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Aesthetic Qualities and Aesthetic Value Author(s): Alan H. Goldman Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 23-37 Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2026797 Accessed: 06/10/2009 07:35
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AESTHETIC QUALITIES AND AESTHETIC VALUE 0 say that an object is beautiful or ugly is seemingly to refer

to a propertyof the object. But it is also to express a positive


or negative response to it, a set of aesthetic values, and to suggest that others ought to respond in the same way. Such judgments are descriptive, expressive, and normative or prescriptive at once. These multiple features are captured well by Humean accounts that analyze the judgments as ascribing relational properties. To say that an object is beautiful is to say, in part, that it is such as to elicit a response expressing pleasure in certain observers. The observers in question must not be ignorant, biased, insensitive, or of poor taste, and they must not base their evaluations on aesthetically irrelevant properties of the objects they judge. The reference to the object's "being such . . ." captures the objective side of the relation; reference to the pleasurable response captures the expressive function of these judgments; and the ideal properties of the observers suggest that others ought to judge in the same way. Beauty is a relatively nonspecific or broadly evaluative relational property, in that its ascription leaves unspecified how the object is such as to elicit this positive response in suitable observers. This, together with the requirement that critics not base their judgments on aesthetically irrelevant properties, implies that beauty must supervene on other properties. In general, if evaluative properties are to be analyzed in this way which captures the various functions of evaluative judgments, then they must be supervenient properties. Before proceeding to a discussion of the base properties on which beauty supervenes, I should note that it may not be the most broadly evaluative aesthetic quality, although it is the quality most often mentioned in this light. The beautiful, as we know from Kant and other aestheticians of that age, may be contrasted with the sublime, but also with sets of artworks having other qualities that may confer artistic merit on them. Artistic merit itself is both broader and narrower than beauty: broader, in that it may be based on other properties, such as expressiveness (e.g., power) or originality, that may not confer beauty on their objects; and narrower, in that it is possessed only by artworks, whereas natural phenomena may be beautiful as well. The beautiful is pleasurable to observe; artistic merit may not always give pleasure, although it will elicit a positive response and presumably attract continued attention. Artistic merit may require study and understanding to be appreciated; beauty may seem more immediately accessible, although this is not always the case. It may
0022-362X/90/8701/23-37 ? 1990 The Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

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take some musical education before one can appreciate the beauty of a Brahms symphony or a Mahler song. Those qualities on which beauty and artistic merit most immediately supervene are themselves aesthetic and, at least in part, evaluative. I have in mind such qualities as being graceful, powerful, balanced, original, and so on. Such aesthetic qualities have been defined, for example by Sibley, as those whose apprehension requires taste.' This strikes me not so much as a helpful definition (to be helpful, we would need to know the nature of taste) as an indication of the evaluative aspect of these properties, again best analyzed as relations. To take taste to be a special faculty that apprehends special qualities is no more plausible than was G. E. Moore's intuitionism in ethics. Since there are no faculties or organs of taste, appeal to it signals only that ascription of these aesthetic qualities express particular tastes or sets of aesthetic values. Appeal to these qualities supports judgments of beauty or artistic merit in a principled way, in that the presence of the properties mentioned always counts at least prima facie positively in evaluating works of art. To say that a work is powerful is to suggest that it is artistically a good work, just as to say that a man is courageous or kind, is to suggest that he is morally a good person. But this is because such terms themselves express approval. The same work that is powerful to one critic may be strident to another; a work that is intense to one may be garish to another. Aesthetic qualities are like moral properties in this regard: the man who is courageous in the eyes of one observer may be cold-blooded to another. In all these cases, the opposing evaluative properties and judgments referring to them may rest on the same nonevaluative bases. The objective sides of these pairs of relational properties are the same, but they elicit different responses expressed by the opposing terms. A principle of beauty (or artistic merit) states that an object with a certain property P is prima facie beautiful (artistically good). This allows that P may be overridden by negative factors in the artwork, but requires that it always count in the same (positive) direction. Principles that fill in reference to the sort of properties mentioned above are not so interesting, since their existence once more may signal only that the properties in question are themselves (positively) evaluative. A far more interesting sort of principle would link evaluative to nonevaluative properties in this way. It would say that an object with nonevaluative property Q(an objective property rather
' Frank N. Sibley, "A Contemporary Theory of Aesthetic Qualities: Aesthetic Concepts," The Philosophical Review, LXVIII (1959): 421-450, p. 421.

