On Criticism (Thinking in Action)
On Criticism (Thinking in Action)
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In a recent poll of practicing art critics, 75 percent reported that rendering judgments on artworks was the least significant aspect of their job. This is a troubling statistic for philosopher and critic Noel Carroll, who argues that that the proper task of the critic is not simply to describe, or to uncover hidden meanings or agendas, but instead to determine what is of value in art.
Carroll argues for a humanistic conception of criticism which focuses on what the artist has achieved by creating or performing the work. Whilst a good critic should not neglect to contextualize and offer interpretations of a work of art, he argues that too much recent criticism has ignored the fundamental role of the artist's intentions.
Including examples from visual, performance and literary arts, and the work of contemporary critics, Carroll provides a charming, erudite and persuasive argument that evaluation of art is an indispensable part of the conversation of life.
intentionally engaged in smoking cigars may also be described as risking lung cancer, even though the smoker did not know that this description applied to him. Similarly, the artist of an earlier period who intentionally displays the naked bodies of women solely for the pleasure of his male clientele may be described as sexist, even though that is a term that would have been incomprehensible to him.* Moreover, this attribution of sexism itself must involve some cognizance of the painter’s
of art hangs together and works where the labor under our critical microscope is divorced from the enterprise of making sense in the form of articulating underlying themes, ideas, messages, etc. Analysis shows that the work contains features that are relevant to the realization of the work; that nothing of marked salience that is irrelevant to or in conﬂict with the point or purpose is present in the work; and that the features of the work work together to secure the purpose of the piece—that the
going down to the Piraeus. Later, in the parable of the Myth of the Cave, the prisoner who has grasped the nature of reality goes back down into the cave to tell his brothers-in-chains what he has seen. He believes that it is his duty to enlighten them and to dispel their ignorance. And like the historical Socrates, he dies for his troubles. Saying what Plato intends or means to communicate by this subtle parallelism is one of the burdens of interpretation. As the preceding example perhaps
into action, once it is properly oriented, cognitively speaking, to the stimulus. Then the prepared subject will suﬀer the pleasure Hume calls beauty. However, I wonder how one can non-arbitrarily separate the wit of Joyce’s puns from their cognitive elements and our appreciation thereof. In any event, even if we regard “beauty” as the name of a sensation, isn’t beauty diﬀerent from humor? It is extremely important to remember that there is a great deal to criticism beyond ﬁnding beauty. Indeed,
in order to discriminate these genres of verbal discourse from art criticism appears to be that, in addition to description, elucidation, classiﬁcation, contextualization, interpretation, and/or analysis, art criticism, properly so called, must involve something else, viz., evaluation.* This is a positive defense of the notion of criticism as quintessentially evaluation (appraisal backed by reasons). But what are the arguments against this view? * Evaluation appears to be not only the feature