The Arts and the Art of Criticism

The Arts and the Art of Criticism

The Arts and the Art of Criticism

The Arts and the Art of Criticism

Excerpt

The Arts and the Art of Criticism epitomizes the scope and orientation of the present volume. It is a study of the work of art as an object of delight, a vehicle of communication, and, at least potentially, a record of significant insight. But it is also concerned with those aspects of the art of criticism which lend themselves to philosophical analysis. In dealing with the arts I have attempted to discover their essential nature; in analyzing man's critical response to art I have tried to formulate as precisely as possible the basic principles and norms to which the artistically sensitive layman and critic both appeal, however unconsciously, in all artistic appraisal. The volume thus deals with certain broad issues which have been discussed for centuries by critics and philosophers. But it considers them with greater philosophical rigor than is usual in critical essays, and with far greater attention to primary artistic data than is common in philosophical treatises. For it has been written by a philosopher in close collaboration with experts in the several arts under review, and is, in sum, the record of our cooperative explorations over a period of years. These distinguishing features of the book invite a word of explanation.

The empirical material has been deliberately limited to the "pure" major arts, in order to simplify the problem and to facilitate the formulation of certain basic categories of artistic analysis. Music and the dance, architecture, sculpture, painting, and the art of literature were found to be sufficiently rich and various to permit illuminating comparison and to provide a basis for sound inductive generalization. Had all the arts been examined seriatim, the minor as well as the major, and the "mixed" arts along with those which rely primarily upon a single medium, our investigation would either have had to be indefinitely extended or else condemned to superficiality. And had attention not been focused upon certain arts in all their specificity, my desire to eschew mere abstract theorizing would have been frustrated from the outset. I have tried to steer a middle course between the Scylla of theory divorced from fact and the Charybdis of isolated fact unilluminated by interpretative generalization.

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