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than a relation to a positive response) is prima facie beautiful or artistically good. It might be objected that this distinction could be used to beg the question against interesting aesthetic principles, since any property linked always positively to evaluation could be interpreted as itself evaluative and therefore a component of only an uninteresting principle. But there is an independent way of drawing the distinction that does not beg the question. There is broad agreement on the presence of objective or nonevaluative properties that ultimately ground evaluations, and disagreement can be settled by straightforward empirical investigation. By contrast, we have seen that opposing evaluative properties and judgments expressing them may rest on the same nonevaluative bases. If aesthetic qualities such as power, grace, and balance are (partly) evaluative, then they can once more be viewed as relations, in terms of objects being such as to elicit positive responses from suitable critics. But, unlike in the case of beauty or artistic merit, the objective sides of these relations are now more specifically indicated. These objective base properties, on which aesthetic evaluations ultimately supervene, are themselves most often relations among simpler objective elements. Relations of different sorts form the objective bases for different evaluative aesthetic properties. 'Graceful' and 'harmonious', for example, refer to formal relations that elicit positive responses. A graceful sculpture ordinarily has smooth and flowing lines without protruding, sharply defined parts. 'Powerful' and 'soaring' refer with approval to expressive properties of the works themselves, which in turn depend on certain formal properties, although not always the same ones. A powerful piece of music, for example, cannot be legato and pianissimo throughout. 'Innovative' and 'daring' refer, again while expressing approval or positive evaluation, to relations of the work or its features to features of other works in a tradition. The middle-level evaluative aesthetic qualities that I have been describing provide reasons for judgments of artistic merit or beauty. But ascriptions of the former properties can be challenged as well, and their defense requires further reasons that appeal ultimately to nonevaluative properties.2 We may, if we like, follow Monroe Beardsley in defining aesthetic qualities as those which provide reasons for aesthetic evaluations (ibid., p. 103); but it is most important
2 Cf. Monroe C. Beardsley, "What Is an Aesthetic Quality?", in The Aesthetic Point of View (Ithaca: Cornell, 1982), pp. 104-105.

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to distinguish middle-level from ultimate reasons, and thereby relational, evaluative aesthetic qualities from nonevaluative aesthetic qualities, which we may now call basic. This fact/value distinction is (I hope) not naive, at least in so far as one thrust of the previous discussion is that many terms of aesthetic discourse, and indeed many relational aesthetic properties, cut across it. All the judgments or ascriptions of qualities so far mentioned are both evaluative and descriptive. The fact that evaluative properties are always supervenient on others, however, implies that there must be some nonevaluative properties on which they ultimately supervene, and hence some fact/value distinction that can be recognized. Its recognition generates a constraint on rational evaluators-that the presence of all the same nonevaluative properties on different occasions must elicit the same aesthetic evaluations. But this minimal constraint leaves it open whether rational evaluators can disagree about the same works (indeed, the notion of taste indicates that they can), and whether there are any nonevaluative properties that always count in the same way toward evaluations, that is, any interesting principles of taste. I have agreed with Beardsley that aesthetic qualities are those which provide reasons for aesthetic evaluations, but I have pointed out that many of these properties are themselves evaluative, relational properties that must supervene ultimately on nonevaluative, basic aesthetic qualities. We can characterize basic aesthetic qualities in ways that do not explicitly refer to the category of the aesthetic. Such qualities are first of all phenomenal properties, those which appear in perceptual experiences, and relations among phenomenal properties. Furthermore, at least in the case of aesthetic properties that ground positive evaluations (those on which I shall concentrate below), the experiences in which they appear are thereby made more valuable. In saying this, it is important to emphasize that the value that attaches to experiences of aesthetic qualities cannot be detached from the qualities at which they are directed. Aesthetic value does not lie in the mere pleasantness of the sensations created when enjoying a work of art, even when there are pleasant sensations involved in such enjoyment, as in listening to a beautiful piece of music. The perceptual experiences of good artworks are valuable because of the way they are structured when directed at aesthetic features of those objects. Works with artistic merit are such as to elicit positive responses in virtue of the way that their phenomenal properties and relations among these properties generate experiences of them. Several objections may be raised to the claim that aesthetic quali-

