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Aesthetic; because there is nothing in common between the science of spiritual expression and a _Semiotic_, whether it be medical, meteorological, political, physiognomic, or chiromantic.

Expression in the naturalistic sense simply lacks expression in the spiritual sense, that is to say, the characteristic itself of activity and of spirituality, and therefore the bipartition into poles of beauty and of ugliness. It is nothing more than a relation between cause and effect, fixed by the abstract intellect. The complete process of aesthetic production can be symbolized in four steps, which are: _a_, impressions; _b_, expression or spiritual aesthetic synthesis; _c_, hedonistic accompaniment, or pleasure of the beautiful (aesthetic pleasure); _d_, translation of the aesthetic fact into physical phenomena (sounds, tones, movements, combinations of lines and colours, etc.). Anyone can see that the capital point, the only one that is properly speaking aesthetic and truly real, is in that _b_, which is lacking to the mere manifestation or naturalistic construction, metaphorically also called expression.

The expressive process is exhausted when those four steps have been taken. It begins again with new impressions, a new aesthetic synthesis, and relative accompaniments.

[Sidenote] _Intuitions and memory._

Expressions or representations follow and expel one another. Certainly, this passing away, this disassociation, is not perishing, it is not total elimination: nothing of what is born dies with that complete death which would be identical with never having been born. Though all things pass away, yet none can die. The representations which we have forgotten, also persist in some way in our spirit, for without them we could not explain acquired habits and capacities. Thus, the strength of life lies in this apparent forgetting: one forgets what has been absorbed and what life has superseded.

But many other things, many other representations, are still efficacious elements in the actual processes of our spirit; and it is incumbent on us not to forget them, or to be capable of recalling them when necessity demands them. The will is always vigilant in this work of preservation, for it aims at preserving (so to say) the greater and more fundamental part of all our riches. Certainly its vigilance is not always sufficient. Memory, we know, leaves or betrays us in various ways. For this very reason, the vigilant will excogitates expedients, which help memory in its weakness, and are its _aids_.

[Sidenote] _The production of aids to memory._

We have already explained how these aids are possible. Expressions or representations are, at the same time, practical facts, which are also called physical facts, in so far as to the physical belongs the task of classifying them and reducing them to types. Now it is clear, that if we can succeed in making those facts in some way permanent, it will always be possible (other conditions remaining equal) to reproduce in us, by perceiving it, the already produced expression or intuition.

If that in which the practical concomitant acts, or (to use physical terms) the movements have been isolated and made in some sort permanent, be called the object or physical stimulus, and if it be designated by the letter _e_; then the process of reproduction will take place in the following order: _e_, the physical stimulus; _d-b_, perceptions of physical facts (sounds, tones, mimic, combinations of lines and colours, etc.), which form together the aesthetic synthesis, already produced; _c_, the hedonistic accompaniment, which is also reproduced.

And what are those combinations of words which are called poetry, prose, poems, novels, romances, tragedies or comedies, but _physical stimulants of reproduction_ (the _e_ stage); what are those combinations of sound which are called operas, symphonies, sonatas; and what those of lines and of colours, which are called pictures, statues, architecture? The spiritual energy of memory, with the assistance of those physical facts above mentioned, makes possible the preservation and the reproduction of the intuitions produced, often so laboriously, by ourselves and by others. If the physiological organism, and with it memory, become weakened; if the monuments of art be destroyed; then all the aesthetic wealth, the fruit of the labours of many generations, becomes lessened and rapidly disappears.

[Sidenote] _The physically beautiful._

Monuments of art, which are the stimulants of aesthetic reproduction, are called _beautiful things or the physically beautiful_. This combination of words constitutes a verbal paradox, because the beautiful is not a physical fact; it does not belong to things, but to the activity of man, to spiritual energy. But henceforth it is clear through what wanderings and what abbreviations, physical things and facts, which are simply aids to the reproduction of the beautiful, end by being called, elliptically, beautiful things and physically beautiful. And now that we have made the existence of this ellipse clear, we shall ourselves make use of it without hesitation.

[Sidenote] _Content and form: another meaning._

The intervention of the physically beautiful serves to explain another meaning of the words _content and form_, as employed by aestheticians. Some call “content” the internal fact or expression (which is for us already form), and they call “form” the marble, the colours, the rhythm, the sounds (for us form no longer); thus they look upon the physical fact as the form, which may or may not be joined to the content. This serves to explain another aspect of what is called aesthetic ugliness. He who has nothing definite to express may try to hide his internal emptiness with a flood of words, with sounding verse, with deafening polyphony, with painting that dazzles the eye, or by collocating great architectonic masses, which arrest and disturb, although, at bottom, they convey nothing. Ugliness, then, is the arbitrary, the charlatanesque; and, in reality, if the practical will do not intervene in the theoretic function, there may be absence of beauty, but never effective presence of the ugly.

[Sidenote] _Natural and artificial beauty._

Physical beauty is wont to be divided into _natural_ and _artificial_ beauty. Thus we reach one of the facts, which has given great labour to thinkers: _the beautiful in nature_. These words often designate simply facts of practical pleasure. He alludes to nothing aesthetic who calls a landscape beautiful where the eye rests upon verdure, where bodily motion is easy, and where the warm sun-ray envelops and caresses the limbs. But it is nevertheless indubitable, that on other occasions the adjective “beautiful,” applied to objects and scenes existing in nature, has a completely aesthetic signification.

It has been observed, that in order to enjoy natural objects aesthetically, we should withdraw them from their external and historical reality, and separate their simple appearance or origin from existence; that if we contemplate a landscape with our head between our legs, in such a way as to remove ourselves from our wonted relations with it, the landscape appears as an ideal spectacle; that nature is beautiful only for him who contemplates her _with the eye of the artist_; that zoologists and botanists do not recognize beautiful animals and flowers; that natural beauty is _discovered_ (and examples of discovery are the points of view, pointed out by men of taste and imagination, and to which more or less aesthetic travellers and excursionists afterwards have recourse in pilgrimage, whence a more or less collective _suggestion_); that, _without the aid of the imagination_, no part of nature is beautiful, and that with such aid the same natural object or fact is now expressive, according to the disposition of the soul, now insignificant, now expressive of one definite thing, now of another, sad or glad, sublime or ridiculous, sweet or laughable; finally, that _natural beauty_, which an artist would not _to some extent correct, does not exist_.

All these observations are most just, and confirm the fact that natural beauty is simply a _stimulus_ to aesthetic reproduction, which presupposes previous production. Without preceding aesthetic intuitions of the imagination, nature cannot arouse any at all. As regards natural beauty, man is like the mythical Narcissus at the fountain. They show further that since this stimulus is accidental, it is, for the most part, imperfect or equivocal. Leopardi said that natural beauty is “rare, scattered, and fugitive.” Every one refers the natural fact to the expression which is in his mind. One artist is, as it were, carried away by a laughing landscape, another by a rag-shop, another by the pretty face of a young girl, another by the squalid countenance of an old ruffian. Perhaps the first will say that the rag-shop and the ugly face of the old ruffian are _disgusting_; the second, that the laughing landscape and the face of the young girl are _insipid_. They may dispute for ever; but they will never agree, save when they have supplied themselves with a sufficient dose of aesthetic knowledge, which will enable them to recognize that they are both right. _Artificial_ beauty, created by man, is a much more ductile and efficacious aid to reproduction.

