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Aesthetics and Logic: An Analogy

Karl Aschenbrenner

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 23, No. 1, In Honor of Thomas Munro.
(Autumn, 1964), pp. 63-79.

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Sat May 26 06:05:12 2007
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

Aesthetics and Logic: An Analogy

I. INTRODUCTION Even the Greek philosophers and Fathers of the


Church distinguished sharply between objects of
NOTHING ON THE FACE OF IT Seems to immediate awareness ( c r I & ~ d r ) and objects of
thought (wdr)I.t is clear that they did not
offer so little intellectual promise as a com- think that objects of immediate awareness were
parison between logic and aesthetics. One identical with objects of sense for they also in-
of them appears to have well-conceived cluded under this heading representations re-
aims and methods, has weathered numer- lating to things absent, or phantasms. Hence
ous crises, and has become the very para- we shall treat objects of thought, whose appre-
hension is owing to a higher faculty, as the sub-
digm of clarity and consistency. The other ject matter of a science which we may call aes-
by comparison seems to continue in a state thetic~.~
of indecision and confusion, having never,
so it appears, demonstrated a single conclu- Justice is yet to be done, I think, to Baum-
sion to the satisfaction of anyone entitled garten's coinage of the term aesthetics and
to an opinion. Indecisive programmatic de- the comparison it rests on, but I shall not
bates on what ought to be and what can attempt -it here. I shall turn aside altogether
be done in aesthetics are as common as ma- from historical questions. References to
terial investigations of the subject matter. logic will concern only its present state.
We must of course allow for the fact that We are not just interested in a compari-
enterprises which are not obviously and son of logic and aesthetics as they now are.
smashingly successful usually appear from This would be an unequal contest. We
the outside to be "drearier" and in a worse must proceed differently. We ask what the
condition than they truly are. "logical data" are that a science of logic is
Let the present condition be what it may. framed to deal with. We see in general what
It may valuable to draw comparisons the characteristics of this subject are as it
from far afield. We need a new perspective investigates these data. In like manner we
toward one of the tasks which tradition ask about the facts which aesthetics deals
and choice have accorded us: the investiga- with and their degree of comparability to
tion of the possibility of principles and pro- logical data. We are not concerned with the
cedures to guide judgment. I shall try to way in which aesthetics in its present state
offer something other than a choice be- deals with its data (an impossibly diffuse
tween a ~ ~ e &
I I
a lworn-out doctrines about subject). We hope to find out whether
"the three normative sciences, logic, ethics logic, which can so decisively determine the
and aesthetics," and total skepticism about merit of arguments, can teach us anything
the possibility of aesthetic principles. about the process of evaluation.
The fact is the comparison between logic The result is not a rigorous science of
and aesthetics is historically the first meth- aesthetics, armored with definitions, axi-
odological principle of aesthetics. The in- oms, theorems, and theses, which would be
vention of the term aesthetics by Baum- simply claptrap in a subject such as this. I
garten in 1735 is presented as follows: conceive the result to be rather like a series
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

of questions that may appropriately be di- ment and its validity. T h e symbolism of
rected to the artist and his work. Even sub- logic is designed to help us grasp the form,
jects which admit of little rigor, the social even when this is recondite, involved, and
sciences, for example, or those which we confusing. I t may be that in setting forth
know as the humanities, admit of questions the form of the argument, the logician has
which may be pressed with severity for an- displayed the fact that the argument is
swers. Confronted by a contemporary paint- valid or invalid, but in some instances at
ing or a new musical composition, we need least he can apprehend the validity or in-
to initiate and develop an articulate re- validity apart from any appeal to the form.
sponse by raising relevant questions, ques- I n other words, he is first of all a rational
tions which we have a right, as it were, to being, and only in the second place a logi-
address to a thing of this k i n d , in this me- cian. Merely as rational beings we know
dium, with these evident intentions, in this that if dogs are mammals, then Airedales
context and place and time. When placed are mammals too, since they are dogs, and
in this interrogative mood there is not the that we may infer the conclusion from the
slightest doubt that critics, curators, con- other two propositions. I t is only when we
noisseurs, and above all creative artists observe that no matter what we put in
themselves have commonly shown that they place of dog, m a m m a l , and Airedale, some-
believed in the existence of artistic stand- thing remains certain in each case, that we
ards. begin our acquaintance with logic. T h e
logician grasps the form of the argument,
11. L O G I C A S A C R I T I C A L dispenses entirely with dog, m a m m a l , and
SYSTEM
Airedale, and replaces them in a complex
formula by simple symbols, A, B, 4, +, etc.
Of the many things that modern logicians All arguments of such and such a form, he
do, we are interested only in what we may says, are valid. He is also concerned to show
call the logic of ordinary discourse. Noth- that the principle of inference which the
ing more elaborate than this is needed for particular argument illustrates is certifiable
our purposes. When we say that such a on still other grounds. He may show that
logic is formal, we are not finding some de- the principle cannot be denied without
fect in it but rather its very reason for be- committing the logical error of self-contra-
ing. As contrasted with the significant prop- diction. He seeks to demonstrate the prin-
ositions or sentences with which we describe ciple, to show that it follows from other
our experience the formulae of such logic principles which are perhaps still more evi-
apply wholly to the form of sentences and dent than this one or whose use as axioms
not directly to the world of dogs, atoms, is supportable in some further way. T o say
galaxies, or pains which the sentences may that a principle has been demonstrated is
be about. T h e form enables us to treat to say, of course, that it has normative
sentences such as "All whales are mam- power. I t can be appealed to in order to
mals," and "All politicians are talkative" exhibit logical error. I t is ordinarily un-
as formally identical, and as particular ex- necessary to make such an appeal since
amples of the formula "for all x, if x is an reasoning is a natural mental power, vir-
A, x is a B." Even more important, the tually instinctive. But the more complex
logician finds that not only sentences but and abstruse the subject matters are that
whole arguments, consisting of distinct are being reasoned about, the more formal
sentences, can similarly be reduced to their and precise the reasoning has to be.
formal characteristics and these distin- It is important here, that we see the logi-
guished from their nonformal ones. Once cian first as a natural rational human be-
this is done he can appraise the validity of ing. What does this mean? It means that
the arguments. he is capable of reasoning, that he knows
We are interested in the connection the what it means to say, indeed what it "feels
logician sees between the form of an argu- like" to say, that this follows from that, that
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
a given argument is valid or not, that it is same degree of conviction as simple argu-
contradictory or consistent. Of course, if he ments do for the uninstructed. Finally, a
merely felt this and went no further, he stage is reached where an argument has a
would not be devoting himself to the pur- degree of complexity which is beyond com-
suit of logic.
" But we must see him firit as prehension as a whole: the reasoner must
an ordinary mortal who learns the use of must rely on a train of subordinate infer-
true, contradict, follow from, and so on, ences which together support the argu-
long before he knows there are any prin- ment.
ciples of logic. We may observe finally that wherever we
What happens when, after languishing begin in an inference or a series of infer-
in the ignorance of formal logic that char- ences, whatever may be our premises, these
acterizes most of us, he now appraises argu- beginnings and premises are not themselves
ments in terms of this newly learned science logically certified by the inference. I n gen-
of logical form? Is the form he discerns eral, they must be derived by argument
merely a sign by which he learns to recog- from still other premises.
nize validity? We must not misconstrue the From the foregoing and from further ob-
sense in which form determines validity. I t servation of logic and logicians we can
is not a mere contingent association or con- venture these fairly uncontested generaliza-
comitance for, if so, we could then again tions: (1) T h e subject matter of the logic or
ask why form determines validity. When argument is the form of arguments. (2)
the logician discerns the form of a complex Arguments possess or lack the value prop-
line of reasoning, when he sees what prin- erty of validity or invalidity. (3) Argument
ciples of logic it, what has happened is ordinarily capable of being seen to be
is simply that he has gotten a clear com- valid or invalid apart from reference to the
prehension of what it is he has before him form of the argument. Where it is not, the
to judge. T o have a perfectly "clear and complexity or confusedness of the parts
distinct idea" of something is to discern prevents its appearing cogent. I n every
also the form of it. Once we know in full- argument the individual connectivity of the
ness what we have before us, the question parts must nevertheless be intuitively cor-
of validity is virtually resolved. T h e plain rect, even if it does not appear as a whole
man's reasoning is reasoning of a minimal cogent. (4) T h e conclusion alone, if any-
complexity and that is why he can reason thing, and not the premises are logically
without a distinct knowledge " of form. As certified in and by any given argument. (5)
we shall see, there is a remarkable simi- T h e logical certification of an argument is
larity between all this and our comprehen- its accord with a principle of logic which
sion of artistic form. can be denied only on pain of self-contra-
There are thus several levels of compre- diction or of violating basic axiomatic com-
hension involved. T h e plain man, unen- mitments. Logical error (contradiction or
cumbered by a knowledge of formal logic, self-contradiction) may be noted but is un-
may reason correctly on most matters and thinkable and unassertable beyond the
evaluate arguments correctly without any mere uttering of it. (6) An essential purpose
explicit comprehension of their form be- or use of logic is the exhibition of logical
cause they are simple; their complexity is, correctness and error.
as it were, of the order zero. Nature has We have here, if I am not mistaken,
seen to it that the ignorant as well as the some generalizations about logic which
learned survive. But more complex and would be very widely agreed to. In general
lengthy arguments are beyond comprehen- they help exhibit one type of what we may
sion at this level and cannot be evaluated call a critical system, a system of norms or
at all. At a higher stage, when the form of principles with aid of which we can decide
sentences and then of arguments is grasped questions of value. If this phrase presumes
with the aid of symbolism, even extremely or connotes rather too much when applied
complex lines of reasoning may carry the to aesthetics, we can replace it by any other
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

