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Does Traditional Aesthetics Rest on a Mistake? Author(s): William E. Kennick Source: Mind, New Series, Vol. 67, No. 267 (Jul., 1958), pp. 317-334 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the Mind Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2251530 . Accessed: 27/04/2011 20:48
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III.-DOES

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BY WILLIAM E. KENNICK

on at least two ofthem,and the purposeofthis I think, rests, paper is to explorethe claimthat it does. philosophical By 'traditionalaesthetics' I mean that familiar to answersuch queswithtrying itself whichconcerns discipline tionsas thefollowing:What is Art? What is Beauty ? What Experience? Whatis theCreative Act ? What is theAesthetic and Taste ? What is the Judgement ofAesthetic are thecriteria like: Are ? To be sure,thereare others, of Criticism function object and the workof art the same ? or,Does art the aesthetic are commonly content ?-but thesequestions have any cognitive group,whichmight to thoseof the first takento be subordinate ' of traditional aesthetics. be called the 'basic questions forDefinitions.If someone as Requests 1. TheBasic Questions asks me ' What is helium? ' I can reply: ' It's a gas ' or ' It's a inertand colourchemicalelement' or 'It's a gaseous element, less, whose atomic numberis 2 and whose atomic weightis upon whomI am willdo, depending ofreplies 4003'. A number talkingto, the aim of his question,and so on. It is a pretty business; we get answers to such questions straightforward manuals. andtechnical encyclopedias, dictionaries, day from every Now someoneasks me ' What is Space ? ' or ' What is Man ? ' or ' What is Religion? ' or ' What is Art? ' His questionis of as the question' What is helium? ' but howvastly thesameform verypuzzlingabout these ques! There is something different readilyby appealingto dictiontions; theycannotbe answered aries, encyclopedias,or technical manuals. They are philosophical questions,we say, giving our puzzlementa name, althoughwe should not thinkof calling 'What is helium? ' a of the same question. Yet we expect something philosophical sortofanswerto bothofthem. There'sthe rub. We say that questionslike 'What is Space ? ' or 'What is about thenatureor essenceof forinformation Art? ' are requests Space or of Art. We could say that 'What is helium?' is a about the natureor essenceof helium, requestforinformation but we rarely,if ever, do; althoughwe do use questionslike 'What is helium? ' as analogues of questions like 'What is for. What we Space? ' to showthe sortof replywe are looking
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want,we say, is a definition of Space or ofArt,foras Plato and Aristotle taughtus long ago, " definition is the formula of the essence". So, just as the traditional'metaphysicians have long soughtforthenatureor essenceofSpace and ofTime,ofReality and of Change,the traditional aesthetician has soughtforthe essenceofArtand ofBeauty,oftheAesthetic Experience and the CreativeAct. Most of the basic questionsof traditionalaesthetics are requestsfordefinitions;hencethe familiar formulae that constitute theresults oftraditional aesthetic inquiry: 'Art ' (Croce), ' Art is Significant is Expression Form' (Clive Bell), 'Beauty is PleasureObjectified'(Santayana),and so on. Given thesedefinitions we are supposedto knowwhat Art is or what Beauty is, just as we are supposedto know what heliumis if someonetellsus thatit is a chemical element, and gaseous,inert, colourless, withan atomicnumber of 2 and an atomicweightof 4 003. F. J. E. Woodbridge once remarked that metaphysics searches forthe natureofreality it by definition.We and finds mightsay that traditional aestheticssearchesforthe natureof Artor Beauty and finds it by definition. But whyshouldit be so difficult to discern the essenceof Art or Beauty ? Whyshouldit take so muchargument to establish or defend such formulae as 'Art is Expression' ? And once we have arrived at suchformulae or have been giventhemin answer to our question, whyshouldtheybe so dissatisfying ? To come closerto an answerto thesequestions, we mustlook at what it is the aesthetician expectsof a definition of Art or Beauty. De Witt Parker has stated with unusual claritythe " of the aesthetician " assumption in askingand answering such questionsas ' What is Art ? '; at the beginning of his essay on "The Natureof Art" (notethe title)he says: Theassumption underlying every ofartis theexistence philosophy ofsomecommon nature in all thearts,despite present their differencesin form and content; something the samein painting and sculpture; in poetryand drama; in music and architecture. workof art,it is admitted, Everysingle has a uniqueflavour, a itincomparable je nesais quoiwhich makes with every other work; there is somemark orsetofmarks nevertheless, which, ifit applies to any workof art, appliesto all worksof art, and to nothing
else-a common denominator,so to say, which constitutesthe definition of art, and serves to separate . . . the fieldof art from otherfieldsof human culture.1

1 De Witt H. Parker, " The Nature of Art ", Revue Internationalede Philosophie, July 1939, p. 684; reprinted in E. Vivas and M. Krieger, eds., The Problemsof Aesthetics (New York, 1953), p. 90. Italics mine.

