Isn't art inherently subjective and therefore impossible to evaluate in any general way?

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Isn't art inherently subjective and therefore impossible to evaluate in any general way?

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Q: Isn't art inherently subjective and therefore impossible to evaluate in any general way?

In a word, no. Of course we experience art in a direct and tangible way that might be expressed in specific emotional ways, but how is that different from anything else we experience in life? Just to pick another highly emotional non-artistic observation, many of us have a very strong personal emotional reaction against the idea of touching snakes and spiders, but does this make us incapable of making rational evaluation about their danger or practical uses or dangers? Certainly not. To chose a more man-made example, someone might have strong personal feelings about a wedding ring, but this does not (necessarily) impede his ability to evaluate its financial value, its material composition, or craftsmanship. Likewise, it is quite possible to set aside our personal prejudices (if we wish to) and evaluate works of art based on their objective qualities rather than merely how we react to them at a personal or emotional level.

Just to be clear, there is nothing at all wrong with or dubious about our personal experiences of works of art, and such reactions can be very valuable in determining what is going on in a work of art, but such reactions are not the same thing as an objective evaluation of the work.