You are on page 1of 14

Revue Internationale de Philosophie

AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS
Author(s): Joachim SCHULTE
Source: Revue Internationale de Philosophie, Vol. 43, No. 169 (2), Wittgenstein (1889-1989) avec
un inédit de Wittgenstein (1989), pp. 298-310
Published by: Revue Internationale de Philosophie
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23946725
Accessed: 29-10-2015 21:16 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/
info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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 support@jstor.org.

Revue Internationale de Philosophie is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Revue
Internationale de Philosophie.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHET1C CORRECTNESS

Joachim SCHULTE

In Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-philosophicus aesthetics is mentio


ned only once, and in this passage it is, characteristically, dealt with on
a par with ethics. Wittgenstein says, 'It is clear that ethics cannot be put
into words. Ethics is transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one and
the same)' (TLP,
6.421) ('). Leaving aside the Statement about the
transcendentality of ethics, we may infer from this remark that aesthetics
cannot be put into words. This and a number of observations in
Wittgenstein's notebook of 1916-17 imply that by 'aesthetics' he does not
mean a philosophical theory about works of art ; what he means is the
realm of art, or works of art, itself. Possibly he intends only the realm of
'good' or, as he would say later, 'tremendous' works of art (NB, 19.9.16
[5], L&C, 1.23).
This early claim about the inexpressibility of aesthetics seems to stand
in sharp contrast to a much later remark where Wittgenstein says, 'People
nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc.
to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them —
that does not occur to them' (1939-40, C&V, 36). If poets and compo
sers can, as Wittgenstein suggests, teach us something, then, it seems,
there must be a way of conveying that which we should learn from them.

( 1 ) When referring to Wittgenstein's works I shall use the following abbreviations :


TLP = Tractatus Logico-philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness,
London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, second ed., 1971.
NB = Notebooks 1914-1916, ed. G. H. von Wright and G. E. M. Anscombe, Oxford :

Blackwell, second ed., 1979.


L&C = Lectures
and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed.

Cyril Barrett, Oxford: Blackwell, 1970. (Roman numerals refer to lectures, arabic
numerals to sections within lectures).
C&V = Culture and Value, ed. G. H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch, Oxford :
Blackwell, 1980.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 299

This contrast between Wittgenstein's earlier and later views, however, is


only apparent. The appearance is due to an ambiguity in the words
'express', 'expression', and 'inexpressible' : something may be inexpressi
ble in an exact or scientific way, for example, but still expressible in a more
tentative or indirect fashion. The implicit statement that aesthetics cannot
be put into words does not amount to the same thing as the thesis that
none of it can be conveyed in any form whatsoever ; it means that it cannot
be talked about by means of propositions 'with sense' : The aesthetic
insights you may be able to communicate by means of language will have
to be conveyed by using words in an indirect way. Even if you employ
sentences that seem to be capable of being judged true or false, it is not
because of this that they may succeed in getting across your intended
message. Correspondingly, that of which Wittgenstein thinks that it might
be learned from poets or composers need not be anything that can be
expressed in the form used by scientists to teach whatever they wish to tell

There is a second
ambiguity in the words 'express' and 'expression'
which could lead to misunderstandings of Wittgenstein's remarks about
aesthetic questions. In his early notebooks (19.9.16) he writes that art is
a kind of expression and that a good work of art is a perfect kind of
expression. Now here it might be natural to ask what it is that a work of
art expresses and what it is that a good work of art expresses perfectly.
This type of question, however, does not seem adequate. The possible
'content' of an expression is not the aspect which Wittgenstein wants to
emphasize. The meaning of 'expression' he is interested in comes out in
statements like the following, 'The expression on Brando's face is the same
as that on a famous picture of Gödel', 'The expression I can detect in this
phrase is one of melancholy, and to me it seems a melancholy of the same
type as that expressed by certain lines by Lenau' (2). Of course, it is a
natural idea to think that if these lines can express melancholy, then there
must be melancholy in them. But the point is that the way in which that

(2) When talking about 'expression' in this sense we tend to change our normal use
of'identical', 'same',etc., correspondingly : 'Ail have learnt the use of And suddenly
they use it in a peculiar way. They say : "This [indicating an actor playing Lloyd George]
is Lloyd George", although in another sense there is no similarity. An equality which we
could call the "equality of expression". We have learnt the use of "the same". Suddenly we
automatically use "the same" when there is not similarity of length, weight or anything of
the sort' (L&C, IV.6).

