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7. The Meaning of Beauty[edit]

The perennial discussion of Beauty a suitable field in which to test the theory of definition. -- The chaos in aesthetics, 137. Rupert Brooke; Benedetto Croce, 140. Separation of the uses of the word, 141. Interrelations of these uses, 144. Cognate and allied terms, 145.

The multiple functions of language. -- Frequency of apparent nonsense in the best critics; Longinus, Coleridge, Bradley, Mackail, 147. The symbolic and the emotive use of words. -- Statements and appeals. -- The speaker and the listener, 149. The symbolic and emotive functions distinct. -- Claim to truth as the test. -- Dangers in applying the test, 150.

Neglect of this multiplicity by grammarians; von der Gabelentz, Vendryes, 151. The speculative approach, 153. Bergson, Stephen, 154. Solution of the intellect versus intuition problem, 155. 'Virtual knowledge' as aesthetic appreciation, 156. Repose and satisfaction in Synaesthesis. -- Interferences between language uses, 157. D. H. Lawrence and the sun, 159.


The application of this procedure in practice may be demonstrated by taking one of the most bewildering subjects of discussion, namely Aesthetics.

Beauty has been very often and very differently defined -- and as often declared to be indefinable. If, however, we look for the characteristic defining relations, we find that the definitions hitherto suggested reduce conveniently to sixteen.

Each of these then provides a distinct range of referents, and any such range may be studied by those whom it attracts. If in spite of the disconcerting ambiguity thus revealed (and all freely-used terms are liable to similar ambiguity) we elect to continue to employ the term Beauty as a shorthand substitute for the definition we favour, we shall do so only on grounds of ethics and expediency and at the risk of all the confusions to which such behaviour must give rise.

In addition to its symbolic uses 'Beauty' has also its emotive uses. These have often been responsible for the view that Beauty is indefinable, since as an emotive term it allows of no satisfactory verbal substitute. Failure to distinguish between the symbolic and emotive uses is the source of much confusion in discussion and research.