New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

64                                  PROBLEMS IN MEANING
being wholly a question of following certain explicit rules), it is unjustifiable to use the connection between "logical consistency" and "truth" as an argument for defining "artistic consistency" as "truth." In short: while there is no decisive reason for rejecting the usage of the phrase "artistic truth" to mean artistic consistency, there is nothing to be said in its favor. My conviction is that it will find little acceptance with estheticians and critics and that, therefore, the whole discussion of consistency in any connection with "truth/' is superfluous and unfortunate.
Moreover, as noted above, there are other terms less equivocal in character than "truth'' which one may use in criticism to evoke Greene's idea of artistic consistency. For example, "artistic probability" or "internal necessity" or Greene's own phrase "stylistic excellence" seem preferable; and Richards has suggested the expressions "internal acceptability," "right-ness," and "convincingness," 122 which mean approximately what Greene intends by his criterion for truth of consistency, and which may likewise be analyzed into Greene's four requisite conditions of consistency. Therefore, since the use of "artistic truth" in the sense of artistic consistency is uncommon, and since there are a number of expressions which convey the idea with somewhat greater precision, the notion of artistic consistency as truth should be relinquished. To be sure, the intended idea is artistically an important one, but the use of "truth" to explain it seems unnecessary and arbitrary, hence undesirable. If, indeed, we once more apply our accepted criteria of good volitional definitions, I believe we shall conclude that Greene's definition, while sufficiently "clear and intelligible," is neither "as convenient or useful as possible in dealing with a given subject-matter," nor as nearly conformable "to established usage, if any, as is compatible with clarity and usefulness in the context."
122. Principles of Literary Criticism (New York, 1926), pp. 269-270.