New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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-ART" AND "BEAUTY"                                       31
writers, like Collingwood, who do not accept this logic, calls to mind a quip from Chaplin's "The Gold Rush": "Before I know where I am, I must get there."
Collingwood's liking for real definitions appears again in the answer he gives to his initial question: What is art? "Art," we are told, "is the imaginative expression of emotion." 56 Now this conclusion presents neither a proposition about art in which the key words have been previously defined, nor a definition which arbitrarily gives to "art" a meaning. Rather, it attempts simultaneously to do both: to say something significant about art and to say it in terms of a real definition which, magically, is supposed to give the essential or true meaning of art. Thus Collingwood harps continually upon the distinction between art "proper" and "improper." Thoroughly conscious though he seems to be that the words "art" and "beauty" have and have had a variety of meanings in the course of their history, he is nevertheless compelled to reject as improper all of those meanings which do not reveal what is for him the essential nature of the referents. For example, "The entire body of medieval Christian art" is magical in purpose and hence not art proper; and, "Aristotle's Poetics is concerned not with art proper but with representative art." 57 Or again, having categorically defined a work of art as a "total activity which the person enjoying it apprehends, or is conscious of, by the use of his imagination," 58 Collingwood is logically compelled (according to his misconception of definition) to reject as false all considerations
trap with these quasi-definitions. If usage does back it up thoroughly the thing turns into an empty tautology: 'a collection etc. is a collection etc.' But if usage does not back it up enough, then it is very doubtfully true. The peculiar half-way-between, looking both-ways, position gives it both its seeming truth and its seeming content, its plausibility and its air of saying something" (Interpretation in Teaching, p. 256).
56.  Collingwood, op. cit., p. 252.
57.  Ibid., p. 114.
58.  Ibid., p. 151.