New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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(A) "Truth" as an Undefined Term
Bearing in mind the significance of volitional definitions, we should readily agree upon the desirability of defining "truth" volitionallyeither explicitly or implicitlywhenever we use the term in esthetic or critical writings. Unfortunately, however, certain philosophers and critics from all periods assume the existence of a referent, Truth, and proceed to refer loosely and vaguely to this elusive referent as "truth," "a kind of truth," "genuine truth," or "real truth," without attempting to clarify the issue by means of volitional definitions. Always, I feel, the resultant unclear meanings follow in part from that unreasonable emotional attitude toward words which attributes magic to them by regarding them as something more than linguistic tools.
The following example will well illustrate the effect which an unwillingness or inability to use volitional definitions may have upon the most fundamental problems of esthetics and criticism. In The Meaning of Beauty, Stace reaches the conclusions that esthetic judgments are universally valid and that "by the validity of aesthetic judgments is meant their truth for all men." 90 Presumably, then, one will want to know exactly what Stace means by the important phrase "truth for all men"; yet this crucial phrase is conveniently left unexplained: "Why truth is universally valid may be a matter of dispute, and depends upon the view taken as [to] the nature of truth, a problem which lies wholly outside aesthetics and the scope of our inquiry." 91 Thus, despite the author's own stated recognition of the dependence of the reason for the universal validity of truth upon "the view taken as the nature of truth," no attempt is made in this context to explain any view. In fine, the sense of his significant statement regarding the valid-
90.  The Meaning of Beauty, p. 206.
91.  Ibid., p. 209.