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logic it shouldbe clear,is whatthetraditional What we are after, ' of Art and per genus et differentiam texts call a ' definition Beauty. Questioned; the First Mistake. The as2. The Assumption all works of art must sumptionthat, despitetheirdifferences, set of characpossess some commonnature, some distinctive else, a set everythifig whichservesto separateArtfrom teristics conditions fortheir being works of of necessaryand sufficient what and constitutes art at all, is both naturaland disquieting, aesthetics mistakeon whichtraditional I consider to be the first rests. It is natural,because,afterall, we do use the word'art ' and things-pictures of verydifferent to refer to a largenumber and vases and a and sculptures poemsand musicalcompositions we hostof otherthings; and yetthe wordis one word. Surely, to themall common to say,theremustbe something are inclined or we shouldnotcall themall by thesamename. Unumnomen; unumnominatum. whenwe come to searchfor is disquieting Yet the assumption naturewhichwe supposeall worksofart to possess. the common It is so elusive. We oughtto be able to read a poemby Donne or or a play by Eliot or JosephConrad, by Keats, a novelby George and to Mozartand Stravinsky, to listen Sophoclesor Shakespeare, to look at the picturesof Giottoand Cezanne and the Chinese mastersand see what Art is. But whenwe look we do not see to supposethatits essencemust whatArtis. So we are inclined can that only an aesthetician be something hidden,something see, like the soundsthat onlya dog can hear,or else, as Parker, verycomplex, forexample,supposes,that it mustbe something (op. ct<t. p. 93). This explainswhy involving manycharacteristics of Artis so hardto arriveat, whyit is so an adequate definition muchharderto answerquestionslike 'What is Art? ' than it is to answerquestionslike 'What is helium? ' Perhaps this also ofArtwhenthereis no Philoexplainswhythereis a Philosophy sophyof Helium? But this explanationwill not do. It will not do, that is, to that the essenceor natureof Artis elusive,very supposesimply that what we are hard to detect,or verycomplex. It suggests of scrutinizing, that whatwe have to do facedwithis a problem is to look longand hardat worksof art,examinethemcarefully and diligently and, voila! we shall see. But no amount of gives us what we want. All we see is lookingand scrutinizing this poem and that play, this pictureand that statue,or some of themthat catchesour attention; and ifwe findsome feature orevenbetween between poemsorplaysorpictures, resemblances

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these poems and pictures,picturesand musical compositions, resemblances quickly disappearwhenwe turnto other poemsand plays and pictures. That is why in aesthetics it is best not to aesthetics look at too manyworksof art and why,incidentally, is best taughtwithoutconcrete examples; a fewwill do. We can readily believethat we have seenthe essenceofArtwhenwe have selected ourexamplesproperly; but whenwe rangefarther afield we lose it. to think thatifwe looklongenough and Despitethetemptation hard enoughat worksof art we shall findthe commondenoin question,afterall the fruitless minator that has scrutinizing alreadybeen done,it is stillmoretempting to thinkthat we are likelooking for looking for thatis notthere, something theequator or the lineon the spectrum that separatesorangefrom red. No wonderthat in aestheticswe soon begin to feel the frustration of St. Augustine whenhe asked himself 'What is Time ? ': " If I am not asked,I know; if I am asked, I know not". Somethingmustbe wrong. as I see it,has nothing to do withthenatureor Whatis wrong, essenceofArtat all; thatis, thereis neither anything mysterious about worksof art whichmakes the nor anything complicated taskofanswering thequestion' Whatis Art? ' so difficult.Like withTime,we do knowquite wellwhatArtis; it St. Augustine asks us thatwe do notknow. The trouble is onlywhensomeone lies not in the worksof art themselves but in the conceptof Art. The word 'art', unlikethe word 'helium', has a complicated ofuses,whatis nowadayscalleda complex' logic '. It is variety or the studioto name somenot a wordcoinedin the laboratory thingthat has hitherto escaped our attention; nor is it a relativelysimple term of commonparlance like 'star' or 'tree' with whichwe are all quite familiar. whichnames something As Professor Kristeller has shownus,' it is a wordwitha long, involved, and interesting history; a complicated concept indeed, but not forthe reasonswhichthe aestheticians suppose. Any willindicatesomeofits manymeanings, good dictionary someof thevariety ofuses whichthe word' art ' has; but no dictionary will give us the kind of formula whichthe aestheticians seek. That is whywe supposethat the natureofArtis a philosophical and whythereis a Philosophy ofArtbut no Philosophy problem of Helium. It is the complicated conceptslike those of Space, Time,Reality,Change, and so on that baffle Art,Knowledge, us.
1 P. 0. Kristeller, " The Mo"dern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics", JournaloftheHistoryofIdeas, xii (1951), 496-527; xiii (1952), 17-46.

