chapter  7
Critical conversions
ByAaron Ridley
Pages 12

Conditions (i), (ii) and (iii) are intimately related to one another, and may not in the end be fully separable. But it is still possible, and perhaps also worthwhile, to say something about them individually. The first requirement, that one must attempt to do justice to the work, raises issues that extend far beyond the scope of this essay: I confine myself here to two remarks. First, I take it that the attempt to do a work justice places a fairly obvious kind of ethical constraint on the critic, namely, that he be truthful – not only about his experience and the values that inform it, but about the work itself. He must approach the work seriously, and attempt to take it, in that notoriously slippery phrase, ‘on its own terms’. He must allow his experience to be shaped by the work, by its nature and characteristics. The work must be in the driving seat, as it were, and what he says about it must answer to it. The demands here, enjoining an honest and responsive open-mindedness, are very much as they would be in a court of law; and just as justice would not be done there, were evidence and circumstance to be ignored, or testimony over-looked, so justice would not be done to a work of art were no notice to be taken of half of it, say, or the fact suppressed that it had been produced by a six year old.