You are on page 1of 13

Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

Beauty and Aesthetic Value

Author(s): Monroe C. Beardsley
Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 59, No. 21, American Philosophical Association Eastern
Division: Symposium Papers to be presented at the Fifty-ninth Annual Meeting, New York City,
December 27-29, 1962 (Oct. 11, 1962), pp. 617-628
Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc.
Stable URL:
Accessed: 21-01-2016 21:33 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content
in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.
For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Journal of Philosophy, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of Philosophy.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

is not metaphysical; it is a metaphysically contingent condition of

spiritual absoluteness. In this aesthetic situation the dualities
and transitivities that characterize the life of practice and science
have been surmounted. Nothing happens for the sake of any-
thing-which is the same as to say, perhaps, that everything hap-
pens for the sake of everything. Nothing is examined for its
testimony regarding something else that is absent. One exists
validly in perceiving the valid form, and one perceives the valid
form in existing validly. It is the same condition in both. Here,
at this stage, a human being solves the basic problem of force and
right in perfecting the activity of perception itself.
The limitation of art to its medium makes possible the relative
isolation in which the artist can solve the problem of valid being
through valid form. Despite the fact that words have meanings
and that through their meanings the poet can bring within the
compass of his work all things mentionable, it remains the case
that the poet's solution of the problem is restricted to his creation
of a valid form in words. All the meanings are also stuff, and the
validity of a poem lies not in its truth to life or its truth to philoso-
phy, not in the profundity of what it says, but in its truth to
being, the profundity of what it is, that is, in its rightful power
and powerful rightness as language, which reveals the union of
power and right in the spirit whose language it is. Seen in this
light, no art is higher or lower than another. The validity pos-
sible in music or architecture is no less and no greater-and in
the end no different-than that possible in painting or poetry.
Unless the artist's task was restricted to his medium, he would
never solve it.


M R. Hofstadter's rich and trenchant paper t is a firm challenge

to present tendencies in aesthetics and a stern call to return
to the high road from which he believes its current practitioners
have strayed. Since I do not agree either that present tendencies
are mainly in the wrong direction, or that this direction differs
sharply from that of much classic aesthetics, it can be seen that
* To be presented in a symposium on "Validity versus Value in Aesthetic
Phlenomenology" at the fifty-niinth annual meeting of the Amerie:'In Philo-
sophical Association, Eastern Division, December 29, 1962.
t First paper of this symposium, this JOURNAL, 59: 607.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

there is something of a gap between us. I look across it, however,

with great respect, and with the hope that it can be narrowed if
not closed.
First, let us draw together those sentences in which Hofstadter
presents his primary themes. "Genuinely aesthetic judgment,
however-which is not to be identified with the judgment of the
critic-is not a judgment of appraisal" (614)-that is, it is not
a value judgment. Hofstadter does not deny that various value
judgments can be made about works of art or that various grounds
may be had for them (610), but he regards it as "not so much false
as it is absurd . . . to say that works of art have aesthetic
value" (608). Judgments of beauty are genuine aesthetic judg-
ments; these, however, are not judgments of value, but judgments
of "validity." "Only beauty constitutes a fundamental philo-
sophical subject matter calling for a special branch of philosophy"
I, on the other hand, think that there is a particular class of
value judgments involved in art criticism (whether or not by
the professional critic) and plenty of justification for the existence
of a branch of philosophy to examine their meaning and ground
and, if possible, to clarify and improve our reasoning about
them. This is, I think, the most fundamental difference in our
The normative remarks that people make about works of art
characteristically (and perhaps largely) consist of statements in
which the word 'good' (together with its derivatives and nega-
tives) is used in an attributive way: there is superb music, good
music, poor music, better and worse music. Since these state-
ments purport to tell how good a work of art is, let us agree to
call them "judgments of artistic goodness." That such judgments
occur, that they have the function of appraising or (in a rough
way) rating particular works of art, and that they possess a logic
that can be inquired into by metacritical theory-these points, I
believe, are not disputed by Hofstadter. But he does deny that
such judgments are the genuinely or centrally aesthetic judgments
and that the study of their meaning and grounds is the proper
task of aesthetics.
Questions about genuineness and about proper tasks are notori-
ously difficult to raise in a non-question-begging manner. I think
it not irrelevant to observe, on the first point of disagreement,
that to utter a judgment of artistic goodness is the niatural and
usual way to point out the worth of a work of art-and not its

