By Janet Wolff
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Extra info for Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art
Mary Hesse (1974), influenced by many of the arguments of Habermas, settles for a weak notion of objectivity which is something of a compromise. She argues that even the natural sciences are subject to hermeneutic processes, and hence to the non-objective implications of any interpretation. The 'post-empiricist' account of natural science demonstrates that data are always theory-laden, that the language of theoretical science is metaphorical and inexact, and that the logic of science is 'circular interpretation, reinterpretation, and self-correction of data in terms of theory, theory in terms of data' (p.
The avant-garde and its defenders in museums, publishing houses and elsewhere continue to come in for fierce criticism; the acquisition by the Tate of Carl Andre's bricks is simply the best-known, most notorious example of this (see for example, an article in the Guardian of 2 February 1980 about Alan Bowness, then recently appointed director of the Tate, which was headlined 'Guaranteed not to buy or drop bricks'). Recently the Royal College of Art has also been under attack from another direction, with the government's insistence that the College pay more attention to the Political and Aesthetic Value 49 needs of industry (see articles in the Guardian of 14 November 1980, the Observer of 22 March 1981 and the Times Higher Education Supplement of 27 March 1981).
The Arts Council is well aware of these criticisms, as are many of those in the cultural elites who produce, support, or present the arts. There is no lack of willingness to engage in debates about 'aesthetic quality', though the position of these people is often one of defensiveness or intransigence. 50 Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art A conference organised in 1980 by the journal, New Universities Quarterly (the proceedings of which are now published as volume 35, no. 1, Winter 1980/1) took as its theme 'Excellence and standards in the arts'.
Aesthetics and the Sociology of Art by Janet Wolff