Aesthetica Preprint, 11 (March 1986)

Charles L. Stevenson, Interpretation and Evaluation in Aesthetics

On the ground of the comforting results achieved in Ethics and Language, Stevenson tries in Interpretation and Evaluation to isolate in the critic's work a cognitive moment to ensure rationality and avoid any arbitrary interpretation. However, Stevenson's plan runs into repeated failures. The historical and theoretical peculiarities of "the critic's language" cause the results reached on the moral ground to be hardly transferable to the aesthetic one. Stevenson, however seems not to realize this, and he repeately devises new "founding" approaches: and it is these very attempts which make him generate new analyses. And even if nowadays the results achieved on the "founding" ground seem far off and obsolete, on the contrary the analytic ones are still rich in interest and have led to the Italian translation.
Torrigiani's introduction, complete with a biobibliografic note, focuses on Stevenson's attempts at rational reconstruction of the critic's language and, also, the historical and theoretical reason that leads to the failure.
Migliorini's paper discusses the analytic level of the essay, showing how Stevenson's "strenuous moralism" risks jeopardizing the neutrality of his analysis; then he invites us to note that Stevenson's work is a model of metareflection about the critics whose results seem to be useful and vital to clarify the language of modern critics.