New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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RELATIVISM                                               i5s
briefly, not to argue fully, the several aspects of the subject. In summary: (A) We may emphasize the necessity of these criteria for an understanding of specific evaluations, and we may recall, as an aspect of logical relativism, the derivative and tentative character of the standards: they are consciously chosen concepts which, at any time, may be altered in order to meet the requirements of carefully considered critical insights. (J5) The standards are, to a point, genuinely relative in the sense that differently constituted sorts of better men naturally subscribe to different, yet equally good attitudes, artistic as well as philosophical. Thus in attempting to evaluate relativist principles the critic concludes that differing standards sincerely held by genuine experts cannot profitably be rated; he subscribes to the axiom of psychological relativism. And he claims that disregard for or rejection of this axiom promotes dogmatic, misguided, and misleading criticism. Significant judgments of good and bad, better and worse can be made, however, when the criteria of the expert are compared with those of all incompetent observers; for just as the relativist believes he can distinguish bad men from good, so he believes that artistic concepts vary enormously from types which are extremely crude to those which are highly refined. (C) The standards, moreover, must be relevant because, since there are many sorts o art, each kind can be best judged only by one or more standards which are specially appropriate; yet the specific application of this principle of relevancy will depend upon one's whole critical system. In so stressing the significance of relevant empirical criteria and in attempting as far as possible to appraise these, the relativist emphatically renounces the impulsive impressionism of the subjectivist and actually bases his criticism upon a foundation more concrete and empirically objective than that of the absolutist. (D) As a feasible framework for artistic appraisals, one may distinguish between (i) intentional evaluation which judges on the basis of the artist's purpose