[Sidenote] _Mixed beauty._

In addition to these two classes, aestheticians also sometimes talk in their treatises of a _mixed_ beauty. Of what is it a mixture? Just of natural and artificial. Whoso fixes and externalizes, operates with natural materials, which he does not create, but combines and transforms. In this sense, every artificial product is a mixture of nature and artifice; and there would be no occasion to speak of a mixed beauty, as of a special category. But it happens that, in certain cases, combinations already given in nature can be used a great deal more than in others; as, for instance, when we design a beautiful garden and include in our design groups of trees or ponds which are already there. On other occasions externalization is limited by the impossibility of producing certain effects artificially. Thus we may mix the colouring matters, but we cannot create a powerful voice or a personage and an appearance appropriate to this or that personage of a drama. We must therefore seek for them among things already existing, and make use of them when we find them. When, therefore, we adopt a great number of combinations already existing in nature, such as we should not be able to produce artificially if they did not exist, the result is called _mixed_ beauty.

[Sidenote] _Writings._

We must distinguish from artificial beauty those instruments of reproduction called _writings_, such as alphabets, musical notes, hieroglyphics, and all pseudo-languages, from the language of flowers and flags, to the language of patches (so much the vogue in the society of the eighteenth century). Writings are not physical facts which arouse directly impressions answering to aesthetic expressions; they are simple _indications_ of what must be done in order to produce such physical facts. A series of graphic signs serves to remind us of the movements which we must execute with our vocal apparatus in order to emit certain definite sounds. If, through practice, we become able to hear the words without opening our mouths and (what is much more difficult) to hear the sounds by running the eye down the page of the music, all this does not alter anything of the nature of the writings, which are altogether different from direct physical beauty. No one calls the book which contains the _Divine Comedy_, or the portfolio which contains _Don Giovanni_, beautiful in the same sense as the block of marble which contains Michael Angelo’s _Moses_, or the piece of coloured wood which contains the _Transfiguration_ are metaphorically called beautiful. Both serve for the reproduction of the beautiful, but the former by a far longer and far more indirect route than the latter.

[Sidenote] _The beautiful as free and not free._

Another division of the beautiful, which is still found in treatises, is that into _free and not free_. By beauties that are not free, are understood those objects which have to serve a double purpose, extra-aesthetic and aesthetic (stimulants of intuitions); and since it appears that the first purpose limits and impedes the second, the beautiful object resulting therefrom has been considered as a beauty that is not free.

Architectural works are especially cited; and precisely for this reason, has architecture often been excluded from the number of the so-called fine arts. A temple must be above all things adapted to the use of a cult; a house must contain all the rooms requisite for commodity of living, and they must be arranged with a view to this commodity; a fortress must be a construction capable of resisting the attacks of certain armies and the blows of certain instruments of war. It is therefore held that the architect’s field is limited: he may be able to _embellish_ to some extent the temple, the house, the fortress; but his hands are bound by the _object_ of these buildings, and he can only manifest that part of his vision of beauty in their construction which does not impair their extrinsic, but fundamental, objects.

Other examples are taken from what is called art applied to industry. Plates, glasses, knives, guns, and combs can be made beautiful; but it is held that their beauty must not so far exceed as to prevent our eating from the plate, drinking from the glass, cutting with the knife, firing off the gun, or combing one’s hair with the comb. The same is said of the art of printing: a book should be beautiful, but not to the extent of its being difficult or impossible to read it.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the beautiful that is not free._

In respect to all this, we must observe, in the first place, that the external purpose, precisely because it is such, does not of necessity limit or trammel the other purpose of being a stimulus to aesthetic reproduction. Nothing, therefore, can be more erroneous than the thesis that architecture, for example, is by its nature not free and imperfect, since it must also fulfil other practical objects. Beautiful architectural works, however, themselves undertake to deny this by their simple presence.

In the second place, not only are the two objects not necessarily in opposition; but, we must add, the artist always has the means of preventing this contradiction from taking place. In what way? By taking, as the material of his intuition and aesthetic externalization, precisely the _destination_ of the object, which serves a practical end. He will not need to add anything to the object, in order to make it the instrument of aesthetic intuitions: it will be so, if perfectly adapted to its practical purpose. Rustic dwellings and palaces, churches and barracks, swords and ploughs, are beautiful, not in so far as they are embellished and adorned, but in so far as they express the purpose for which they were made. A garment is only beautiful because it is quite suitable to a given person in given conditions. The sword bound to the side of the warrior Rinaldo by the amorous Armida was not beautiful: “so adorned that it seemed a useless ornament, not the warlike instrument of a warrior.” It was beautiful, if you will, in the eyes and imagination of the sorceress, who loved her lover in this effeminate way. The aesthetic fact can always accompany the practical fact, because expression is truth.

It cannot, however, be denied that aesthetic contemplation sometimes hinders practical use. For instance, it is a quite common experience to find certain new things so well adapted to their purpose, and yet so beautiful, that people occasionally feel scruples in maltreating them by using after contemplating them, which amounts to consuming them. It was for this reason that King Frederick William of Prussia evinced repugnance to ordering his magnificent grenadiers, so well suited for war, to endure the strain of battle; but his less aesthetic son, Frederick the Great, obtained from them excellent services.

[Sidenote] _The stimulants of production._

It might be objected to the explanation of the physically beautiful as a simple adjunct for the reproduction of the internally beautiful, that is to say, of expressions, that the artist creates his expressions by painting or by sculpturing, by writing or by composing, and that therefore the physically beautiful, instead of following, sometimes precedes the aesthetically beautiful. This would be a somewhat superficial mode of understanding the procedure of the artist, who never makes a stroke with his brush without having previously seen it with his imagination; and if he has not yet seen it, he will make the stroke, not in order to externalize his expression (which does not yet exist), but as though to have a rallying point for ulterior meditation and for internal concentration. The physical point on which he leans is not the physically beautiful, instrument of reproduction, but what may be called a pedagogic means, similar to retiring into solitude, or to the many other expedients, frequently very strange, adopted by artists and philosophers, who vary in these according to their various idiosyncrasies. The old aesthetician Baumgarten advised poets to ride on horseback, as a means of inspiration, to drink wine in moderation, and (provided they were chaste) to look at beautiful women.

XIV

MISTAKES ARISING FROM THE CONFUSION BETWEEN PHYSIC AND AESTHETIC

It is necessary to mention a series of scientific mistakes which have arisen from the failure to understand the purely external relation between the aesthetic fact or artistic vision, and the physical fact or instrument, which serves as an aid to reproduce it. We must here indicate the proper criticism, which derives from what has already been said.

