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Art and Embodied Truth Author(s): Brian H. Baxter Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 92, No. 366 (Apr., 1983), pp. 189-203 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2253780 . Accessed: 22/06/2013 18:30
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although it is possible to distinguish visual I R. The account I shall give will have implications concerning the evaluation of such works of art and will lead to the formulation of a centrality claim respecting the kind of art which my analysis fits. such as architecture and music we are clearly dealing with articulated structures.Mind(I983) Vol. XCII.176. (a) In the case of non-representational art forms. However. the most illuminating analysis to date-that of Gombrich's Art and Illusion-argues that. I begin with some brief ground-clearing in order (a) to argue that the ways in which it makes sense to speak of art works as employing a quasi-language do not serve to explain how such works can be thought of as saying anything. This content downloaded from 168. in the case of representational visual art. in understanding them. and to show how it is possible for them to do so.35 on Sat. often constructed in accordance with conventional rules which have to be followed if the work is to 'make sense'.162. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 2. we know what would have to be the case for them to be true. The Aesthetics of Architecture (London. 189 I979). (b) to distinguish some of the ways in which 'true' can be predicated of works of art. as Scruton' has recently argued. I share this view. i89-203 Art and Embodied Truth BRIAN H. the surface similarity between elements and structural rules in art forms and signifiers and syntactical rules in natural languages masks a deeper dissimilarity. in order to set them apart from the mode of predication with which I am concerned. has seemed to many to lie at the heart of a proper understanding of art as it has developed in western civilization. Understanding the musical and architectural structures with which we are confronted. Chapter 7. and that this fact about it is essential to an explanation of its importance. The view that art is concerned with truth in some sense. and so they cannot be supposed to say anything in the way sentences in a language do. Similarly. does not require any grasp of truth-conditions. BAXTER i. by contrast. and in this paper I try to elucidate what is meant by saying of some works of art that they embody truths. Scruton. namely that in the case of language the sentences can be thought of as saying something because.
They do not. Gombrich and R. still the works themselves are not such assertions. for example. No. as Elliott2 has argued. this use of 'true' applies only to passages within works. 'The Aesthetic and the Semantic'. but is rather shown. such works have. Elliott. pp. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and so are not appropriately called 'true' in this sense. But this too is a 'language' in which nothing is said. This content downloaded from 168. events and people. and that. 35-48. I968). such as might be expressed in assertoric sentences. Saw. (b) There are various ways in which works of art are said to contain truths. appeal to their quasi-linguistic nature will not (or not directly. R. Finally. have artistic point. that is. BAXTER: and conjoined in schemata which are conventionally-determined accordance with certain structural rules. across time. do not make assertions. 'Art and the Language of Emotions'. has argued. emotional expressiveness can be analysed in terms of the selection from a given gamut of shapes and sounds. or to be true. H. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume.176. Such mundane truth may. further. as was noted above. K. 215-34. such as those of perspective. For example: (i) Literary works may contain sentences and passages making claims about historical events or personages which are in fact true. for example.1go BRIAN H. although they may figure in assertions such as 'That is how Dedham Vale looked in the early nineteenth century'. if we wish to argue that art works can embody truths. As Gombrich.35 on Sat. XXXVI (I962). so as to produce visual art works which 'make sense'.1 again. not to the works as a whole. and seems hard to extend beyond the literary realm. I 2 E.162. The British Journal of Aesthetics. pp. Historical paintings. Here again significance emerges from a structured situation in which elements can be thought of as being related in accordance with conventions or rules. Hence. 8 (Jan. become increasingly adequate as sources of visual information about the subject-matter. as we shall see) enable us to do this. such that the emotionally expressive force of the latter in the context of the work depends on the implied contrast or relation with the other elements in the gamut. For the author may be making use of the background knowledge he can expect his readers to have in connection with the factual statements to give point to his characterizations of scenes. However. 'say' anything themselves. these same considerations apply to art works conceived notion which of as embodying a 'language of the emotions'-a applies to both representational and wholly abstract art forms.
