New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

OBJECTIVISM                                              103
are highly praised by very different persons and by very different culturesa fact which would hardly be explicable were objectivism true; and third, it points to a basic variety in the attitudes or points of view which determine critical appraisals.26
Now the moment one realizes the inevitability of this varietya variety which is of course inevitable because of the diversity of cultures and of individuals and which effectively refutes the notion of a static esthetic sensibilitythe "whirligig of taste" and of judgment which we have been considering becomes comprehensible and enlightening. As a result of our modern environment, our ideas about the nature and function of art are unlike those of the past; consequently we today see the art of former epochs with eyes differently focused from those which first saw that art. Plato, for example, believing in the identity of the good and the beautiful, seems always to be speaking of moral beauty; and while this identity may be ''axiomatic, absolute, irreducible" for such a humanist critic as Middleton Hurry, it is rather the separation of the two which is emphasized in esthetic theories of the present day. To illustrate further this contrast between the Greek attitude toward art and our own, wTe may observe that: (i) no evidence appears before the fourth century B.C. of the existence of esthetic consciousness as we now know it; (ii) Greek architecture was so much a part of Greek religion that the highest praise given Phidias by his contemporaries was that he had enriched the religion of the state; (iii) the only aspects of art objects besides moral effectiveness and usefulness which were praised by the fifth century B.C. were size, costliness, and fidelity to nature.27
26.  Any discussion of the principles of causation which determine this variety in attitudes would lead far beyond the limits of this book, for these principles are an infinite complex of philosophical, psychological, physiological, sociological, economic, historical, and artistic forces.
27.  For this and other interesting material concerning the Greek attitude