New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

fundamentally and essentially seem to correspond with one of Richards' definitions of sincerity: namely, "To be sincere is to act, feel and think in accordance with 'one's true nature.' " m Occasionally, indeed, a writer will directly declare that truth in art is equivalent to this sort of sincerity. For example, T. S. Moore states: "Truth in a work of art is sincerity. That a man says what he really means ... is all that reason bids us ask for." 112
Because no competent critic would contest the desirability or even the necessity of artistic sincerity, one may regard this kind of truth in art as being virtually obvious. In no way, however, does this imply that it is unimportant. No less an artist and critic than Henry James has spoken of "the one measure of the worth of a given subject, the question about it that, rightly answered, disposes of all othersis it valid, in a word, is it genuine, is it sincere, the result of some direct impression or perception of life?" 113 But it is noteworthy that James avoids using the word "true"; and he does so wisely. For the terms "genuine" and "sincere" are more direct and explicit, less ambiguous and controversial than the word "truth." Therefore, if the meanings are identical, why not consistently employ the former terms as descriptive epithets and delete "truth" entirely when the artistic criterion in question is being discussed?
(D) "Truth" as Artistic Consistency
The notion of truth as "consistency" has provided another ground for considering truth a major artistic criterion. According to this idea, artistic creations are "true" because of their "artistic probability" or "internal necessity." "Artistic truth*' refers to the internal structure, to the total coherence
111.  Practical Criticism, p. 289.
112.  Albert Durer (New York, 1905), p. 19.
113.  The Art of the Novel (New York, 1934), p. 45.