[Sidenote] _Critique of aesthetic associationism_

That form of associationism which identifies the aesthetic fact with the _association of two_ images finds a place among these errors. By what path has it been possible to arrive at such a mistake, against which our aesthetic consciousness, which is a consciousness of perfect unity, never of duality, rebels? Just because the physical and the aesthetic facts have been considered separately, as two distinct images, which enter the spirit, the one drawn forth from the other, the one first and the other afterwards. A picture is divided into the image of the _picture_ and the image of the _meaning_ of the picture; a poem, into the image of the words and the image of the _meaning_ of the words. But this dualism of images is non-existent: the physical fact does not enter the spirit as an image, but causes the reproduction of the image (the only image, which is the aesthetic fact), in so far as it blindly stimulates the psychic organism and produces an impression answering to the aesthetic expression already produced.

The efforts of the associationists (the usurpers of to-day in the field of Aesthetic) to emerge from the difficulty, and to reaffirm in some way the unity which has been destroyed by their principle of associationism, are highly instructive. Some maintain that the image called back again is unconscious; others, leaving unconsciousness alone, hold that, on the contrary, it is vague, vaporous, confused, thus reducing the _force_ of the aesthetic fact to the _weakness_ of bad memory. But the dilemma is inexorable: either keep association and give up unity, or keep unity and give up association. No third way out of the difficulty exists.

[Sidenote] _Critique of aesthetic physic._

From the failure to analyze so-called natural beauty thoroughly, and to recognize that it is simply an incident of aesthetic reproduction, and from having, on the contrary, looked upon it as given in nature, is derived all that portion of treatises upon Aesthetic which is entitled _The Beautiful in Nature or Aesthetic Physic_; sometimes even subdivided, save the mark! into Aesthetic Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology. We do not wish to deny that such treatises contain many just remarks, and are sometimes themselves works of art, in so far as they represent beautifully the imaginings and fantasies, that is the impressions, of their authors. But we must state that it is scientifically false to ask oneself if the dog be beautiful, and the ornithorhynchus ugly; if the lily be beautiful, and the artichoke ugly. Indeed, the error is here double. On one hand, aesthetic Physic falls back into the equivoke of the theory of artistic and literary classes, by attempting to determine aesthetically the abstractions of our intellect; on the other, fails to recognize, as we said, the true formation of so-called natural beauty; for which the question as to whether some given individual animal, flower, or man be beautiful or ugly, is altogether excluded. What is not produced by the aesthetic spirit, or cannot be referred to it, is neither beautiful nor ugly. The aesthetic process arises from the ideal relations in which natural objects are arranged.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the theory of the beauty of the human body._

The double error can be exemplified by the question, upon which whole volumes have been written, as to the _Beauty of the human body_. Here it is necessary, above all things, to urge those who discuss this subject from the abstract toward the concrete, by asking: “What do you mean by the human body, that of the male, of the female, or of the androgyne?” Let us assume that they reply by dividing the inquiry into two distinct inquiries, as to the virile and feminine beauty (there really are writers who seriously discuss whether man or woman is the more beautiful); and let us continue: “Masculine or feminine beauty; but of what race of men–the white, the yellow, or the black, and whatever others there may be, according to the division of races?” Let us assume that they limit themselves to the white race, and let us continue: “What sub-species of the white race?” And when we have restricted them gradually to one section of the white world, that is to say, to the Italian, Tuscan, Siennese, or Porta Camollia section, we will continue: “Very good; but at what age of the human body, and in what condition and state of development–that of the new-born babe, of the child, of the boy, of the adolescent, of the man of middle age, and so on? and is the man at rest or at work, or is he occupied as is Paul Potter’s cow, or the Ganymede of Rembrandt?”

Having thus arrived, by successive reductions, at the individual _omnimode determinatum_, or, better, at the man pointed out with the finger, it will be easy to expose the other error, by recalling what has been said about the natural fact, which is now beautiful, now ugly, according to the point of view, according to what is passing in the mind of the artist. Finally, if the Gulf of Naples have its detractors, and if there be artists who declare it inexpressive, preferring the “gloomy firs,” the “clouds and perpetual north winds,” of the northern seas; let it be believed, if possible, that such relativity does not exist for the human body, source of the most various suggestions!

[Sidenote] _Critique of the beauty of geometric figures._

The question of the _beauty of geometrical figures_ is connected with aesthetic Physic. But if by geometrical figures be understood the concepts of geometry, the concept of the triangle, the square, the cone, these are neither beautiful nor ugly: they are concepts. If, on the other hand, by such figures be understood bodies which possess definite geometrical forms, these will be ugly or beautiful, like every natural fact, according to the ideal connexions in which they are placed. Some hold that those geometrical figures are beautiful which point upwards, since they give the suggestion of firmness and of force. It is not denied that such may be the case. But neither must it be denied that those also which give the impression of instability and of being crushed down may possess their beauty, where they represent just the ill-formed and the crushed; and that in these last cases the firmness of the straight line and the lightness of the cone or of the equilateral triangle would, on the contrary, seem elements of ugliness.

Certainly, such questions as to the beauty of nature and the beauty of geometry, like the others analogous of the historically beautiful and of human beauty, seem less absurd in the Aesthetic of the sympathetic, which means, at bottom, by the words “aesthetic beauty” the representation of what is pleasing. But the pretension to determine scientifically what are the sympathetic contents, and what are the irremediably antipathetic, is none the less erroneous, even in the sphere of that doctrine and after the laying down of those premises. One can only answer such questions by repeating with an infinitely long postscript the _Sunt quos_ of the first ode of the first book of Horace, and the _Havvi chi_ of Leopardi’s letter to Carlo Pepoli. To each man his beautiful ( = sympathetic), as to each man his fair one. Philography is not a science.

[Sidenote] _Critique of another aspect of the imitation of nature._

The artist sometimes has naturally existing facts before him, in producing the artificial instrument, or physically beautiful. These are called his _models_: bodies, stuffs, flowers, and so on. Let us run over the sketches, the studies, and the notes of the artists: Leonardo noted down in his pocket-book, when he was working on the Last Supper: “Giovannina, fantastic appearance, is at St. Catherine’s, at the Hospital; Cristofano di Castiglione is at the Pieta, he has a fine head; Christ, Giovan Conte, is of the suite of Cardinal Mortaro.” And so on. From this comes the illusion that the artist _imitates nature_; when it would perhaps be more exact to say that nature imitates the artist, and obeys him. The theory that _art imitates nature_ has sometimes been grounded upon and found sustenance in this illusion, as also its variant, more easily to be defended, which makes art the _idealizer of nature_. This last theory presents the process in a disorderly manner, indeed inversely to the true order; for the artist does not proceed from extrinsic reality, in order to modify it by approaching it to the ideal; but he proceeds from the impression of external nature to expression, that is to say, to his ideal, and from this he passes to the natural fact, which he employs as the instrument of reproduction of the ideal fact.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the theory of the elementary forms of the beautiful._

Another consequence of the confusion between the aesthetic and the physical fact is the theory of the _elementary forms of the beautiful_. If expression, if the beautiful, be indivisible, the physical fact, in which it externalizes itself, can well be divided and subdivided; for example, a painted surface, into lines and colours, groups and curves of lines, kinds of colours, and so on; a poem, into strophes, verses, feet, syllables; a piece of prose, into chapters, paragraphs, headings, periods, phrases, words, and so on. The parts thus obtained are not aesthetic facts, but smaller physical facts, cut up in an arbitrary manner. If this path were followed, and the confusion persisted in, we should end by concluding that the true forms of the beautiful are _atoms_.

