New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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22
PROBLEMS IN MEANING
to a fixed hierarchy of values, so that one and only one explanation of an experience is valid. For a relativist, however, important differences exist among esthetic experiences because of innately differing although equally valuable and sensitive psychological constitutions, so that diverse explanations of these experiences may be equally sensitive and valid (though this relativist view does not imply that all explanations are equally sensitive and valid). Therefore according to relativism, which is the position accepted by the writer, each of the differing theories about art and beauty I am about to mention is competent and intelligent. If this is so, such semantic considerations as multiple definitions and the technique of translating meanings into other terms become exceptionally interesting, intricate, and important.
(A) Multiple Meanings
Without investigating, for the moment, the precise semantic situation manifested in the variations in opinion, I shall illustrate the diversity of interpretation which has been given to the words "art" and "beauty" (or to the qualities of experience, art and beauty, if the writers, as is usually the case, are attempting rather to explain referents by propositions or real definitions than to define symbols arbitrarily). Two striking ways of realizing this divergence in esthetic attitudes are to inspect the multiple definitions of Richards and Ogden,35 or to glance at the table of contents in Rader's A Modern Book of Esthetics. In the latter work we find no less than twelve differing theories, art or beauty being by different theorists primarily interpreted in terms of the following: Play (Lange and Groos), the Will to Power or Wish Fulfilment (Nietzsche, Freud, and Parker), Expression or Communication of
35. For these definitions, see the following: Ogden, Richards, and Wood, The Foundations of Aesthetics (London, 1922), passim; Ogden and Richards, The Meaning of Meaning (4th ed. New York, 1936), chap, vii; Richards, Mencius on the Mind, pp. 100-104. A succinct and useful list of theories of art is given by Louis Grudin, A Primer of Aesthetics (New York, 1930), p. 229.