New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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by comparing the monuments in the following pairs. In each case, those who accept the standard I have been describing as a valuable one in criticism will agree that, whereas no sensible distinction between the monuments in each pair can be made on the basis of the several foregoing definitions of truth (or, indeed, on the basis of the criterion of perfection as it is usually defined), a valuable distinction urges that the first monument in each pair contains the greater amount of artistic significance: (a) the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike; (6) the "Crusader" of Chartres and a Gothic ivory; (c) an El Greco "Agony" and a Picasso "Abstraction"; (d) Mozart's "Jupiter Symphony" and Prokofieff's "Glassical Symphony"; (e) Ibsen's "Ghosts" and Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit."
Assuming, now, that the meaning of "artistic significance'' is sufficiently clear, we may ask: what bearing does this quality have upon the problem of truth as artistic insight? Two observations seem pertinent: (i) There is the danger, noted above, that the idea of artistic truth will be confused with that of artistic significance: thus it may happen that the potency of the term "truth" will mislead one into supposing that what seems peculiarly important is therefore exceptionally true. But if one believes that it is imperative for clear thinking to dissociate importance from truth, then the problem of whether or not artistic insights shall be called "truths" or something else will be settled apart from a consideration of their importance; it will be settled according to certain philosophical and semantic convictions already mentioned, (ii) When significant artistic insights are in question, the problem of truth as insight is of minor interest. Suppose we are considering such insights as the "dignity of man" as revealed in a Raphael portrait, or the "glory of the universe" as expressed by a Cezanne landscape: is it not the significance of these insights rather than their truth which artistically matters? In