Isn't it impolite to be critical of any art?

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Isn't it impolite to be critical of any art?

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Q: Isn't it impolite to be critical of any art? Wouldn't it be better if we were always positive about it all?

It is true that feelings can be hurt when art is criticized. So what? What is more important, understanding and spreading the truth or soothing the hurt feelings of hacks and those who have become convinced for whatever reasons to adopt an emotional attachment to their work? There's no need to be overly rude, but the idea that one should never make anyone upset by departing from an erroneous orthodoxy is a recipe for intellectual stagnation and the perpetual spread of error. That's a lot worse than the risk of making someone upset.

In any other area of human endeavor it is plain why we should not adopt this Pollyanna point of view. If we refused to distinguish between good doctors and incompetent or quacks, what would happen to the medical professions? If we failed to distinguish between good chefs and rotten ones, what would our food be like? Should it come as any surprise that the art world has, since adopting the relativist creed, degenerated in just the way that you would expect? You couldn't only conclude that there is a benefit from soothing the feelings of those who are in error by telling them that they are right if you thought that there was not thing to be gained by an understanding of the truth and nothing to be lost by the spread of falsehood. I shouldn't have to explain why I think otherwise.

To make matters worse, many forms of this argument are actually examples of the "appeal to pity" fallacy (also known as argumentum ad misercordium), where the idea is essentially that the poor artist or defender of modern art is so wrong and so psychologically fragile that it would be cruel to argue against them.