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Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic by Benedetto Croce

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becomes of the intuitive character, of which we have affirmed the equal
necessity and also its identity with the former? Without doubt, the
perception of a physical object, as such, does not constitute an
artistic fact; but precisely for the reason that it is not a pure
intuition, but a judgment of perception, and implies the application of
an abstract concept, which in this case is physical or belonging to
external nature. And with this reflexion and perception, we find
ourselves at once outside the domain of pure intuition. We could have a
pure perception of a physical object in one way only; that is to say, if
physical or external nature were a metaphysical reality, a truly real
reality, and not, as it is, a construction or abstraction of the
intellect. If such were the case, man would have an immediate intuition,
in his first theoretical moment, both of himself and of external nature,
of the spiritual and of the physical, in an equal degree. This
represents the dualistic hypothesis. But just as dualism is incapable of
providing a coherent system of philosophy, so is it incapable of
providing a coherent Aesthetic. If we admit dualism, we must certainly
abandon the doctrine of art as pure intuition; but we must at the same
time abandon all philosophy. But art on its side tacitly protests
against metaphysical dualism. It does so, because, being the most
immediate form of knowledge, it is in contact with activity, not with
passivity; with interiority, not exteriority; with spirit, not with
matter, and never with a double order of reality. Those who affirm the
existence of two forms of intuition--the one external or physical, the
other subjective or aesthetic; the one cold and inanimate, the other
warm and lively; the one imposed from without, the other coming from the
inner soul--attain without doubt to the distinctions and oppositions of
the vulgar (or dualistic) consciousness, but their Aesthetic is vulgar.

The lyrical essence of pure intuition, and of art, helps to make clear
what we have already observed concerning the persistence of the
intuition and of the fancy in the higher grades of the theoretical
spirit, why philosophy, history, and science have always an artistic
side, and why their expression is subject to aesthetic valuation. The
man who ascends from art to thought does not by so doing abandon his
volitional and practical base, and therefore he too finds himself in a
particular _state of the soul_, the representation of which is intuitive
and lyrical, and accompanies of necessity the development of his ideas.
Hence the various styles of thinkers, solemn or jocose, troubled or
gladsome, mysterious and involved, or level and expansive. But it would
not be correct to divide intuition immediately into two classes, the one
of _aesthetic_, the other of _intellectual_ or _logical_ intuitions,
owing to the persistence of the artistic element in logical thought,
because the relation of degrees is not the relation of classes, and
copper is copper, whether it be found alone, or in combination as
bronze.

Further, this close connection of feeling and intuition in pure
intuition throws much light on the reasons which have so often caused
art to be separated from the theoretic and confounded with the practical
activity. The most celebrated of these confusions are those formulated
about the relativity of tastes and of the impossibility of reproducing,
tasting, and correctly judging the art of the past, and in general the
art of others. A life lived, a feeling felt, a volition willed, are
certainly impossible to reproduce, because nothing happens more than
once, and my situation at the present moment is not that of any other
being, nor is it mine of the moment before, nor will be of the moment to
follow. But art remakes ideally, and ideally expresses my momentary
situation. Its image, produced by art, becomes separated from time and
space, and can be again made and again contemplated in its ideal-reality
from every point of time and space. It belongs not to the _world_, but
to the _superworld_; not to the flying moment, but to eternity. Thus
life passes, but art endures.

Finally, we obtain from this relation between the intuition and the
state of the soul the criterion of exact definition of the _sincerity_
required of artists, which is itself also an essential request. It is
essential, precisely because it means that the artist must have a state
of the soul to express, which really amounts to saying, that he must be
an artist. His must be a state of the soul really experienced, not
merely imagined, because imagination, as we know, is not a work of
truth. But, on the other hand, the demand for sincerity does not go
beyond asking for a state of the soul, and that the state of soul
expressed in the work of art be a desire or an action. It is altogether
indifferent to Aesthetic whether the artist have had only an aspiration,
or have realized that aspiration in his empirical life. All that is
quite indifferent in the sphere of art. Here we also find the
confutation of that false conception of sincerity, which maintains that
the artist, in his volitional or practical life, should be at one with
his dream, or with his incubus. Whether or no he have been so, is a
matter that interests his biographer, not his critic; it belongs to
history, which separates and qualifies that which art does not
discriminate, but represents.