The aesthetic law, several times promulgated, that beauty must have _bulk_, could be invoked against the atoms. It cannot be the imperceptibility of the too small, nor the unapprehensibility of the too large. But a bigness which depends upon perceptibility, not measurement, derives from a concept widely different from the mathematical. For what is called imperceptible and incomprehensible does not produce an impression, because it is not a real fact, but a concept: the requisite of bulk in the beautiful is thus reduced to the effective reality of the physical fact, which serves for the reproduction of the beautiful.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the search for the objective conditions of the beautiful._

Continuing the search for the _physical laws_ or for the _objective conditions of the beautiful_, it has been asked: To what physical facts does the beautiful correspond? To what the ugly? To what unions of tones, colours, sizes, mathematically determinable? Such inquiries are as if in Political Economy one were to seek for the laws of exchange in the physical nature of the objects exchanged. The constant infecundity of the attempt should have at once given rise to some suspicion as to its vanity. In our times, especially, has the necessity for an _inductive_ Aesthetic been often proclaimed, of an Aesthetic starting _from below_, which should proceed like natural science and not hasten its conclusions. Inductive? But Aesthetic has always been both inductive and deductive, like every philosophical science; induction and deduction cannot be separated, nor can they separately avail to characterize a true science. But the word “inductive” was not here pronounced accidentally and without special intention. It was wished to imply by its use that the aesthetic fact is nothing, at bottom, but a physical fact, which should be studied by applying to it the methods proper to the physical and natural sciences. With such a presupposition and in such a faith did inductive Aesthetic or Aesthetic of the inferior (what pride in this modesty!) begin its labours. It has conscientiously begun by making a collection of _beautiful things_, for example of a great number of envelopes of various shapes and sizes, and has asked which of these give the impression of the beautiful and which of the ugly. As was to be expected, the inductive aestheticians speedily found themselves in a difficulty, for the same objects that appeared ugly in one aspect would appear beautiful in another. A yellow, coarse envelope, which would be extremely ugly for the purpose of enclosing a love-letter, is, however, just what is wanted for a writ served by process on stamped paper. This in its turn would look very bad, or seem at any rate an irony, if enclosed in a square English envelope. Such considerations of simple common sense should have sufficed to convince inductive aestheticians, that the beautiful has no physical existence, and cause them to remit their vain and ridiculous quest. But no: they have had recourse to an expedient, as to which we would find it difficult to say how far it belongs to natural science. They have sent their envelopes round from one to the other and opened a _referendum_, thus striving to decide by the votes of the majority in what consists the beautiful and the ugly.

We will not waste time over this argument, because we should seem to be turning ourselves into narrators of comic anecdotes rather than expositors of aesthetic science and of its problems. It is an actual fact, that the inductive aestheticians have not yet discovered _one single law_.

[Sidenote] _Astrology of Aesthetic._

He who dispenses with doctors is prone to abandon himself to charlatans. Thus it has befallen those who have believed in the natural laws of the beautiful. Artists sometimes adopt empirical canons, such as that of the proportions of the human body, or of the golden section, that is to say, of a line divided into two parts in such a manner that the less is to the greater as is the greater to the whole line (_bc: ac=ac: ab_). Such canons easily become their superstitions, and they attribute to such the success of their works. Thus Michael Angelo left as a precept to his disciple Marco del Pino of Siena that “he should always make a pyramidal serpentine figure multiplied by one, two, three,” a precept which did not enable Marco di Siena to emerge from that mediocrity which we can yet observe in his many works, here in Naples. Others extracted from the sayings of Michael Angelo the precept that serpentine undulating lines were the true _lines of beauty_. Whole volumes have been composed on these laws of beauty, on the golden section and on the undulating and serpentine lines. These should in our opinion be looked upon as the _astrology of Aesthetic_.

XV

THE ACTIVITY OF EXTERNALIZATION, TECHNIQUE AND THE THEORY OF THE ARTS

[Sidenote] _The practical activity of externalization._

The fact of the production of the physically beautiful implies, as has already been remarked, a vigilant will, which persists in not allowing certain visions, intuitions, or representations, to be lost. Such a will must be able to act with the utmost rapidity, and as it were instinctively, and also be capable of long and laborious deliberations. Thus and only thus does the practical activity enter into relations with the aesthetic, that is to say, in effecting the production of physical objects, which are aids to memory. Here it is not merely a concomitant, but really a distinct moment of the aesthetic activity. We cannot will or not will our aesthetic vision: we can, however, will or not will to externalize it, or better, to preserve and communicate, or not, to others, the externalization produced.

[Sidenote] _The technique of externalization._

This volitional fact of externalization is preceded by a complex of various kinds of knowledge. These are known as _techniques_, like all knowledge which precedes the practical activity. Thus we talk of an artistic technique in the same metaphorical and elliptic manner that we talk of the physically beautiful, that is to say (in more precise language), _knowledge employed by the practical activity engaged in producing stimuli to aesthetic reproduction_. In place of employing so lengthy a phrase, we shall here avail ourselves of the vulgar terminology, since we are henceforward aware of its true meaning.

The possibility of this technical knowledge, at the service of artistic reproduction, has caused people to imagine the existence of an aesthetic technique of internal expression, which is tantamount to saying, _a doctrine of the means of internal expression_, which is altogether inconceivable. And we know well the reason why it is inconceivable; expression, considered in itself, is primary theoretic activity, and, in so far as it is this, it precedes the practical activity and the intellectual knowledge which illumines the practical activity, and is thus independent alike of the one and of the other. It also helps to illumine the practical activity, but is not illuminated by it. Expression does not employ _means_, because it has not an _end_; it has intuitions of things, but does not will them, and is thus indivisible into means and end. Thus if it be said, as sometimes is the case, that a certain writer has invented a new technique of fiction or of drama, or that a painter has discovered a new mode of distribution of light, the word is used in a false sense; because the so-called _new technique is really that romance itself, or that new picture_ itself. The distribution of light belongs to the vision itself of the picture; as the technique of a dramatist is his dramatic conception itself. On other occasions, the word “technique” is used to designate certain merits or defects in a work which is a failure; and it is said, euphemistically, that the conception is bad, but the technique good, or that the conception is good, and the technique bad.

On the other hand, when the different ways of painting in oils, or of etching, or of sculpturing in alabaster, are discussed, then the word “technique” is in its place; but in such a case the adjective “artistic” is used metaphorically. And if a dramatic technique in the artistic sense be impossible, a theatrical technique is not impossible, that is to say, processes of externalization of certain given aesthetic works. When, for instance, women were introduced on the stage in Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, in place of men dressed as women, this was a true and real discovery in theatrical technique; such too was the perfecting in the following century by the impresarios of Venice, of machines for the rapid changing of the scenes.

