New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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1Q2
PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
nant than they are today. In the case of the drawings, the facts that, during the Renaissance, they were considered mere working materials, and were generally neglected and often destroyed, indicate a striking contrast to our contemporary evaluations. "Until well into the sixteenth century/' says Bernard Berenson, "drawings seem to have had no value on their own account, and were passed around from assistant to assistant, student to student, until they were used up." 22 This testimony indicates that, contrary to the views of some writers, contrasting appraisals do not apply solely to artistic content.2* Thus, while it is probably true that changes in evaluation are more marked in the case of content than of form, I find no evidence for believing, with Mr. Herbert Read, that whereas elements of content are "temporal," elements of form are "universal/'
Comparable illustrations of diverse evaluations might be supplied indefinitely from all fields of knowledge. Particularly enlightening is the field of anthropology, which offers abundant evidence for the dependence of evaluations upon custom and environment by showing that the beliefs about death, sex, power, beauty, et cetera, of various cultures are often the reverse of ours.24 And with regard to ethics, Spengler reaches this conclusion: " 'Every civilization has its own ethical standard; and the validity of this standard begins and ends with that civilization itself. There is no such thing as a universal human ethic.' " 25
Such diversity in kinds of evaluation is important for the following reasons: first, it presents cogent empirical evidence against the notion of uniformity in expert value judgments; second, it actually explains the fact that certain works of art
22.  The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, I, xi.
23.  "Content" and "form" are defined on pp. 79-80.
24.  Fascinating material on this subject is presented by Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (Boston, 1934).
25.  A. J. Toynbee, A Study of History (2d ed. London, 1935), III, 382.