Meaning and Truth in the Arts

Meaning and Truth in the Arts

Meaning and Truth in the Arts

Meaning and Truth in the Arts

Excerpt

To have experiences is one thing; to talk about them is another. It is possible to have intense and valuable experiences in response to works of art without attempting to make claims for them or to characterize the works to which they are responses. As a rule, however, this is just what we try to do; and here endless confusion begins. We ask, "What is the meaning of this piece of music?" without stopping to ask ourselves what it is that we are asking, precisely what sense of "meaning" is being used here, or what it means for a work of art to have meaning. We assert that art reveals reality, or expresses truth, without inquiring into the precise meanings of crucial words like "reality," "truth," "expression," which are so constantly employed in discussions of this kind. Moreover, in discussions about art, as in morals, there is a great temptation to let our feelings run away with us and consequently use language with a chiefly emotive intent -- which means an end of rational discussion. Terms which are vague at best rapidly lose whatever modicum of meaning they may once have had by being used in this motivational manner. One, at least, of the important functions of the philosophy of art is to attempt to analyze and clarify the central concepts which are employed in dealing with the arts; such an analysis cannot help but make us more careful in using the terms which express them.

But the purpose of this study is not entirely negative. It is positively to investigate certain questions which are of great import to those who are interested in the arts, and especially in esthetic . . .

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