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Dictionariesand their definitions are of use in making short shrift of questionsof the form'What is X ? ' onlyin relatively trivialcases; in the hard and more simpleand comparatively interesting cases theyare frustrating and disappointing. is an answer to this,and it might runsomewhat Doubtlessthere as follows: " We knowthattheword'Art' has a variety ofuses in English. Mostcommonly it is used to refer to pictures alone; whenwe visitan art museumor consultan art critic, we expect to see picturesor to hear picturestalked about. We say that painting, notpaintinghouses or fences, is an painting pictures, art, that cookingand sewingand basket-weaving, bookbinding and selling are arts, but onlysomepictures do we call works ofart, or basketsas works and rarely do we refer to dishesor garments ofart,excepthonorifically. We speak oftheliberalartsand the industrial artsand ofthe art ofwar. But all ofthisis besidethe point. As aestheticianswe are interestedonly in what are sometimes called the 'fine arts', or whatCollingwood calls 'art proper'-works of art. Surelyall of these have something in else how shouldwe be able to separatethosepaintings common, and drawings and poems and plays, musical compositions and whichare worksof art from thosewhichare not ? " buildings To answerthe last questionfirst and make a longstoryshort: we are able to separatethoseobjectswhichare works ofartfrom thosewhichare not,becausewe knowEnglish; thatis, we know howcorrectly to use theword' art ' and to applythephrase'work ofart'. To borrow a statement from Dr. Waismann and change it to meetmyownneeds," If anyoneis able to use theword' art' or the phrase'work ofart' correctly, in all sortsofcontexts and on the rightsortof occasions,he knows' what art is ', and no formula in the world can make him wiser ".1 " Art proper " is simply what is properlycalled 'art'. The 'correctly' and 'properly' herehave nothing to do withany 'common nature' ' ofall works or 'commondenominator ofart; theyhave merely to do withtherulesthatgovern theactualandcommonly accepted usage ofthe word'art'. Imaginea verylargewarehouse filled withall sortsofthingsof everydescription, pictures musicalscoresforsymphonies and dances and hymns, machines, tools,boats,houses,churches and temples,statues,vases, books of poetryand of prose,furniture and clothing, newspapers, postagestamps,flowers, trees,stones, musical instruments.Now we instructsomeoneto enterthe warehouse and bringout all of the worksof art it contains. He will be able to do this withreasonablesuccess,despitethe fact
1

" Analytic-Synthetic II ", Analysis, See F. Waismann, 11 (1950),p. 27.


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mustadmit,he possessesno satisthat,as eventhe aestheticians of some common factory definition of Artin terms denominator, has yetbeenfound. Now imagine becauseno suchdefinition the same personsentintothe warehouse to bring out all objectswith Significant Form,or all objectsofExpression. He wouldrightly be baffled; he knowsa workof art whenhe sees one,but he has littleorno idea whatto lookforwhenhe is toldto bring an object Form. that possessesSignificant To be sure,thereare manyoccasionson whichwe are not sure is a workof art or not; that is, we are not whether something sure whether to call a given drawingor musicalcomposition a workof art or not. Are " NearerMy God to Thee " and the politicalcartoonsof Mr. Low worksof art ? But this merely reflects the systematic vaguenessof the conceptsin question, or what Dr. Waismannon anotheroccasionhas called their'open of the aestexture'; a vagueness,note, whichthe definitions do nothing at all to remove. On such occasionswe theticians someofthevagueness, thetexture, remove can, ofcourse, tighten a line; and perhapscurators a decision, by making drawing and are sometimes of art museums committees forced for purchasing obviouspracticalreasonsto do this. But in doingso, theyand about Art. we are not discovering anything We do knowwhatart is whenno one asks us whatit is; that is, we knowquite wellhow to use the word'art ' and the phrase ' workofart' correctly. And whensomeone asks us whatartis, we do notknow; that is, we are at a loss to produceany simple or any complexone, whichwillneatlyexhibitthe logic formula, ofthiswordand thisphrase. It is the compulsion to reducethe complexityof aestheticconceptsto simplicity, neatness,and to make his first to orderthat movesthe aesthetician mistake, ask 'What is Art? ' and to expect to findan answerlike the answerthat can be givento 'What is helium? ' What I have said about Art in this sectionapplies,mutattis to Beauty,theAesthetic theCreative mutandis, Experience, Act, and all of the other entitieswith whichtraditional aesthetics concerns itself. a Wherethereis no mystery, thereis no need forremoving and certainly noneforinventing one. mystery and Similarities. Is the searchfor 3. Common Denominators a fool'serrand ofart,then, ? common characteristics amongworks -tofind That dependsuponwhatwe expectto find. If we expect somecommon in Parker'ssense,we are boundto be denominator in unnecessary disappointed. We shall get ourselvesenmeshed and the definitions whichwe hope will freeus from difficulties,

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the net will be speciousat best. If we say ' Art is Significant Form' we mayfeelmomentarily enlightened;butwhenwe come to reflect ' we shallfind uponwhatwe meanby ' significant form ourselvesentangled again. For the notionof Significant Form is clearlymore obscurethan is that of Art or Beauty, as the example of the warehouseabove amply illustrates; the same holds forExpression,Intuition,Representation, and the other favoured candidatesof the aestheticians. Nor will it do to say, as Professor Munrodoes,' that " art is skillin providing stimuli to satisfactoryaesthetic experience ". This has merely a scientific sound,and this sound is about as close as the effort to make aestheticsscientific comes to science. The notion of aestheticexperience is fraught withthe same difficulties as the notionof art. To put it dogmatically, thereis no such thingas theAesthetic Experience; different sortsof experiences are properlyreferred to as aesthetic. Do not say they must all be contemplative. Does that reallyhelp at all ? There is, however,a fruitful and enlightening search for similarities and resemblances in art which the search for the commondenominator sometimes furthers, the searchforwhat, to torture a phraseof Wittgenstein's, we can call 'familyresemblances'. Whenwe squintwe can sometimes see features of an object whichotherwise we shouldmiss. So in aesthetics, when we narrowour view,whenin the searchforthe commondenominator we carefully our sight, selectour examplesand restrict wemaynotsee whatwe arelooking butwe maysee something for, of moreinterest and importance. The simplifying formulae of theaestheticians are not to be scrappedmerely because theyfail to do whattheyare designed to do. What failsto do one thing can be turned maydo another. The mistake oftheaestheticians to advantage. The suspicionthat aestheticsis not nonsenseis oftenjustified. For the idea that thereis a unityamong the arts,properly ofsimilarities employed, can lead to theuncovering which,when noticed,enrichour commerce with art. Croce's supposeddiscovery calls our attention that Artis Expression to, among otherthings,an interesting featureof some, if not all, works ofart,namely, between their indifference to thedistinction thereal and the unreal. whenF. R. Leavis says of Or, to take examplesfrom critics, writer Crabbe," His art is that of the short-story ",2 and when
1 Thomas Munro, The Arts and Their Interrelations (New York, 1949), p. 108. 2 F. R. Leavis, Revaluation: Tradition and Developmentin English