' as the appropriate use of the word in connection with art works. The first is that the truths under consideration are usually perfectly well known by everyone. A. even before they encounter the work of art which can be said to embody them. 'Youth and beauty fade'-and trite-'Man obvious in one sense these are and simple (or are secondly. Hospers. it artist 'hits off' an may be truth to our perceptual experience-an effect to perfection. These are truths which are.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH I9I (ii) Representative works of art can often be said to illustrate. 345-53. at least.2 in his discussion of the topic. and so on. This is particularly likely when we are dealing I 2 J. in some way. and yet not to absorb them fully. For we are apt to take them for granted. Some of these. (iii) Often 'true' is an approximate synonym for 'coherent' or 'produced with integrity' or some other laudatory notion. . LIII.162. Indeed they would be regarded by most people as framing the important conditions of human existence. it may be truth to our experience of human character. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .176. as Aristotle suggested. makes sense to think of as being said by the work. They are truths which we can express in statement form. at best. 'Truth in Art'. in the depiction of a mode of life. Indeed so well known are they that when they are expressed in words they are apt to appear very so on. it is a different way of speaking of art as involving truth which I wish to consider. However. This content downloaded from 168. Concerning some such truths. Sesonske.35 on Sat. they are not at all unimportant. . J7ournalof Philosophy. However. this relation of art works to truth seems quite straightforward to account for and will not detain us. Sesonske makes two points. PP. Yet. Meaning and Truth in the Arts (New York. (iv) Hospers' has suggested 'truth to . No. The case of Bruegel's illustration of Flemish proverbs springs to mind here. although at least regarded as such by most people). are probably quite true. i I (May 1956). Sesonske. for example. I964). This may simply be a matter of authenticity as. and which it. These two features of one kind of truth we can speak of as embodied in art works enable us to understand why examples of it continually recur and in what way they account for the importance of such works. but it is a form of truth which has. or exemplify truths (or beliefs which are held to be true). conveyed by the art works as a whole. an indirect connection with truths as detected in art works. to be aware of them. in some sense. To lack this kind of truth may well be a defect in an art work. is mortal'. for example. refers to art works as containing 'embodied' truths. dramatize.
If we accept that some of the truths in question do have this character. when we remember that in the aesthetic experience of art we set out to disengage from the practical aspects of life. Ibid. This will require us to notice in this connection an implication of the by now standard analysis of emotions and their expression. that this has something to do more with the way in which the art work obliges us to encounter those truths than with their content.' I agree that such art works do embody truths. I think this whole way of looking at art is a promising one. in human life. This content downloaded from 168. but also their I A. then. or even whole views. but the question naturally arises as to how such art works go about the business of embodying such truths. Human beings express a variety of things in or by their behaviour. however'. This conception can be made rather more adequate if we suppose that it makes sense to say that art works do not just embody such simple truths. enables us to come to a full understanding of the force of those simple. What I shall now try to do is to use the ideas we have already presented of art works as items involving representational and emotionquasi-linguistic expressing aspects to elucidate the difficult logical connection between what Sesonske calls the 'embodied truth and the poetic surface'.162. but perhaps would require a rather long discourse. although this also is important. Such truths do exist. 3. p.192 BRIAN H. Sesonske. we have what seems to be a simple and compelling way of accounting for the value of such art. Thus one can argue that such art. 35I. BAXTER: with truths that are disturbing and yet point to conditions which are inescapable.176. that the fact that they do accounts to a large extent for their importance and value. what we can speak of an art work as embodying need not be expressible in a single sentence.35 on Sat. basic truths about human existence which are too basic and common to attract our notice. and to 'drink in' the full significance of the work. and that it does make sense to speak of art works as embodying them. of course. Sesonske tells us that 'it is often difficult to see the logical connection between the embodied truth and the poetic surface. but also the more complex views of which the kind of statement we have been considering forms a part. That is.. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . They express not only their emotions. except very occasionally. and such art alone.