[Sidenote] _The theoretic techniques of the individual arts._

The collection of technical knowledge at the service of artists desirous of externalizing their expressions, can be divided into groups, which may be entitled _theories of the arts_. Thus is born a theory of Architecture, comprising mechanical laws, information relating to the weight or to the resistance of the materials of construction or of fortification, manuals relating to the method of mixing chalk or stucco; a theory of Sculpture, containing advice as to the instruments to be used for sculpturing the various sorts of stone, for obtaining a successful fusion of bronze, for working with the chisel, for the exact copying of the model in chalk or plaster, for keeping chalk damp; a theory of Painting, on the various techniques of tempera, of oil-painting, of water-colour, of pastel, on the proportions of the human body, on the laws of perspective; a theory of Oratory, with precepts as to the method of producing, of exercising and of strengthening the voice, of mimic and gesture; a theory of Music, on the combinations and fusions of tones and sounds; and so on. Such collections of precepts abound in all literatures. And since it soon becomes impossible to say what is useful and what useless to know, books of this sort become very often a sort of encyclopaedias or catalogues of desiderata. Vitruvius, in his treatise on Architecture, claims for the architect a knowledge of letters, of drawing, of geometry, of arithmetic, of optic, of history, of natural and moral philosophy, of jurisprudence, of medicine, of astrology, of music, and so on. Everything is worth knowing: learn the art and lay it aside.

It should be evident that such empirical collections are not reducible to a science. They are composed of notions, taken from various sciences and teachings, and their philosophical and scientific principles are to be found in them. To undertake the construction of a scientific theory of the different arts, would be to wish to reduce to the single and homogeneous what is by nature multiple and heterogeneous; to wish to destroy the existence as a collection of what was put together precisely to form a collection. Were we to give a scientific form to the manuals of the architect, the painter, or the musician, it is clear that nothing would remain in our hands but the general principles of Mechanic, Optic, or Acoustic. Or if the especially artistic observations disseminated through it be extracted and isolated, and a science be made of them, then the sphere of the individual art is deserted and that of Aesthetic entered upon, for Aesthetic is always general Aesthetic, or better, it cannot be divided into general and special. This last case (that is, the attempt to furnish a technique of Aesthetic) is found, when men possessing strong scientific instincts and a natural tendency to philosophy, set themselves to work to produce such theories and technical manuals.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the aesthetic theories of the individual arts._

But the confusion between Physic and Aesthetic has attained to its highest degree, when aesthetic theories of the different arts are imagined, to answer such questions as: What are the _limits_ of each art? What can be represented with colours, and what with sounds? What with simple monochromatic lines, and what with touches of various colours? What with notes, and what with metres and rhymes? What are the limits between the figurative and the auditional arts, between painting and sculpture, poetry and music?

This, translated into scientific language, is tantamount to asking: What is the connexion between Acoustic and aesthetic expression? What between the latter and Optic?–and the like. Now, if _there is no passage_ from the physical fact to the aesthetic, how could there be from the aesthetic to particular groups of aesthetic facts, such as the phenomena of Optic or of Acoustic?

[Sidenote] _Critique of the classifications of the arts._

The things called _Arts_ have no aesthetic limits, because, in order to have them, they would need to have also aesthetic existence; and we have demonstrated the altogether empirical genesis of those divisions. Consequently, any attempt at an aesthetic classification of the arts is absurd. If they be without limits, they are not exactly determinable, and consequently cannot be philosophically classified. All the books dealing with classifications and systems of the arts could be burned without any loss whatever. (We say this with the utmost respect to the writers who have expended their labours upon them.)

The impossibility of such classifications finds, as it were, its proof in the strange methods to which recourse has been had to carry them out. The first and most common classification is that into arts of _hearing, sight_, and _imagination_; as if eyes, ears, and imagination were on the same level, and could be deduced from the same logical variable, as foundation of the division. Others have proposed the division into arts of _space and time_, and arts of _rest_ and _motion_; as if the concepts of space, time, rest, and motion could determine special aesthetic forms, or have anything in common with art as such. Finally, others have amused themselves by dividing them into _classic and romantic_, or into _oriental, classic, and romantic_, thereby conferring the value of scientific concepts on simple historical denominations, or adopting those pretended partitions of expressive forms, already criticized above; or by talking of arts _that can only be seen from one side_, like painting, and of arts _that can be seen from all sides_, like sculpture–and similar extravagances, which exist neither in heaven nor on the earth.

The theory of the limits of the arts was, perhaps, at the time when it was put forward, a beneficial critical reaction against those who believed in the possibility of the flowing of one expression into another, as of the _Iliad_ or of _Paradise Lost_ into a series of paintings, and thus held a poem to be of greater or lesser value, according as it could or could not be translated into pictures by a painter. But if the rebellion were reasonable and victorious, this does not mean that the arguments adopted and the theories made as required were sound.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the theory of the union of the arts._

Another theory which is a corollary to that of the limits of the arts, falls with them; that of the _union of the arts_. Granted different arts, distinct and limited, the questions were asked: Which is the most powerful? Do we not obtain more powerful effects by uniting several? We know nothing of this: we know only, in each individual case, that certain given artistic intuitions have need of definite physical means for their reproduction, and that other artistic intuitions have need of other physical means. We can obtain the effect of certain dramas by simply reading them; others need declamation and scenic display: some artistic intuitions, for their full extrinsication, need words, song, musical instruments, colours, statuary, architecture, actors; while others are beautiful and complete in a single delicate sweep of the pen, or with a few strokes of the pencil. But it is false to suppose that declamation and scenic effects, and all the other things we have mentioned together, are _more powerful_ than simply reading, or than the simple stroke with the pen and with the pencil; because each of these facts or groups of facts has, so to say, a different object, and the power of the different means employed cannot be compared when the objects are different.

[Sidenote] _Connexion of the activity of externalization with utility and morality._

Finally, it is only from the point of view of a clear and rigorous distinction between the true and proper aesthetic activity, and the practical activity of externalization, that we can solve the involved and confused questions as to the relations between _art and utility_, and _art and morality_.

That art as art is independent alike of utility and of morality, as also of every volitional form, we have above demonstrated. Without this independence, it would not be possible to speak of an intrinsic value of art, nor indeed to conceive an aesthetic science, which demands the autonomy of the aesthetic fact as a necessity of its existence.

But it would be erroneous to maintain that this independence of the vision or intuition or internal expression of the artist should be at once extended to the practical activity of externalization and of communication, which may or may not follow the aesthetic fact. If art be understood as the externalization of art, then utility and morality have a perfect right to deal with it; that is to say, the right one possesses to deal with one’s own household.