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
300 J. SCHULTE

which is expressed can be said to be in those Unes is not the way in which
jam can be said to be in a jar. The meaning of 'expression' Wittgenstein
is here interested in is that in which it signifies a certain configuration, a
certain look or physiognomy. In this sense the statement that the ex
pression on my face is one of melancholy can be found to be true even if
I am in high spirits (and even if those who find the expression melancholic
know that I am not in a melancholic mood).
On the other hand, it must be remembered that expressions such as
melancholy or serenity, although sometimes manifested by human beings
who do not actually feel the corresponding émotions and sometimes even
by inanimate objects, can be called expressions of these types only because
there really is human behaviour which can truly be said to display
melancholy, serenity, etc. (3). Here it is plausible to assume that an
expression is more or less closely connected with actual human behav
iour ; and it can also be supposed that the intended shade of meaning of
'expression' varies according to the closeness of the connexion involved.
The expression of pain I may be referring to when talking about a portrait
or a dramatic scene performed on the stage is evidently more closely
connected with actual kinds of human behaviour than what I may be
referring to when speaking of poetry or an abstract painting or a peculiarly
designed garden. But it may none the less be true that ail these expressions
can be seen to conform to one and the same pattern of pain. To
widerstand the rôle of such patterns and their connexions with human
behaviour is of great importance if we try to grasp Wittgenstein's account
of certain aesthetic questions.
Time and again Wittgenstein emphasizes that 'beautiful' and related
words may serve as inteijections but do not play a great rôle in actual
discussions of works of art. This is probably an exaggeration. He admits
that 'people who can't express themselves properly' may frequently use
such words as 'lovely' (L&C, 1.9), and the same presumably applies to

(3) What is important is that the behaviour we are dealing with is 'natural' or even
'instinctive' behaviour. That is why certain explanations in aesthetics can fonction like, or
be parasitic on, utterances (= Äußerungen — 'avowals' — in Wittgenstein's technical sense) :
'Here "explanation" is on the same level as an utterance - where the utterance (when you
say that you have pain, for instance) is the sole criterion. Explanation here is like an
utterance supplied by another person — like teaching him to cry. (This takes the surprising
ness away from the fact that the whole point of an explanation is that it is accepted. There
are corresponding to these explanations utterances which look like this ; just as there are
utterances which look like assertions)'. (L&C, 11.40 n.5).

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 301

'
'beautiful and simiiar words. He is reported to have said in a lecture of
1938 that

in real life, when aesthetic judgements are made, aesthetic adjectives such
as 'beautiful', 'fine', etc., play hardly any rôle at all. Are aesthetic adjectives
used in a musical criticism? You say : 'Look at this transition', or 'The
passage here is incohérent'. Or you say, in a poetical criticism : 'His use of
images is précisé'. The words you use are more akin to 'right' and 'correct'
(as these words are used in ordinary speech) than to 'beautiful' and 'lovely'
(L&C, 1.8).

Similarly, in the academic year 1932-33 he said, according to Moore's


description, that 'the actual word "beautiful" is hardly ever used in
aesthetic controversies : that we are more apt to use "right", as, e.g. in
"That doesn't look quite right yet", or when we say of a proposed
accompaniment to a song "That won't do : it isn't right'" (4). And
according to Ambrose's report of the same lecture he claimed that 'in an
aesthetic controversy the word "beautiful" is scarcely ever used. A différent
sort of word crops up : "correct", "incorrect", "right", "wrong". We never
say "This is beautiful enough". We only use it to say, "Look, how
beautiful", that is, to call attention to something' (5). It has to be borne
in mind that these three statements come from lecture notes ; they may be
a little inaccurate, and Wittgenstein may have expressed himself loosely.
In fact, I am sure that he expressed himself loosely : He seems to be
making a statement about linguistic usage although actual usage does not
really interest him greatly, as is shown by the remark about people who
cannot express themselves properly. Roughly speaking, his thesis rather
seems to be that in aesthetic discussions between connoisseurs (6) certain
standards are applied in such a way that judgements about the correctness
or incorrectness of (parts of) works of art can meaningfully be put forward
and accepted or contested.
This thesis may appear innocent enough. But it connects up with a
number of other ideas of Wittgenstein's in a way which is not always easy

