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Postgraduate Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 2, No. 1, April 2005 EVALUATIVE STANDARDS IN ART CRITICISM: A DEFENCE JULIA PETERS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON To a superficial consideration, art criticism might appear as a profession of a parasitic nature, nourishing itself on what is produced by others: by artists. In fact, however, the relation between artistic practice and its criticism is more adequately conceived of as a sort of symbiosis. For, while it is true that criticism depends on and presupposes the existence of its objects - that is, works of art - on the other hand nothing would prevent good art from being equated with and contaminated by bad art if critics ceased to draw a distinction between the two. Critics judge and evaluate works of art. Moreover, we expect critics to provide us with guidelines for engaging in criticism ourselves, and thus to give us general critical standards. According to these presuppositions, what would be a critical argument's premises, if the critical procedure is compressed into the schematised formula of an argument to the conclusion that a present artwork is either good or bad? It seems that o premise must cite a quality, or a ne number of qualities, of the work in virtue of which the critic ascribes a value to it. For the argument to be complete, the second premise must posit a general standard to the effect that works of art exhibiting the qualities cited in the first premise are correspondingly good or bad; or, at least, that these qualities contribute to or diminish the work's value.1 The schematised argument provides what we expect from a critical judgment: an evaluative standard as a general guideline for evaluating works of art, and a demonstration of its application to an individual work. 1 This schema of critical arguments corresponds to both M.C. Beardsley's and A. Isenberg's reconstructions. See Beardsley 456ff.,

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