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CRITICISM AND BEAUTY
can our valuations of beauty claim 'objective' validity. We can say of a work of art or a scene in nature—'this moves me'; we may partially distinguish the elements which produce the total result and attempt some estimate of their worth separately as well as in combination; we may compare aesthetic merit in respect of quality as well as quantity, saying, for example, of one thing—'this is great'; of another—'this is exquisite'; of a third—'this is merely pretty', and so on. But beyond statements embodying personal valuations like these we can rarely go. We cannot devise a code of criticism. We cannot define the dogmas of aesthetic orthodoxy. We can appeal neither to reason, nor experience, nor authority. Ideals of beauty change from generation to generation. Those who produce works of art disagree; those who comment on works of art disagree; while the multitude, anxious to admire where they 'ought', and pathetically reluctant to admire where they 'ought not', disagree like their teachers.
What then, it may be asked, have I to offer in mitigation of a view which seems so degrading to emotions and activities which we rate (truly, I think) among the highest of which we are capable?
- 'Great' in criticism commonly expresses quality, not mere quantity.