Poetry (London,1936),p. 125.

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Professor compares thefourth movement ofSchumann's Stechow " Rhenish" Symphonywith certain featuresof the Cologne Cathedral,' we have something and importance. Our ofinterest attention is refocused on certain works, and we see themin a new light. One of the-offices of creativecriticism, as of creative aesthetics,is the finding and pointingout of preciselysuch similarities. Theories mistakes 4. Aesthetic Reconsidered.Philosophical are rarely downright howlers; theyhave a point. What I have said is, I think, correct, but it neglects an important facetofthe quest a by-product foressences, of that search,so to speak,whichwe should not ignore. An aesthetictheory,by which I mean a systematic answerto such questionsas 'What is Art? ' ' What is Beauty ? ' and the like,frequently does something quite other than what it sets out to do. The assumption underlying traditionalaesthetics, as Parkerstatesit in thepassage quotedabove, is wrong, and I hope I have shownwhyit is wrong. It does not followfromthis, however,that aesthetictheoriesare wholly without point,thattheyare merely mistaken, thatformulae like 'Art is Significant Form' are worthless, useless,or meaningless. They do serve a purpose,but theirpurposeis not that which Parkerassignsthem. Considered in context, in the historical or forexample,theyare frequently seen to have personalcontext, a pointwhichhas-nothing to do withthe philosophical excuses thatare made forthem. Take Bell's famousdictumthat 'Art is Significant Form'. It does not help us to understand what art is at all, and to that in thisdirection extent it is a failure; its shortcomings have been exposed on numerous occasions. It is easy to beat Bell down; he is so vulnerable. But whenwe stop to consider that he was an Englishman and when he wrotehis book on art (1913) and whatthe tasteoftheEnglishwas likethenand ofhis association with Roger Fry, the statement that 'Art is Significant Form' loses some of its mystifying sound. It has a point. Not the point that Bell thinksit has, forBell was also lookingforthe commondenominator; anotherpoint. We mightput it this in art was restricted way. The taste of EdwardianEnglishmen to what we pejoratively call the 'academic'. Subject-matter of eminent was of primeimportance to them-portraits persons, landscapeswith or withoutcows, genrescenes,picturesof fox hunts,and the rest. Bell had seen the paintingsof Cezanne,
1 WolfgangStechow, " Problems of Structurein Some Relations Between and Art Criticism, the Visual Arts and Music ", The Journal of Aesthetics xi (1953), 325.

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and Picasso,and he was quickto see thatsubject-matter Matisse, in them,that the value of the was not of prime importance associations. It or sentimental did not reston realism paintings form'; lines and colours restedon what? Well, 'significant that stir apart fromassociations and patternsand harmonies evokedby subject-matter.He foundalso that he could look at by the Venetianand paintings olderpaintings, otherpaintings, Dutch masters,for example, and at vases and carpets and such in thesamewayhe lookedat Cezanne. He found sculptures to thepictures exciting. But whenhe turned rewarding, looking the thrilldisappeared; theycould not be of the academicians, then, in thisway. What was morenatural, lookedat profitably by saying' Art is than that he should announcehis discovery forhimself. something Form' ? He had discovered Significant wouldhaveit,although ofArt,as thephilosophers Not theessence but a newway of looking that thisis what he found, he thought and to withothers at pictures. He wantedto sharehis discovery Englishtaste. Here is the pointof his dictum; 'Art is reform of Form' is a slogan, the epitome of a platform Significant aestheticreform. It has workto do. Not the workwhichthe people a new way assignit, but a workof teaching philosophers at pictures. of looking aesthetic cantawayfrom Whenwe blowthedustofphilosophic and look at themin this way, theytake on an importtheories Poetics, theyseemto lack. Read Aristotle's otherwise ance which in but as instruction in definition, exercise not as a philosophical and it takes on a new life. Many one way to read tragicpoetry, can also be examinedin of the otherdicta of the aestheticians theywillnot do; but as thislight. We knowthatas definitions theywilldo. Perhapsthat or reform of instruction instruments than critics withpractising is whytheyhave had morerealweight theyhave had withphilosophers. The criticshave caughtthe fromthe start by a misguided point, wherethe philosophers, have missedit. withdefinition, foolish preoccupation and Criticism ; theSecondMistake. One of the 5. Aesthetics of Art, searchfordefinitions primereasonsforthe aesthetician's thatunlesswe knowwhat is his supposition Beauty,and therest, artis. Artor Beautyis, we cannotsay whatgood art or beautiful presupposes Put it in the formof an assumption: Criticism the secondmistake contains Theory. This assumption Aesthetic on which traditionalaestheticsrests, namely,the view that withoutstandardsor criteria is impossible criticism responsible applicableto all worksof art. The secondmistake universally is in thisway closelyrelatedto the first.

