New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

guilty of the "fallacy of unoriented being" which "consists in the belief that certain 'primary' affairs merely are." 39 Furthermore, the entire discussion in the preceding essay of volitional and real definitions affords considerable linguistic evidence for repudiating the unanalyzable, indefinable ultimates in question.
Now can "esthetic quality," for example, be explained more satisfactorily than as an unanalyzable ultimate? I believe that it can be, and I suggest that more comprehensible meanings for the slippery phrase may take at least the following three forms which may be designated "emotive/' "referential," and "emotive-referential." 40 The emotive use of "esthetic quality" first and foremost expresses an attitude of pleasure and approval. No specific property of the object is consciously present to one's attention, yet the emotional effect of the object upon the observer is registered. It is usually this sort of meaning which the objectivist will incorrectly interpret as an unanalyzable ultimate. In the second place, "esthetic quality" may symbolically refer to any one of a number of relatively objective41 properties in a work of art such as compositional patterns or linear rhythms. Thus one might speak of plastic form as the chief artistic quality of a painting
39.  A Primer of Aesthetics, pp. 178, 54.
40.  A discussion of the term "beauty" comparable to the following analysis occurs on pp. 45-48.
41.  "Relatively objective" is meant to convey the idea that the properties are objective in that they do not belong to the self, yet are relative in that they are dependent upon individual organisms. This important characterization of works of art and their properties as at once "phenomenally objective, functionally subjective" (or relative) has been admirably explained by Professor K. Koffka, "Problems in the Psychology of Art," Bryn Mawr Notes and Monographs^ IX (1940). Works of art or their properties would be considered completely or functionally objective only by the naive realist who equates and so confuses what we see with what the physicist calls the real nature of objects (i.e., atoms, electrons, et cetera). Actually, of course, "the physical real objects that we call art-objects are such only by virtue of their effect on a spectator. As a physical thing, an art-object is but a set of conditions which will produce a phenomenal art-object in a spectator" (Koffka, ibid., p. 259).