New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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26
PROBLEMS IN MEANING
both beauty and art, has but one objectART." 48 Indeed, unless many new words should be coined to symbolize the numerous attitudes toward beauty and art, variety and contrast in esthetic theory must continue. But prevalent confusions can be avoided by recognizing the inevitability of divergent definitions and statements, by interpreting these correctly, and by defining one's own position with care.
(5) Volitional Definitions and Propositions
Less obvious than the linguistic diversity in esthetics and art criticism is the nature of the diverse linguistic forms. Are the esthetic approaches which we have loosely called attitudes, opinions, and interpretations, in fact volitional definitions, propositions, or real definitions? And what function can each of these three linguistic forms have in the solution of verbal and real problems of art criticism and esthetics? These are crucial questions.
Postponing, for the present, the confused and confusing real definitions, which will be the chief object of my attack, I should say that far too few initial pronouncements upon the nature of art and beauty are volitional definitions. To be sure, the authors of The Foundations of Aesthetics label as definitions the sixteen doctrines discussed; but these doctrines are for the most part explanations of referents rather than volitional definitions of terms; they seem to be, therefore, either real definitions or propositions. Often, unfortunately, the classification remains doubtful because the ambiguous auxiliary "is" in sentences beginning "art or beauty is" gives one pause as to the intended meaning. Writers are all too reluctant to use more awkward but far clearer verbal forms like: "It is in this sense that I use the words," or, "By art and beauty I mean such and such." Were such forms more regu-
48. F. M. Gatz, "The Place of Beauty and Art in Aesthetics," The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Winter, 1941-42, p. 54.