>"Better" is a loaded term. I've yet to hear of a value of art that's
>truly objective. Also, "better for what?" The most I can say for a work
>of art is that it occupies my time and that it occasionally gives me
>insight into myself and to others.
"Better for what" seems to imply a measure of value that is purely
instrumental and which I, for one do not find adequate to explain our
responses to, or discussions (including Steve's discussions) of classical
music and other forms of art. "Better AS what" directs attention to the
work--and the kind of work--rather than only the response, and is thus
an object-centered question. (To be sure, some kind of prior response
is needed for someone even to raise the question.) Much critical discussion
is of such a sort. But "better because," followed by cogent (even if
disputable) reasons about both music and listener may be a still "better"
model of evaluation.
It may be that informed, open-ended critical discussion of music is
as close as we can get to "objectivity." If "truly objective" requires
scientific standards of measurement beyond any dispute, then this is
neither available or appropriate for assessing music. (And as the history
of science shows there are a lot of disputed measurements there too.)
But if you can show that many listeners have found a piece profoundly
moving, say, then you do have an objective measure of sorts--there is
this music and there are these reactions to it--though the "measure"
is one that implies listener-music interaction. Nobody would think of
saying, I hope, that a symphony is "better for" evoking a report of an
experience of "profundity" than something else, and hardly anyone would
dare to use a term like that lightly. But we might well wonder, and
inquire, what it is about a particular work that is capable of evoking
such extreme praise.
I would like to recommend a book I read many years ago which, although
focusing on ethics, has much which would be applicable to aesthetics and
criticism: Carl Wellman's Challenge and Response: Justification in Ethics.
He stresses the open-ended nature of value discussions. It influenced
my thinking enormously.