New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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SUBJECTIVISM                                        12$
dilemma is squarely faced by the subjectivist Reid, it is important and instructive to notice that some prizings are found to be better than others only "with reference to some particular prizing accepted at least for the time as a 'standard/ " 67a statement which contradicts his otherwise consistent disbelief in standards, and which is properly suited, as we shall presently see, rather to a relativist theory of value.
In asserting that the crucial problem of criticism concerns "varying forms, and degrees, of order in the personality," Richards advocates an important critical idea which is psychological, hence, in a way, subjective in character. But the critical theory we are considering no more enables one to judge order in the personality than it enables one to judge data outside of the mind. Moreover, while Richards' problem is significant and is not invalidated, in my opinion, by the unsympathetic analyses in recent years of D. G. James, J. C. Ransom, and other critics, the subjective emphasis which makes evaluative judgments a matter of comparative responses, and criticism a branch of psychology, tends to divert one's attention from the relatively objective side of the value-situationthe work of art. In this connection, therefore, it is heartening to an art historian to find that the psychologist Koffka not only stresses the interdependence and "connectedness between the Ego and an object," 68 but that he emphasizes primarily the "structure" of the art object rather than the emotion it arouses.
Other problems for which subjectivism cannot justly find plausible solutions are: why is it that certain works of art continue throughout the centuries to be highly praised and thus receive an established reputation? how is it that tastes tend to change in one direction only, let us say from Pinturicchio to Piero della Francesca but seldom vice versa? or why do all trained critics agree that there are emotionally powerful yet
67.  J. R. Reid, op. cit., p. 242.
68.  "Problems in the Psychology of Art," p. 202.