New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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OBJECTIVISM                                              in
by Giotto. Most frequently, however, the phrase both expresses the emotional response of the observer and refers to the excellence of one or more relatively objective properties which are usually unspecified, but which might be technical, formal, expressive, and the like. The precise meaning of this convenient and prevalent "emotive-referential" sense of "esthetic quality" is particularly difficult to determine, since the accent upon the emotive effect or upon the "objective" reference will vary indefinitely from use to use. At one extreme, the term may tend to approximate the purely emotive meaning; at the other, it may be chiefly a shorthand reference for certain valued properties.
The lesson to be learned from all such interpretations of this and similar terms is that there is no a priori reason to presuppose the existence of a common, intrinsic, and inexplicable quale connoted by the terms. Unless, then, one assumes a naively objective attitude toward beauty and esthetic quality, the situation regarding such a quale is analogous to a similar situation regarding the causes of death: "Of all the things which cause death we can say if we like that they are lethal, but we are no longer tempted to think that we are saying anything more about them than that death did occur in connection with them." 42
Contrast this empirically clear and profoundly revealing comment with the following characteristic objectivist sample:
The great merit of Croce's theory is that, more clearly than any writer since Plato, he emphasizes the unity of beauty. And his strongest argument is his appeal to the history of aesthetics, his contention that all theories opposed to his own have only gained plausibility by admitting two or more realms of beauty, to but one of which their explanations properly apply. Still, it may be possible to accept his Platonic assertion that beauty is a real
42. Ogden, Richards, and Wood, The Foundations of Aesthetics, p. 58. Cf. n. 74 of Part I.