Essays in Criticism

Essays in Criticism

Essays in Criticism

Essays in Criticism

Excerpt

The following essays attempt to formulate objective standards in terms of which art objects may be evaluated. It is argued that most art criticism now is, and always has been, a collection of subjective impressions, unprincipled and formless, telling how a work of art affects the mind or feelings of the critic. Criticism, therefore, has been vitiated by a thoroughgoing subjectivism, in the sense that the individual private consciousness has been considered the sole standard of the nature and value of a work of art and that each critic has found in his own consciousness the principles that guide his judgment in evaluating works of art. This means that there are no principles that hold universally; consequently, criticism is without a valid basis, and all such "criticism" is nonsense.

It is assumed in these Essays that there are universal and objective principles of art criticism and that they can be formulated by the methods of philosophic thought with such degrees of precision as to render them safe maxims for the guidance of the judgment in evaluating works of art. And the choice is absolute -- either there are such objective principles or the whole enterprise of criticism must be abandoned, and we must accept as final the confusion of tongues that now exists in that field.

According to Professor Jordan, the determination of principles requires an examination of the objects of art, not of anyone's state of mind regarding them. A work of art is an object with a definite structure that can be described and also with a system of characteristic qualities that can be identified. Examination will reveal this structure and these qualities, and propositions can be formulated that state the conditions in general by which they can be described and identified. Such propositions are universal principles, and the nature and value of the art object can be determined by reference to them. These propositions are the principles of valid criticism, and they are such because they are derived from the objects that make up a segment of the real world and are not in any way or degree dependent upon anyone's mere state of mind or emotional state.

It is maintained in the Essays that no judgments are true or significant unless they rest on a solid objective ground; that is, unless they stand . . .

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