New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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which are awaiting discovery. But again this analogy, like so many others, is misleading: first, because it, too, wrongly assumes that values have ontological subsistence and are therefore comparable to physical phenomena; second, because the two fields of investigation are disparate even if one misguid-edly grants the existence o objectively intrinsic values. For whereas scientific truths are at once tentative, testable, and public, objective values are supposedly eternal, certainly un-verifiable, and preeminently personal. Therefore any such comparison as that, let us say, between the nature of a scientist's indefinite yet ascertainable knowledge of the distance from New York to Dakar and an expert critic's re-evaluation of a Rembrandt portrait proves nothing whatever.
Because the several specific contentions in favor of objectivism can be refuted as either unsound or unintelligible or both, and because of "the complete impossibility of finding any arguments to prove that this or that has intrinsic value," 5S the theory must be entirely rejected. This conclusion many will be reluctant to accept, partly from fear of commitment to complete esthetic libertinism (a fear which relativism will show to be absurd), partly from a longing for certainty combined with a belief that it is somehow worthy and noble to strive for an ideal, however vague and unattainable. Now while the relativist art critic will deplore, he obviously cannot alter a longing for certainty, for "though the absolute is surely a bird whose tail we shall never salt, no one knows whether we shall ever stop pursuing it." 59 He can suggest, however, that the goal of objectivity may be not so much noble as esthetically and psychologically dangerous.60 The problem cannot be argued here other than to maintain that
58.  Bertrand Russell, Religion and Science (New York, 1935), p. 250.
59.  Elisabeth Schneider, Aesthetic Motive, p. 86.
60.  On this point the reader should consult Joan Evans, Taste and Tern-perament (New York, 1939), and A. M. Bodkin "The Relevance of Psycho-Analysis to Art Criticism," British Journal of Psychology, XV (1924-25), Pt, II, 174-183.