Just Appreciation

Appreciation always presupposes knowledge. Without knowledge there can be no just appreciation. Thus, to appreciate a painting, more than in a superficial way, one must have studied art, and have obtained some understanding of its technique. Otherwise, it is well-nigh impossible to enter, except feebly, into the thought which it embodies. It is similar with a musical composition—say a symphony. To appreciate such more than feebly, a knowledge of musical form must be gained, as well as an insight into instrumentation. Whatever the work may be, to be able to judge of it rightly always entails an understanding of the nature of the work.

When we come to the region of character, the same holds true. Character, as it is generally spoken of, signifies moral purposefulness, moral uprightness. To be able to appreciate character, then, means that one must oneself be in possession of a measure of it. How impossible it is to conceive of character, in the sense of which we are thinking, being appreciated by anyone of weak moral fiber, by anyone who has not himself risen to a certain elevation of righteous living!

Among the Churches
January 8, 1927

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