New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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52                                 PROBLEMS IN MEANING
ity of esthetic judgments becomes ambiguous through failure to define "truth" volitionally.
Usually, it seems, undefined uses of "truth" are emotive rather than referential, and indefinite rather than precise. As in the case of laudatory uses of "beauty," that is, the writers are primarily expressing and evoking feelings (which are often of the most hazy sort), and are referring only in a vague, and frequently in a hopelessly vague manner to any quality or state of affairs. As a sample of these uses, consider this statement of the sculptress Malvina Hoffman: "Sculpture is a parable in three dimensions, a symbol of a spiritual experience, and a means of conveying truth by concentrating its essence into visible form." 92 In this sentence no clue suggests to us the intended meaning of "truth"; we sense the emotional importance which Hoffman attaches to truth, but we are irritated and confused by her failure to indicate, explicitly or implicitly, the nature of her referent. Such semantic imprecision corresponds to the least permissible laudatory uses of "beauty" and should be equally condemned.
One again concludes that certain writers are as yet insufficiently aware that the initial requirement in discussions concerning abstract terms is to give meanings to them. Consequently, as Richards wittily puts it, "In most arguments, men give their chief attentionnot to making open and public the senses which may be best usedbut to the attempt to say the right thing about a nothing whose form and qualities are changed with every statement made about it" 93a predicament which apparently does not disturb even so eminent a critic as T. S. Eliot, who calmly writes: "But if any one complains that I have not defined truth, or fact, or reality, I can only say apologetically that it was no part of my purpose to do
92.  Sculpture Inside and Out (New York, 1939), p. 19.
93.  Basic Rules of Reason (London, 1933), p. 20.