New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"ART" AND "BEAUTY"                                       47
for objective referents, one cannot with any precision determine either the kind of referents intended or the relative importance of these referents in the total meaning.87
What judgment shall we pass upon such uses of "beauty" as the foregoing? In contrast to the problems raised by real definitions and by verbal exaggerations, we are not dealing with linguistic forms which are wholly confused or misleading; rather, we are dealing with a type of language which might be described either as "treacherous'' or "resourceful." Those who prefer critical writing that always states meanings clearly and precisely will resent a style which uses terms in a loose fashion; but others, who prefer critical writing that is "impressionistic," "evocative," "rich," or "full" in connotations, will praise a style which uses terms in a way that, for them, is not so much vague and ambiguous, as suggestive and stimulating. Thus the amount of laudatory discourse which is desirable in writings about art is probably a matter of choice or taste. One should not be dogmatic about it.
Even those who desire clarity and precision of meaning in critical writing, however, will recognize the convenience or
87. If correct, this conclusion would necessitate a qualification in Mr. T. C. Pollock's "pragmatic-referential" linguistic category. In The Nature of Literature (Princeton, 1942), p. 169, he says: "PragmaZzc-referential is so named because in it the writer's purpose is both to point the attention of a reader toward certain referents and to stimulate him to assume a certain attitude toward them or to act in relation to them in a specific way." While Pollock's entire new classification of uses of language is interesting and valuable, I do not believe that it invalidates, as it attempts to do, Richards' classification. All these divisions between "emotive and referential," "evocative and symbolic," "feeling and thought," and so on, seem to me helpful in semantic analyses; but, as Richards says, they "easily mislead us if we forget that they are abstractions, theoretical machinery made for special purposes, not actual cleavages in the stream of the mind's activity. They are useful, indispensable for their special purposesliterary criticism, the description of linguistic devices, the analysis and contrasting of different types of utterance: the scientific treatise, the sermon, the political speech. . . . But they do not hold outside their purposes, they do not apply directly to the make-up of the mind, only to some of the phases of its activity" (How To Read a Page, p. 100).