so long as we recognize the peculiar interest any fairly rigorous critical system, and our
which aesthetics must have in criticism. purpose is to see what aesthetics would be
Our next step will be to apply to aes- like if it were such a system. We may now
thetics as much as we can from what we formulate the aesthetic analogue of the first
have now learned about logic as a critical statement.
system. We are asking whether there are (1) T h e subject matter of an aesthetic
aesthetic norms in any way similar to logi- critical system is the form of aesthetic ob-
cal norms. Of course, if there are none in jects.
this sense the way is still entirely open to We must first answer the question as to
the possible exhibition of norms in some what on the broadest level of generality we
other sense. But our scheme is probably the are to understand by form in aesthetic ob-
most rigorous conceivable. There is at the jects and contexts. Obviously the essential
very least the presumption of the possibil- thing would be to identify it in each and
ity of some critical system whenever and every art or medium-the subject matter
wherever (in logical, ethical, aesthetic, po- of an extended treatment we cannot fur-
litical, legal contexts) we make decisions by nish here. But general considerations are
appeal to something resembling principles. in this instance of more consequence than
These may be merely implicit, not yet ex- details. What counts as form or structure
plicated. Logic provides an example of how in the novel, for example, is already well
to bring implicit principles to light; with known.
sufficient effort we should also be able to Once it has been determined what we are
discover them in other fields. Even if we to understand by form, our generalization,
have to be content with much less than a in effect, states that form is decisive of
rigorous scheme of evaluation, we need value. This, I think, is what an aesthetic
some notion of what it is or what it would critical system would demand and we
be like. should be aware how great a demand it is.
IE it is too much, we need to know this and
111. A E S T H E T I C S A S A the reasons for it. But we shall leave all
CRITICAL SYSTEM
these considerations aside until we have
carried through our comparison.
Taking the conclusions obtained above, we A certain precaution is also necessary and
may consider them as particular instances should be borne in mind in what follows.
of the following generalized statements: (1) In pursuing our analogy of logic what we
T h e subject matter of a particular critical are explicitly not saying is that there are
system is the form of the objects which the some sorts of empty moulds or variables
system studies. (2) T h e objects studied by into which we can pour the materials of art
critical systems possess or lack characteris- and by this obtain "works of art." Rather,
tic value properties. (3) T h e objects studied every work of art has a discriminable set of
by critical systems may be observed to have parts, or elements, which stand in definite
value properties apart from reference to relations to one another, bear upon and
the form of the objects. (4) T h e discovery modify one another. These relations col-
of the value characteristic in the obiect lectively constitute the form of the object.
J