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

worth as propaganda or anything else, but its worth (or its suc-
cess) as art. To call something "good music" must be to judge
it by essentially musical criteria; for when we say it is good music
we are saying that it is good qua music, good music-wise, or in
the manner of music. Thus there must be a manner in which music
is good, considered simply as music, if there is such a thing as good
And surely judgments of artistic goodness are aesthetic judg-
ments. I don't quite know how this proposition is to be supported,
when challenged-except that I do not see how any other form
of statement could have a better claim to be an aesthetic judgment
than the sort of statement that judges a work of art as a work
of art. To say that music is good music is certainly not to make
any other kind of judgment, moral, political, financial, medical,
or whatever.
As regards the other disputed point, about the proper task of
aesthetics, Hofstadter apparently thinks the subject has been per-
verted from its true tradition. Perhaps so-though I think it is a
little odd to imply that Aristotle was not writing aesthetics in his
Poetics, which he sums up in his last sentence in a way that plainly
acknowledges the importance of judgments of artistic goodness
and the need to examine their meaning and grounds.' But since
Hofstadter concedes that there is work available for aesthetics in
my sense (metacriticism), though he does not regard it very highly,
the question at issue (apart from the appropriation or misappro-
priation of labels) is whether there is another job to be done by
aesthetics in his sense.
If it be granted that there are judgments of artistic goodness,
whether or not they are genuinely aesthetic judgments, the next
question is what sort of judgment they are; and I say that they are
judgments of aesthetic value. Here again I collide with Hof-
stadter 's position. It seems to me that to call a sequence of
sounds "good music" is to attribute to it a comparatively high
degree of a special sort of value, which might be called "musical
value. " And I take the general term 'aesthetic value ' to be
related to the specific term 'musical value' in this logical fashion:
anything that has musical value has aesthetic value. Musical
value, poetic value, dramatic value, painting value, sculptural
1 " So much for tragic and epic poetry, their characteristics, . . . and
the causes of their being well [done, made] or not" (in terms of their special
artistic function, which is to produce their "proper pleasure," oikeia hedone).
Butcher translates: " the causes that make a poem good or bad "; Fyfe:
"the causes of success and failure '; G. F. Else: "the causes of artistic ex-
cellelnce and the opposite. "

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

value, etc., are thus species of aesthetic value, just as aesthetic

value is a species of value in general.
If there is something inherently faulty in the concept of aes-
thetic value, I want to know what it is. We commonly discriminate
among various roughly defined species of value by terms like
'medical (or therapeutic) value', 'nutritional value', 'economic
value', and with the help of slightly awkward expressions, coined
for certain purposes, I believe we can make sensible references to
innumerable other species of value: can-opening value, hair-part-
ing value, oyster-opening value, etc. Aesthetic value seems to me
an equally legitimate (and much more important) concept, namely,
the capacity to provide valuable experiences of a certain sort
(this definition does not, of course, show how to eliminate the
term 'value', and so is not strictly a naturalistic definition, but a
contextualistic one). That is what we value works of art for,
and why we are justified in valuing them. That is the end in
view when we evaluate them or declare their value, and the
critic's plainest, most comprehensive, and incisive formula of
evaluation is precisely the judgment of artistic goodness.
As far as I can see, Hofstadter's objection to the term 'aesthetic
value' is that its use involves a "confusion category" (608).
And, if I make out his argument correctly, the confusion consists
in treating something as aesthetically valuable "because it con-
duces to values that are themselves nonaesthetic" (609). I don't
see any category confusion in this, any more than in ascribing medi-
cal value to a drug because it is capable of restoring health, though
health itself is not properly said to have medical value. True, my
definition of aesthetic value makes it derivative or instrumental,
and this may be a mistake, but it appears to me reasonable, and
even fairly innocuous, to say that works of art are, and should
be, highly prized on account of the experiences they afford. In-
deed, I do not see how Hofstadter himself can escape it: whatever
reasons he could give for his own normative statements about works
of art would certainly have to refer to what they can do to and
for those who have commerce with them.