(4) G. Ε. Moore, 'Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33', PhilosophicalPapers, London :


George Allen & Unwin, 1959, 313.
(5) Alice Ambrose, Wittgensteins Lectures : Cambridge 1932-1935, Oxford : Blackwell,
1979, 36.
(6) For Wittgenstein^ views on connoisseurship, cf. Rudolf Haller's remarks in his
paper 'Das Kunstwerk als Gegenstand sub specie aeternitatis', in his collection Facta und
Ficta, Stuttgart : Reclam, 1986, pp. 115f.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
302 }. SCHULTE

to reconcile with these ideas. The thesis may also seem to be incompatible
with the widely held view that in the last analysis aesthetic judgements are
a matter of personal taste, éducation, and culture. Whether Wittgenstein
would agree to the claim that in the last analysis there will always be a
personal or subjective element in aesthetic judgements may be an open
question ; but he would no doubt agree that culture and éducation play a
decisive role in this context (7). At any rate, the thesis about the existence
of standards is not incompatible with either of these Claims ; after all,
standards may be relative to cultures and, within a given culture, they may
be accepted or acceptable up to a certain point but not by everyone in ail
cases.
Another question about the général applicability of aesthetic standards
concerns exceptional works of art — what we may call 'great' works or
'masterpieces'. Wittgenstein himself admits that they play a special role ;
in particular, he agréés that at least some of our aesthetic standards do not
apply to them and says,

When we talk of a Symphony of Beethoven we don't talk of correctness.

Entirelydiiferentthings enter. One wouldn't talk of appreciating the tremen


dous things in Art. In certain styles in Architecture a door is correct, and
the thing is you appreciate it. But in the case of a Gothic Cathedral what
we do is not at all to find it correct — it an entirely différent role with
plays
us. Here there is no question of degree. The entire game is différent.It is
as différent as to judge a human being and on the one hand to say 'He

behaves well' and on the other hand 'He made a great impression on me'.

(L&C, 1.23).

Even if (or especially if) the greatness you are confronted with is of a kind
you cannot fully understand, you will not judge it in terms of correctness
or incorrectness. You may — like Wittgenstein himself in the case of
— marvel at these works but still be unable to make anything
Shakespeare
of them. Here people may stare at the creative artist and his great works

(7) A typical remark occurs in L&C, I.25f. : 'The words we call expressions of aesthetic

judgement play a very complicated rôle, but a very definite rôle, in what we call a culture
of a period. To describe their use or to describe what you raean by a cultured taste, you
have to describe a culture. What we now call a cultured taste perhaps didn't exist in the
Middle Ages. An entirely différent game is played in différent âges. / What belongs to a
whether
language game is a whole culture. In describing musical taste you have to describe
children whether women do or whether men only give them, etc., etc. In
give concerts,
aristocratie circles in Vienna people had [such and such] a taste, then it came into
circles and women joined choirs, etc. This is an example of tradition in music'.
bourgeois

