New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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RELATIVISM                                               131
teaches, these varied principles lead directly to equally varied evaluations.
Further analysis of the required standards shows that they are both derivative and tentative. They are derivative in that they result from human choice and are, therefore, merely codified judgments of expert critics. Moreover, they are derived by induction from concrete situations in relation to which they should never be regarded as external. In the words of John Dewey, these empirical principles "are not rules or prescriptions" and "are of use as instrumentalities of personal experience, not as dictations of what the attitude of any one should be." 7S Therefore they are subject to constant revision or extension, so that our aim should be not only to apply our chosen criteria but equally and constantly to test them by our appraisals. If theory does not support a penetrating and carefully considered insight, by all means modify the theory rather than distort evaluations in order to fit them into a predetermined hypothesis. Thus there is a delicate balance, a fine adjustment which the critic should strive to attain in a conception of standards which at once inform his judgments yet are capable of immediate modification by these.
The procedure of the two critics who were earlier praised for recognizing the importance of standards in criticism, diverges in respect to the tentative character of these standards. In his famous indictment of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony," Tolstoy's verdict seems warped because of the compulsion he feels to bind a specific appraisal to a previously determined and rigidly fixed criterion. In judging the symphony, he says:
Since this work does not belong to the highest kind of religious art, has it the other characteristic of the good art of our time
78. Art as Experience, p. 309.