New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"ARTISTIC TRUTH"                                         69
If this contrast between the two types of truth is blurred or ignored, confusion and ambiguity in regard to the meaning of "truth" will almost inevitably occur. "What I would insist upon is that the distinction is a real and important one which should be clarified by verbal means.131 What specific means should be adopted is, up to a point, an arbitrary matter. One might consistently apply the terminology "truth1" and "truth2." Or one might call intuitive truth "truth," and scientific truth "fact." In this case, however, countless persons would resent being forced to admit, say, that "genuine intuitions" both for and against the existence of God, or both for and against the "essential dignity of man," are equally true. For such persons, the "immense and exquisite correspondence" which Henry James found between fiction and life presents not "truth," butas for Jamesan "air of reality." By
notorious is the fact that the "genuine intuitions" of different, yet equally sensitive and intelligent people conflict. Consider the fundamental creed of a Christian as opposed to that of a naturalist. If such facts are remembered, surely "truth as intuition" becomes a remarkably unreliable and unstable concept. One escape from this dilemma is the attempt to reconcile as "true" all of the varied and opposed interpretations of reality by predicating some ultimate harmony in the universe which underlies all apparent differences; but this is an unverifiable dogma which the experience of most persons flatly contradicts. Another more reasonable escape interprets truth in entirely personal terms (i.e., as "my discovery of reality"), and so frankly admits that contradictory truths do exist. But most persons today, I believe, are equally reluctant to accept this usage. For these reasons, as well as for the one given in the text, I agree with those who think that intuitive truth and artistic insights are more intelligibly and conveniently defined as "beliefs" rather than as "truths."
131. The need for some verbal distinction may be further emphasized by a quotation from I. A. Richards: "To ask Is this so?* of 'A man is an immortal spirit,' 'Two and three are five/ and 'Water freezes at 32° F.' is to ask three quite distinct types of question, as we may see by considering what steps would be appropriate in answering them. In the senses in which we will agree that the second and third are true, it would be nonsense to say that the first is. We have neither made man immortal by definition and tautology, nor have we established his immortality by experimental measurement" (Coleridge on Imagination, p. 147).