New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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The values things embody for us are objective qualities of things, as real to us as are rocks or trees or giant pandas. But not more real nor more eternaland it is at this qualification that the traditionalists stick. They are imbued with the Platonic prejudice and hold the impermanent to be unreal, imputing full reality only to the eternal. The naturalists argue that values are no less real if they are fleeting episodes dependent on human needs, themselves fleeting episodes in cosmic history, than if they were as old as the universe itself and could only perish with it.69
The second side to the theory,70 which may be called the relatively subjective aspect, considers value a function of animal interest, but distinguishes valuing from mere liking and feeling in two ways: first, by stressing the dependence of the valuing upon the properties of the object, by accenting, that is to say, the character of the evaluation as an interaction between a valuable object and an attitude; second, by holding that, while liking is still a necessary condition for the activity of valuing, it is emphatically an insufficient one. In addition, thoughtful reflective inquiry upon the total situation must be present in order to give genuine significance to values. An essential contrast to subjectivism is thus made by underlining a rational factor in the value situation. This second contrast to subjectivism may be further elucidated by opposing the meanings of certain pairs of words, the first word in each case indicating subjectivist "liking" or "taste," the second relativist "approbation" or "judgment": "desired" and "desirable"; "satisfying" and "satisfactory"; "admired" and "admirable." Interpreted in this way, value theory can give meaning to our desires for improvement, to our strivings for and preferring something better, and so can explain the
69.  Eliseo Vivas, "The New Naturalism," The Kenyon Review, Autumn, 1941, p. 454.
70.  What follows is a summary of a portion of John Dewey's "Theory of Valuation," International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, II (1939).