New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"ART" AND "BEAUTY"                                  49
it. He will accept many different volitional definitions of these terms, and he will approve, from a semantic standpoint, all propositions in which the meanings of the terms are explicitly or implicitly given.
While accepting such linguistic flexibility, however, the semanticist is keenly aware that some uses of language are confusing and misleading. I have illustrated and challenged these uses in an attempt to achieve the aim stated in the opening sentence of this book: i.e., to show in what ways and to what degree linguistic confusion is responsible for the inadequacy of contemporary art criticism and esthetics. Our analysis has considered three main causes of semantic confusion: real definitions, verbal exaggerations, and verbal vagueness; and the analysis has shown that, of these three abuses, real definitions are distinctly the most serious.
If we now, finally, try to state the degree of confusion in art criticism and esthetics caused by the several misuses of the words "art" and "beauty," we must, in formulating a solution to this problem, once more avoid dogmatism; for it is evident that the degree of confusion will vary considerably according to the type of reader and that, therefore, one cannot possibly assert in exact terms just what this degree is. Nonetheless, I am convinced that the confusions thus far discussed are deeply rooted and widespread, and that they are a major reason for the unsatisfactory state of current writings upon art. In the following pages I shall attempt to demonstrate further this conviction by other sorts of semantic analyses, then pass on to our second major critical problem: namely, value judgments.