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To see moreclearly how thisassumption operates, we can turn to a recent bookby Mr.Harold Osborne,' Aesthetics and Criticism. Osbornebelievesthat " a theory of the natureof artisticexcellence is implicit in everycriticalassertion whichis otherthan autobiographical record ", and he thinksthat " untilthe theory " (p. 3). has been made explicit is without the criticism meaning By a 'theoryofthenatureofartistic excellence' Osborne means a theory ofthe natureof Beauty (p. 3). Osborne examines severaltheories ofthenatureofBeauty and finds themall wanting. His movesagainstthemare instructive. Take, forexample,his move against a versionof the Realistic in Chapter Theory holding thatartistic excellence V, thattheory in ' truth consists to life'-or so Osborne statesit. He correctly notesthat practising critics have rarelyinsistedthat verisimiliand we should tudeis a necessary condition ofartistic excellence, all agreethat it is not. " But ", says Osborne," if correspondis not a necessary condition of encewithrealor possibleactuality it is not and cannotbe of artistic excellence, thenmostcertainly in thoseworksof itselfan artistic virtue,or an aestheticmerit, literature where it happensto occur" (p. 93). This is a curious argument. It seems to contain a glaringnon-sequitur. But what leads Osbornefromhis protasisto his conclusionis the fora critical assumption thattheonlyacceptablereasonofferable in terms ofa characterofa workofart is one framed judgement ofart,mustpossess. Since isticwhich all works ofart,qua works we admitthat not all worksof art mustpossesstruthto lifeor adventitious ofthis we cannotuse their verisimilitude, possession property as a reasonforpraising, them judging,or commending as worksof art. Now surelythis is mistaken. We can agreethat correspondence withreal or possibleactuality, whatever that may mean,is not a necessary condition of artistic excellence; that is, it is not for the necessarythat it appear among the reasons offerable judgement that a givenworkof art is good or beautiful. But it does not follow thattherefore it does not and cannotappear as a reason forsuch a judgement. We can and do praise worksof ofthatis, fora variety of theforce art,as worksofart,whatever reasons,and not alwaysthe same variety. Osborne's replyhere is that in doing so we are being 'illogical and inconsistent'. the usersof the HedonisticCriterion, he says, " In so Attacking faras he [the critic]also uses othercriteria [thanthe hedonistic and assessingworksof art, he is beingillogical one] forgrading the with himself whenever he does introduce and inconsistent
1 Routledge and Kegan Paul

Ltd., London,1955.

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" (p. 139). But why? hedonistic-or emotional-assumption about praising, or inconsistent whatever illogical Thereis nothing a workofartformorethanone reason, unless or judging grading, thatone and onlyone reasonis offerable we assumewithOsborne whichis clearlynot the case in art or on pain of inconsistency, else. anywhere of traditional is aesthetics, Osborne,true to the assumptions and sufficient whichis both necessary looking forthat condition or merit. His owncandidateforthat conforartistic excellence ". But if coherence dition is what he calls " configurational us oftheemptiness of pointedwereneededto convince anything of Osborne's account of the search,it is the unintelligibility " beautyas configuration ". If whatI have said above about the we shouldnotbe surprised by ofArtand Beautyis true, concepts this. For ' art ' and ' beauty' do not name one and only one we cannotfind respectively;no wonder substance and attribute the feltdiscovery intelligible the one thingtheyname or render that theydo name one thing. We can makeeach ofthemname one thingif we wish. But why should we bother? We get alongverywellwiththemas theyare. 6. Ethics and Criticism; the Second Mistake Again. 'But will say, 'this cannotbe the wholestory. We surely',someone forexample,is can and do say thatthisworkofart,thispicture, betterthan that,or that thisis a good one and that one is not. or criteria whenwe make standards certain Do we notpresuppose ? And isn't this reallyall that Osborneand such judgements have in mindwhentheyinsistthat criticism otheraestheticians ? They are lookingfor the stanaesthetictheory presupposes and tastein thenatureofart,just as judgement dards of critical ofright conductin have lookedforthe standards manymoralists in thewrong place,but thenatureofman. Theymaybe looking that theremustbe something in assuming clearlytheyare right to find.' My replyis this: theyare not lookingin the wrongplace so much as they are lookingfor the wrongthing. The bases of are indeedto be foundin the workof art criticism responsible judgeand nowhere else,but thisin no way impliesthat critical ments presuppose any canons, rules, standards, or criteria applicableto all worksof art. is a good knife, we have in When we say that a certainknife or ofknivesin general, which ofthe knife, mindcertainfeatures thisclaim: the sharpness or support we believewillsubstantiate of the of the handle,the durability of the blade, the sturdiness of thehand,and so on. Thereare a number thewayit fits metal,

