One of the perennial problems in aesthetics is the justification of normative judgments. How can we support the claim that a painting in a new and unfamiliar style is beautiful rather than bizarre, an action noble rather than base, or a public building that does not honor the classical convention of monumentality or the modern one of individuality nonetheless a great work?
To assess the value of objects or situations that are qualitative and unique seems for many a thoroughly nonrational process. Must such assessments, whether of moral worth or guilt or of aesthetic value rely on an intuitive sense of what is good, right, or beautiful? Must they rest on feeling, which may be the same thing? Principles are necessarily general and cannot respond to the peculiarities of individual circumstances and, when they are imposed on unique conditions, often offend by their hard-hearted indifference to consequences or their expedient disregard of the full range of their effects. And in cases of aesthetic judgment, ideology, whether political, social, or artistic, can do violence to both creativity and originality.
What alternative is left? If we mistrust feeling and intuition as inveterately personal and thus not transferable to others, and principles as impossibly abstract and thus impervious to unique particularities, only a toss-up seems to be left. End of question. End of question? Not so, for architectural competitions proliferate and decisions have to be made, if not by aesthetic criteria then by political or economic ones, and if not by choice, then by default. If reflect we must, some resolution of this quandary is necessary. How then to proceed?