The term "aesthetic validity" at first sounds a little strange to
those of us who are accustomed to the word 'valid' primarily in
logical and legal contexts ("a valid syllogism" or "a valid pass-
port"). Mr. Hofstadter explicates it ihf a way close to Webster's
"now rare"l sense: validity is a combination of force and fitting-
ness: "a rightful power or a powerful right" (608 n). This
property is something that works of art may possess in varying
This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

degrees, and to ascribe this property to them is to judge them in

the bessentiallyaesthetic way.
Hofstadter's theory of aesthetic validity has two aspects, one
phenomenological, the other epistemological and semantic. They
are closely connected, but distinguishable, and call, I think, for
different estimates of success.
Taken as a phenomenological description of aesthetic experi-
ence, Hofstadter's theory has much to commend it. The rightful-
ness aspect of aesthetic validity lies in the relations between the
parts of the work, in their "fitness" for each other, so that the
experience evoked is an experience that they are, in some sense, the
way they ought to be (612-614). Thus, to be aesthetically valid is
to be "valid in and for intuitive feeling" (612). Certainly it is
true that in a good work of art there is this sort of rightness (though
I think we should say, not that it is felt or intuited, but that it is
perceived-heard or seen). The power aspect of validity has, for
Hofstadter, two phases: there is the power of spirit in the work
itself, finding or creating its rightful form, and the power of the
work itself to move the beholder-it "grips" us by its "cogency"
(611). If we ask, then, in phenomenological terms, whether there
is such a thing as aesthetic validity, in this sense, the answer must
be Yes: we experience it, and Hofstadter has called our attention,
in fresh ways, to some of its important features.
But the theory goes beyond phenomenological description. For
Hofstadter says that the aesthetically valid work of art has a
"valid form" that "shows itself as the form of a content which
is a living spiritual power that exists in a condition of spiritual
validity itself; the validity of the form thus constitutes the out-
ward relevation of an inner validity of spiritual being" (610).
Again, "What we discover through the revelation of aesthetically
valid form is the union of power and right in spiritually valid
being" (616).
Here a revelation theory of art is imported into the concept of
aesthetic validity: the work becomes a manifestation, a symbol
(615 n), of one ideal human condition-that in which man experi-
ences the absoluteness of spiritually valid existence. Whether
there is such a human condition is a question that goes beyond the
present context; Hofstadter clearly has in mind a fully devel-
oped philosophy of human life. But some questions must be raised
about the connection between art and reality. The objections
that can be brought against revelation theories in general do not
seem to have been taken into account in this version, though some
of them are quite serious. Two are particularly pertinent here:

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

I believe that this revelation theory is both too abstract and too
The theory is too abstract in this way: what all beautiful works
of art reveal is, in the end, the same thing, namely spiritual validity.
But it will not be enough to say this unless we then go on to
explain the difference between works of art. What is it that King
Lear reveals and Macbeth does not? How does one work become
greater, or more beautiful, than another-by being more powerful,
more rightful, more revelatory, or revelatory of different things?
And, finally, are there not many forms of life revealed in works
of literature-in different plays and poems, even in the same play,
and not only through the characters and events, but in the very
meter and diction and structure? Some forms of life are less
valid, presumably, than others, even among the great works:
Dante's, Homer's, Lucretius's. What distinctions can the theory
The theory is also too general. I don't see how every work
of art can be a revelation. I will grant that a tragic drama makes
a direct allusion to the human condition, but can the same be said
for a string quartet? It is always possible to achieve generality
of revelatory content by ascending to higher levels of abstraction:
the string quartet exhibits order, and so reveals the order of the
universe, etc. But if 'spiritual validity' has a more concrete and
substantial meaning, then it does not seem extendable to every
beautiful work of art. Of course it may be said that the string
quartet does not contain references to reality, but is itself, as a
whole, a reference-or a kind of symbol. But this view raises
difficult problems.
For how does it come about that the work of art reflects "ex-
istential validity" -how do we know that beauty is "truth regard-
ing validity of (spiritual) being " (615 n) ? A work cannot become
a symbol without some symbol-making or symbol-forming process.
It will not do, I think, to try to sink the epistemological or semiotic
question into the phenomenological one, with the help of an am-
biguous word like 'show'. The fullest phenomenological descrip-
tion of the aesthetic experience will give us only what is in the
experience; it will not justify our attributing to the work a ref-
erence beyond itself to human life (which is implied in 'showing'),
and still less will it justify our deriving from the work a truth
about human life (which may be implied in 'revealing'). Taken
in its fullest and richest sense, Hofstadter's account of spiritual
life working itself out in valid form is a fine description of what
we may hear in music or see in painting, but it remains meta-
phorical. Music has a life of its own, it moves and grows, it finds

