Thank you for posting your thoughts on this, Michael!

How does the concept of style which you elaborate below relate to Peirce's
distinction of 'tone' from 'token' and 'type'?

Cheers, Cathy

-----Original Message-----
From: C S Peirce discussion list [mailto:PEIRCE-L@LISTSERV.IUPUI.EDU] On
Behalf Of Michael Shapiro
Sent: Tuesday, 27 March 2012 9:59 a.m.
Subject: Aesthetics, Axiology, and Artistic Truth

Dear Peirce Listers,

    Apropos of the recent messages regarding the Peirce
Society meeting at SAAP earlier this month in New York, yes, I was there too
heard Tom Short's responses after his paper (unsatisfactory, in my
but he told me that he hadn't slept the night before) with regard to
One shouldn't forget that Peirce himself is completely unsatisfactory when
comes to aesthetics (as he is on ethics).

    Whenever I teach my course on Peirce's theory of
interpretation, I tell my students (only half in jest) that my definition of
philosopher is someone who only solves problems of their own devising. By
contrast, someone who is confronted with the problem of having to explain
facts of language or literature or music is in a rather different position
vis-à-vis the data. My long experience with the analysis of aesthetic
(mostly poetry and prose) convinces me that ultimately one has to deal with
axiologically, so to speak, by acknowledging the necessity of seeing them as
repositories of values. In that light, the question as to why the Mona Lisa
admirable always comes under the concept of STYLE and its
HISTORY. It is, moreover, on the grounds of style that one
can begin to approach the problem of artistic truth in the spirit of

    In case this line of thought is of interest, here are
some further observations on the specific role of style. (Comments always

    Style suffuses so much of what it means to be human, and
has been the subject of so much analysis, that in order to move it away from
problems of introspection and self-awareness one needs to redirect the
discussion into a more public arena where the contrast with custom allows
insight into the ontology of human activity in general. This can be
when style as a phenomenon that cuts across disciplinary boundaries is
TROPOLOGICALLY as a fundamentally COGNITIVE category. A global theory of
style entails arguing more
closely for the concept of STYLE AS A TROPE OF
MEANING; and demonstrating how stylistic analysis can reveal itself
not just as a compendium of traditionally taxonomized information but as the
means whereby individual manifestations of style, their structural
and their mirroring of signification can be identified and evaluated.

