New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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92                                  PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
mistakes of different sorts, nonetheless verbal predicaments should not obscure the reality of the problem. Questions of language should be disentangled from questions of fact. What I now hope to show is that a common type of objectivist criticism is inadmissible and perhaps harmful, that subjectivism is misleading and dangerous, and that only relativism will give sensible and significant meaning to value judgments. These critical theories are obviously special manifestations of more general value theories, the natures of which are, in what follows, much simplified. Yet even a shorthand account of three types of value theory may sufficiently elucidate the major problems in critical evaluation. Throughout the discussion, one general question to be remembered is this: what are the facts concerning value which everyone must recognize? Before turning to the major discussion, however, it will be useful briefly to characterize a personage who is frequently referred to in the following pages: namely, the "expert" or "competent" or "judicious" critic. A relativist's conception of such a critic cannot be formulated without a certain vagueness since, as I shall later try to show, there will be different sorts of equally skilled critics not only for different periods but even within the same age. Even so, one may give some general notion of this hypothetical expert. I suggest that the more skillful the critic, the more completely will he possess and use the six following qualifications: (i) a natural sensitiveness to the aims of the artist and to the qualities of the works he is judging; (ii) a trained observation resulting from wide and varied experience with the kind of art he is considering; (iii) sufficient cultural (i.e., historical, religious, social, political, iconographic, and so forth) equipment to enable him to understand the objects of his criticism; (iv) a reflective power which will allow him to detect and hence to take into consideration personal eccentricities in his preferences, and by means of which he will analyze, weigh, and balance the effects which artistic creations make upon him; (v) a degree of nor-