that they are intentional states of persons. Contrariwise. or at least instantly recognizable. It is a characteristic of these intentional states that they are linked to their behavioural expressions in a non-contingent way. as is now widely recognized. A plausible way of accounting for this in the case of visual and auditory art is the one Tormey adopts.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH 193 beliefs. physiognomic and bodily behaviour. many of these things that human beings express in various ways have it in common. If anything which can properly be regarded as an expression of someone's emotion licences a non-causal inference from the behaviour or A. However. An example of the latter is the case of a person whose face has a sad expression. where F ranges over the intentional states of persons. This content downloaded from 168. 7 The Concept of Expression (Princeton. attitudes and desires by means of verbal. intentions. we naturally draw attention to this by the use of some such phrase as 'has an F expression'. The behaviour or activity which are held to be expressions of beliefs. and the case in which we describe something as having an F-expression.162. However. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . configurations which can occur purely by chance in both natural structures and artefacts. When they do. desires. vocal and postural characteristics present in human expressions of emotion and attitude crystallize into conventional. are thus a part of the complex referent of the term we use to denote the relevant intentional state. The importance of this analysis for our understanding of the expressive qualities of works of art is the following. it is important to see the difference between the case in which a description of someone's behaviour or action commits us to a particular description of the intentional state which the behaviour expresses. emotions and so on. it is clearly perfectly possible for someone's face to have such an expression without its being the case that the owner of the face is sad. namely that the physiognomic. Thus the descriptions we employ to characterize an agent's behaviour and actions usually commit us to certain descriptions of the mental states of which they are to be regarded as expressions. we have the Rylean point that describing a person as being in a certain intentional state commits us to various inferences about that person's behaviour or actions in specific circumstances. 1970).176. in which F is replaced by a suitable epithet. as Tormey' has pointed out in his book on the subject of expression. Tormey.35 on Sat.
and say that a work of art. This is not to imply that the emotions an artist feels are of no importance in understanding art. Of course. The implication of this is. what it is expressive of. In particular an understanding of creativity will require us to locate the feelings and emotions of the artist accurately in the imaginative process of creation. Often it will be more to the point. voices and bodies when emotions are being expressed by those creatures. is so in virtue of being an expressive object in the sense already indicated. But we have to decide to allot works of art this role. what intentional state he or she was in when producing the work. and seek to discover what the artist felt. perhaps most.162. we would know that it was the job of the artist to communicate his emotion to us. and so on. given the requisite knowledge of the possibilities of the medium. in suggesting a hitherto unthought-of way of interpreting the work's expressive qualities. e. namely that it possesses quasiphysiognomic or postural qualities recognizable as similar to those present in human (and/or animal) faces. BAXTER: action to the person's being in that emotional state. then. notoriously. background artistic and cultural traditions and so on. among other things.g. and as far as I know this convention has not yet been established. and indeed intended the work to embody his particular kind of sadness.I94 BRIAN H. the range of alternatives at the artist's disposal in this connection.176. There is the possibility. as Tormey suggests. but there is no guarantee that it will be. as has earlier been indicated. if we all accepted Tolstoy's view of art. then.35 on Sat. sad when he created a sad art work. if expressive at all. still if we did not already know this we would not be entitled to claim to know it on the basis of an inference from the sadness of the work of the sadness of the artist. This may be of help. This is because although in many. We can put this point the other way round. that in order to decide what epithet is appropriate to the work. the critic's task to attempt to achieve the most compelling and accurate interpretation of the art work's expressive nature. The implications of the view outlined above for the spectator or critic are obvious and important. say. cases an artist was. But whether the aspect is expressive of X rather than Y is a matter we decide by going back to the work and interpreting it. it is not necessarily of any use to go outside the work. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . to attain an acquaintance with artistic and cultural conventions. works of art do not count in this way as expressions of their author's emotion. that the critic will be faced with what can be This content downloaded from 168. It is.