    I. Form and content. Insofar as the
distinction can be clear at all, it does not actually coincide with but cuts
across the boundary between what is style and what is not. Style then
characteristic features both of what is said or performed or made and of how
is said/performed/made. If it is obvious that "style is the regard that what
pays to how" the faults of this formula are equally obvious. Architecture,
nonobjective painting, and most music have no subject, nor do they literally
anything. So the "what" of one activity may be part of the "how" of another.
rule based on linguistic form alone could determine, for instance, whether
not a discursive meaning is ironic. In considering linguistic style at
and perhaps even style generally, it soon emerges that the relation between
and content must in part be described metaphorically.
    II. Content and expression. One famous theory of
style, that of the French scholar Charles Bally, identifies linguistic style
with "the affective value of the features of organized language and the
reciprocal action of the expressive features that together form the system
the means of expression of a language." From this Roman Jakobson fashioned a
definition of style as "a marked––emotive or poetic––annex to the neutral,
purely cognitive information." Aside from the impossibility of consistently
separating cognitive from affective information without remainder, it is
transparent that definitions of style that trade in feelings, emotions, or
affects go awry by overlooking not only structural features that are neither
feelings nor expressed but also features that though not feelings ARE
    III. Difference between stylistic and
nonstylistic. A feature of style may be a feature of what is said, of what
is exemplified, or of what is expressed. But not all such features are
necessarily stylistic. Similarly, features that are clearly stylistic in one
work may have no stylistic bearing in another locus. Nelson Goodman writes:
property––whether of statement made, structure displayed, or feeling
conveyed––counts as stylistic only when it associates a work with one rather
than another artist, period, region, school, etc." But there is no discovery
procedure for the isolation of stylistic features, nor is there a fixed
catalogue of stylistic properties or traits. Not every property that points
the direction of a certain author/performer/maker is necessarily stylistic
    IV. Perception and recognition of style. The
registering and identification of some particular property as a stylistic
feature presupposes some collateral knowledge of the work at stake: the
style of
Haydn or Hardy or Holbein does not proclaim itself to the casual listener or
reader or museum-goer. This is true not only for high culture but for
that can normally be thought of as "having style," such as clothing. Styles
normally accessible only to the knowing eye or ear, the tuned sensibility,
informed and inquisitive mind. The entire enterprise of art and music
appreciation is built on the (often tacit but nonetheless correct)
that the stylistic distinctions and values that inform works of art and
cannot even be perceived, much less properly evaluated, without training.
    V. Style and history. Not only is style
necessarily embedded in history, there is no way of discerning the presence
style except in terms of what preceded a (provisionally) stylistic
and the potential interpretation it prefigures. The categories of style are
invariably retrospective. The very assessment of style as "novel" requires a
historical backdrop by definition. It is only in such a context that it
possible to evaluate the stylistic development of a given author's oeuvre.
very term "classical" is a reminder that style cannot be understood except
historical perspective, retrospectively. As Berel Lang has noted, "style, it
seems, is never pristine, never without historical reference; it never
an object without also revealing a genealogy of means. For style,
is destiny." But the historical embeddedness of style is not just an account
origins; it enters into its ontology and into its structure in the same
way that comparability, selection, combination, and hierarchy do. Petrified
stylistic features in artifacts and texts from historically remote epochs
cultures are often the only source for subsequent recovery of meanings and
    VI. Norm and deviation. Numerous analysts have
concurred in the notion of style as a deviation from the norm (of stylistic
neutrality). Apart from the obvious difficulties attendant upon establishing
norm, it is clear that the "unusual" character or quotient of a style is not
matter of deviation (even less of deviance) but of innovation, which
originates in the behavior of particular individuals and becomes a
social datum only when it spreads to a significant number of the community
large. Stylistic innovations are just as important, if not more so, for the
study of style and the construction of a general theory of style as features
that are fully coded stylistically. Indeed, one of the implicit assumptions
this approach to style is that innovations and the context(s) of their
appearance furnish the investigator with the most reliable testing grounds
any overarching conception of style.
    VII. Style and troping. Underscoring the status
of stylistic features as units of meaning, the idea emerges of an organic
between style and troping, that the two chief tropes, metonymy and metaphor,
have a structure and a dynamic that shed light on the development of style.
Metonymies and metaphors are constituted by semantic units that have to be
comparable potentially, then selected and combined in actual instances of
troping or figuration, and finally ranked vis-à-vis one another.
    Style starts out as an innovation linked to an
individuated creative act that defines its uniqueness by establishing a
hierarchical contrast with some relevant aspect of norm or custom. This
connection––a  metonymization––is invariably accompanied by or results soon
thereafter in the reevaluation of the datum's place in the overall system of
which it is a part. In order to go beyond its inchoateness as a piece of
the datum must effect a reversal of its status: it must cease to be
primarily a
fact of physical substance and become one of symbolic form. In short, it
must be
    VIII. Style as figuration. The parallelism of
structure between style and troping makes clear the understanding of style
figuration. Recall the connection between style and person that is
in Buffon's famous dictum "le style est [de] l'homme même" (‘style is [of]
man himself'). Defining style as figuration points in the direction of and
ultimately substantiates Buffon's insight but does so through an emphasis on
figure (Latin figura), specifically in its meaning of the human form.
also that Latin fingere has a whole constellation of meanings that center on
notions of moulding (as from wax, clay, or molten metal), creating,
and arranging as applied to the most diverse matter, including works of art
literature, it becomes possible to assert the natural union of style,
figuration, and personhood or humanity.
    Anyone seeking to discover and describe the style of a
work must attend explicitly to the matter of hierarchy, to the rank
among the elements or features uncovered. As a direct corollary, the
implies that there is no such thing as "value-free" criticism, whatever the
artistic or behavioral sphere––just as there is no value-free perception or
conceptualization. In the sense that style has now come under the compass of
figuration, it ceases to be merely and essentially a series of accoutrements
assumes its rightful place as a central species of meaning through

PERSONAL ADDENDUM: I've been a musician (clarinetist)
since childhood. My parents were both classical musicians (piano, cello,
composition). My late wife Marianne Shapiro––the most versatile and
American Italianist of the twentieth century––was a medievalist and
scholar (and excellent pianist), from who I imbibed almost everything I know
about literature and art. We collaborated on a number of books and articles

ANECDOTE: I still remember, forty years later, how
after my paper on "The Meaning of Meter" at an international conference of
Russian verse theory, the late Norwegian scholar of Russian literature Geir
Kjetsaa said to me (out of the blue) that I was "the only philosopher in the
group." You can imagine how much this remark endeared him to

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