New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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36                                 PROBLEMS IN MEANING
if it did, because pleasure and beauty do not make up a work of art, the explanation would be inconclusive.68
If we pass over the extraordinary assertion that "a cubist painting does not give pleasure, nor does it appear beautiful" an assertion which flatly contradicts the experience of many discerning peoplethe most interesting point to notice is the undesirable result which ensues from Venturis restricted and rigid real definition of art. Although for innumerable sensitive persons the communication of beauty and pleasure has been for centuries and continues to be the sine qua non of artistic creation, Croce and his clan believe they have conclusively demonstrated that it is unessential. Were their definitions of art and beauty volitional ones, we would readily tolerate, though we might not agree with, their position. But the situation is quite otherwise. Their statements abundantly prove that, instead of volitionally defining terms and then making propositions about the qualities of experience in question, they are attempting to say something significant about referents whose meanings they incorrectly presume to have been settled by usage. This procedure, we have urged more than once, is inadmissible.
Before illustrating real definitions at greater length, I should like, if possible, to meet the objection of those readers who are thinking: "But / seem to understand well enough what Collingwood, Croce, and Venturi are saying. Even if their meanings are not perfectly expressed, why this quibbling over terminology? I see nothing really pernicious in their verbal errors. Surely the attack of this author is disproportionate to the offense of his subjects." In answering this challenge, there seem to me to be three points worth making. (1) The mistakes under consideration are harmful from a linguistic standpoint. Consider, for instance, the insistence of Collingwood, Croce, and Venturi that their "definitions" of art and beauty are true and that all others are false. To 68. Art Criticism Now, p. 27.