New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search




34                                 PROBLEMS IN MEANING
tion, concepts, space, and time are all unnecessary to intuition; finally, he identifies intuition with expression. This unusual interpretation of intuition leads one to ask: is Croce giving a volitional definition of the word ' 'intuition" which everyone should temporarily accept and which will be a useful tool for his later argument, or is he attempting to say something important about intuition at the same time that he defines it? The answer is given by Croce himself when he announces his concern for "a true and precise idea of intuition" and for "the real nature of intuition." 63 Evidently we are not dealing with a volitional definition but with a real one, which purports to present the Being or Essence or Fundamental Nature of a referent. And so it is with the famous dictum "Art is intuition." In this case Croce is neither stating a proposition in which the terms have already been volitionally defined, nor is he giving a volitional definition which, along with several other possible definitions, may be more or less helpful in explaining various facts of esthetic and artistic experience; rather, he wishes to reveal the "true nature of art," to propound "art as art," i.e., to do what we have discovered to be impossible and meaningless. No wonder such confusing verbalizing has produced extensive comment.
This basic linguistic error is the more remarkable since Croce, like Collingwood, refers again and again to different uses of words, to various meanings and interpretations of terms; and when defining the sublime, he makes a remark with which no semanticist would take issue: "The sublime (comic, tragic, humoristic, etc.) is everything that is or will be so called by those who have employed or shall employ this word" 64 Why is it, then, that Croce does not adopt a similar attitude toward art and beauty? The chief reason, perhaps,
63.  Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic (London, 1909), p. 5. Douglas Ainslie, trans.
64.  Ibid., p. 147.