We do not, as a matter of fact, externalize and fix all of the many expressions and intuitions which we form in our mind; we do not declare our every thought in a loud voice, or write down, or print, or draw, or colour, or expose it to the public gaze. _We select_ from the crowd of intuitions which are formed or at least sketched within us; and the selection is governed by selection of the economic conditions of life and of its moral direction. Therefore, when we have formed an intuition, it remains to decide whether or no we should communicate it to others, and to whom, and when, and how; all of which considerations fall equally under the utilitarian and ethical criterion.

Thus we find the concepts of _selection_, of the _interesting_, of _morality_, of an _educational end_, of _popularity_, etc., to some extent justified, although these can in no wise be justified as imposed upon art as art, and we have ourselves denounced them in pure Aesthetic. Error always contains an element of truth. He who formulated those erroneous aesthetic propositions had his eye on practical facts, which attach themselves externally to the aesthetic fact in economic and moral life.

By all means, be partisans of a yet greater liberty in the vulgarization of the means of aesthetic reproduction; we are of the same opinion, and let us leave the proposals for legislative measures, and for actions to be instigated against immoral art, to hypocrites, to the ingenuous, and to idlers. But the proclamation of this liberty, and the fixation of its limits, how wide soever they be, is always the affair of morality. And it would in any case be out of place to invoke that highest principle, that _fundamentum Aesthetices_, which is the independence of art, in order to deduce from it the guiltlessness of the artist, who, in the externalization of his imaginings, should calculate upon the unhealthy tastes of his readers; or that licenses should be granted to the hawkers who sell obscene statuettes in the streets. This last case is the affair of the police; the first must be brought before the tribunal of the moral conscience. The aesthetic judgment on the work of art has nothing to do with the morality of the artist, in so far as he is a practical man, nor with the precautions to be taken that art may not be employed for evil purposes alien to its essence, which is pure theoretic contemplation.

XVI

TASTE AND THE REPRODUCTION OF ART

[Sidenote] _Aesthetic judgment. Its identity with aesthetic reproduction._

When the entire aesthetic and externalizing process has been completed, when a beautiful expression has been produced and fixed in a definite physical material, what is meant by _judging it_? _To reproduce it in oneself_, answer the critics of art, almost with one voice. Very good. Let us try thoroughly to understand this fact, and with that object in view, let us represent it schematically.

The individual A is seeking the expression of an impression, which he feels or has a presentiment of, but has not yet expressed. Behold him trying various words and phrases, which may give the sought-for expression, which must exist, but which he does not know. He tries the combination _m_, but rejects it as unsuitable, inexpressive, incomplete, ugly: he tries the combination _n_, with a like result. _He does not see anything, or he does not see clearly_. The expression still flies from him. After other vain attempts, during which he sometimes approaches, sometimes leaves the sign that offers itself, all of a sudden (almost as though formed spontaneously of itself) he creates the sought-for expression, and _lux facta est_. He enjoys for an instant aesthetic pleasure or the pleasure of the beautiful. The ugly, with its correlative displeasure, was the aesthetic activity, which had not succeeded in conquering the obstacle; the beautiful is the expressive activity, which now displays itself triumphant.

We have taken this example from the domain of speech, as being nearer and more accessible, and because we all talk, though we do not all draw or paint. Now if another individual, whom we shall term B, desire to judge this expression and decide whether it be beautiful or ugly, he _must of necessity place himself at A’s point of view_, and go through the whole process again, with the help of the physical sign, supplied to him by A. If A has seen clearly, then B (who has placed himself at A’s point of view) will also see clearly and will find this expression beautiful. If A has not seen clearly, then B also will not see clearly, and will find the expression more or less ugly, _just as A did_.

[Sidenote] _Impossibility of divergences._

It may be observed that we have not taken into consideration two other cases: that of A having a clear and B an obscure vision; and that of A having an obscure and B a clear vision. Philosophically speaking, these two cases are _impossible_.

Spiritual activity, precisely because it is activity, is not a caprice, but a spiritual necessity; and it cannot solve a definite aesthetic problem, save in one way, which is the right way. Doubtless certain facts may be adduced, which appear to contradict this deduction. Thus works which seem beautiful to artists, are judged to be ugly by the critics; while works with which the artists were displeased and judged imperfect or failures, are held to be beautiful and perfect by the critics. But this does not mean anything, save that one of the two is wrong: either the critics or the artists, or in one case the artist and in another the critic. In fact, the producer of an expression does not always fully realize what has happened in his soul. Haste, vanity, want of reflexion, theoretic prejudices, make people say, and sometimes others almost believe, that works of ours are beautiful, which, if we were truly to turn inwards upon ourselves, we should see ugly, as they really are. Thus poor Don Quixote, when he had mended his helmet as well as he could with cardboard–the helmet that had showed itself to possess but the feeblest force of resistance at the first encounter,–took good care not to test it again with a well-delivered sword-thrust, but simply declared and maintained it to be (says the author) _por celada finisima de encaxe_. And in other cases, the same reasons, or opposite but analogous ones, trouble the consciousness of the artist, and cause him to disapprove of what he has successfully produced, or to strive to undo and do again worse, what he has done well, in his artistic spontaneity. An example of this is the _Gerusalemme conquistata_. In the same way, haste, laziness, want of reflexion, theoretic prejudices, personal sympathies, or animosities, and other motives of a similar sort, sometimes cause the critics to proclaim beautiful what is ugly, and ugly what is beautiful. Were they to eliminate such disturbing elements, they would feel the work of art as it really is, and would not leave to posterity, that more diligent and more dispassionate judge, to award the palm, or to do that justice, which they have refused.

[Sidenote] _Identity of taste and genius._

It is clear from the preceding theorem, that the judicial activity, which criticizes and recognizes the beautiful, is identical with that which produces it. The only difference lies in the diversity of circumstances, since in the one case it is a question of aesthetic production, in the other of reproduction. The judicial activity is called _taste_; the productive activity is called _genius_: genius and taste are therefore substantially _identical_.

The common remark, that the critic should possess some of the genius of the artist and that the artist should possess taste, reveals a glimpse of this identity; or that there exists an active (productive) taste and a passive (reproductive) taste. But a denial of this is contained in other equally common remarks, as when people speak of taste without genius, or of genius without taste. These last observations are meaningless, unless they be taken as alluding to quantitative differences. In this case, those would be called geniuses without taste who produce works of art, inspired in their culminating parts and neglected and defective in their secondary parts, and those men of taste without genius, who succeed in obtaining certain isolated or secondary effects, but do not possess the power necessary for a vast artistic synthesis. Analogous explanations can easily be given of other similar propositions. But to posit a substantial difference between genius and taste, between artistic production and reproduction, would render communication and judgment alike inconceivable. How could we judge what remained extraneous to us? How could that which is produced by a given activity be judged by a different activity? The critic will be a small genius, the artist a great genius; the one will have the strength of ten, the other of a hundred; the former, in order to raise himself to the altitude of the latter, will have need of his assistance; but the nature of both must be the same. In order to judge Dante, we must raise ourselves to his level: let it be well understood that empirically we are not Dante, nor Dante we; but in that moment of judgment and contemplation, our spirit is one with that of the poet, and in that moment we and he are one single thing. In this identity alone resides the possibility that our little souls can unite with the great souls, and become great with them, in the universality of the spirit.

