New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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32                                     PROBLEMS IN MEANING
of works of art as objective structures. What has happened in this case, one queries, to the appeal to usage?
In his brief discussion of the words "beauty" and "beautiful," Collingwood is at pains to insist that these terms, "as actually used, have no aesthetic implication/'59 Therefore he attacks the views of those who connect beauty in any way with art60 and claims that whenever the term "beauty" is properly used, it simply characterizes something as excellent or admirable. This dogmatic conviction is determined partly by historical precedent (a matter which conveniently carried no weight in his discussion of art), partly by popular current usage. The important point for us as well as for Collingwood, however, is that his usage alone is considered correct and all other uses of the words are wrong. It is amusing, therefore, to be able to indict this philosopher in his own words by characterizing his entire verbal approach as
one of those all too frequent attempts on the part of philosophers to justify their own misuse of a word by ordering others to misuse it in the same way. We ought not, they say, to call a grilled steak beautiful. But why not? Because they want us to let them monopolize the word for their own purposes. Well, it does not matter to anybody but themselves, because nobody will obey them. But it matters to themselves, because the purpose for which they want it ... is to talk nonsense.61
Similar linguistic difficulties abound in the writings of Croce. Indeed one may plausibly argue both that the appeal of his esthetic system depends to some extent upon the fluency and vagueness of his language and that the rejection of this system is caused to a considerable degree by his verbal errors. Adherents of Croce, that is to say, will always be those who
59.  Ibid., p. 38.
60.  Cf. T. M. Greene in Journal of Philosophy, July, 1938, p. 367: "A work of art is by definition beautiful."
61.  Collingwood, op. cit., p. 40.