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ties are phenomenal properties. One derives from a phenomenon emphasized in the recent literature, most emphatically by Arthur C. Danto,3 that of two perceptually indistinguishable objects that merit different aesthetic descriptions and evaluations, even from the same critics. An example of such a pair would be an ordinary urinal versus Duchamp's perceptually indistinguishable work of art. If perceptually indistinguishable objects can be such that one is a work of art (and of high artistic merit according to at least some critics) and another is not, then artistic merit cannot be grounded entirely in perceptible, phenomenal properties. Indeed, Danto's examples may seem to cast doubt also on the minimal constraint on aesthetic evaluation proposed above: that repetition of all the same nonevaluative properties must elicit the same evaluations from the same rational critics. This doubt will be dispelled below as well by defending the analysis of aesthetic qualities as phenomenal properties and relations among them. A second objection to that analysis notes that representational and expressive functions of artworks enter into their artistic merit, and that once more these are not simple phenomenal properties of the works in themselves. To grasp fully the representational and expressive features of certain works may require knowledge of human nature and history far beyond anything directly presented in the works themselves. In order to appreciate Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture or Picasso's Guernica, one must know something of the glories and horrors of war, and something of the histories of the particular wars depicted. In novels, as opposed to visual art and music, it might plausibly be claimed that phenomenal properties are of minimal significance, as opposed to the semantic properties of the language by means of which it represents and expresses. The structure of a novel is defined not by relations among phenomenal elements, such as tones or colored patches, but rather by elements of plot and character depiction as these develop and interrelate. In some novels, these relations may be quite subtle, determined, for example, by shifting points of view among narrators and other characters. Thus, even an aesthetician who takes self-contained formal properties of artworks to be of paramount aesthetic value cannot view these properties as always phenomenal. What these objections fail to note is the claim that aesthetic qualities consist not only in phenomenal properties, but also in relations among them, relations that are not always perceivable. In the remainder of this paper, I shall attempt to clarify the nature of the
3

The Transfiguration

of the Commonplace (Cambridge: Harvard, 1981).

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relations that are aesthetically significant, and then suggest why properties that constitute them should be a source of aesthetic value. Finally, I shall comment on whether the connections between these relations and the positive value judgments they elicit can be captured by a set of aesthetic principles.
I