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

its way, overcomes obstacles, resounds in exultant joy, comes to anl

end 'that suits its nature well, and so on. But these apt and vital
metaphors do not warrant our taking the music as a manifestation
of something else.
I sympathize very much with Hofstadter's aim to show how art
contributes in a fundamental way to all our life. I am drawn
toward those passages in his paper that indirectly remind me of
Dewey-for example, of Dewey's idea that in aesthetic experience
the incorporation of means into ends gives us a sort of model
of what life at its best can be. I would like to believe one very
pregnant statement. After asserting that "one exists validly in
perceiving the valid form, and one perceives the valid form in ex-
isting validly. It is the same condition in both," Hofstadter says,
"Here, at this stage, a human being solves the basic problem of
force and right in perfecting the activity of perception itself "
(617). Granted that many of our social problems can be summed
up as the problem of "rightful power" -how to make force sub-
servient to justice-and that the subtle problems of the creative
artist can also be summed up as the problem of "rightful power"
-how to harmonize the elements of an intense experience-I do
not see how these problems can really be called one. And it may
be dangerous in the extreme to think that one of them can be
"solved' or even partially solved, by solving the other.


What, finally, are we to make of the judgment of beauty? Is

beauty a "form of validity," or is it not'? I have had my moments
of impatience with such questions-utterances about beauty must
be among the least rule-governed of all verbal behavior. Anyone
with enterprise and strength of mind can adopt the word and
adapt it to his own purposes. So: what is beauty? It is pleasure
objectified, or unity in variety, or the ideal in sensuous form, or
successful expression, or the rightful power to make the inner
validity of spiritual life also valid for intuitive perception-or
something else. And if one should say, No, beauty is not any of
those things, and not anything like them, how would one make
one's case any more convincing than these-give it any less the
appearance of being a verbal fiat? For it is easy enough to show
that people often apply the word 'beauty' very loosely and
capriciously, in a hit-or-miss fashion, according to momentary
whim, and quite inconsistently with one another.
I think the explanation for this confusing usage is a simple
one. Suppose a person who is looking at the sea early one morn-
ing, under special weather conditions, observes upon it a certain

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

peculiar quality-it has that sort of look, then and there-and

gives it a name or description. Let us say that it pervades the
scene, but only for a short time; it returns, but often less intense;
it appears unexpectedly and often very briefly; it must be looked
at with some attention to be seen, and perhaps few persons are
present when it appears or have the inclination to attend or can
recall it very distinctly afterward or describe it with great ac-
curacy. One can imagine a particular adjective coming, but gradu-
ally and insecurely, to designate that quality among those who are
acquainted with it, but we can be sure that such an adjective will
have all the vagaries of 'beautiful': it will often be misapplied by
those who think they are talking about the same quality when they
are not; there will be frustrating disputes between those who have
eyes to see its evanescent presence on a particular morning and
those who are less perceptive, or between those whose mood on that
occasion opens them to a response and those who are in a contrary
or unsuitable mood. More importantly, the adjective may com-
monly be applied to a range of similar though distinct qualities;
and efforts to agree upon a set of necessary and sufficient condi-
tions for its application will be frustrated. It will no doubt even
be argued with some cogency, once it is realized that those who
claim to have seen this quality have found it precious, and cherish
their recollection, that there was no quality at all, but that in
talking about it, they have merely been expressing their emotions-
another way of carolling "Oh, what a beautiful morning !"
If beauty is such a perceptual quality, similarly variable in
intensity and sometimes difficult or impossible for some people to
perceive, then judgments of beauty can be expected to have all the
peculiarities they do in fact have. This explanation seems to me
the best one available; moreover, I believe it can be supported inde-
pendently. To set out more points of disagreement for discussion,
I shall state some propositions about beauty and defend them
briefly. Except for the last one, it is not so much their truth as
their importance (or interest) that Hofstadter would question; but
if they are true they have a bearing on the nature of aesthetic
judgment. To sum them up, I shall argue that beauty is a simple
regional perceptual quality, which is a sufficient but not a neces-
sary condition of aesthetic value.
1. Beauty is a perceivable quality. We use the adjective
'beautiful' most normally in response to questions like "How does
it look?" "How does it sound?" The beauty of the sculpture is
seen in it; of music, is heard. (I do not think that it can be
smelt or tasted.) We may be able in an indirect way to persuade

