New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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I T is well known that the word "semantics" is used in varying ways and that there are a number of different semantic systems and several types of semanticists. This being so, diversity among premises, aims, and conclusions is to be expected. To illustrate such diversity in only the most recent writing upon semantics, one may observe that whereas Rudolf Carnap in Introduction to Semantics strictly limits the field to an analysis of the relationship between verbal expressions and what they designate (i.e., referents, designata, objects, and so forth), and excludes from semantics any consideration of the user of the language, Susanne Langer in Philosophy in a New Key holds that the semantic field is wider than that of language, applies the term "semantics" to many kinds of symbolism, and includes in her study not only (a) signs and symbols and (b) what they designate, but (c) the subject who uses the symbols and (d) the conceptions or references which he has of them. My own use of "semantics," as I shall shortly explain more fully, agrees with that of Mrs. Langer except that, in the main, I limit the term to a discussion of verbal matters and mean by it, therefore, a study of the symbolism of verbal language.
Before considering what seem to me the basic features of this interpretation of "semantics," I wish to note and comment upon an objection to both semantic methods and ideals which is frequently made by philosophers and by critics philosophically inclined. These writers hold that the semantic view of meaning is too "referential" and insufficiently "organic," in that it tends to seek clarification and precision of meaning above all else, and to stress the separableness rather than the togetherness of words and their significations. It is a view, these philosophers and critics say, which becomes ludicrous