The first set of aesthetically significant relations hold among phenomenal elements within works themselves and define their internal structures. (At present I limit discussion to visual arts and music; the discussion of literature will be continued below.) The elements here consist in tones in musical pieces, colored patches or lines in paintings, surfaces or chunks of sculptures, and so on. The relations include contrasts, variations, repetitions, similarities, blendings, attractions, repulsions, tensions, and resolutions, and developments based on various of these other relations. They create structures referred to as dynamic, tightly knit, balanced, harmonious, and so on. These structural features are perceivable, and they hold among elements as phenomenally, not physically, defined. That the tonal progression from the tonic to the dominant and back to the tonic chord constitutes a development in terms of tension and its resolution is not inherent in the physics of the vibrations, but in how the tones appear to us and cause us to respond perceptually and emotionally. Such formal features can be a source of aesthetic value in themselves, apart from any representational functions of the works that contain them, and even apart from whatever emotions might be expressed by means of them. Although some formal features in themselves are expressive, not all that are of aesthetic value need be. The grace, balance, and harmony of an abstract sculpture, for example a Gabo, can have aesthetic value without expressing anything to the viewer. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that a second source of aesthetic value lies in the representational and/or expressive character of some artworks and their properties. Here we must recognize relations of a work's elements and formal properties to perceptual and emotional experiences outside the work. The manner in which an artwork represents may be quite straightforward, especially in descriptive literature and visual art, although even in the latter case there will be representational conventions at work to supplement resemblances. Such conventions may go unnoticed by audiences trained to interpret them, and sometimes even by artists who use them. Representation in music, beyond such devices as imitating bird calls or other sounds, is more complex, always shading into expression, which is generally subtler in its methods.

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I mentioned above terms that refer to evaluative, expressive properties, such as 'powerful' or 'soaring'. Such properties, I suggested, can be analyzed in terms of their objects' being such as to elicit positive responses in virtue of certain other expressive properties. We also find, of course, terms that refer nonevaluatively to expressive properties themselves, such as 'sad', 'tense', 'somber', 'cheerful'. There is no sharp dividing line between these types of terms, and context may determine whether approval or disapproval is being expressed by the latter. It is clear, however, that, whichever of these terms we are using, we refer, at least in part, to expressive qualities in the works themselves. The expressive qualities referred to relate to human emotional states, but not in the simple sense that they express emotions felt by the artist in creating the work or by the audience in perceiving it. Instead, the audience is to respond to the work in a way similar to that in which it responds to the emotion when encountered elsewhere.4 The proper response to an emotion is not always simply to feel the same emotion: one responds to sadness, for example, not simply by feeling sad, but also with sympathy and pity. The way one responds to emotion in art is only similar to one's responses in real life, in that one is to react to artistic expression without believing that the emotion expressed is literally present, without acting in a way normally appropriate to such a response, and without losing awareness of the elements and formal properties of the work which somehow express the emotion in question. How this effect is achieved differs from genre to genre and from work to work. In straightforwardly representational art, the method may be equally straightforward. Representing or describing a sad person, for example, may capture the person's sadness and so elicit the appropriate response. In music and abstract art, the relations are again more complex. Emotions may be expressed through representation, in the formal structure of a work, of the structural properties of typical expressions of the emotions. Sad music, for example, typically has slow, flowing lines; cheerful music, more rapid rhythms; whereas powerful pieces build tension through tonal development and volume. It is more mysterious why minor chords or dark, muted colors of paintings in themselves appear sad. There seems to be no single method by which music, let alone other arts, express. The relations that constitute expression and representation in art are not themselves perceivable. But I think it fair to say that they

Cf. Roger Scruton, Art and Imagination

(London: Methuen, 1974), p. 128.