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all of whichreferto characteristics such considerations, of the and notto ourfeelings about or attitudes towards knife it, which the criteria of a good knife. Special may be said to constitute knivesas opposedto butcher criteria may be adducedforfishing the issue in question. knives,and so on, but thisdoes not affect or exhaustively thatthereis no definite Note first list specifiable in commonand universalemployment; it does not of criteria we have conmake senseto ask how manythereare or whether with sideredthemall. But thereare generally acceptedcriteria which we use to support ourjudgements, which we are all familiar or implements, though in cases of special instruments like are acquaintedwiththecriteria. ophthalmoscopes, onlyspecialists Secondly,note how the criteriaare relatedto the purposesor of knives,to the uses to which we put them, the functions demands we make,upon them. 'Knife', we mightsay, is a a word that names something whichis usually function-word, or functions. The criteria, we can say defined by its function loosely, are derivable fromthe definition.This second conto look forthe standards sideration has led someaestheticians of in the function of art, taste and criticism no function. We use Now take apples. Theyhave,ofcourse, use them withthem-eat them, fordecoration, do things them,we feedthemto pigs,pressciderfrom them,and so on-but noneof the function of an apple. thesethingscan be said to constitute on how we use themor what we use them Depending, however, similarto the listsforknives. for,we can framelists of criteria are not alwaysthebestforeating, The best applesfordecoration norare thebestformaking pies alwaysthebestformaking cider. unless he is asNow take mathematicians.A mathematician, work to do, again has no function. There signeda particular and in terms are certainthingsa mathematician does, however, criteria forjudging, ofthesewe can againframe praising, grading, and commending mathematicians.Finally,take menin general. We oftenpraisea man,as a man,as opposedto as a plumber or a mathematician, and we call this sort of praise moral praise. themoralworth forassessing ofmen, Here again,we have criteria considerations although, theological aside,we do not frame them ortask,evenifsomemoralists, interms ofman'sfunction, purpose, have triedto framethemin termsof man's end. like Aristotle, But we make demandson men,moraldemandson all men,and reflect thesedemands. our criteria we have to raiseis this: Let us turnnowto art. The question Are criticaljudgementsof picturesand poems logicallysymwe have been considering to the sortsof judgements metrical ?

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I thinkthey are not, or not entirely. Not because they are than othervalue judgesomehowmoresubjectiveor unreliable ments(thisissue is as falseas an issue can be !), but because the to them whichis appropriate ofjustification and support pattern to be justified, sort. Any criticaljudgement, is of a different forthis saying, by reasons; thisgoeswithout mustbe supported is what 'justification'means. But must the reasonsofferable appraisalbe of the same order and acceptablein cases of critical and acceptablein cases ofinstruments, or typeas thoseofferable or jobs, offices, services, usefulobjects,professional implements, musttherebe any generalrules, moralconduct? In particular, canons,or laws applicable to all works of standards,criteria, art by whichalone such criticalappraisals can be supported? I thinknot. by place,we shouldnotethatonlya man corrupted In thefirst a workofartas a workofartin ofjudging wouldthink aesthetics general,as opposed to as this poem,that picture,or this symthat the notions phony. Thereis some truthin the contention concepts. This ofArtand WorkofArtare specialaestheticians' followsquite naturallyfromthe absence of any distinguishing to all worksofart as such,and from common feature or features the absence of any singledemandor set of demandswhichwe make on all worksof art as such. Despite the occasionalclaim in the sensein which or purpose, that it has, Arthas no function and thisis an insight have functions, knivesand ophthalmoscopes to be gained fromthe 'art forart's sake' position. This does not mean that we cannotuse individualworksof art forspecial purposes; we can and do. We can use novelsand poems and to put us to sleepor wakeus up; we can use pictures symphonies and sculptures to coverspotson the wall, vases to hold flowers, or doorstops. This is whatlendspointto the forpaperweights as a work of art and betweenjudging something distinction or paper weight; but we judgingit as a sedative,stimulant, or thisthat Art has some specialfunction cannotconcludefrom to whichit can be put. purposein additionto the purposes thereis no one thingwhichwe do withall worksof Similarly some we art: some we hang,some we play, some we perform, read; somewe look at, somewe listento, somewe analyse,some use of and so on. Thereis no specialaesthetic we contemplate, worksof art,even thoughit may make sense,and even be true, to say that a personwhouses a statueas a doorstopis not using we normally it as a workofart; he is notdoingone ofthethings we might it properly, do withworksof art; he is not treating of worksof art variesfrom time treatment say. But the proper