However. sullen. There are. By contrast. However. but which it does not seem meaningful to speak of art works as expressing. of course. no less than the average spectator. and perhaps commonly do. in the rest of this paper I wish to stay with the cases in which we use words primarily denoting intentional states of human beings in order to clarify what the expressive object is expressive of. as having an embarrassed. moods which people can be in and art works express seem to be such ones as joyful. happy. the words we choose often refer to moods and not emotions. despairing or despondent moods. it seems to make sense to speak of certain shapes. such as music or some forms of ballet and so on. We may feel no need to say what such things are expressive of. Two parenthetical remarks are in order at this point. For example. Once again. annoyed. or power. the competing interpretations of the work's expressive nature. restless. for example. but not art works. But it is to be expected that on many occasions the artist may. Also. elated. The second parenthetical point is that if we take the schema 'Has an F-expression'. or have a majestic expression. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or whatever. it is clear that there are ways we can sensibly replace F in the case of people which will not work for works of art. In the latter category. is that when we refer to the expressive properties of works of art by using words usually used to denote human mental states.35 on Sat. The chief difference between these appears to be that moods do not have to be intentional states in the way that emotions do. Examples of this would be cantankerous.176. In the realm of art works this seems most appropriate of abstract works. restless. and thus will find it a pressing task to resolve. having nothing more than a conviction of the 'fittingness' of the work. benevolent and playful moods. playful or sarcastic expression. For example.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH 195 termed 'expressive ambiguity'. we can discern moods which are non-intentionaf. having importance for what follows. we can speak of people. configurations or movements as being 'expressive' simpliciter.162. while we can. inhospitable. Similar things can be said of such non-animate things as trees and rivers-these too can be said to be expressive of majesty. refer to art works' expressive properties by using non-intentional mood- This content downloaded from 168. the face of a lion can be said to be expressive of majesty. the artist may or may not be of help here. or perhaps explore. morose. moods which people can be in. doleful and so on. A related point. vindictive. Firstly we may note that such things as faces can be regarded as expressive in the sense discussed without its being the case that it is an intentional state of which they are expressive.
If we can accept. then. Such works can be thought of as possessing an overall emotional expressiveness either in the way Tormey suggested. BAXTER: words. With these caveats. but also beliefs.176. of the characteristic ways in which emotions are expressed in the relevant cultures. We do not have in the case of belief. and explains why we do not react to emotions expressed by art works in the way we react to the real expressions of emotion of people. for the expressive object can stand free of any particular context. words which I am interested in for present purposes. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the opposite appears to be the case. I have stressed that in comprehending the emotionally expressive qualities of a work of art we need some background. the view that art works are often expressive objects makes sense of our tendency to apply emotionwords to them. then. context plays a large part in determining what belief is expressed by a piece of behaviour. may we not suggest that art works as expressive objects do not simply express emotions as expressive objects. but I wish to argue that it is a line of thought that soon peters out. But there is no obvious parallel with this in the case of expressions of belief. The basis of the possibility of regarding art objects as being expressive of emotions is that we are able to conceive of material objects or imaginative concretions as possessing those physiognomic properties which we associate.162.196 BRIAN H. and emotion-. it is the intentional mood-. as we do in the emotion case. But this is a context of a rather different kind from that This content downloaded from 168. with human or animal expressions of emotion. that art works can be spoken of as expressive objects. and yet retain quite unequivocally its expressive qualities. In the case of emotional expression. relates the appropriateness of this to aspects of the structure of such works. contextual knowledge of expressive conventions employed. in which the overall effect rests on the mutual modification and interaction of various elements. or in the way Gombrich suggested. may this not provide us with a means of accounting for the embodiment of those truths which many people claim to detect in art works? In other words. which can be formulated in statement-form? This looks a possibility at first sight. A possible misunderstanding has to be guarded against at this point. through custom and convention. on the analogy of the human face. In the case of expressions of belief. expressive conventions or recurring physiognomic or postural configurations.35 on Sat.