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relate phenomenal, or at least experienced, elements. We respond to sadness in music not because we believe that the music is (literally) sad, but because it recalls to us the experience or observation of another's sadness or its expression. As mentioned, the other side of the relation, the properties in the music which express the emotion, must remain in focus as well. We must respond to these phenomenal properties as expressive of sadness. If we are to react properly, to sad representational works as well, we must remain aware that the sadness is not real, but only expressed in the experienced properties of the works. As Danto notes (op. cit., pp. 147-148), when art is representational (or expressive), the manner of representation (or expression) always matters aesthetically. And the manner or method always involves phenomenal elements and formal properties within the works. Finally, the emotions expressed or objects represented in artworks are expressed or represented as the artist has experienced them. We are to experience them and respond through the eyes of the artist, so that our way of experiencing or perceiving may be altered or expanded. The third set of aesthetically significant relations consists in relations of properties in artworks to earlier artworks that define a tradition. These relations are referred to by terms such as 'original', 'innovative', 'conservative', 'daring', and so on. They indicate a historical place for an artwork within a developing sequence. Works may be aesthetically valuable solely because of the way in which they continue, modify, overthrow, or extend a particular tradition within a particular genre. Once more we can consider such relations to hold between the phenomenal properties of a present work and those of earlier (and perhaps even later) works. Once more, appreciation of the relevant historical relations informs and affects the way we perceive phenomenal properties within the work, upon which attention must always remain focused. This effect may be for better or worse. Present audiences probably cannot feel the power of a Haydn finale as audiences in Haydn's time did, the former having absorbed more thoroughly the symphonies of Beethoven. On the other hand, we hear the development section in the first movement of the Eroica Symphony differently when we recognize that new ground was being broken in the history of music. This last sort of relation holds between phenomenal properties of artworks perceived at different times, so that once again the relations themselves are not perceivable. The properties related, however, are phenomenal properties of the works themselves, for example formal properties, as well as expressive properties that I have defined also as complex relations.

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II

Having included relations that may be themselves unperceivable in the analysis of aesthetic properties, we are now ready to answer the objections raised earlier. Reconsider first Danto's examples of perceptually indistinguishable objects that are aesthetically different. A natural object perceptually indistinguishable from an artwork, say a sculpture, is not itself a work of art. But then it does not bear those relations which we have recognized to be aesthetically significant. It does not express or represent anything, for example, although it may have formally pleasing properties and so be beautiful (op. cit., pp. 93-94). A copy that is perceptually identical to an original work of art also differs in its aesthetic relations. It does not express or represent through the eyes or experience of its creator. Nor does it ever bear the same relation to the tradition. Whereas the original may continue or modify the development of the genre in an interesting way, the copy does not continue or extend the tradition at all (once we include the original in that tradition). Other objections appealed to literature, where the elements that enter into formal, expressive, and historical relations seem to be defined according to the semantic content of the writing, rather than phenomenally. Furthermore, there may be value in what a novel says-the moral, political, or philosophical truths contained therein. Nevertheless, although content certainly serves to define character, plot development, and hence structure in a novel, the structure, characters, and even moral and philosophical content of a novel have aesthetic value only when they serve to inform our experience in reading it. The aesthetic qualities of fiction do not lie in the historical or philosophical truths that it might convey. A novel makes great literature not if it describes a true moral theory or historical era, but if the moral beliefs and experiences of the characters, or the historical circumstances in which they find themselves, help to define them and relations between them in an aesthetically fulfilling way. Even the formal structure of the novel must structure our experience of it, must help us to understand the characters and to experience through their points of view. Just as a bit of philosophical or historical exposition cannot substitute for the functions of these elements in a novel, so a diagram or chart, which may represent the structure in a novel with perfect accuracy, cannot substitute for the way the structure affects our experience in reading it. All these points supplement appeal to the sensuous nature of the language itself in a good piece of fiction or poetry, which once more may be of aesthetic value in the quasi-musical forms it creates and in the way it may intensify our experience in reading the work.