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to timeand from place to place. It was quite proper fora cave ofa bison, manto hurlhisspearat thedrawing just as it was quite properforthe Egyptiansto seal up paintings and sculptures in a tomb. Such treatment does not render the object thus treated Art in termsof what not a workof art. The attemptto define we do withcertain objectsis as doomedas any other. Fromthis and the firstconsideration it followsthat thereis no way by whichwe can derivethe criteria of taste and criticism from the function of art or from its use. The remaining parallelis withmoralappraisal,and thisis the mostinteresting ofthemall. It has been,and perhapsstillis, a common viewamongphilosophers that Beauty and Goodnessare two speciesofthe same genus,namely, Value, and thattherefore thereare at least two classesofvalue judgements, namely, moral judgements and aestheticjudgements. For this reasonthereis a tendency to supposethat thereis a logical symmetry further ofsymmetry is a mistake, thetwo. But the supposition between and I am led to suspectthat it does littlebut harmto suppose that Beauty and Goodnessare two speciesof the same genusat betweenthe two,that all. Thereare clearlycertainsimilarities of the form'This is good' is, betweenthe logic of statements ' This is beautiful ofthe form and the logicofstatements '-they are used in manyof the same ways-but thismustnot blindus froma very natural comsuffers to the differences.Criticism parisonwithethics. Moral appraisal is like the otherformsof appraisal,in this a desireforuniformity.It is whenwe are respect; it expresses interested in uniformity ofsize,milkproducing conduct, capacity, becomeso important. We and so on, that standardsor criteria in products maintain standards and in workmanship;we enforce them,hold ourselvesup to them,teach them to our children, insiston them, and so on, all forthe sake ofa certain uniformity. in uniformity, at least in what we In moralswe are interested expectmennotto do; thatis one reasonwhyrulesand laws are role in moral necessaryand why they play such an important likePlato, we wishto be legislators appraisal. But in art,unless, of art, demand that it perform a and to require something educationaland social service,we are not as a rule specified in uniformity.Some criticsand aestheticians interested are, of in the worksof art in uniformity-uniformity course,interested in our approachto them. For themit or uniformity themselves is quite naturalto demaiidcriteria. For themit is also quite theoriesof Art and Beauty. Remember natural to formulate in theories above: the definitions what we said about aesthetic

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whichtheyissue are oftenslogansof reform. As such theyare also often devicesfor theencouragement ofuniformity.But this merely betrays the persuasive character of many aesthetic theories, and the peculiarlegislative postureof some critics and is no warrant forthe assumption in aestheticians thatthe criteria forresponsible questionare necessary criticism. Nor shouldit blindus to thefactthatwe do quitewellwithout them. Criticism has in no way been hampered by the absenceofgenerally applicable canonsand norms, and where have beenproposed suchnorms theyhave either, likethenotorious Unitiesin thecase oftragedy, ofbalance, beenshown to be absurd,or else,liketherequirements harmony,and unity in variety,they have been so general, equivocal, and empty as to be useless in critical practice. in praisingone novel for its Ordinarily we feel no constraint anotherforits humour, and still anotherforits verisimilitude, plot or characterization.We remarkon the richnessof Van Gogh'simpasto,but we do not findit a faultin a Chinesescroll that it is flatand smooth. Botticelli's painting lyricgraceis his glory, but Giottoand Chardinare not to be condemned because ofKeats and Shelley their is ofanother order. Themerits poetry are not those of Donne and Herbert. And why should Shakebe measuredby the same rod ? Different speareand Aeschylus worksof art are, or may be, praiseworthy or blameworthy for different reasons,and not always the same reasons. A quality in one paintingmay be blameworthy in that is praiseworthy another; realismis not always a virtue,but this does notmean that it is not sometimes a virtue.' Mr. Hampshire has put the reasonwhythe criteria soughtby theaestheticians are so ' elusive' and whytheparallelwithethics is a mistake in thisway: " A workofart ", he says," is gratuitous. It is notessentially theanswer to a questionorthe solution " (op. cit. p. 162). There is no one of a presentedproblem problembeing solved or question answeredby all poems, all pictures, all symphonies, let alone all worksof art. If we set a number of peopleto doingthe same thing, we can rate themon how well theydo it. We have, or can frame, a criterion. But notall artists are doingthesamething-solving thesameproblem, the same question,playingthe same game, running answering the same race. Some of them may be, we do group artists together by 'schools', and in otherways, to indicateprecisely
1 I owe much in this sectio'nto Helen Knight's " The Use of 'Good' in Aesthetic Judgments", Aesthetics and Language, William Elton edn. (Oxford, 1954), pp. 147 ff., and to Stuart Hampshire's " Logic and Appreciation ", ibid. pp. 161 ff.

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notesthat " my liking because I likeit'. Mrs.Knightcorrectly a pictureis nevera criterion of its goodness'" (op. cit. p. 154). That is, myliking a picture is no reasonforits being good,though it may be a reasonformysaying thatit is good. But ifit is notall a matter ofliking and disliking, whyis it that a certainfeature is a virtuein a givenworkofart ? If someone tells me that a certainwork of art is good for such and such are good the reasonshe offers reasons,how can I tell whether ? These questions reasonsor not, or even if they are relevant are not easily answered, forin practicewe adduce many considerations forsayingthat a workofart is good or that a certain to canvassthese ofit is a virtue. I willmakeno attempt feature on a logical considerations but will close withsome observations feature of the problem. witha problem that is reallytwo I think, We are confronted, problems: thereis the problemof sayingwhya givenworkof art is good or bad, and thereis the problemof sayingwhy our reasons are good or bad, or even.relevant. We may praise a and draughtspicture, say,forits subtlebalance,colourcontrast, manship; thisis sayingwhythe pictureis good. We may now go on to raise the more' philosophical'questionof what makes

is it good?