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

someone by argument that a sculpture contains a beauty he cannot

see (by adducing the testimony of others, for example), but we
regard this as somewhat futile unless we can point it out to
him, make him see it for himself. It follows that any property of
art (including "validity"?) that cannot be perceived-but must
be felt or inferred-is something quite different from beauty.
2. Beauty is a regional (or emergent) quality, that is, a quality
of a complex: of a melody or visual design. A single sound cannot
strictly be beautiful, I think, though it can be pleasing. I say this
despite the famous passage in which Plotinus 2 argues that sym-
metry cannot be the essential perceptual condition of beauty be-
cause in that case simple qualities, like a color, a star, or gold,
could not be beautiful. Perhaps Plotinus was right-then at least
I would claim that beauty cannot appear in a very intense degree
except when it is a regional quality. (I don't see, by the way,
how there would be beauty in, say, a single tone on Hofstadter's
view, either; a single tone could not have "rightness," since it has
neither parts nor context.)
3. Though it is a quality of a complex, beauty is itself a simple
quality. I don't know how to prove this convincingly, but cer-
tainly beauty can be present in various degrees, and on occasion
we can observe its increase. Take an amateur pianist practicing
the slow movement of a Mozart sonata. At first he is inaccurate,
then accurate but mechanical, then freer and more expressive in
phrasing. As we listen, his successive performances become more
and more beautiful-and if we were given tape recordings of them
all, jumbled up, we could rearrange them in order of beauty. This
suggests to me that we are going by a single quality to establish
a single dimension.
Plotinus, in the passage mentioned above, was replying to a
theory that was in his time principally maintained by the Stoics. I
think it noteworthy that these classical philosophers, in discussing
the question of the relation between beauty and symmetry,s were
usually clear about the sort of question they were asking. Plotinus
does not ask, for example, "What is beauty?" or "Is beauty simple
or complex'?" He asks, "What is it that gives comeliness to
material forms?" He answers that an object becomes unified by
participation in the Ideal (Platonic) Forms, and "on what has
thus been compacted to unity, Beauty enthrones itself, giving itself
to the parts as to the sum. . . ." He means, I take it, not that
2 The Enneads, trans. MacKenna and Page, 2d ed. rev. (London: Faber
and Faber, 1956), I, vi, 1 (p. 56).
3 Plato in the Philebus; Aristotle in the Poetics (briefly); Plotinus in
Ennead I, Tractate vi.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

beauty can be defined as unity or as participation in the Forms,

but that unity (whether of the homogeneous or the heterogeneous)
is the perceptual condition of supervenient beauty.
4. A fairly high degree of beauty is a sufficient condition of a
fairly high degree of aesthetic value. Anyone who can say that
this is a beautiful piece of music can also say that it is a good piece
of music. I admit that a comparatively uncomplicated poem may
be quite beautiful, without ranking among the best poems, but if
it is quite beautiful then it is quite good. Note that, with certain
assumptions, this point and the previous one might be used to
support point 2 above. The argument would be this: The con-
ditions of being a good poem are multiple-it must have not only a
pervasive quality (like beauty), but also coherence and complete-
ness, in some measure, and a degree of complexity, in the form
of subtlety and richness of meaning. But beauty is simple.
Therefore, if beauty in a poem is sufficient to make it good, that
must be because beauty has itself complex conditions that are also
conditions of poetic goodness. But the conclusion does not neces-
sarily follow, because some degree of complexity is necessary, not
only for being a good poem, but for being a poem-and similarly
for other aesthetic objects. If a single note on a flute or French
horn can be beautiful, it nevertheless cannot be beautiful music,
for it is not music.
5. Beauty is not a necessary condition of aesthetic value. This
proposition is strongly objected to by Hofstadter, whose charitable
impulses are aroused when he observes "how homeless an orphan
beauty has become in contemporary aesthetic terminology" (609).
I thought that I had provided adequate shelter for beauty when I
said that it was one ground of aesthetic value, but evidently it
craves to be an only child. (In any case, I believe I treat beauty
no more harshly or slightingly than the British aestheticians of the
eighteenth century). In my view, other qualities besides beauty
are grounds of aesthetic value. For example, there is the sublime,
which is something different. Expressiveness-that is, the posses-
sion of intense regional qualities-I take to be broader than beauty.
I realize that Hofstadter may reply that what many people call
expressiveness is really part of what he means by 'beauty'. How
much of the issue here is verbal is a subtle question. But for my
part I believe that the gradual recognition of expressiveness (not
expression-a different thing) in the past few centuries has in-
volved not a mere narrowing of the term 'beauty' but a widehing
of the scope of the aesthetic.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