must be distinguished from the invention This is certainly relevant to the strictly
of the specific character of the object. (5) aesthetic value of the work. In this subsec-
Critical systems seek to certify the presence tion we shall try to identify more closely
or absence of values. (6) I t is one purpose what is to count as aesthetic form. In (5) we
of a critical system to exhibit normative shall see whether form can determine value.
correctness and error. In our effort to see whether decisions about
We are not, of course, entitled to assert value turn on the question of form we
the truth of these generalized statements. should be mindful of the fact that the so-
Their value is only the incidental one of called formalist school has already in effect
sketching out what would be demanded by attempted to show this. One need only men-
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
tion the tradition that extends back to terval, of contrast or rhythm or key or
Herbart, Zimmermann, Hanslick, and timbre, of climactic silences and fortissi-
others in the nineteenth century, and in- mos, and so on. We have, in short, actual
deed to Kant. tones in relation, not abstractions, when we
First of all, let us make an assumption, speak here of forms. There is development
reasonable, to be sure, but still an. assump- toward climax in every art. T h e aesthetic
tion, namely that there are not only arts problem that agitates the particular artist
but that there is art, that there is a paral- in the particular art (he has also other
lelism, even kind of formal identity, be- "local" questions to deal with) is typified
tween the several arts, so that we can gen- by the questions whether his climaxes are
eralize about them, and so that they can properly prepared, whether they are too
learn from one another. If this be granted, few or too many, whether the emphases are
we ask what exactly is the ground of iden- too remote or too obvious, too soon or too
tity and comparison between the arts? It late, whether the conceivable span of the
cannot be anything that is local to any art, ideal observer's attention has been under-
for the others will not share it. It cannot estimated or overtaxed by the amount of
be shades of color, or the particular clang detail for a given extension in time or
of musical notes, or the oily smoothness of space, and many other such questions. Each
bronze or porcelain, or the poignant trem- art has particular applications of these, and
ors of soul a poet expresses, or any other the practice of no known art can ignore
trait exclusively characteristic of one me- them.
dium. It will not be the elements that make This, of course, only briefly and inade-
up the constituent parts of works of art. I t quately sketches the kind of analogies the
will be, as Diderot may have been the first arts have to one another. I t is on such mat-
to observe, relations of elements (rapports, ters that an aesthetic critical system may
he says) that alone are shared by the several eventually come to advise if not to legis-
arts.2 late. There is not the slightest doubt that
What we mean by relations is, in one considerations of this sort have concerned
word, form. Form does not exclude repre- both critics and, especially, artists through-
sentation, as we will be concerned to show out all recorded time. If that is so, it is no
further below. T h e coordinate of form is presumption on the part of the aesthetician
element, not representation. T h e elements to seek to exhibit such rules which prac-
separate and individually identify the arts. tice itself has evolved. He is not legislating
Form makes them all one. This necessarily for the artist. He is developing a system of
calls for a high level of abstraction. But if relevant criticism and showing what kinds
what is essential to the arts is something to of questions the artist needs to bear in
be found in each and all of them, this is in- mind, and after him the communicant of
evitable. Form will be exhibited in the par- the arts.
ticular relations of the elements of each of Of course, only the precise identification
the arts. T h e most abstract of these rela- of such working rules is of any use. What
tions, capable of exemplification in numer- the artist, critic, and communicant have
ous arts, will be, for example, contrast, repe- quite legitimately questioned in the past is
tition, identity, resemblance, development, whether they have been afforded usable ad-
variation, simplicity, complexity, empha- vice from the aesthetician in this connec-
sis, tension, release of tension, and other tion.
such ideas. These apply, for example, to I n general, then, we must first seek to
visual art and mutatis mutandis to each identify what is to count as form in aes-
and all of the other arts. In music there are thetic objects. And to do so we must rise
particular relations, local to this art. Con- to a higher level of abstraction than is com-
trast and difference and resemblance are mon in thought about the arts. Contrast,
here expressed in the relations of before similarity, development, and climax are in-
and after, of identity or difference of in- volved in all the arts and styles without ex-
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

ception, in Classic and Romantic, abstract into service to describe a particular mode,
and representational, primitive and mod- style, or movement in recent art, which
ern, sacred and profane, geometrical and in our sense is no more abstract than any
organic, linear and painterly. There is other
nothing in our emphasis on attention to We may next turn to another thing which
form that favors the Classic over the RO- is to be excluded from consideration in
mantic, or the abstract or linear over their aesthetics as a formal critical svstem. Put
opposite or coordinate ideas, movements, briefly, this comprises everything exterior to
or styles. T h e idea of aesthetic form must the work of art toward which it stands as a
once and for all be thought of in distinc- document of actual or possible fact, or as a
tion from these particular manifestations sign, representation, imitation, or expres-
of form. Form is comprised in the interior sion. We exclude all this mindful of all
relations of the distinguishable parts or ele- those factors of human interest we must
ments of the work (and parts of parts, and thereby set aside which may be what exer-
elements of elements, as we descend or as- cises the Ereatest fascination for us in some
u

cend the levels of the work) in whatever instances. And indeed we may concede even
medium or style it is cast. more, by saying, as Kant does, that great
If this, in general, is what we mean by works of art are never ~ u r e l vaesthetic or
form, what do we exclude in insisting that purely formal in their excellences, but are
the subject matter of this particular critical dependent, involved in the joy and anguish
system is the form of aesthetic objects? A of life in highly significant ways.3 In other
critical system such as we are envisaging words, insisting on confining the aesthetical
will forego once and for all any appraisal critical system in precise, formal limits is
of the elements the artist chooses, except one thing, and not to be confused with
emphatically in respect of their bearing on another, -the hankering after an art so
one another through their formal relations, pure, so free of relation to life that if we
that is, similarity, difference, development, took it strictly at its word it could not ap-
tension, climax, etc. It will leave to the pear in any sense-modality whatever; some-
artist the choice between bronze and putty, thing so pure it would .be not Cgzanne,
crimson and scarlet, brass and string tim- with his labile attitude toward the physical
bre, natural and electronic tones. etc. world, not Braque, not Mondrian, not
Standards favoring one element or type of even a modern white-on-white or black-
element over another cannot even in princi- on-black, but simply the pure-the void.
ple be developed, insofar as elements are Aesthetics as a formal critical system is no
considered in isolation, out of the context more hospitable to this than it is to any
of a particular work or example. We can other manifestation. I t is in fact entirely ii-
hope ;o evolve rules, that is, &eful advice, different to what in particular fills the form.
only in regard to what relations the artist If we consider as an example the visual
manages to exhibit with these elements. T h e arts, our position in the controversy that
faults it will exhibit will be phrased thus: has raged for fifty years about abstraction is
too long, too short, too much or too little to grant the artist every imaginable free-
detail, too plain, simple, or monotonous, too dom. If he scorns and ignores naive rep-
diffuse, insufficiently developed, lacking in resentational content, he is free to do so.
internal connection, too random, too con- If he uses it in any degree, he is likewise
trolled, artificial, or manufactured, too few, free. When we look back over the body of
too many, etc., etc. All of these turn on tradition and its massive reliance on rep-
essentially formal considerations. On such resentation, we are obliged to accord tge
matters an aesthetical critical system could same degree of freedom. What we deny is
eventually give useful advice. In saying that representation is any conceivable alter-
that these relations are abstract we at last native to form. Representation is exploita-
return the term to its proper significance tion of the connotative relations which
after having been rather needlessly pressed things can have to one another in naive ex-
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
perience. In short, representation is a form gether to the side are his captors or guards.
of form. Regardless of what we think of such a
These matters rest on certain epistemo- painting it is evident that the content is
logical foundations and we can see them all intended to unify it. Even in defeat such a
foreshadowed in Kant's doctrine of free man radiates power; the painter exploits
and dependent beauty (for our purpose, de- the fact to relate him to his world. In this
pendent on representation) to which we kind of case it is not always easy to redirect
have already alluded and in his more gen- attention to questions about the organiza-
eral doctrine of experience. In its narrowest tion of the picture. Connotative relations
sense, experience for Kant is the apprehen- are visually powerful and tend to draw
sion of sense data, or intuitions, as he calls attention to themselves alone. That is the
them. Experience in Kant's broader sense reason why there often appears to be a con-
signifies apprehension of things, not sense flict between them and other modes of
data or intuitions. We see not just a organization.
pattern of black and metallic white, but a We cannot then confine our interest to
knife which will cut bread and peel an the bare perceptions, the sense data (I am,
apple, not just a roundish something, but of course, using the word somewhat loosely).
the wheel of a locomotive, not just an ar- The content, the represented figure of ordi-
rangement of lines and masses, of feels and nary experience may also be present. The
sounds and smells, but a friendly dog who painter who chooses one or the other or
wants something to eat, and so on. Now we who exploits both makes a fateful choice,
may certainly with propriety speak of seeing and he cannot escape its problems and con-
a knife, a wheel, a dog. And since we may, sequences.
it is perfectly proper for a painter to ex- Let us take another family of examples.
ploit this ability of ours, if he chooses to do We think of the popular theme (and for
so. It is foolish and contrary to common our purpose, the more popular the better)
sense to suppose that we can only see ar- of the Holy Family, or the annunciation to
rangements of lines and masses, can only the Virgin, or the visit of the three Kings
smell whiffs and not dogs or horses, and so of the East, or the Flight into Egypt, or
on. The visual and audible and other sense the three figures of the Crucifixion, and so
worlds are there to be used by the artist. We on without end. The poet in the painter
may readily apply this to all the arts. exploits each event or legend, building on
Perhaps an example or two will be useful our expectations. The painting is a vast
in bearing out what has been said. The es- complex to which the spectator has brought
sential thing is to see that representational a whole portfolio of information, of recog-
content is really part of the form of the nition. Only by degrees, if at all, does such
work of art. We can see this especially well a spectator come to ask about the spacing of
in works which deliberately exploit such the constellation of heads and figures sur-
content, notably religious and historical rounding the infant, or the balance between
paintings or paintings aiming at popular the figures of the angel and the Virgin, and
appeal. T h e conceptual or connotational SO on.
content may, at least for a time, so captivate There are many degrees and levels of the
the observer that he fails to notice whether
relevance of representation in painting. In
the work is also of any value in any more
formal terms. There is, for example, the a CCzanne still life (and even more in some
output of paintings on the subject of Na- of Braque's) the three-dimensionality and
poleon. Anyone with a smattering of edu- the represented fact of an apple, a bottle, a
cation will recognize him. That is capital lemon, may be essential in the composition,
in the bank for the painter on which he can but it is difficult to think of any other
draw when he paints. We see the lone figure ideas the painter is exploiting. The card
of the ex-Emperor on the deck of a ship players seem to be treated without pathos.
being conveyed to St. Helena; grouped to- Form, as we see, is an inevitable feature
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

