the gain derived from action; it is the increase in satisfaction (decrease in uneasiness) brought about; it is the difference between the higher values attached to the result attained and the lower value attached to the sacrifices made for its attainment; it is, in other words, yield minus costs. To make profit is invariablythe aim sought by any action. If an action fails to attain the ends sought, yield eithe does not exceed costs or lags behind costs. In the latter case the outcome means a loss, a decrease in satisfaction.A work of art should yield profit in Mises's sense of the term. If it does, it is likely to be a work of beauty. If it does not, it is not a work of beauty. This is not a sufficient definition of beauty, of course, but it is a necessary element.
Profit and loss in this original sense are psychic phenomena and as such not open to measurement (Human Action, 289)
Beautiful works are those which are complex. There is a clear difference between the complex and the complicated -- though most people mistake the two. They are not equivalent, as we shall see.
Something is complicated if it appears difficult but is, in fact, simple. The word is derived from one which means "knotted." Something is complexi if it appears simple but is, in fact difficult. The word is derived from one which means "folded." Knotted and folded. A knot is difficult to undo, but when you get it undone, what was three dimentions is now but one. Something folded is already two dimensions, but we discover that there are layers upon layers under the surface. One has to go deeper and deeper to see just how much is there. One returns to the complex with benefit; once the complicated is unknotted, there it is -- a lot of hard work for a string.
In other words, a work which is complex is one which is profitable to read or view; a work which is complicated is one which creates loss, as the reader or viewer has spent a lot of time and work to go, "oh, is that all there is?" One returns to complicated things and experiences loss; one returns to complex things and experiences gain. Complication gives rise to simplicity; simple rules (as Stephen Wolfram shows in his work on cellular automata) give rise to complexity.
Art and literature should profit. Great works are thus complex works. But we have also seen that complex works are also apparently simple. They are both, simultaneously. A paradox? Well, that too is the nature of complexity.
Art and literature should contribute to the complexity of society. If they are themselves complex, they do so contribute. They complexify the minds of the readers and viewers, profiting them, making them psychicly wealthier by such profit, thus allowing them to behave in more complex fashion, with more different kinds of people, to contribute to the complexification of society.
Art and literature should emerge from the complexity of society. Thus would the arts and the society at large contribute to each other in feedback loops of ever-greater complexity, driving complexity.
This is but one of the ways one can evaluate a work's quality. But it may be one of the most important ones.