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 303

'in wonderment, almost as at a spectacular natural phenomenon. They do


not have the feeling that this brings them into contact with a great human
being. Rather with a phenomenon' (1950, C&V, 85).
The truly great works of art — 'the tremendous things in Art' — set their
own standards ; they themselves cannot be judged by means of standards
derived from other paradigms. This notion, however, is not easy to bring
into harmony with another idea present in Wittgenstein's remarks, viz. the
idea that within a given culture or tradition there will exist a set of
accepted raies by which works are to be appreciated. And it seems that
these raies are supposed to exist to some extent independently of any
specific works of art. This at any rate is the impression one gets from the
following passage, "The raies of harmony, you can say, expressed the way
people wanted chords to follow — their wishes crystallized in these raies
(the word 'wishes' is much too vague). Ail the greatest composers wrote
in accordance with them' (L&C, 1.16). At this point there appears to be
a certain tension between two or more of Wittgenstein's claims ; that this
is the case is conflrmed by the uneasiness with which he replies to an
(unspecified but inferrable) objection : 'You can say that every composer
changed the raies, but the variation was very slight ; not all the raies were
changed. The music was still good by a great many of the old raies. — This
though shouldn't come in here' (ibid.). If the greatest composers wrote
in acordance with these raies and their music can be judged to be 'good'
according to these raies, it is difficult to see how this judgement can be
reconciled with the claim that their works are 'tremendous'. Even if
Wittgenstein is right in saying that Beethoven's music was all right when
judged 'by a great many of the old raies', it is obvious that it is not because
of his way of applying these raies that his symphonies can, or should, be
regarded as 'tremendous'. In some cases it may be more correct to say that
the works are 'tremendous' in spite of their conforming to 'a great many
of the old raies'. And at any rate, there is a large number of mediocre
musicians who followed the raies of harmony more cleverly, more taste
fully, and more skilfuliy than any of the great composers ; but their works
were at best second-rate ; so these raies cannot really have much to do
with our judgement that certain works of art are exceptional masterpieces.
There seems to be only one way of relieving the tension which has been
pointed out, and that consists in drawing a clear line between the
standards by which a 'normal' work can be judged to be correct or
incorrect and the standards set by a great work of art — standards which
only apply to itself. Among the former standards there may be the raies

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
304 J. SCHULTE

of harmony and counterpoint in the case of music, certain techniques of


drawing and représentation in the case of painting, etc. A work of music
which violâtes the rules of harmony will in one sense be incorrect. This
violation of the rules, however, will have to be judged differentlyaccording
to whether we are dealing with a masterpiece or a work of lower rank.
What would count as a mere mistake in an ordinary composer's symphony
may in Beethoven have to be regarded as a deliberate move on his part
which dérivés its meaning from the work as a whole. It seems problematic,
however, to call the standards set by a great work 'standards of correct
ness'. After all, if the work sets its own standards, it cannot really be said
to violate them. And if it cannot really be said to violate them, then there
will be no incorrectness. And if the possibility of incorrectness is exclu
ded, then there is — as Wittgenstein himself insists — no point in speaking
of correctness either. For this reason, one might think, it would be
legitimate to reserve the expression 'standards of correctness' for what one
might call ordinary works of art, those which are not 'tremendous'.
But Wittgenstein himself speaks of correctness even when dealing with
a great work of art — at least I shall présumé that the overture to Mozart's
Le nozze di Figaro is a great work. Wittgenstein writes :

The 'necessity' (8) with which the second idea succeeds the first. (The
overture to 'Figaro'). Nothing could be more idiotie than to say that it is
to hear the one after the other. — Ail the same, the
'agreeable' paradigm

according to which everythingis rightis obscure. 'It is the natural devel


opment'. We gesture with our hands and are inclined to say : 'Of course' !
— Or we the transition to a transition like the introduction
might compare
of a new character in a story for instance, or a poem. This is how the piece

fits into the world of our thoughts and feelings. (1947, C&V, 57).

