New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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OBJECTIVISM                                         113
empirical qualities which could be unambiguously pointed to; but, pace great names, no such situation confronts us. In short, through erring metaphysics and a misleading analogy, absolutists attempt to beguile one into believing that values are ontologically intrinsic.
(C) The Intention of the Artist
Let us turn to their third main argument: it is sometimes heldnotably by Crocean theoriststhat the intrinsic value of works of art depends upon the purpose or intention of the artist, who, by means of an object, is attempting to communicate something to us. For example, Wilenski in The Modern Movement in Art dogmatically "submits" that there is an intrinsic and constant value in art objects which is entirely derived from the attitudes, motives, and procedures of the men who made them. Now, granting that value may legitimately be defined in terms of the artist's intention and that, when so defined, it becomes, as we shall later see, a useful standard for appraisals, the emphasis upon the constant character of the value is open to objections of various sorts.
In the first place, how can the intention of the artist and its success be precisely determined? The sole test for Wilenski is whether the work "has been honestly and correctly passed as right by the artist himself in his capacity of spectator." 47 But do not the words "honestly" and "correctly" beg the question? How can one know whether the artist is honest or dishonest, correct or incompetent in his judgment? Suppose that, as T. S. Eliot says, "There may be much more in a poem than the author was aware of";48 or that, to quote John Dewey, "It is absurd to ask what an artist 'really* meant by his product; he
47.  R. H. Wilenski, The Modern Movement in Art (new ed. London, 1935), p. 188.
48.  "The Music of Poetry," The Partisan Review, November-December, 1942, p. 457.