New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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THE SEMANTIC BACKGROUND                               19
this essay will suggest: are not the meanings of words sufficiently clear from their context? And if so, why bother about these distinctions between definitions, propositions, and so forth? Now, although those who ask such questions are probably suffering from the 'Illusion of exact communication," everyone will nonetheless agree that the importance of learning the meanings of words from their context is indubitably great. Richards' How To Read a Page shows above all else, perhaps, how words acquire different meanings through their complex associations with each other. Doubtless, too, because of their context, words sometimes have the power to communicate the meanings desired even if they are used in a theoretically bad manner. Such facts, however, in no way invalidate the significance of all sorts of interpretation. Study of context, of course, is a method of interpretation; and it will frequently be used in this book. But there are other methods which are of equal value in understanding the meanings of estheticians and art critics; and these are the methods which have been stressed in the foregoing pages and which will occupy a major portion of the discussion which follows.