a misunderstanding of them, and the correct solutions of these difficulties. Later, I shall illustrate these problems, confusions, and solutions by specific reference to three major terms of art criticism and esthetics: "art," "beauty/' and "truth."