Further. emotion involves thought as well as feeling. if one wishes to argue that for example. as is widely realized. But with emotional expressiveness. We need to take note of one further feature of intentional states before such an account becomes possible. The truth of certain beliefs may be presupposed by a work's having such a form. Emotions are directed upon various objects. it is possible to see the thing-act. Thus. Thus. 4. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . one entertains of the object should be the right kind of description. It is a part of such directedness that one's being in an emotional state involves one's thinking of the object of one's emotion in a certain way. This content downloaded from 168. an expressive aspect of it that we had not hitherto registered. this is a fact about those items rather than an aspect which one can see in them. although it may happen that the construction makes sense where it did not before. and people justify their emotions by demonstrating that the object of their emotion does indeed satisfy the relevant description. understanding such facts enables us to understand why the buildings. the conventional forms of churches and temples. If one is frightened of something one must at least consider that thing to satisfy the description 'something to be feared'. are not simply symbols to remind the faithful of their beliefs.35 on Sat.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH 197 which I have maintained is necessary to the understanding of something as an expression of belief. To put the point another way. and if we come to share the beliefs then their significance may alter for us. gesture or whatever-as expressive of an emotion even -when it is perfectly free-standing and contextless. however indeterminate. In the latter case. but are expressions of those beliefs. But as a result of this understanding we do not see the buildings in a new way. the conception of art works as expressive objects will not enable us to account for the notion that the works contain embodied truths. But when we come to understand an item as expressive of an emotion. if true. It is a condition of the appropriateness of the emotion that the description. together with the details of the construction. whatever expresses a belief has to be in a context in order for the thing in question to be understood as the expression of the belief. then the reply to this is that. object. then we see the emotional expressiveness in see the object differently-we the item.176. were built in a particular way.162. but as yet we do not have an account of the manner in which a work of art can express such a truth in itself. that they express those truths. or whatever.
and the reference to snow reminds us of winter. not trees are still thick with leaves. and not just a simple description of. is something which. are the objects of the emotions expressed in such works? The answer. events. basic truths such as those Sesonske mentioned. depicts a gale blowing through a wood. as we have just noted. and uses these words to describe them. becomes apparent when we recall that such works often represent things as well as express emotions. But the reference to falling us of autumn. Of course. their pale undersides autumn-the flashing as they are battered by the gale. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . situations represented in the work as the object of the emotion expressed by the work. There is a parallel here in the case of emotions in order to understand the emotion a person expresses we people-in may have to grasp a complex story about. what descriptions we are to believe are appropriate to it. The speaker's reference to the 'fleece' of the woods shows that the season is summer. considered representationally. BAXTER: This point can be made relevant to our discussion if we turn to consider works of art as emotionally expressive objects. the work which is presupposed by the work's adopting the particular emotional stance it expresses towards the items it depicts. therefore come to recognize how we are to think of what is represented. That the speaker picks out these aspects of the scene. or expressed by.176. An example might clarify the idea. of course. What. However. Consider A. we may ask. it is a condition of an emotion's being appropriate with respect to its object that the object should satisfy a relevant description. In order to see that the emotion expressed by a work is appropriate to the things represented in it we must. the season of falling-reminds leaves-prematurely decay. as I mentioned earlier when introducing Sesonske's point. E.35 on Sat. the dead season. It is possible we should have to come to understand the appropriateness of a whole complex point of view vis a' vis the objects depicted before we see the appropriateness of the emotion towards them. people. the intentional object of the emotion. Housman's poem 'On Wenlock Edge'. we do not have to restrict ourselves to the supposition that art works can only express simple. It is the truth of the beliefs which we wish to speak of as embodied in. We may put the point in the following manner. scattering the leaves 'like snow' on the waters of the river Severn. This content downloaded from 168.I98 BRIAN H. It is at this point that the truth of the beliefs which Sesonske referred to comes in. This.162. I suggest. At least in the case of expressive representational works it is not implausible to take the scenes.