The relevant phrase is 'the paradigm according to which everything is right


is obscure'. What Wittgenstein calls a paradigm is, if not the same as, at
least similar to what I have called the set of standards set by the work itself.
If you could render the paradigm (or the standards) explicit, you would
make it easy to see why, for example, the succession of the two ideas in
the overture appears necessary. If you were able to articulate the standards,
it would be clear why everything seems 'right'. But Wittgenstein chooses
this particular example because here he can only hint at the paradigm, and
the pojnt is that, even though he is not in a position to state it explicitly,

(8) Cf. C&V, 52, 'The repeat is necessary', etc.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 305

he can nevertheless succeed in conveying, however indirectly, why the


succession seems necessary, natural, or correct.
In the case of a 'normal' work the standards by means of which we can
judge its correctness will at least partly coincide with the raies to be
followed by the creative artist himself. If a normal composer makes
mistakes in harmony, counterpoint, or orchestration, his work will be
judged accordingly ; it will be judged in terms of the accepted raies of
harmony, counterpoint, or orchestration. From a standard product we
expect that it come up to standard, that it be faultless as far as this standard
is concerned. (What looks like a mistake in a string quartet by Beethoven
is, I suppose, to be judged differently: it may still be a mistake, but a
mistake which 'shows' something). If a writer of ran-of-the-mill detective
stories makes mistakes in the construction of his plots, his books are not
up to standard and we shall (or should) be disgusted by them. But even
if the raies have been followed and the work cornes up to standard in this
sense, it is by no means clear that the work will have to be judged 'right'
or 'good'. A picture may be ail right as far as the raies are concerned and
still lack unity, expression, or style ; and the same applies to music or
poetry for instance. But how do we come to judge that a work lacks these
qualities ? And can such judgements be justified, or are they mere
expressions of subjective taste and prejudice ?
In order to give at least part of an answer to these questions it may be
helpful to use the following distinction drawn by Wittgenstein. His
example is that of a man who goes in for tailoring : 'He learns raies — he
is drilled — as in music you are drilled in harmony and counterpoint'. But
he may develop either one or the other of two différent types of attitude
towards these raies. He may either simply learn to apply them and then
judge everything according to them, or he may 'develop a feeling for the
raies' and learn to 'interpret the raies'. It will always be necessary to learn
the raies in the first sense because'if I hadn't learnt the raies, I wouldn't
be able to make the aesthetic judgement'. But it is possible that 'in learning
the raies you get a more and more refined judgement. Learning the raies
actually changes your judgement' (L&C, 1.15). A man blindly following
or applying the raies in the first sense will behave like Beckmesser in
Wagner's Meistersinger ; he will notice ail the mistakes but he will be
incapable of understanding the beauty of that which, perhaps deliberately,
disregards the established system of raies. On the other hand one may
have mastered the raies in the first sense but still wish to understand or
interpret them in a différentsense, like Schubert, for example, who wanted

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
306 J. SCHULTE

'to take lessons in counterpoint right at the end of his life. I think his aim
may have been not so much just learning more counterpoint as determi
ning where he stood in relation to it' ( 1941, C&V, 40). Only if you have
mastered the rules in the second sense and developed a feeling for them
will you for instance be able to décidé cases left open by the rules ; only
if you are able to interpret the rules in this sense will you count as a man
of judgement, a connoisseur.
If you apply rules in the second sense, there will be no exact standards
which you can cite in order to justify what you have done or judged. That
is why the verbal accompaniment of the real connoisseur's scrutinizing
and choosing is often irrelevant : 'That he is an appreciator is not shown
by the interjections he uses, but by the way he chooses, selects, etc.
Similarly in music : "Does this harmonize ? No. The bass is not quite loud
enough. Here I just want something différent...". This is what we call an
appréciation' (L&C, 1.19). But it is not as if there were no reason for
calling him an appreciator. Even if it cannot be demonstrated by citing the
rules that he is a man of judgement, we may still point out that his way
of choosing shows that he has a feeling for the rules. But in order to see
that his way of choosing qualifies him as a real connoisseur, you yourself
must have learned to recognize his behaviour as that of a connoisseur. In
order to learn this, however, you need not become an expert in the field
in question ; you may be able to tell whether a certain person is a
connoisseur by looking at the way he compares things, scrutinizes them,
etc. There is after ail a typical kind of behaviour displayed by a connoisseur
(and that is of course the reason why in some cases it is not at ail difficult
to pretend to know something about a certain subject). But as soon as you
want to go beyond the purely external side of connoisseurship, you will
have to say much more both about the field and the culture in which a
connoisseur counts as an expert appreciator. Wittgenstein thinks that in
order to give a M characterization of appréciation you would have to
supply so much complicated information that it would turn out to be 'not
only difficult to describe what appréciation consists in, but impossible. To
describe what it consists in we would have to describe the whole environ
ment' (L&C, 1.20).
But if connoisseurs or people who wish to describe the connoisseurs'
behaviour have no independent standards to cite in order to justify their
judgements or descriptions, we may well wonder how their judgements or
descriptions can be justified or criticized. In order to see how criticism,
controversy, and justification are possible in this context, it will be helpful