thiskindofsimilarity;but onlyin so faras theyare does it make sense to compareand appraisethemon the same points. It is no criticism of Dickens that he did not writelike HenryJames. a novelor a lyric Writing poemmay,in someinteresting respects, be like playinga game or solvinga problem, we in factspeak of artistsas solvingproblems. But it is also different; so that if we wish to retain the analogy we must call attentionto the differences by sayingthat not all poets or novelistsare playing the scme game, solvingthe same problems. There is indeed a certaingratuitousness in art whichdestroys the parallelismor symmetry betweenmoraland aestheticappraisal. But thereis also a gratuitousness in aesthetic criticism. Moral appraisal,likelegaljudgement, is a practical necessity; aesthetic appraisal is not. That is why the claim that in art it is all a matter oftasteis tolerable, evenifit is false,whenthissoundsso shocking in morals. We can live sideby side in peace and amity with those whose tastes differ quite radicallyfromour own; in moralstandards similar differences are moreserious. And yet, oftaste,ifby ofcourse, aesthetic criticism is not merely a matter taste we mean unreasonedpreferences.Taste does play an important part in the differences amongcriticalappraisals,but in answer to our question' Why notsatisfied we are clearly when,
'

or ' What's good about it?

',

we are told ' It's good

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balance,or thissortof colourcontrast, or thiskindof draughts'manship an artistic virtue. The firstsort of question, the questionof why the workof art is good or bad, is decided by ' or 'criterionappeal to the 'good-making characteristics ' of the workof art in question, characters that is, by an appeal to certainobjectively discriminable characteristics of the work underdiscussion. These characteristics are many and various: thereis a large varietyof reasonsofferable fora workof art's being a good or bad workof art. The secondsortof question, the questionof the worthor relevanceof the reasonsoffered in answerto thefirst question, is settled by appeal either to custom or to decision. In this respectaestheticcriticism is very like moral appraisal. We eithersimplypraise what is customarily praised and condemnwhat is customarily condemnedor we decidewhat the criteria shall be. This does not mean that the criteria, that is, the reasonsofferable fora workof art's being good or bad, are arbitrary. Theremaybe plenty ofreasonswhy one feature is a ' criterion-character' and anotheris not. Part of the reasonmay be psychological, part sociological, part metaphysical, or evenreligious and ethical. Onlyan aesthete ignores, or triesto ignore, the manyrelations of a poem or picture to life and concentrates on what are called the purely'formal' values of the workat hand; but in doingso he determines what he will acceptas a reasonfora workofart's beinggood or bad. That a workofartassiststhecause oftheproletariat in theclass struggle is a reasonfor itsbeinga goodworkofartto a convinced Marxist, but it is not a reason,let alone a good reason,to the bourgeois aesthete. That a picture contains nudefigures is a reason, to the puritanand the prude,forcondemning no enlightened it, though man can be brought to accept it. Thus moralsand politicsand do enter intoourcritical religion evenwhenwe claim judgements, that theyshouldnot. I noted above that thereis no one use whichwe make of all works ofart,noris there any onedemandor setofdemands which we make on them. This is, I think,important, and servesto ofaesthetic explain,at leastin part,the actual relativity criteria. What one age looks forin painting or in literature, anotherage may neglect. What one groupdemands,anotherforbids. We in even our own demandson art, and are not always consistent I can see no reasonwhywe shouldbe. We can be interested in works ofart formanyreasons, and someofthesereasonsmaybe at onetimeor in one set ofcircumstances moredecisive thanthey are at anothertime or in anotherset of circumstances.This the very logic of criticalappraisal by determining affects the

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forour judgements. relevanceand meritof the reasonswe offer ofa givenpoet or We are wellawareofthefactthatthe estimate painterchangesfromperiod to period. El Greco's or Shakehas not always been what it is, and no one speare'sreputation if it shouldchangein the future. But ifwe shouldbe surprised for the different examine the reasons that have been offered Different reasons that theytoo are different. estimates, we find contexts. The timesand in different are persuasive at different that art is operative: the needs and interests same explanation from time to time and, to a lesserextent gratifies are different perhaps, from personto person. But as the needs and interests we place on them. and the weight vary,so also will the criteria disposed onlyto thosewhoare morally Thisis a viciousrelativism to insiston the uniformity oftaste. Summary: I have triedto show(1) thatthesearchforessences the failure to appreciate arisingfrom in aesthetics is a mistake, the complexbut not mysterious logicof such wordsand phrases as art ', ' beauty', ' the aesthetic ', and so on. But experience commonto all worksof art are (2) although the characteristics in somethe searchforsimilarities the object of a fool'serrand, and pursued, worksof art can be profitably timesverydifferent by the formulaeof the. this search is occasionallystimulated of the aestheticians the definitions aestheticians. (3) Although are useless forthe role usually assignedto them,we must not serve as slogansin the ignorethe live purposetheyfrequently for openingup new effort to changetaste and as instruments avenues of appreciation. (4) If the search for the common denominator of all worksof art is abandoned,abandonedwithit ofcritical appreciation to derivethe criteria mustbe the attempt aesthetics and appraisalfrom the natureof art. (5) Traditional is impossible mistakenlysupposes that responsiblecriticism applicableto all works canons,or standards without a set ofrules, of assimilation an uncritical ofart. This supposition arisesfrom areas, thepattern appraisalto thatofappraisalin other ofcritical the gratuitto appreciate a failure and from particularly morals, in whichreasonsare operativein ousnessof art and the manner judgements. the justification of critical Amherst College