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The analysis of aesthetic qualities as phenomenal properties and certain relations among them stands against the objections raised earlier. It remains first to inquire why and how these relations constitute sources of aesthetic value. Although I do not deny that isolated elements of artworks or natural objects, for example certain colors or tones, may be so pleasing to the senses as to merit the ascription of beauty, certainly the greatest sources of aesthetic value lie in those relations described above. And whereas the question of why certain colors or tones are found to be so pleasant is one for psyclhologists to answer (if, indeed, there is an answer here, as opposed to a primitive psychological fact), it is of more philosophical interest to explain how aesthetic relations create aesthetic value, to suggest (for further development) a theory of artistic value. The first thing to note here is the interaction among elements within these relations and the interaction among the relations themselves. Regarding the former, elements of artworks are transformed when relating to others in broader structures. We hear a tone, for example, completely differently when it is part of a chord or melody, and a chord differently depending on the key and modulations in which it is embedded. And it is well-known that we perceive colors differently depending on the surrounding colors. This is one, but only one, reason why it is doubtful that we can find nonevaluative properties that always contribute in the same way to aesthetic value. If simpler properties are altered by the relations into which they enter within artworks, then they will not always maintain the same values. Only broader relations themselves, then, can be candidates for entering interesting aesthetic principles. But the question is whether we can find anything short of whole artworks that must be judged in the same way on different occasions of appearance, any principle more interesting than the minimal constraint on rational evaluation suggested in section I. I have indicated in passing the many ways in which the relations deemed aesthetically significant interact with each other. We even have terms of positive evaluation for such interaction, such as 'aptness of form to content'. Form determines representation and expression, and any of the three may determine the historical place of a work within a tradition. In music, expressiveness may be achieved through formal qualities of rhythm, pitch, and tonal development; in painting, representation may elicit emotional responses similar to those made in reaction to the objects represented. But these interactions are not always one-way. I noted that the historical place of a work, for example a Haydn symphony, may influence for better or worse its expressive power for a contemporary audience. Further-

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more, expressive qualities can help to determine form; modulation takes the form of felt tensions and resolutions in many tonal musical pieces. The variations here seem almost endless and can acquire such complexity and subtlety as to become the controversial topics of critical interpretation. Satirical literature, for example, can represent nonsatirical counterparts in the literary tradition, whereas some contemporary paintings represent their own places within recent movements in painting. Here self-conscious historical relations help to determine representation, what the work is about. Before commenting on how these interactions create values in artworks, we may note why the three sorts of relations in themselves should be sources of aesthetic value. Form or structure constitutes order among distinct elements which allows intellect or perception to grasp them in more significant chunks. Since order is sought by both faculties, we should not be surprised that it is pleasing when found, more so when found after a challenge. As other aestheticians have commented, order within complexity is therefore of particular value. Relations of an artwork to its tradition represent a different kind of order that allows for greater comprehension of the work as a whole. As form allows for the exercise of intellect and perceptual comprehension, so representation and expression in art allow for the exercise of imagination and emotional capacities without the personal costs often associated with the latter. Once more, such exercise, or "free play," as some aestheticians call it, both pleases in itself and has instrumental value in helping to develop the faculties or, in more contemporary terms, the capacities in question. Through exposure to art, we can become more perceptually aware, more open to various sensuous enjoyments, and more emotionally sensitive and sensible as well. The greater value of these relations lies in the way that they affect perceptions of the elements within artworks. I have emphasized that form, representation, expressiveness, and even originality must impregnate our experience of the sensible properties of artworks in order to be of aesthetic value. We hear notes and chords as elements within melodic and harmonic structures, and they have meaning for us in those terms. These structures are expressive to us, and the emotions they express also imbue the hearing of particular chords with a deeper significance. We must hear the sadness in the music, for example, rather than simply be caused to dwell on sadness, which would have negative, if any, value. The range of emotions expressed in a single symphony may condense those felt over long periods of nonaesthetic experience. This intensity is even more evident in read-

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ing literature, when we can vicariously experience lifetimes in a matter of hours. Experience of artistic elements which is imbued in these ways by emotion or structure or historical significance is thereby made richer, more meaningful, intense, and condensed. When interactions among these different relations inform our perceptions of the elements within artworks, the effects are yet more remarkable, and the value to be derived is itself more intense. The value of art, on this view, lies largely in the richness of the perceptual and emotional experiences it affords us, and the theory of aesthetic value explains the sources of this richness. I have only indicated the outlines of such explanations here, but we must proceed at this point to our final question.
III