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 307

to look at the way we perform, reproduce, or actively interpret works of


art. Wittgenstein gives the following example :

Take the question : 'How should poetry be read ? What is the correct way
of reading it'? [...] There are cases of poetry which should almost be
scanned - where the metre is as clear as crystal - others where the metre

is entirelyin the background. I had an experience with the 18th Centurypoet


Klopstock. I found that the way to read him was to stress his metre
abnormally. [...] When I read his poems in this new way, I said : 'Ah-ha,
now I know why he did this'. What had happened ? I had read this kind of
stuffand had been moderately bored, but when I read it in this particular
way, intensely,I smiled, said : 'This is grand', etc. [...] the important thing
was that I read the poems entirelydifferently,more intensely, and said to
others : 'Look ! This is how they should be read' (L&C, 1.12).

The point of this story is that understanding or noticing how a poem


should be read is similar to seeing a new aspect of an object (9). In this
way you may suddenly notice how the individual pieces of a jig-saw puzzle
fit together, or it may strike you that in a certain painting two figures look
at each other instead of looking at the point of général interest, or you may
realize that in a certain piece by Brahms it is the 3 against 4 rhythm which
makes you feel wobbly (L&C, III. 10). That is the sort of thing a
connoisseur would frequently notice. But how can he convey to others
what he has noticed ? Here again the parallel with aspect seeing is relevant.
There are normal ways in which we tell other people or make them
understand what it is that we have noticed. Thus we shall point out and
emphasize certain fines if we have seen a new aspect of a picture ; we shall
use typical expressions in order to characterize the peculiar quafity of our
experience and shall say things like, 'There was this sudden change
'Ail of a sudden the right-hand side looked much darker...', etc. The
important point is that there are typical, even conventional ways of
describing such experiences (the words 'sudden' and 'change' are frequen
tly used in this kind of situation). Another récurrent feature is the
employaient of gestures ; words may fail us but there will often be typical
gestures that can be used to communicate our impressions (10). A third

(9) This and similar parallels are discussed in my book Erlebnis und Ausdruck,
München : Philosophia, 1987, especially chapters 4 and 5.
( 10) Cf. L&C, 1.10 : 'If I say of a piece of Schubert's that it is melancholy, that is like
giving it a face (I don't express approval or diapproval). I could instead use gestures or
dancing. In fact, if we want to be exact, we do use a gesture or a facial expression'.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
308 J. SCHULTE

means is the indication of parallels or analogies in différent fields. Thus


you may mention a poem which in your opinion 'corresponds' to a certain
piece of music, or a painting which fits a certain poem (").
These three ways of describing the experience of noticing unusual
aspects or peculiar features of works of art will play a great rôle in
discussions about whether a work is 'right' or a certain passage 'correct'.
The mentioning of parallels or the making of certain gestures will not
compel anyone to take the same view as the speaker. But these utterances
will help the learner to understand to which feature or aspect the speaker
wishes to draw the other's attention and they will also help him to specify
the respect in which he disagrees with the speaker. It is often possible to
show in which way a certain gesture is unsuitable or inadéquate, in which
specific respect a given parallel does not fit the original object, or why a
certain conventional expression should not be used to characterize this or
that passage of a symphony, for instance.
Parallels, gestures, characteristic expressions will help to judge the
correctness not only of 'normal' works of art. In the quotation about the
overture to 'Figaro' Wittgenstein mentions the possibility of comparing
the transition in question to 'the introduction of a new character in a story
'
for instance, or a poem' and he continues to say that This is how the piece
fits into the world of our thoughts and feelings'. The pointing out of such
parallels or analogies may help to see the specific aspect intended by the
speaker and it will also help him to articulate his disagreement if he sees
the matter differently(12). Thus he might reply, 'It is not at ail like that.
It is more like someone retracing his steps'. In this way the two interloc
utors may start a discussion, they will now know what détails to look for
in order to support their own views or to attack that of their opponent,
and it may turn out that one of them will succeed in convincing the other