of the art work, but the forms of form are (A) Objects with-- (B) Objects with no aes-
aesthetic import thetic import
many. I
With examples of this sort, drawn especi-
ally from ages in which representational
(C) Objects possessing (D) Objects possessing
content was a massively influential form, aesthetic value the contrary of aes-
we may see how to construe all the content
of the painting as part of its form. There ! thetic value (ugliness)

can be no question of having to choose be-


tween the form and the represented content, (E) ~ e a u t i f hobjects- (F) sublime objects-
because this is merely a special case of form. vivid, encompassable objects transcending
If it is present we are obliged, ordinarily, "formful" objects or defying form,
to take note of it in considering the general "formless."
questions we are addressing to the work, T o begin with, we may ask whether this
questions, as we said, about too much or division is not question-begging. What has
too little detail, about insufficient or super- aesthetic import? I t is unnoticed that the
fluous development, about monotony, unity, same question ought to arise in logic. What
balance, and the other purely general con- has logical import? Surely a pebble or a
siderations that we are regarding as strictly shoe has none. Must it then be something
aesthetic. in words? But even a grocer's list or some
(2) Aesthetic objects possess or lack a other inventory seems to have little logical
characteristic aesthetic value. import. T h e whole domain of reason is in
In aesthetics the tradition of the use of a sense drawn into the question. T h e fact
is, we have to be content with a kind of
the term beauty for the purpose of naming
initial circularity here.* Everything being
aesthetic value has been continuous but what it is, and not another thing, we cannot
not without qualification, as we shall see. define our way into the domain of reason
Let us glance briefly at what we call the from outside it. Nor can we define our way
aesthetic value characteristic, using this into the aesthetic domain. An initial ac-
general name before we make any closer quaintance that defines the phenomena is
identification of it. presupposed.
Even up to the present day, aesthetics is We must therefore begin with the segre-
most often thought of as an effort to gation and identification of (A) and (B).
identify, define, or characterize beauty. But (A) would seem to yield both (C) and (D),
if this is all it does, it closes its eyes to, or for we must never suppose that ugliness (D)
misconstrues, half the things which every- has no aesthetic import. It not only has, but
one tends to regard as having aesthetic a definite function in reference to beauty
import. When we look closely at the history and other aesthetic values. I t is the merit of
of the subject we see that the inadequacy Hegel and his school to have shown us
of the identification of aesthetic value with this.5 We might say that (C) is roughly
beauty has long been recognized. T h e segre- aesthetic success. But this would entail
gation of the beautiful and sublime, as in that (D) is aesthetic failure, whereas (D)
Burke, Kant, and countless others, showed ought to mean something other than this,
since ugliness may have a kind of perverse
that more was sought of aesthetic objects
aesthetic function, and the performance of
than merely beauty. Beauty and sublimity a function is the same as success at it.
were to divide the field: the differentia was But the relation of (A) to (C) and (D) is
encompassable and vivid form, present in unsatisfactory. If ugliness has a function, it
beauty, absent in sublimity. T h e immediate ought to have some value. But if we allow
alternative to beauty was sublimity and not this, we are not making any differentiation
ugliness. T h e following rough diagram will in (A), and (A) will appear indistinguisha-
clarify the point: ble from (C). Without going into these
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
questions in detail, some of which must be thought we meant. If in aesthetics we pro-
considered historically, we may venture the ceed in a similar way, studying the vast
following assertions: the nonbeautiful is resources of past artistic production, and
not to be thought identical with ugliness, investigate these in analogy to the logician's
for it may be sublime; the ugly has a n aes- study of available lines of argument, we
thetic function, or has aesthetic import; shali be better able to understand what we
"beauty" tends to become one aesthetic pred- have all along been meaning by "beauty,"
icate among many. "sublime," "aesthetic value," and similar
T h e last point, which concerns (C) in predicates. Always mindful of the initial cir-
relation to (E) and (F), deserves further cularitv adverted to above about the limits
consideration since it leads toward the con- of aesthetic import, our program should be
temporary situation. After the long concern to proceed with a fully empirical investiga-
over the sublime in the eighteenth century, tion of the character of aesthetic objects
the Romantic revolt in the nineteenth, and and of our experiences in responding to
the agonized concern with "difficult" and them. For this we ought to pursue the clue
often almost "ugly beauty" in the twentieth, afforded by the logician's attention to form,
it is too late in the day to confine aesthetics as already suggested in the preceding dis-
to the study of the laws of beauty, as some cussion.
would still tend to do. What was soon ap- There is much more that can be said
parent in the nineteenth century, after the about and learned from the controversies
division of the sublime and the beautiful over the limits of aesthetic terms in bygone
had been effected was that a price had to be periods. We need to recognize the vast store
paid for this convenient solution. There was of appraisives besides "beautiful" which we
now no obvious generic term covering the use to mark our experiences. "Unified, bal-
two and the field as a whole. Moreover, anced, integrated, lifeless, serene, sombre,
after two values were acknowledged, variant dynamic, powerful, vivid, delicate, moving,
analyses proposed even more, until it was trite, sentimental," to appropriate Mr. Sib-
obvious that there would have to be a di- ley's convenient list, and many more such
vision of the subject for every value predi- terms, deserve far more careful attention
cate used. But would not such a list be than "beautiful." 6 I t is with the aid of terms
interminable, or unwieldy? Was there any such as these that we a ~ ~ r a i the
I I

