New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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96                                  PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
A further impetus in the same direction will perhaps be given by an unreasoned fear that the rejection of complete objectivism condemns one to a position devoid of all values: "If our belief in the validity of aesthetic judgments is not justified, if it is a mere illusion, then beauty ceases to be one of the values of life, and we lose out of our existence one of its positive ideals.'*5 In his Journal, Delacroix gives a specific illustration of this fear that rejection of objectivism leads to subjectivism:
One would be embarrassed to say in what respect Mozart can be inferior to Cimarosa, according to the idea of him that I have here. Perhaps something personal in my organization causes me to incline in the direction to which I do incline; yet an argument such as that would be the destruction of every idea of taste and of the really beautiful; every personal sentiment would be the measure of the beautiful and of taste.6
Since critical relativism, as we shall later see, thoroughly disposes of this false dilemma, we may dismiss the apparent difficulty at this point by agreeing with John Dewey that "the idea that unless standards and rules [and hence specific judgments too] are eternal and immutable they are not rules and criteria at all is childish." 7
Since the objectivist critic clearly cannot rest his case upon presuppositions of the foregoing sort, he will seek, in support
relativist theory later to be discussed. It is important to notice that, if my explanation of this problem is correct, a verbal snare is at the root of the ambiguity.
In his persuasive defense of critical relativism, Professor F. A, Pottle remarks that "relativism in physics and in theory of poetry does not imply as a logical consequence relativism in matters of faith and morals'* (The Idiom of Poetry [Ithaca, 1941], p. 32). I believe, however, that belief in both critical relativism and moral absolutism, if in no way illogical, is, nonetheless, unusual.
5.  Stace, op. cit.t pp. 207-208.
6.  The Journal of Eugene Delacroix, p. 213.
7.  "The New Failure of Nerve," The Partisan Review, January-February, *943» P- 37-