[Sidenote] _Analogy with the other activities._

Let us remark in passing that what has been said of the aesthetic _judgment_ holds good equally for every other activity and for every other judgment; and that scientific, economic, and ethical criticism is effected in a like manner. To limit ourselves to this last, it is only if we place ourselves ideally in the same conditions in which he who took a given resolution found himself, that we can form a judgment as to whether his resolution were moral or immoral. An action would otherwise remain incomprehensible, and therefore impossible to judge. A homicide may be a rascal or a hero: if this be, within limits, indifferent as regards the safety of society, which condemns both to the same punishment, it is not indifferent to him who wishes to distinguish and to judge from the moral point of view, and we cannot dispense with studying again the individual psychology of the homicide, in order to determine the true nature of his deed, not merely in its judicial, but also in its moral aspect. In Ethic, a moral taste or tact is sometimes referred to, which answers to what is generally called moral conscience, that is to say, to the activity itself of good-will.

[Sidenote] _Critique of absolutism (intellectualism) and of aesthetic relativism._

The explanation above given of aesthetic judgment or reproduction at once affirms and denies the position of the absolutists and relativists, of those, that is to say, who affirm and of those who deny the existence of an absolute taste.

The absolutists, who affirm that they can judge of the beautiful, are right; but the theory on which they found their affirmation is not maintainable. They conceive of the beautiful, that is, of aesthetic value, as of something placed outside the aesthetic activity; as if it were a model or a concept which an artist realizes in his work, and of which the critic avails himself afterwards in order to judge the work itself. Concepts and models alike have no existence in art, for by proclaiming that every art can be judged only in itself, and has its own model in itself, they have attained to the denial of the existence of objective models of beauty, whether they be intellectual concepts, or ideas suspended in the metaphysical sky.

In proclaiming this, the adversaries, the relativists, are perfectly right, and accomplish a progress. However, the initial rationality of their thesis becomes in its turn a false theory. Repeating the old adage that there is no accounting for tastes, they believe that aesthetic expression is of the same nature as the pleasant and the unpleasant, which every one feels in his own way, and as to which there is no disputing. But we know that the pleasant and the unpleasant are utilitarian and practical facts. Thus the relativists deny the peculiarity of the aesthetic fact, again confounding expression with impression, the theoretic with the practical.

The true solution lies in rejecting alike relativism or psychologism, and false absolutism; and in recognizing that the criterion of taste is absolute, but absolute in a different way from that of the intellect, which is developed by reason. The criterion of taste is absolute, with the intuitive absoluteness of the imagination. Thus every act of expressive activity, which is so really, will be recognized as beautiful, and every fact in which expressive activity and passivity are found engaged with one another in an unfinished struggle, will be recognized as ugly.

[Sidenote] _Critique of relative relativism._

There lies, between absolutists and relativists, a third class, which may be called that of the relative relativists. These affirm the existence of absolute values in other fields, such as Logic and Ethic, but deny their existence in the field of Aesthetic. To them it appears natural and justifiable to dispute about science and morality; because science rests on the universal, common to all men, and morality on duty, which is also a law of human nature; but how, they say, can one dispute about art, which rests on imagination? Not only, however, is the imaginative activity universal and belongs to human nature, like the logical concept and practical duty; but we must oppose a capital objection to this intermediary thesis. If the absolute nature of the imagination were denied, we should be obliged to deny also that of intellectual or conceptual truth, and, implicitly, of morality. Does not morality presuppose logical distinctions? How could these be known, otherwise than by expressions and words, that is to say, in imaginative form? If the absoluteness of the imagination were removed, spiritual life would tremble to its base. One individual would no longer understand another, nor indeed his own self of a moment before, which, when considered a moment after, is already another individual.

[Sidenote] _Objection founded on the variation of the stimulus and on the psychic disposition._

Nevertheless, variety of judgments is an indisputable fact. Men are at variance in their logical, ethical, and economical appreciations; and they are equally, or even more at variance in their aesthetic appreciations. If certain reasons detailed by us, above, such as haste, prejudices, passions, etc., may be held to lessen the importance of this disagreement, they do not thereby annul it. We have been cautious, when speaking of the stimuli of reproduction, for we said that reproduction takes place, _if all the other conditions remain equal_. Do they remain equal? Does the hypothesis correspond to reality?

It would appear not. In order to reproduce several times an impression by employing a suitable physical stimulus, it is necessary that this stimulus be not changed, and that the organism remain in the same psychical conditions as those in which was experienced the impression that it is desired to reproduce. Now it is a fact, that the physical stimulus is continually changing, and in like manner the psychological conditions.

Oil paintings grow dark, frescoes pale, statues lose noses, hands, and legs, architecture becomes totally or partially a ruin, the tradition of the execution of a piece of music is lost, the text of a poem is corrupted by bad copyists or bad printing. These are obvious instances of the changes which daily occur in objects or physical stimuli. As regards psychological conditions, we will not dwell upon the cases of deafness or blindness, that is to say, upon the loss of entire orders of psychical impressions; these cases are secondary and of less importance compared with the fundamental, daily, inevitable, and perpetual changes of the society around us, and of the internal conditions of our individual life. The phonic manifestations, that is, the words and verses of the Dantesque _Commedia_, must produce a very different impression on a citizen engaged in the politics of the third Rome, to that experienced by a well-informed and intimate contemporary of the poet. The Madonna of Cimabue is still in the Church of Santa Maria Novella; but does she speak to the visitor of to-day as she spoke to the Florentines of the thirteenth century? Even though she were not also darkened by time, would not the impression be altogether different? And finally, how can a poem composed in youth make the same impression on the same individual poet when he re-reads it in his old age, with his psychic dispositions altogether changed?

[Sidenote] _Critique of the division of signs into natural and conventional._

It is true, that certain aestheticians have attempted a distinction between stimuli and stimuli, between _natural and conventional_ signs. They would grant to the former a constant effect on all; to the latter, only on a limited circle. In their belief, signs employed in painting are natural, while the words of poetry are conventional. But the difference between the one and the other is only of degree. It has often been affirmed that painting is a language which all understand, while with poetry it is otherwise. Here, for example, Leonardo placed one of the prerogatives of his art, “which hath not need of interpreters of different languages as have letters,” and in it man and brute find satisfaction. He relates the anecdote of that portrait of the father of a family, “which the little grandchildren were wont to caress while they were still in swaddling-clothes, and the dogs and cats of the house in like manner.” But other anecdotes, such as those of the savages who took the portrait of a soldier for a boat, or considered the portrait of a man on horseback as furnished with only one leg, are apt to shake one’s faith in the understanding of painting by sucklings, dogs, and cats. Fortunately, no arduous researches are necessary to convince oneself that pictures, poetry, and every work of art, produce no effects save on souls prepared to receive them. Natural signs do not exist; because they are all conventional in a like manner, or, to speak with greater exactitude, all are _historically conditioned_.