or bluffness. Yet. Aesthetics (London. io8. so does a rumbustious person. no-nonsense worldliness and an acceptance of mortality and the passing away of human passions and activities such as the building of cities. it can be suggested that the poem expresses melancholy mixed with stoicism. There is. still remains.35 on Sat. the gale. as in the case with artists in general. The passion and 'trouble' man feels also blows out like the gale. Charlton' has persuasively argued. and at once reinforces the sense of death and passing away. This content downloaded from 168. the same one which blew for the Roman blows for the English yeoman. Housman. though gone. Yet it also emphasizes the theme of continuity as well-a theme taken up in the comparison of the old Roman.176. The speaker says Through him the gale of life blew high with the implication that he too is soon gone. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . This establishes the long perspective of history. Charlton.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH I99 conveys a certain mood. uses the representational content of his work as a basis for metaphor and simile. linking the mortality of the gale with that of the person. 'twill soon be gone there is the suggestion that. Thus. with the English yeoman who has replaced him. Indeed. As W. p. a certain hardness. and draws connections between the gale and human passion. in the lines Today the Roman and his trouble Are ashes under Uricon. a man of passion and sorrow. As far as the emotionally expressive qualities of the poem go. The poem proceeds with a reference to a former city-Uricon which once stood on the spQt. like the gale. W. but which has long since gone. like the man and his passions. This smacks of bluff. He describes a gale blowing through a wood. I think. one way in which literary works achieve emotional expressiveness is by describing events. It is the 'old wind in the old anger'.162. 1970). just as a rumbustious wind dies young. scenes and so on as they would be described by someone in the emotional state in question. yet using it as a means of establishing a sense of continuity too. in the line It blows so hard.
Indeed the problem is posed by the fact that in some sense the work as a whole. is constrained within more or less narrow limits by the two aspects of the work examined earlier.35 on Sat. embodies or expresses the truth. of course.176. if one were to excise the above two lines from the poem. In the case of this poem. but the nature of the gap. and not any particular feature of it. In other words. it is possible in the case of literary artist that the poet will provide some statement of the putative truth which his work embodies as a whole within the work itself. it might be argued that the linesThe tree of man was never quiet. it is entirely possible for an artist to be unaware of any such aspect of his work. and what can properly be used to fill it up. none of them provides an adequate account of the fact that we usually find it difficult to point to a particular feature of the work which we can plausibly say embodies or expresses the truth. This content downloaded from 168. now 'tis I. The view we have just outlined accounts for this by saying that the appropriateness of the representational and expressive aspects of a work of art is only understood if we assume the correct description to hold of the items represented.162. There is a gap which it is up to us to fill. Of course. if we entertain this proposition concerning what is represented. it does not have to happen for the work to be said to embody the truth. And. Although there is a variety of ways in which we speak of truth in connection with works of art. Then 'twas the Roman. then one can see why the bluff. life nevertheless continues to manifest itself with a resilience which puts conscious beings in deep contact with each other. or something like it. I think it could still be argued that the work embodies the putative truth I have mentioned above. though this may happen. However. Many literary artists now shy away from explicit enunciations within the work of some view which they believe their work to embody. Hence.200 BRIAN H. yet m-elancholy expression of the poem is appropriate to what it describes and to the connections and analogies it traces between what is described. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . or unwilling. to formulate it. BAXTER: One might attempt to express the putative truth embodied in the poem as follows: while there is here no abiding place. then it has the merit of doing justice to the implicit nature of the truths or beliefs which we wish to say that the art works embody. or to be unable. If this is an adequate account. is getting close to the putative truth I mentioned above.