s e content of
solid theoretical gain to be expected of a our experience and clarify it to ourselves.
mere dictionary of independent aesthetic All this is compatible with a more explicit
value terms? examination of form, as already suggested.
Perhaps the analogy of logic will help us (3) Aesthetic objects may be observed to
toward a better understanding of the facts. have the essential value characteristic apart
We may observe that logic has never been from any regard to their form.
tempted to see its task as the analysis of Let us consider again the parallel case of
some logical predicate such as validity, even logical inference. T h e making of inferences
though the vital consideration is always is as unavoidable as breathing. So also is
whether arguments are valid or not. Com- the observation of the arguments and logi-
paring this to the agitation in aesthetics cal habits of other persons. But the form
over what beauty is or what "beauty" means, of such arguments is not specifically appre-
we may ask what results one might expect hended by most of us most of the time, and
from a prolonged and exclusive concentra- here we must include logicians themselves.
tion on the meaning of "valid." Is not the T h e syllogism, for example, is rhetorically
success of logic, as a critical system, owing and psychologically the form of only an odd
to its effort to discover what argument is rarity amongst actual inferences. I t is,
and what the conditions of valid and in- however, a device whereby we may exhibit
valid argument are? For only the forms thus the form of many actual inferences if we
revealed explicate what we mean by "valid," have the interest, occasion, and logical
or what at first perhaps we only dimly skill. We are ordinarily g~atifiedto find our-
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

selves or others able to infer one sentence the end be the focus of our theoretical inter-
correctly from another. T o be able to show est; everything leads away from it, and
why the second follows, to be able to ex- back to it. Its voice is one of authority, but
hibit the logical norm which the argument it need not be the voice of the autocrat.
is an instance of, is a rarer luxury. Yet this Rather it should be that of the judge who
is the only ultimate and decisive norm that decides after he has taken the trouble to
any rational human being can hope to find, ascertain exactly what issue is before him
if he tries to go beyond the mere feeling and what is relevant to it. We are always in
that the argument is convincing, or reasona- the end thrown upon this aesthetic analogue
ble, to the reason of its validity or reasona- of conscience, an intuitive response from
bleness. depths we cannot suspect. But conscience
In like manner, the ability to exhibit the though intuitive by nature need not be a
form of a novel is commonly beyond the response i n vacuo. I t deserves to be in-
average unreflective reader. What he is formed in detail of the circumstance that is
usualiv concerned about is whether he has being responded to.
been bored or entertained, whether he has If the intuitive response is one thing and
had trouble following the plot, whether the the detailed scrutiny of structure quite
outcome was convincing. and the like. Com- another, we may wish to ask why we should
monly as he puts do& the book he has not be content with the first, foregoing the
made u p his mind and is ready with a difficult critical issues of the second. T h e
judgment, whether he has articulate reasons question is an aesthetic and a moral one at
or not. If he knows not onlv how to read once. It is an aesthetic question to the de-
but also how to discriminate the structure gree that conscious attention to structure
of the object, he is in a position to say and detail inevitably modifies the response,
something of critical importance beyond a both as to what is before us and the value
mere affirmation of value. He will now have of it. (Naive judgments of validity in argu-
reasons for this beyond merely expressing ments are likewise modified by an under-
the feeling that he was bored or entertained. standing of the formal logical principles
This may appear to be a luxury or a waste involved.) A picture which has been studied
of time. It makes, however, the difference with the critic's aid can never again appear
between merely believing something and quite as it did to a naive first view. I t is a
also knowing it. Most philosophers will in- moral question as soon as there is an issue
sist that unless one also has reasons, one of obligating ourselves to be concerned
does not know. about more than appears to naive vision
We shall presently consider more closely or hearing. In a sense such regard to the
the character of the reasons involved in the form in detail of the aesthetic object is a
aesthetic situation. Logic again affords par- concern for truth. hTo concern can trans-
allels and analogies for aesthetics. We are cend this one, and the obligation is clearly
not, of course, subsuming the second under a moral one. Although knowledge in detail
the first, or supposing that logically defini- of the object may in the end only yield a
tive reasons can be given for judgments of judgment that confirms or coincides with
aesthetic value. Nothing would be more naive response, appeal to nothing beyond
ludicrous than the thought of a proof in this response tends to be myopic and preju-
this sense. What would pass for reasoning diced.
here is bound to leave us cold and neither Our third principle does not of course by
demonstrates nor convinces. itself necessitate these aesthetic-moral max-
1l7hatour third generalization draws our ims. I t merely states that response is inde-
attention to is the immediacy of the impact pendent of, different from, appeal to criti-
of the aesthetic object upon us, the response cal examination, corroboration, or even, if
that is evoked in us: affirmative, negative, there is a sense of the term that is not
neutral, suspended, indifferent-the modes invidious, rationalization. That is to say,
of the response are various. This must in critical, analytic, reflective thought helps us
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
to clarify our response, lending it eyes and parallel cases of other originals. He may
ears for details. But it is no substitute for say that unity of effect would have been
the whole integral response. Whenever it gained if this area had been brighter in
is divorced from this, it is formal (in the color, or that line repeated again here or
worst sense), empty, frigid, and academic. there, and so forth, just as the logical critic
Natural response, even unreflective and would say that if you had argued from that
headlong, is of more value than critical premise rather than this one, the argument
reasoning, when this is offered as a substi- would have been valid. But it is no duty of
tute for it. Always therefore the response such a logical critic or analyst as such to
must be the terminus ad q u e m and a quo of produce these other premises, or to certify
aesthetic experience. them as true, for this is to assert such
(4) Deman,d for the creative reconstruc- premises, that is, to invent or discover
tion of a n aesthetic object is a n irrelevant originals. I n like manner the art critic as
reply to a negative evaluation of the object. such is in no position to produce or invent
This generalization is a somewhat round- creative visions. H e works with what we
about analogue of the logical model it is have and what we bring him. But obviously
based upon. I t recognizes the autonomous the if-you-had-done-so-and-so's of both these
role of the critic. T o mingle the creator's analysts are very worth while to the pro-
and critic's tasks is to risk misunderstanding ducers of originals; the reasoner and the
both. I t is sometimes a source of complaint artist may eventually discover their feasi-
that the aesthetician and critic do not add bility. I n the one case, the area of nature
to the painter's or musician's knowledge, which confirms or verifies the assertion of
that what he says does not help the painter a new premise as an original is made mani-
to paint or the musician to compose. T h e fest; in the other, a new original may con-
charge that aestheticians or critics fail tribute unity or balance to the art work.
presupposes that this is their responsibility. We must then be careful to exempt the
Once again let us look to the logical ana- critic, logical or aesthetic, from the obliga-
logue. T h e logical analysis of an argument tion to invent new originals. If anyone asks
is one thing, the invention of the premises the logical critic, "If this conclusion does
another. Logical analysis begins from the not follow from these premises, what prem-
premises presented. If, in the course of the ises do yield it?" the answer is obvious:
analysis of an argument which we have sub- "There is an infinity of premises from which
mitted to the logical critic, he gives us new the conclusion follows. I t is up to others
information which bears on the conclusion, than the critic to select and assert them."
he does so no longer qua logician, but as a In like manner, if someone says that such
man having knowledge or opinion of the and such a failing is exhibited in a given
particular subject matter of the argument. art work, the reply cannot be, produce a
T h e premises and also any additional in- better corrective detail; for the number of
formative sentences may be called, for the corrective details to choose from is infinite,
moment, originals. T h e logician as such and an artist is precisely and by definition
produces no originals but only examines the person who is alone in a position to
the relations of sentences to see whether, make such a choice. (There is also an infi-
given that someone has attempted to infer nite number of ways in which to go wrong
a conclusion from the originals, the in- in each of these fields. But even so, not
ference is valid. In the aesthetic situation, every way is right; not every way is wrong.)
the original which is the analogue of argu- I t should be noted that we are dis-
ment is the art work and its parts as per- tinguishing occupations here, not individu-
ceived or apprehended. T h e critic of the als. I t is apparent that the artist is inevita-
original is a participant who can offer some bly a critic. T h e converse is by no means
kind of reason for attributing value to it. true. T h e parallel from logic enables us
H e may be ready with suggestions about to see exactly what we may expect of each
modifying the presented original or about of the participant occupations. Each type
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