If experience richly imbued with meaning through structure, expression, and historical significance is valuable to us, why should we not be able to capture these sources of value in a set of aesthetic principles of the sort indicated above (section I)? Interesting principles, we noted, must link nonevaluative to evaluative aesthetic properties; but if structural, expressive, and historical relations can be described in nonevaluative terms, why should there be any great difficulty in specifying these links? If these relations create value in the experience of elements within artworks, why should they not do so in lawlike ways? There are at least two reasons, both alluded to briefly above. First, elements are transformed by the relations into which they enter, and so do not themselves always count in the same (lawlike) way toward the value of works in which they are found. Entire works in all their historical relations must be judged alike on different occasions of apprehension, but this constraint fails to generate any aesthetic principles, since entire works in all their relations are never repeated. Given the transformation of elements, it is difficult to imagine why any part of a work short of the whole could not be altered in its value when placed in a different context. Nevertheless, one might maintain, although elements may be transformed by relations into which they enter, they can still be transformed in lawlike ways. If certain relations add value to the elements in artworks that they connect, why can these value creating transformations themselves not be lawlike, hence expressed in aesthetic principles? The answer here lies in irreconcilable differences in taste. Some aesthetic disagreements result from inattention by one of the parties to certain phenomenal properties in the works themselves. These disputes can be resolved simply by calling attention to

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the properties in question. Other disputes rest on failure to appreciate certain of the value-creating relations that may not be themselves perceivable. Appreciation may require knowledge of relevant forms, expressive or representational conventions, or traditions, and some disagreements can be resolved, at least in the long run, by education of one of the disputants in the relevant relations. There will remain, however, a residue of disagreement that is not resolvable in these ways. The relevant relations may inform the experiences of different evaluators of a work in different ways, and hence the responses elicited may differ as well, even after exposure to the work and education. There is room for differences among educated tastes. More frequently, different evaluators place emphasis on different relations at the expense of others. This may result in distinct interpretations or simply in opposed evaluations. For some music critics, for example, the formal and expressive properties of pieces by Saint-Saens give them great aesthetic value; while for others, his failure to extend or alter the course of the Romantic tradition in an interesting way robs his music of aesthetic value and renders it insignificant. These two features of aesthetic qualities-that phenomenal properties are transformed by relations and that the latter affect different evaluators in different ways-defeat attempts to specify interesting aesthetic principles. The two features themselves are connected, in that elements take on different significance depending on the emphasis placed on particular relations they may enter. The result is that evaluative aesthetic properties seem to supervene on nonevaluative properties without being necessitated by them. To say that they supervene is to repeat the constraint on rational evaluation that we have noted: there can be no change in a rational critic's evaluation of a work without some change in its nonevaluative properties. To say that evaluative properties are not necessitated by nonevaluative ones is to allow for differences in evaluations of the same work by different critics, to allow for disagreement without error or even insensitivity.5 When aestheticians argue in favor of aesthetic principles, they often have in mind support for broad judgment of aesthetic merit or
5 Cannot a single rational evaluator change taste and thereby violate the constraint to judge the same work in the same way on different occasions? Not, I think, without holding her formerjudgment to be mistaken, to have missed some source of value in the work or to have mistaken for a source of value what on more prolonged inspection produces only tedium. But then, must she not hold opposingjudgments by others to be equally mistaken, and so fail to allow for disagreement without error? I believe that one can recognize irreconcilable differences in taste while regarding each change in one's own taste as an improvement.

