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Wingless Pegasus - A Handbook for Critics George Boas

Wingless Pegasus - A Handbook for Critics

George Boas

Published March 1st 2007
ISBN : 9781406776508
256 pages
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 About the Book 

WINGLESS PEGASUS A Handbook for Critics To MY WIFE PREFACE A dozen or so years ago we published a short book called A Primer for Critics. It was an attempt to analyse and describe accurately the problems which critics of the arts and of artistry would face if they took their tasks seriously. It raised problems instead of answering them. It developed a vocabulary of criticism which its author naively thought might be adopted by the increasing number of people interested in aesthetics and the problems of aesthetics. Its attitude was what is usually called naturalistic 5 its style literal. It met with a gratifying reception at the hands of a few literary critics, but was treated coolly by aestheticians. In spite of all this, we have ventured to write a second volume conceived in the same spirit and dedicated to the same end. Our dislike for purple passages and fine writing has increased as the years have gone by and our love for clear thought and simple expression has increased. We have been led to believe that there is a growing interest in sentences which can be verified, whose truth can be tested by fact rather than by deep feeling. Ambiguity and vague ness seem to be getting out of fashion even in a field where they were evidences of profundity only a few years ago. If we are right, then our Wingless Pega us will be wel comed hospitably. But it is necessary to point out some of the peculiarities of this book. In the first place, its authors attitude to wards the arts and towards artistry is both pluralistic and relativistic. It isf pluralistic in the sense that he believes vii viii PREFACE the word art to mean a variety of things and not just one thing he believes in the real existenceof arts and not of art. Nor does he see any reason why all arts should have the same purpose, be valued for the same reasons, be made under the same conditions. He prefers to speak of artists, rather than of The Artist. He also believes that the names given to the various arts and processes of artistry have been determined by historical and not metaphysical con siderations. That last sentence will locate him in the class of rela tivists. A relativist is a man who insists on stating as many of the conditions under which a sentence is true as he can find. He is therefore given to such words as proba bly perhaps, and the like, for he is aware of his in ability, especially in a relatively unexplored field, to state all the conditions under which his generalizations would be sound. But a relativist in aesthetics is a man who above all believes in the reality of time, location, history, multi plicity, and change. He realizes the difficulties of using common nouns and adjectives for things which have a temporal dimension, for such words by their very nature are non-temporal. When we use the word, triangle, we are supposed to be speaking of any triangle, wherever and whenever it is found. And similarly when we use the word, picture, we are supposed to be speaking of any picture whatsoever. But one of the most interesting things about pictures and other works of art is precisely what is con ditioned by their dates and places. If one compare a Sung painting with a painting by some Romanesque fresco painter in Europe, it is not the fact that both are paintings which is interesting but the fact that both differ so widely. But of course if one is enamored of Unity, these differences will beminimized, if mentioned at all. One can always reach a level of higher and higher abstraction, if one wishes PREFACE ix to, until one finally hits the realm of pure Being. But at that point everything is as true as everything else to use the language of the schools, what is true about everything in general is true about nothing in particular. This book prefers to turn its attention to things, not to essences. That is why there will be found frequent references to psychology and to anthropology, two sciences whose im portance for aesthetics has been underestimated...