of critic has to be able to appeal to a body ment whose terms are understood by both
of theoretical knowledge, the product of in the same sense), insight into the essential
the logical theorist in the one case, of the value of an object will depend upon critical
aesthetician in the other. T o the artist aesthetic ability (in logic, the possession of
there corresponds on the other side what we reason and all the abilities comprised in
may call the epistemic subject, the observer it). If our critics can not meet this condi-
and investigator who develop new originals. tion, if they do not confront a common
We place these occupations alongside one object, their conflict ceases to be decisive,
another for mutual illumination, not in and their conclusions ought not to be pre-
order to construe the work of the critic or sented as if they were apodeictic truths. Of
the aesthetician as a kind of formal logical course, a critic who has for some reason,
demonstration. perhaps because of commitment to a school,
( 5 ) Logic sets itself the task of formulating let us say, not inspected the object at all,
i n the widest sense what can and what can- or ignored most of it, is at least suspect.
not be asserted without contradiction; the (In practice, of course, a critical position
comparable task of aesthetics is to formu- elevated above or beyond any style or stand-
late i n general the limits of coherence for point is a mere fiction.) There must be
perceptible things. confrontation with the object. If we sup-
For our purposes we may construe all of pose, as we must, that this is difficult to
logic as hinged on contradiction and the insure in the aesthetic context, we must not
avoidance of it. The question then is, can suppose that it is altogether easy in the
this in any way guidk us to comparable logical context, where terms must be taken
considerations in aesthetics, in short, is in precisely the same sense by parties to
there an aesthetic analogue of contradiction controversy, if controversy is not to be ir-
whose presence should be sufficient to con- relevant and incompetent.
demn the object or context in which it T h e alternative in critical disagreement,
occurs? With this we reach the climactic we have suggested, lies between difference
question of this investigation. of vision or apprehension and difference in
We must first try, if we can, to confront critical aesthetic ability, which is a circum-
and to isolate a truly "pure" aesthetic object, locution for taste. (The term is hardly ade-
that is, we must confine our critical ex- quate, but unavoidable.) We should recall
amination to the aesthetic aspects of things. that we have not defined the comparable
But virtually everywhere what we encounter logical skill which we call reason. We must
distracts us from this. Our approbations be content to observe of it that it charac-
are too often irrelevant to the object, be- teristically includes the ability to discern
cause it has not really been seen, or heard: consistency and contradiction. Whether this
we have heard or seen what it suggests, or ability can be explained without circularity
what "lies behind it," or what it informs us (the person has reason, reasons well, or is
about, but the object tout court has not rational, because he comprehends the syl-
been seen or heard at all. As we have sug- logism, but comprehends it because he has
gested before, we can only rarely purify an reason or is rational) is a question which
object of all its nonaesthetic aspects. If that has a perfect analogue for taste. What we
is so, it would seem that we must also pay understand by "reason" suggests that if the
the price of being doomed to division in our aesthetic situation is further comparable to
judgment. Or better said, to the degree that the logical we must seek the essential char-
two critics arrive at purity of aesthetic vi- acteristics of taste in the ability to discern,
sion, to that degree they can hope to arrive and where possible, to foster the internal
at mutually agreeing aesthetic judgments. coherence of the aesthetic object. With this,
When this condition is met, we can proceed we must now return to our consideration
point for point with the analogy of logic, of form, for any consideration of aesthetic
as follows. If there is a common aesthetic coherence is inseparable from this.
object for two critics (in logic, an argu- As already shown, it is not content, in
Aesthetics and Logic: An Analogy
the sense of representative content, that is for aesthetic purposes, and in our day
to be constrasted with form. I t is rather the sculptors working with cast-offs of every
elements, the terms of the relations that description have been demonstrating this.
constitute forms, that must stand as the T h e artist's problem, after the elements are
counterpart. For example, the elements of chosen, is always one of the adjustment of
paintings or other visual structures are their parts to one another. It is also in the inter-
discriminable spatial parts. T h e elements play of these that the critic is most likely
of musical compositions are intervals-gen- to touch the nerve of our responses. Careful
erally not mere tones, for these have too reading of criticism will reveal whether
little individuality about them. The ele- praise and blame fall on the elements of a
ments of verbal structures are whatever we work or on their relations to one another.
can regard as ultimate units of meaning. The difficulty is only that critics are so
What we present so in three sentences rarely consciously aware of the distinction.
ought to have an immense amount of atten- They are then apt to betray not only pref-
tion in detail which we cannot accord it erences for materials and elements, and
here. repudiations of them (this is understanda-
A reference to Kant may illuminate what ble, inevitable ), but to confuse the inherent
we are trying to draw attention to. Kant character of these with their adaptability
distinguishes the pleasant from the beauti- in a present work of art. As a result they
ful. As examples of the former he gives what not only mislead but fall into intolerance,
we wish to identfy here as elements. Thus solecism, and a dozen other extra-aesthetic
he says in the Critique of Judgment: humors.
If then we have excluded all extra-aes-
Everyone may be permitted an opinion regard-
ing the pleasant (das Angenehme); when we thetic considerations, and have agreed to
speak of an object as pleasing to us our response tolerate any and all elements, the only
is a private one, confined to our own persons; if remaining factor which can be decisive of
we say Canary wine is pleasant we will not mind value will be the relation of elements to
if some one else tells us we ought say it pleases
us. It is not only so for the taste of the tongue,
each other. They will in general cohere
palate and throat, but also for whatever is pleas- or be incoherent; they will balance one
ing to eye or ear; one of us finds violet color another or not; some elements as climaxes
soft and pleasing, another finds it pale and life- will fully satisfy the demands set up in
less; one of us likes the tone of wind instruments, others, some will fail; elements will de-
another prefers the ~ t r i n g s . ~
velop tensions or relieve them; everywhere
I t is of no consequence whether we follow part will play against part.
Kant in distinguishing the pleasant from The purpose of formulating logical rules
the beautiful. What is essential is that we is to decide whether proffered conclusions
observe and evaluate carefully the facts he follow, or are consistent with, premises.
has here drawn our attention to. Specific They seek to tell us whether premises are
colors, as in just this reddish patch of your relevant and sufficient or irrelevant and
pencil or thumbnail, let us say, or specific superfluous, and in general to approximate
tones and intervals with just these timbres a certain ideal of logical order.
and volumes and other dimensions. even By comparison an aesthetic critical sys-
specific words, thoughts, or least discrimina- tem should in principle be able to instruct
ble events and places in verbal structures us in questions of the order consistency and
such as novels or epics-for these no argu- relevance of the elements or parts of works
ment whatever can be given, whether for or of art to one another. In general this is
against, insofar as they can be considered what instruction in the arts has always
in total isolation from other elements. What sought to accomplish. Assuming that we
can, however, be subjected to a kind of ad- can always distinguish between elements
judication or aesthetic argument is the re- and orders (formal relationships of ele-
lation of these elements to one another. ments), and admitting that no rules can be
No element, as such, is inherently worthless specified for the choice of elements or of
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

