1 THE POSSIBILITY OF RELEVANCE

AMONG THEORIES about the nature of art, a possible division is between those that are preoccupied with the effects of a work of art on its actual or potential audience and those that seek to establish art as an autonomous realm marked out by one or more, quite distinct, defining properties. This division is not necessarily exhaustive, and the two categories may even overlap; for aesthetic philosophers who subscribe to the second kind of theory are often interested in the way in which art tells on the lives and minds of those who pay attention to it -- but only, I think, incidentally so. Obviously most of those interested in art in any way at all are so because they think it somehow important: a philosopher of the second type may go as far as that persistent propagandist for aesthetics, Harold Osborne, who holds that "the appreciation of beautiful works of art is among the most valuable experiences of which the human mind is capable." 1 This is, one might say, an occupational claim among aestheticians, giving an air of reputability to labours that might otherwise appear barren or at least remote. But I can see no logical reason why an aestbetician as such is under any compulsion to take his philosophy into the theatre or concert hall to see what its consequences may be. If he doesn't, however, and particularly if his professional

-3-

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Attitudes to Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Crosscurents Modern Critiques i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Possibility of Relevance 3
  • 2 - Strategic Selection: Criticism by Choice of Terms 38
  • 3 - The Rationalist Ideal 66
  • 4 - The Limits of Relevance 101
  • Appendix A Burke's Method in Action 139
  • Appendix B Winters and Eliot 145
  • Notes 153
  • Index 171
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