Philosophical Aspects of Culture

By Bertram Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
THE ART OF CRITICISM

PATENTLY, NOT ALL ART IS GREAT, BUT IT IS ADVANtageous to have before us a concept of great art that we may better understand the not so great. In any event, criticism can be at its best when the critic is capable of singling out a standard of greatness which provides a working basis for his criticism of art, great or trivial, good or bad, relevant or irrelevant, with all the intermediary degrees and mixtures of each. Something like this appears necessary if the critic is to have any useful function. He cannot compete with the artist. There is no useful purpose of his trying to say what the artist can and does say only in the idiom of his work. The eloquence of the artist is the eloquence of his work. The critic's eloquence can be neither that of the work nor of a translation of it. Hence, his eloquence, if he has it, must be of a different sort and have a purpose different from, even though related to, that of the artist.

"The function of the critic" -- the phrase conceals a multitude of theories and controversies concerning various ways in which art may be interpreted and discussed. The minimum we expect from the critic is that he show us something significant that we would not see otherwise or would see less perfectly in the absence of criticism. How he does this depends on his own sensitivities and intelligence, his philosophic outlook, and his powers of communication. There is no substitute for sensitivity and intelligence. If a critic lacks these, he is not worth listening to, no matter what other virtues he may have. Having them, however, he cannot perform very valuable service unless he can communicate consonant with his insights. He must, in other words, possess a style appropriate to his intent. These are elementary qualifications of anyone who would be a critic. Having them, critics are further divided into schools according to their philosophic outlooks. Of these I wish to consider three, which although not exhaustive,

-243-

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Philosophical Aspects of Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part One - On Culture 1
  • Chapter 1 - From Cultural Patterns To Cultural Norms 3
  • Chapter 2 - Criticism and Culture 32
  • Part Two - On Values 69
  • Chapter 3 - Non-Moral And Moral Values 71
  • Chapter 4 - On Moral Sanctions 103
  • Part Three - The Institutions of Power 133
  • Chapter 5 - Liberty, Spurious And Genuine 135
  • Chapter 6 - The Political Dimension 163
  • Chapter 7 - The Cultural Context 178
  • Part IV - The Institutions of Expression 203
  • Chapter 8 - Creativity in the Arts 205
  • Chapter 9 - The Art of Criticism 243
  • Chapter 10 - Society and the Arts Today 261
  • Notes 283
  • Index 297
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