New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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134                            PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
first made by Aristotle, between useful and fine art, "The judgment of art is by its value for good use," so that no art is worthy of the name which is not only beautifulwhich is interpreted as meaning "perfect" and is "a matter of accuracy"but useful and "effectual" as well. The emphasis everywhere, in short, is upon the intellectual, the moral, the practical. In this and the many allied interpretations of art according to which the human significance, the reality, and the "truth" expressed by the content are of primary importance, I am reminded of my first instruction in the history of art which began when the professor dramatically posed and answered the question: "Gentlemen, what is painting? It is the expression of non-material values by means of visual ones."
Contrast these opinions with those art theories that are formalistic, accenting formal aspects of artistic organization and their appreciation by means of the "esthetic attitude" or "esthetic experience," which is characterized as a special sort of contemplation or perception and is distinguished more or less sharply (according to the inclination of the individual critic) from experiences which are intellectual, moral, political, social, or practical. Accordingly, art becomes something quite different from Coomaraswamy's notion. We find not merely that disinterested perceptual contemplation is the goal of artistic experience, but that emotion is more important than knowledge and that esthetic pleasure, rather than the revelation of reality and truth, is the evaluating standard. And finally, the intellectual, moral, and practical aspects of an art object are ignored as irrelevant to artistic appreciation, or are perhaps classified as "derived esthetic values" which should be held subsidiary to the fundamental direct perceptual ones.83
83. On this point, see H. N. Lee, Perception and Aesthetic Value (New York, 1958), chap. vii.