what its significance is. That of which it is expressive has to be characterizable by words referring to particular kinds of intentional state-emotion or mood words. It may be difficult to decide just what has been depicted in the work. of course. when that has been decided. on the theory outlined above. coherent solution to those problems. Thus it can well be a condition of our understanding what belief is expressed by a work that we come to a correct understanding of what belief it is illustrating. and be capable of being regarded as having an overall expressiveness. what truths. On the other hand. it would be a mistake to suppose that the critic's or spectator's task is necessarily to produce a single. Abstract works. this may well be a virtue in allowing it to say many things at once. true. then one obvious consequence is that the job of the critic becomes even more subtle and exacting than we earlier supposed. If my suggestion is correct. facts whether correct. be emotionally expressive (indeed it is plausible to argue that it is easier for abstract works to have an overall expressive quality than for representational works to do so).176. the fact that representational works also dramatize or illustrate beliefs can be fitted into this theory quite easily. Further. they cannot be said to This content downloaded from 168. can. what belief would have to be regarded as true in order for that emotion to be appropriate to that object depicted. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . such as being simply expressive. have been illustrated in the work. This means that what I have said will not apply to art works expressive in some other way. propositions. cogent or otherwise. Any given work of art may pose a variety of difficulties of interpretation. the work has to be. applies only to a particular kind of art work. What has been said. even multiple ambiguity.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH 201 Clearly. and. or how the sub-elements in it go to make up the overall expressiveness. Of course. dramatizing or exemplifying. For among the objects of emotion there lie not simply concrete phenomena such as people and events. But. it can readily be seen how it is possible to produce comic or ironic effects by mismatching the emotional expressiveness of a work of art with its subject-matter. of course. a representational work of art-one which depicts some aspect of perceptible reality.162. to some extent at least. though of course if it says contradictory things this may be regarded as a defect. If a work possesses ambiguity. if any. It has to be an expressive object in the sense outlined.35 on Sat. but also such things as beliefs. what emotion is expressed overall by the work.
or grief for. The value of art is many-sided. at the very least. it has to be stated that failure to fit my analysis is not a damaging blow to the value of any art work or art form. or at worst unintelligible. and even if we fail to show that a work of art or art-form embodies truth. Does this not imply that the art works which embody such truths are redundant? Why not proceed straight to the truths. grief or whatever and not X's anger toward. One objection to the implications of my analysis should finally be noted. to express a personal opinion in this matter. Of course. This is not. in discussing Sesonske's views. either by my analysis or some other one. It might be thought a threat to the importance of art that the truths embodied in it can. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .35 on Sat. it does seem to me that the notion of 'truth' as used in connection with abstract works is either employed in one of the non-literal ways mentioned earlier or else in some other metaphorical. music can depict anger. St Augustine argued in justification of difficult figures in poetry that they led us to value more the truths which we extracted from them with such effort. An obvious candidate for what is depicted in such music is emotion. Works of art bring home the full force of truths we unthinkingly accept. music is highly indeterminate in its depictions. It is in this sense that the aesthetic experience is contemplative. according to the theory outlined. way. and skip the difficult business of extracting them from works of art? Part of the answer to this was given earlier. BAXTER: embody truths. because it connects up with the centrality claim which I mentioned at the beginning. Leaving aside for a moment the difficult question of how one might differentiate between music's expressing and its depicting emotion the point has to be made that. There is a ring of psychological truth about that. to say that it is not possible to give a different account of the way in which abstract works of art embody truths. not in the sense that when in it we are serene and relaxed. be stated straightforwardly in ordinary language. Y. But. And even if This content downloaded from 168.162. or even inferior to that which the analysis does fit. At best. of course. it does not at all follow that such art is valueless. for in the aesthetic encounter with such works we precisely set out to drink in the full significance of them.202 BRIAN H. unless taken in conjunction with a libretto or a programme note which is an addition to the music. or putative truths. Some might wish to maintain that my account could fit an apparently abstract art such as music if we assume that some music at least is representational.176.
great and central truths of existence. This leads me to the claim about centrality which is.' DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY THE UNIVERSITY. 22 Jun 2013 18:30:10 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .35 on Sat. This content downloaded from 168. in a compelling fashion. For if.ART AND EMBODIED TRUTH 203 art works resist any one coherent interpretation. intuitively acceptable.176. What I hope to have given is a precise way of understanding the central place of that kind of art. there is much value in the effort to achieve one. I think. then such art as has formed the focus of our attention in this paper will occupy at least part of the central place in the construction of that concept. as I suspect. for distinterested perusal. I would like to express my gratitude for the many helpful comments and criticisms received on those occasions.162. An earlier draft of this paper was read to the Staff Philosophy Seminars of the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee. DUNDEE DDI 4HN. our western concept of art has at its core the notion of a means of expressing.
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