But I am afraid that this is not enough to let me escape from the
trouble into which I am plunged by Hofstadter's attack-and by
his charge that I confuse "the stuff of the work and the work
itself ' (609). When I try to give examples of excellent (or, if
Hofstadter prefers, highly successful) works of art that are never-
theless not properly called "beautiful," his answreris that, though
the "stuff" (or subject) may not be beautiful, the work itself
nevertheless is. At the risk of some unorthodoxy, I would like to
say whv I do not wholly accept this criticism. There are three
types of case to consider.
First, consider nonrepresentational works of visual or auditory
art. In these, we cannot confuse the subject with the work itself,
since there is no subject. Yet I would say, for example, that
Beethoven's Great Fugue (Op. 133) should not be called "beauti-
ful, though it is a tremendous piece of music, a great and excellent
work. Parts of it have beauty, but as a whole it glories in its
power, its dramatic intensity, its drive and pent-up energy. As
to visual art, let me invoke the support of Henry Moore, in a
passage quoted by Harold Osborne:
For me a work must first have vitality of its own. I do not mean a reflection
of the vitality of life, of movement, physical action, frisking, dancing figures
and so on, but that a work can have in it a pent-up energy, an intense life of
its own, independent of the object it may represent. When a work has this
powerful vitality we do not connect the word Beauty with it. Beauty, in the
later Greek or Renaissance sense, is not the aim of my sculpture.4

Second, consider literary works of art. In these, I cannot be

conffusing the subject with the work itself, since what is true of the
subject is true of the work. How can we distinguish between the
drama Oedipus Rex and the fate of (Sophocles') Oedipus ?5 For
that fate is what the play is about, and thus it is what the play
(in part) is. "Oedipus discovers his crimes and blinds himself"
describes what is going on in the play; it is the play's tragic
substance. If the events that make up a play are tragic, or comic,
or farcical, how can the play fail to be tragedy, comedy, or farce?
4Theory of Beauty (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1952), p. 14.
This fassage illustrates one of the two senses of 'beauty' distinguished by
Osborne. which I hold to be the usual and useful one. One example from a
critic: Bernard Berenson (Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Oxford:
Clarendcon Press, 1930) uses the word 'beauty' nine times in his two pages
praising Simone Martini (pp. 162-163), but in his six pages praising Giotto
much more highly (pp. 64-65, 69-73) he does not once attribute beauty to
Giotto 's paintings.
,"We can of course distinguish between Euripides's story of Medea and
the traditional one, since he invented Medea 's murder of her children, but
the murder is then part of the subject of the play.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

And it seems to me peculiar to say that Oedipus Rex is a beautiful

play, even thougyhit is a great play.
Third, consider representational paintings. Certainly we may
distinguish between the subject and the painting, or at any rate
between what is depicted and the design that depicts it.6 And
there are some nice questions about the connection between them.
A visual design can depict certain things without actually having
the properties depicted: for example, a picture of a 100-foot tower
need not itself be 100 feet high. But a picture of a red dress has
to be red. And in the example given by Henry Moore, it seems to
me that a work could not go far toward representing a physical
action that has vitality unless it presented vitality as a quality,
though of course it could be vital as a design without representing
anything at all. Now, what is the logical connection between "X
is a beautiful picture" and "X is a picture of a beautiful object" ?
To show the object as beautiful, the depicter must assemble lines
and areas that will look to some extent beautiful, as the object
itself would presumably look (because of its lines and shapes) if
we were to see it; and the lines and shapes that depict an ugly
object can do so only by being themselves ugly.
Suppose, then, that in offering the Griunewald example I had
made this inference: "Since the Crucifixion as depicted by Grune-
wald is not beautiful, the painting is not beautiful." Would such
an inference really be fallacious? I don't say that one cannot
paint a beautiful picture of the Crucifixion-other painters have
depicted that event as far less terrible than Griunewald-but only
that, to do so, one will either have to depict a beautiful Crucifixion
or else bring into the picture other areas than those that depict
the Crucifixion. However, I did not mean to legitimize this ex-
ample by an inference, fallacious or not, from subject to painting,
but rather to appeal to the careful observer's reflective judgment.
Do we not wish to praise this painting in some way other than by
saying that it is beautiful? I do. Possibly that is because my
narrower use of the term tempts me to miss something in the
painting that is more easily seen by one who uses Hofstadter's
terms. Possibly it is because the narrower use makes room for
the recognition that there is no one character that stamps all
great works of art, but an unlimited variety of aesthetically valu-
able qualities.

6 I use the term 'depict' in the slightly technical sense (distinguished from
that of 'portray') assigned to it in Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy
of Criticism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958), ch. 6.

This content downloaded from on Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:33:25 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions