New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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PROBLEMS IN MEANING
those who, while conscious o the need for some sort of definitions, nonetheless hold that they are secondary considerations which are regulated and prescribed by usage and which, therefore, are either true or false. Such definitions are not volitional ones which give words their meanings, nor are they dictionary ones; rather, they are real ones used to explain meanings which "ought" already to exist. Thus Colling-wood proposes both to have his cake and eat it: to discover from usage the Essence, meaning, and significance of art, then to define it according to that usage which seems to him correct. He wishes, in other words, both to make a proposition about and a definition of art, to reveal something important concerning its Essence and to define art correctly in terms of this something. It apparently never occurs to him that significant propositions can be made only after the meanings of the terms are already known and that, therefore, definitions logically precede propositions.55 The procedure of
Origin of our ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful," The Works of Burke [The World's Classics], p. 67). Collingwood's meaning, however, is a different oneas the following sentences in the text attempt to prove.
55. The view I am attacking is entrenched in the minds of many philosophers. Thus in reading a draft of this essay Professor Wheelwright commented at this point: "I dare say it has occurred to him and been rejected. Such, at least, is the case with me. Your stipulational [i.e., referential] method of definition is useful in certain fields (monosignative ones) but not, or anyhow not exclusively, in art criticism." Although in the preceding section of this essay the need for distinguishing between propositions and volitional definitions was stressed, the point needs further reinforcement. I cannot do better in replying to Wheelwright than to quote an important passage of I. A. Richards: "There is nothing, alack! unusual about such a manoeuvre in argument" (i.e., the use of language simultaneously as a proposition and as a definition). "Logically it is fatal; rhetorically it is often triumphant. It is encouraged by the usage doctrine. For if we feel usage is looking after and regulating the 'significations' of words, we are inclined to feel less distinctly that we are giving a word its meaning (arranging by the setting how it shall be understood) and are more apt to assume that it comes to us with a normal and already settled meaning. Then, however arbitrary we may actually be, we tend to feel that usage backs up the meaning. Similarly the usage-indoctrinated reader tends to take it as backed up so, without looking to see just which of the countless usages is doing the backing. And there is the