mediums, the essential service which aes- the picture which would in some sense pre-
thetics must seek to render will concern the vent the picture from being seen. The co-
order and form of perceptible things and herent picture would be the eminently
artifacts. seeable -~icture. In the incoherent one
What order? Which form? The cluestion some interior relation of it would prevent
which at last we must squarely face is this: it as a whole from becoming visible or, in
is there an aesthetic analogue of logical general, from presenting itself to perception
contradiction? The whole issue of a rigorous which would here be the analogue of logical
aesthetic critical system would appear to reason.
depend upon this. It will be readily seen that the accom-
We must be careful to notice that we are plishments of Gestalt psychology are here of
asking for only an analogue of logical con- particular relevance. T o see is indeed, as
tradiction. It is all too easy to point out Gilbert Ryle pointed out, a verb of achieve-
that no two parts of a painting or of a ment: to see and to see well are virtually
musical composition can contradict one one and the same thing. What then are the
another, logically, that is. What we, how- conditions of seeing well? In general, Ges-
ever, are interested in is a true analogy to taltist research on the figure-ground princi-
contradiction, not contradiction itself. How ple gives us a clue. A "good" Gestalt is
then can parts of pictures be incoherent or an eminently visible one; it emerges from
inconsistent in this analogical sense? a recedent ground; if there is a plurality of
It is necessary to observe that in practice figures in a sense field, they must be hier-
critics are constantly speaking in this way, a~chicallv ordered (in sizd or color, for
appraising works of art as coherent or inco- example); internally each figure may itself
herent. There is no reason to suppose that exhibit the same order; numerous other
only the logical sense of these terms is al- ~eneralizationshave been confirmed. Viola-
"
lowable: it is conceivable that in origin they tions or departures are punished by failure
were not part of our logical vocabulary of figures to be exhibited, to be fully per-
but were appropriated for this purpose. The ceptible, to be, in fact, figures. This is just
critic therefore owes no one an apology for what we ought to expect from our logical
using them. But what is their analogical analogy. Of course much more is involved
sense? here than merely the "good Gestalt."
So far as I can see there is but one direc- From this all too brief sketch from psy-
tion in which to proceed for an answer. In chology, we turn to some aesthetic appiica-
logic a self-contradiction is in some sense a tions. Study would show, I believe, that the
violation of thought; it is literally a violence whole immense history of formalism in taste
done to thought, so that this ceases to be and criticism, comprising such various
thought at all. We can entertain it in some things as doctrines about proportion in
sense, and we can even manipulate it and antiquity, the development of perspective
perform certain logical operations on it or in the middle ages, the layout of cities and
with it, as may be seen in the form of squares through many centuries, the strate-
proof we call reductio ad absurdum. But gies of both polyphonic and homophonic
that is because we think of it as having composers in seeking a good hearing for
parts, each of which, though inconsistent themes in tonal complexes, the emergence
with the others (when they are part of a of dominant figures (heroes, heroines, and
self-contradiction), has traceable conse- villains) from social situations and contexts
quences of its own. T o say that there is a in literary structures, is but a prolonged
self-contradiction at hand means that what effort at or demand for what we may call
is said cannot be thought, or even that eminent perceptibility. The supreme effort
nothing has been said. of the artist is to make visible, to clarify,
In the aesthetic situation, an inconsis- to present. Just this is what breaks the badk
tency, such as a critic might discern in a of the incompetent work: it either presents
picture, would be some relation of parts of nothing, or only something which we all
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
too soon encompass and dismiss for lack We may venture to say, I believe, what-
of breadth and depth. This is not to deny ever the fate of contemporary art, that the
that earnestness and sinceritv of intention, idea of eminent perceptibility is a sound
profundity of message, and much else which enough hypothesis to be taken seriously as
borders on the extra-aesthetic may not a way of explaining the purely aesthetic ex-
partially redeem the work that falls short cellences of the received classics of tradition.
of eminent perceptibility. Nor is it to assert If we were truly able to throw light on the
that no other factors bear on the question past our inability to make sound predic-
of the greatness of an artist. But there is a tions might well be forgiven us.
strong presumption of great talent or even (6) A principal purpose of an aesthetic
greatness in any artist who succeeds in mak- critical system is to serve as support for the
ing his intuitions eminently perceptible, evaluation of aesthetic success and failure.
and one of incompetence in one who fails. What has been said under (3) above
All of this is. of course. offered as hv- should be reconsidered in reference to the
pothesis which the interpretation of works present discussion of evaluation. We may
of art (in my opinion) confirms. But is it fear a potential conflict between the prima
plausible, for example, in face of the con- facie or naive response to the work of art
vulsions of the world of art in this century? and the evaluation of it which involves de-
Have not all of us seen works which seemed tailed scrutiny of all that we have been
convincingly great which nevertheless de- speaking of as order, form, relation of ele-
fied any standard such as that sketched here? ments, etc.
Is there not a radically new kind of art The sense in which such a scrutiny con-
which, in Sir Herbert Read's well-chosen flicts with the prima-facie response is that
phrase, is Gestalt-free? This is a kind of art it inevitably alters it and in fact replaces it
work which invites us not to stand avart with a new image. This process is familiar.
from it and try to apprehend it as a whole We may compare the superficial first im-
(by which test it wholly fails to be eminently pression made on us by the unfamiliar
preceptible), but to enter into it, as it were, characters of a language such as Chinese (if
and to apprehend it perhaps like a speleolo- we are ignorant of it) and their appearance
gist whose lamp illuminates successive after we have learned to read them. Calling
chambers of a cave. attention to form is like suggesting that we
No solution to this problem will be im- cease our dumbness and wonder at Chinese
mediately convincing. w e are too much in characters and learn to read them. There is
the midst of it. We cannot therefore say a conflict only if we think some innocence
now or in advance of much more experi- has hereby been lost.
ence with such works what will ultimately Let us attempt a brief comparison of our
appear to be a just judgment of them. T h e grasp of logical and aesthetic form and
works may lose all appeal because no one make some final observations on its relation
will consent to look at them in any other to evaluation in both domains.
than the traditional way in which the eye At the level of minimal complexity of
seeks a whole, a "good Gestalt"; or they the inferences in daily life nature has pro-
may prove themselves a genuine new genre vided even simple-minded people with the
of art, thereby removing themselves from skill of drawing proper conclusions. No ex-
competition with older genres, though possi- plicit knowledge of logical forms or laws
bly replacing them; or our aesthetic modes is of any use. This is the reason why the
of perception may change from the root logic of the syllogism was for centuries
up in ou; century, in which case the survival thought of with considerable contempt. The
of older modes will be problematic; or we reasoning it provided logical forms for was
may before too long condemn works of this already understood well enough with its
sort utterly and eventually ignore or destroy aid; on more complex sorts of reasoning it
them. There are, no doubt, still other possi- was powerless to enlighten. When it be-
bilities. came clear that our reasoning in mathe-
KARL ASCHENBRENNER

