New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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any form reveal a total Essence or Reality. An entertaining paragraph by Richards may clarify this important Idea:
Suppose someone asks, "What is an apple?" Our answer might be, "It is a fruit that grows on a tree." To which he might reply, "I was not asking you where it grew; I was asking you what it is." We try again, "It is a refreshing fruit." He replies, "I was not asking you what it was like or what it did; I was asking you what it is." Suppose we say, "It is an assemblage of cells, a system of molecules, atoms, etc." He can always reply, "I was not asking you what I should see if I took a microscope to it or what chemical hypothesis would explain what would happen to it if we did certain things to it, etc. I was asking you, quite simply, what it is?" In this way, he has us beaten from the start. We can only dispose of him by saying that his question is illegitimate, and that, if we define a question as something that theoretically can have an answer, his demand Is not a question. It Is only supposed to be one by having the same verbal form as some things which are questions and so, theoretically, can be answered.15
In the second place, not only are words unable to reveal the total Essence or Reality of anything; they cannot even reveal, I think, any special qualities which are the "true," "real," or "essential" ones; for, as Mrs. Langer says: "There is, in fact, no such thing as the form of the 'real' world; physics is one pattern which may be found In it, and 'appearance/ or the pattern of things with their qualities and characters, is another. One construction may Indeed preclude the other; but to maintain that the consistency and universality of the one brands the other as false Is a mistake." 16 If this is so, "Is there any conceivable way of determining what are the essential properties of a thing? Is it not obvious that judgments purporting to set forth the so-called essential properties of a thing
15.  Interpretation in Teaching, p. 354.
16.  Op. cit., p. 91.