New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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140                                PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
Despite this evidence, Langer nowhere suggests that the interpretation of music as self-expression is under any circumstance permissible; she nowhere recognizes the possibility which seems so obvious to a relativistthat differing though equally sensitive persons will respond to music in differing ways and that, therefore, more than a single critical attitude is justified. On the basis, for example, of M. Focil-Ion's conviction that the standpoints of the artist and of the critic usually diflEer greatly, one may reasonably believe that a musician who consciously expresses an emotional catharsis may communicate insight; or, as another possibility, the reverse situation might easily occur. In her zeal, moreover, to bolster her own position, Mrs. Langer, like many other critics with a comparable aim, is unfair to the opposition. Thus her exposition of music as self-expression distorts that view by contending that music thereby becomes "sheer self-expression," is identical with expressions like "oh, oh," and is void of any "formalizing" characteristics. Such are the dangers of philosophical and critical dogmatism.
In stating or discussing his critical position, then, the relativist realizes that his convictions neither can nor should have general validity, but that they hold only for those who are similar to him in certain basic ways. That is to say: in order that successful communication and a reasonable amount of agreement in regard to critical systems and to specific evaluations may occur, sufficient similarity in cultural environment, in philosophical outlook, and in psychological temperament must exist. For this reason, it is unlikely, let us say, that the critical opinions of those experts who consistently judge art primarily by its content will ever be brought into harmony with those differing opinions of other experts who consistently judge art primarily by its form. The evaluations of any one critical group, in short, do not hold for a differently constituted group.
Consequently it is not inevitable, contrary to the tenets of