III

This attitude of indiscrimination and indifference, observed by art in
respect to history and philosophy, is also foreshadowed at that place of
the _De interpretatione_ (_c_. 4), to which we have already referred, to
obtain thence the confirmation of the thesis of the identity of art and
language, and another confirmation, that of the identity of lyric and
pure intuition. It is a really admirable passage, containing many
profound truths in a few short, simple words, although, as is natural,
without full consciousness of their richness. Aristotle, then, is still
discussing the said rhetorical and poetical propositions, semantic and
not apophantic, and he remarks that in them there rules no distinction
between true and false: _to alaetheueion hae pseudeothai ouk
hyparchei_. Art, in fact, is in contact with palpitating reality, but
does not know that it is so in contact, and therefore is not truly in
contact. Art does not allow itself to be troubled with the abstractions
of the intellect, and therefore does not make mistakes; but it does not
know that it does not make mistakes. If art, then (to return to what we
said at the beginning), be the first and most ingenuous form of
knowledge, it cannot give complete satisfaction to man's need to know,
and therefore cannot be the ultimate end of the theoretic spirit. Art is
the dream of the life of knowledge. Its complement is waking, lyricism
no longer, but the concept; no longer the dream, but the judgment.
Thought could not be without fancy; but thought surpasses and contains
in itself the fancy, transforms the image into perception, and gives to
the world of dream the clear distinctions and the firm contours of
reality. Art cannot achieve this; and however great be our love of art,
that cannot raise it in rank, any more than the love one may have for a
beautiful child can convert it into an adult. We must accept the child
as a child, the adult as an adult.

Therefore, the Aesthetic of pure intuition, while it proclaims
energetically the autonomy of art and of the aesthetic activity, is at
the same time averse to all _aestheticism_, that is, to every attempt at
lowering the life of thought, in order to elevate that of fancy. The
origin of aestheticism is the same as that of mysticism. Both proceed
from a rebellion against the predominance of the abstract sciences and
against the undue abuse of the principle of causation in metaphysic.
When we pass from the stuffed animals of the zoological museums, from
anatomical reconstructions, from tables of figures, from classes and
sub-classes constituted by means of abstract characters, or from the
fixation and mechanization of life for the ends of naturalistic science,
to the pages of the poets, to the pictures of the painters, to the
melodies of the composers, when in fact we look upon life with the eye
of the artist, we have the impression that we are passing from death to
life, from the abstract to the concrete, from fiction to reality. We are
inclined to proclaim that only in art and in aesthetic contemplation is
truth, and that science is either charlatanesque pedantry, or a modest
practical expedient. And certainly art has the superiority of its own
truth; simple, small, and elementary though it be, over the abstract,
which, as such, is altogether without truth. But in violently rejecting
science and frantically embracing art, that very form of the theoretic
spirit is forgotten, by means of which we can criticize science and
recognize the nature of art. Now this theoretic spirit, since it
criticizes science, is not science, and, as reflective consciousness of
art, is not art. Philosophy, the supreme fact of the theoretic world,
is forgotten. This error has been renewed in our day, because the
consciousness of the limits of the natural sciences and of the value of
the truth which belongs to intuition and to art, have been renewed. But
just as, a century ago, during the idealistic and romantic period, there
were some who reminded the fanatics for art, and the artists who were
transforming philosophy, that art was not "the most lofty form of
apprehending the Absolute"; so, in our day, it is necessary to awaken
the consciousness of Thought. And one of the means for attaining this
end is an exact understanding of the limits of art, that is, the
construction of a solid Aesthetic.

THE END

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