(11) One example given by Wittgenstein is the following (L&C, IV.6, excerpt from a
lecture on description) : 'You can sometimes find the similarity between the style of a
musician and the style of a poet who lived at the same time, or a painter. Take Brahms
and Keller. I often found that certain themes of Brahms were extremely Kellerian'.

(12) Cf. the following passage : Ί give someone an explanation and tell him "It's as

though ..." ; then he says "Yes, now I understand it" or "Yes, now I see how it's to be

played". It's most important that he didn't to accept the explanation


have ; it's not as

though I had, as it were, given him conclusive for thinking that this passage should
reasons
be compared with that and the other one. I don't, e.g., explain to him that according to
things the composer has said this passage is supposed to represent such and such' (1948,
C&V, 69).

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
AESTHETIC CORRECTNESS 309

of the correctness of his own interprétation, or they may both change their
minds. Of course, the gestures or parallels themselves are not standards
of correctness ; they are means of finding out where to look for evidence
which may then be used to prove an aesthetic judgement correct.
However, the correctness intended here is not the correctness of a
statement's corresponding with the facts, nor is it the correctness of an
action that has been performed in accordance with the raies. Whether a
statement of the type 'It's like the introduction of a new character in a
story' will count as correct is a matter of whether it will be accepted. There
simply are no independent standards here. A lot will also depend on the
way in which it is accepted, if it is accepted ; if a positive reaction is
spontaneous, it will mean more than reluctant approval.
Aesthetic correctness is a simple matter only in those cases where we
are dealing with straightforward raies like the raies of harmony. Here the
composer as well as the critic can invoke the same raies and unambi
guously determine whether they have been followed or not. But then there
are a number of cases where it is for example a question of the correctness
of an interprétation, a judgement, a performance, etc., where only in more
or less indirect ways — by means of quoting parallels or making certain
gestures — we can corne to see what to look for in order to find out
whether the interprétation, the judgement, or the performance is 'right' or
not. And in these cases the reactions of my audience will matter a lot, and
also the way in which they express their approval or disapproval.
There is still another way of determining correctness or incorrectness
in aesthetics, and that is by means of tiying out how we shall react to slight
graduai variations of a given feature. Wittgenstein's example is taken from
architecture : 'You design a door and look at it and say : "Higher, higher,
higher ... oh, all right". (Gesture)' (L&C, II.9). In a similar fashion one
might change the loudness of the bass when trying to play a piece of music
'correctly', and the same method can be used in order to find out what
the 'right' way of reading a certain poem is : at first I stress the metre, then
I stress it a little less, and so on until it sounds just right. In such cases
we often ask another person whether he has the impression that it sounds
(or looks) right to him. Here we are performing a kind of experiment (u).

(13) The experimental character of some suggestions made by Wittgenstein in this


context has been noted by Frank Cioffi
; cf. his article 'Aesthetic Explanation and
Aesthetic Perplexity', in Essays on Wittgenstein in Honour of G. H. von Wright, ed. Jaakko
Hintikka (= Acta Philosophica Fennica, Vol. XXVIII), Amsterdam : North-Holland, 1976,
417-449.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
310 J. SCHULTE

But then the reason why we pay attention to his reaction — 'a reaction
analogous to my taking my hand away from a hot plate' (L&C, II. 15) (14)
— is not that we wish to
predict his or other people's future behaviour but
we do so in order to learn whether that to which he responds seems
correct.

(14) Cf. above, the quotation from L&C, 11.40 n.5, in footnote 3.

This content downloaded from 128.184.220.23 on Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:16:37 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions