New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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28
PROBLEMS IN MEANING
and "The arts are our storehouse of recorded values." In such cases no verbal difficulties present themselves provided the meanings of the key terms are known.
The linguistic situation becomes more complex, however, when writers are making transitions from definitions to propositions, statements, or judgments. Each writer, that is to say, will wish not only to define his terms and to elucidate the definitions; he will naturally favor his own definition and will therefore attempt to show why, in his judgment, it is a thoroughly satisfactory one. For example, I hold that the definition of ''beauty" as a simple quality, unanalyzable ultimate, or real universal is untenable; therefore I reject it completely. Or again, I believe that each opinion in the lists of Richards and of Rader is inadequate as a complete account of much esthetic experience; for while each one has some merit, each seems unduly restricted in scope. Positively I claim that the best definitions of "art" and "beauty" distinguish and separate their referents from all "ulterior ends" such as utilitarian or moral considerations which may be better discussed under the heading of some such terminology as "derived esthetic values." But such propositions as I have just been making are, to a degree, philosophical and ethical; like all propositions, they derive in the end from basic convictions, any discussion of which is unnecessary in the present context. In general, however, I would urge that, since sym-bolization in the field of esthetics and art criticism is exceptionally unfixed and unstable, no one volitional definition of "art" or "beauty" can justifiably be considered the most desirable one; and hence judgments about the volitional definitions of our key terms should be as undogmatic and as liberal as possible in their recognition of the claims of other judgments. For reasons already given, however, such a tolerant attitude should not be extended toward real definitions.