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beauty by appeal to what I have called middle-level, evaluative, aesthetic properties, such as grace or power.6 When they argue against principles, they may have in mind the absence of necessary connections between basic, nonevaluative, aesthetic qualities and rational evaluation, which is evidenced by irreconcilable disagreements among knowledgeable and sensitive critics. Parties to such disputes in aesthetics obviously can talk past each other. I have granted the existence of the less interesting sort of aesthetic principle, while denying the more interesting kind, and explaining both features of aesthetic reasons. The impossibility of specifying interesting aesthetic principles, either narrow or broad, is well-illustrated by recent attempts of aestheticians to do so. We may consider first a single example from David Pole.7 He proposes as a case of a nonevaluative description that entails a (prima facie) evaluation, a character without apparent motive inserted into a play for the sole purpose of moving the plot along (ibid., p. 154). In such contexts, the lack of motive is a defect, Pole maintains, and necessarily so. He recognizes, of course, that this feature counts in only a prima facie way toward a negative evaluation of the play, as is obvious from the fact that his example is from a well-known play by Shakespeare. But the problem is instead that the generalization is not perfect. In a play such as Waiting for Godot, lack of motive is a virtue, at least in so far as it is part of the point. This is not to say that all critics must approve of that play, but, insofar as they do, they will be unlikely to disapprove of the lack of apparent motives in the characters. Nor can we find a non-question-begging relevant difference between the plays which accounts for the different effects of this feature and which we can generalize. All we can say is that Godot is not the sort of play in which lack of motives counts negatively. Clearly that sort of statement will not do as a way to save the law or aesthetic principle. The failure of Pole's principle can be explained by either or both features of aesthetic qualities to which I have drawn attention. The lack of motive that may be a defect in the context of one play is not when related to the other elements in a different play. Both of these plays, but certainly Godot, may elicit approval from some rational critics and disapproval from others; and such differences will transfer to this particular feature of the play as well. The same factors defeat attempts to find broader aesthetic laws,
6 See, for example, Sibley, "General Criteria and Reasons in Aesthetics," in Essays on Aesthetics, John Fisher, ed. (Philadelphia: Temple, 1983). 7 "Art and Generality," in Aesthetics, Form and Emotion (New York: St. Martin's, 1983).

AESTHETIC

QUALITIES

AND AESTHETIC

VALUE

37

too. One of the boldest recent attempts at reducing aesthetic to nonaesthetic qualities is that of Guy Sircello,8 for whom beauty consists in having certain other properties to a high degree. Properties that admit of qualitative degrees relative to objects that have them are beautiful when possessed to a high degree, according to his theory of beauty. His paradigm is vividness in colors. Colors are beautiful in respect to vividness (but perhaps not in other respects) if they are very vivid. The theory fails to specify a law, let alone a reduction, even in its paradigm case. On the one hand, a color that is beautifully vivid to one observer may be simply garish to another, not in the sense that its beauty is overridden or defeated by its garishness, but in that it is simply garish instead of beautiful. On the other hand, a pastel may be beautiful without our being tempted to say that it is a vivid pastel (whatever that would mean) (cf. op. cit., p. 31). Then, too, the same color that is beautiful in the context of one color scheme may be offensive in the context of another. In the latter context, there is no reason to say that it remains beautiful in itself; rather, beauty of color, like perception of color, seems to be in part a function of context. If this theory fails in its paradigm case, then there is no need to press the more obvious objection that qualities like sliminess become more rather than less distasteful the greater the degree to which they are present. Sircello attempts to answer this objection by saying that we may not be good judges of beauty in such properties (op. cit., p. 70). But then who is to judge such beauty, slugs and catfish? He also hedges the general thesis by claiming that it holds only of qualities that are not defects in their objects. Once more, however, this seems to say that the law obtains except where it does not, which, of course, is to admit that it is not a law at all. Examples could be multiplied. I use these as instances of the ways in which I believe that any attempt to state interesting aesthetic principles will fail. Those principles which do seem to work, I have maintained, refer to evaluative aesthetic qualities throughout. The absence of laws, however, does not entail that we cannot have an interesting theory of aesthetic qualities and aesthetic value. I hope that I have suggested such a theory. We can recognize the ways in which basic aesthetic qualities constitute sources of value without attempting to provide formulas for artists.
ALAN H. GOLDMAN

University of Miami
8

A New Theory of Beauty (Princeton: University Press, 1975).