New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"ART" AND "BEAUTY"                                  37
be sure, those who understand why such real definitions are linguistically treacherousi.e., because they blur the all-important distinction between naming something and making a proposition about that somethingwill not be unduly persuaded or affected by them. Many readers, however, will not readily see the linguistic thicket. Rather, they will be amazed and bewildered at being dogmatically informed that certain "definitions" which, they observe, directly conflict with those ■of other critical experts, are the only true ones. The verbal predicament of such readers is directly caused by a misunderstanding of real definitions.
(2)   The mistakes under consideration are also harmful to ontological problems. Real definitions, we have seen, attempt to state something "significant" or "true" about their referents; but semantics teaches one to question deeply this alleged significance or truth because it is expressed, as we have also seen, in highly ambiguous terminology. Once again, however, many readers, not readily seeing the linguistic thicket, will probably be won overpartly, no doubt, because of the persuasive and dogmatic tone of the language to views which seem exceptionally convincing just because they are expressed in the form of real definitions.
(3)   The mistakes under consideration are the chief cause, I am convinced, of the basic confusion in the teachings of esthetic theorists. In this respect, therefore, semantic errors are more than harmful; they are disastrous. Because the majority of estheticians, that is to say, incorrectly believe they can tell us what art or beauty is and attempt to do so, the essential claims of each writer are invalidated by the contradictory claims of another. Such a lamentable state of affairs, which could not occur of course with volitional definitions no matter how contradictory they might be, occurs principally because these writers, wittingly or unwittingly, formulate their beliefs in terms of real definitions. Hence, is it surprising that many sensitive people today argue that most writing