matics, for example, was of a vastly more whether the reasoning is valid. So in art
complex character than ordinary discourse, we need to seek a comparable clear and
logic experienced a new wave of discovery. distinct acquaintance in depth with the
I n the visual arts, imitated or represented object. When we resurvey and review the
figures, if recognizable, are usually sufficient whole object, funded by such acquaintance,
to satisfy whatever needs the plain man has we have something fully different from our
for organization. When such clues fail him first superficial encounter with it. What
and he is confronted by a more abstract ensues then as an evaluation of it is nothing
form, he will be satisfied with the object other than experience of an object whose
only if it has, for example, the explicit form we have at last apprehended and
symmetry of an architectural faqade. This clarified to ourselves. The form is not cor-
is artistic communication on an almost related by some external law with excel-
instinctual level. It corresponds to the lence of beauty. The apprehension of it is
simple inferences we can make on everyday the apprehension of value. The purpose of
affairs without expert knowledge of logical criticism and aesthetics is to contribute to
forms. But when the plain man has neither such apprehension.
representation nor symmetry to help him, Finally the essential differences between
he feels himself lost or angry, just as he logic and aesthetics ought to be as instruc-
may if he hears talk that seems highbrow to tive as the similarities we have dwelt on.
him. Or, depending on the kind of person I shall mention but one or two of these
he is, he may be impressed or only pretend since they bear on the question of evalua-
that he likes what he sees, if he wishes to tion we have been discussing.
appear progressive and enlightened. An essential difference between the ob-
Surely sheer honesty is a better policy jects surveyed by logic and aesthetics con-
here. Genuineness of response ought more cerns their degree of independence from
to be sought by the artist than the eclat of their authors. Logic has this in common
ignorance. The remedy is articulate criti- with science that there can be neither in
cism which strives to supply for more diffi- principle nor in fact any ad hominem con-
cult art and art forms exactly the help siderations that bear on the truth of its
which formal logical-mathematical sym- judgments, whether an argument is valid
bolism supplies to help us think about or not, whether something is fact or not-
abstruse subjects. But the need is not sup- these matters are to be judged wholly in
plied just by criticism. Theory in the arts independence of who has spoken. Truth
is such an aid, just as, for example, harmony and validity are wholly independent of
and counterpoint are indispensable for a those who assert anything or reason about
just understanding, that is, for a proper anything.
hearing, of the pre-modern classics. Art on the other hand preserves the very
Thus, there are in both the logical and stigmata of its authors. We are interested
the aesthetic situations, in reasoning and in in who has created the work. If we do not
art, (a) the initial response to a character- know, we feel obliged to invent a definite
istic object, an argument, or an art work, description of him, e.g., the Master of the
and (b) a process which may be invoked to
Altar of Aix. We are interested in him as the
support and articulate, and to evaluate this
object and in doing so to modify it. Con- author of this work and of this work as his
fronted by complex reasoning we must not handiwork. The reason is that the work is
be contented with the nodding acquaint- the very instrument the artist himself has
ance of initial response but ought to try to employed to clarify his own experience. Our
achieve clarity and distinctness in our sur- evaluation is therefore always somewhat
vey of what we are judging. Then and only more complex than that of the truth of
then can we be guided to a proper evalua- statements or the validity of arguments.
tion of it. Indeed, the vivid grasp of form We can never suppose that who has created
also at once answers our question as to the work is no longer of relevance, as we can
Aesthetics and Logic: A n Analogy
when we consider statements and argu- never impersonal, nor are they abstract (in
ments. the proper sense of this term). They per-
A second, and final, difference is closely tain to "beings-in-the-world" even when
related to this one. The work of art is more such beings seem to possess sublime charac-
intimately connected with its vehicle than ter.
is the statement or argument. So far as
University of California, Berkeley
truth or validity is concerned (as against
the meaning of the statements involved) the
work of art is not the "word become flesh"
if the flesh is but a passing and perishing A. G . Baumgarten, Meditationes, 5 116.
dispensable event. The ideas articulated in a Denis Diderot, Dictionnaire Encyclope'dique,
logic have been pre-eminent among those article "Beau."
=Kant, Critique of Judgment, 5 16: pulchritude
that have led Plato and his numerous adhaerens.
followers, old and new, to believe that 'What Professor C. I. Lewis says in Ch. XV, 4,
there are forms or ideas that transcend their and passim, of his An Analysis of Knowledge and
physical exemplars. But the forms of the Valuation is particularly relevant here.
objects of art are pre-eminently and una- 5Aesthetik des Hiisslichen, by Karl Rosenkranz
(Konigsberg, 1853), is especially worth remember-
shamedly physical or at least invariably ing in this connection.
supported by human perception and imagi- @FrankSibley, "Aesthetic Concepts," T h e Philo-
nation if they exist, or have existed, at all. sophical Review (October, 1959).
The values sought in the arts are thus Kant, op. cit., 5 7.