[Sidenote] _The surmounting of variety._

This being so, how are we to succeed in causing the expression to be reproduced by means of the physical object? How obtain the same effect, when the conditions are no longer the same? Would it not, rather, seem necessary to conclude that expressions cannot be reproduced, despite the physical instruments made by man for the purpose, and that what is called reproduction consists in ever new expressions? Such would indeed be the conclusion, if the variety of physical and psychic conditions were intrinsically unsurmountable. But since the insuperability has none of the characteristics of necessity, we must, on the contrary, conclude: that the reproduction always occurs, when we can replace ourselves in the conditions in which the stimulus (physical beauty) was produced.

Not only can we replace ourselves in these conditions, as an abstract possibility, but as a matter of fact we do so continually. Individual life, which is communion with ourselves (with our past), and social life, which is communion with our like, would not otherwise be possible.

[Sidenote] _Restorations and historical interpretation._

As regards the physical object, paleographers and philologists, who _restore_ to texts their original physiognomy, _restorers_ of pictures and of statues, and similar categories of workers, exert themselves to preserve or to give back to the physical object all its primitive energy. These efforts certainly do not always succeed, or are not completely successful, for never, or hardly ever, is it possible to obtain a restoration complete in its smallest details. But the unsurmountable is only accidentally present, and cannot cause us to fail to recognize the favourable results which are nevertheless obtained.

_Historical interpretation_ likewise labours to reintegrate in us historical conditions which have been altered in the course of history. It revives the dead, completes the fragmentary, and affords us the opportunity of seeing a work of art (a physical object) as its author saw it, at the moment of production.

A condition of this historical labour is tradition, with the help of which it is possible to collect the scattered rays and cause them to converge on one centre. With the help of memory, we surround the physical stimulus with all the facts among which it arose; and thus we make it possible for it to react upon us, as it acted upon him who produced it.

When the tradition is broken, interpretation is arrested; in this case, the products of the past remain _silent_ for us. Thus the expressions contained in the Etruscan or Messapian inscriptions are unattainable; thus we still hear discussions among ethnographers as to certain products of the art of savages, whether they be pictures or writings; thus archaeologists and prehistorians are not always able to establish with certainty, whether the figures found on the ceramic of a certain region, and on other instruments employed, be of a religious or of a profane nature. But the arrest of interpretation, as that of restoration, is never a definitely unsurmountable barrier; and the daily discoveries of historical sources and of new methods of better exploiting antiquity, which we may hope to see ever improving, link up broken tradition.

We do not wish to deny that erroneous historical interpretation produces at times what we may term _palimpsests_, new expressions imposed upon the antique, artistic imaginings instead of historical reproductions. The so-called fascination of the past depends in part upon these expressions of ours, which we weave into historical expressions. Thus in hellenic plastic art has been discovered the calm and serene intuition of life of those peoples, who feel, nevertheless, so poignantly, the universality of sorrow; thus has recently been discerned on the faces of the Byzantine saints “the terror of the millennium,” a terror which is an equivoke, or an artificial legend invented by modern scholars. But _historical criticism_ tends precisely to circumscribe _vain imaginings_ and to establish with exactitude the point of view from which we must look.

Thus we live in communication with other men of the present and of the past; and we must not conclude, because sometimes, and indeed often, we find ourselves face to face with the unknown or the badly known, that when we believe we are engaged in a dialogue, we are always speaking a monologue; nor that we are unable even to repeat the monologue which, in the past, we held with ourselves.

XVII

THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE AND ART

[Sidenote] _Historical criticism in literature and art. Its importance._

This brief exposition of the method by which is obtained reintegration of the original conditions in which the work of art was produced, and by which reproduction and judgment are made possible, shows how important is the function fulfilled by historical research concerning artistic and literary works; that is to say, by what is usually called _historical criticism_, or method, in literature and art.

Without tradition and historical criticism, the enjoyment of all or nearly all works of art produced by humanity, would be irrevocably lost: we should be little more than animals, immersed in the present alone, or in the most recent past. Only fools despise and laugh at him who reconstitutes an authentic text, explains the sense of words and customs, investigates the conditions in which an artist lived, and accomplishes all those labours which revive the qualities and the original colouring of works of art.

Sometimes the depreciatory or negative judgment refers to the presumed or proved uselessness of many researches, made to recover the correct meaning of artistic works. But, it must be observed, in the first place, that historical research does not only fulfil the task of helping to reproduce and judge artistic works: the biography of a writer or of an artist, for example, and the study of the costume of a period, also possess their own interest, foreign to the history of art, but not foreign to other forms of history. If allusion be made to those researches which do not appear to have interest of any kind, nor to fulfil any purpose, it must be replied that the historical student must often reconcile himself to the useful, but little glorious, office of a cataloguer of facts. These facts remain for the time being formless, incoherent, and insignificant, but they are preserves, or mines, for the historian of the future and for whomsoever may afterwards want them for any purpose. In the same way, books which nobody asks for are placed on the shelves and are noted in the catalogues, because they may be asked for at some time or other. Certainly, in the same way that an intelligent librarian gives the preference to the acquisition and to the cataloguing of those books which he foresees may be of more or better service, so do intelligent students possess the instinct as to what is or may more probably be useful from among the mass of facts which they are investigating. Others, on the other hand, less well-endowed, less intelligent, or more hasty in producing, accumulate useless selections, rejections and erasures, and lose themselves in refinements and gossipy discussions. But this appertains to the economy of research, and is not our affair. At the most, it is the affair of the master who selects the subjects, of the publisher who pays for the printing, and of the critic who is called upon to praise or to blame the students for their researches.

On the other hand, it is evident, that historical research, directed to illuminate a work of art by placing us in a position to judge it, does not alone suffice to bring it to birth in our spirit: taste, and an imagination trained and awakened, are likewise presupposed. The greatest historical erudition may accompany a taste in part gross or defective, a lumbering imagination, or, as it is generally phrased, a cold, hard heart, closed to art. Which is the lesser evil?–great erudition and defective taste, or natural good taste and great ignorance? The question has often been asked, and perhaps it will be best to deny its possibility, because one cannot tell which of two evils is the less, or what exactly that means. The merely learned man never succeeds in entering into communication with the great spirits, and keeps wandering for ever about the outer courts, the staircases, and the antechambers of their palaces; but the gifted ignoramus either passes by masterpieces which are to him inaccessible, or instead of understanding the works of art, as they really are, he invents others, with his imagination. Now, the labour of the former may at least serve to enlighten others; but the ingenuity of the latter remains altogether sterile. How, then, can we fail to prefer the conscientious learned man to the inconclusive man of talent, who is not really talented, if he resign himself, and in so far as he resigns himself, to come to no conclusion?

[Sidenote] _Literary and artistic history. Its distinction from historical criticism and from artistic judgement._

It is necessary to distinguish accurately _the history, of art and literature_ from those historical labours which make use of works of art, but for extraneous purposes (such as biography, civil, religious, and political history, etc.), and also from historical erudition, whose object is preparation for the Aesthetic synthesis of reproduction.

The difference between the first of these is obvious. The history of art and literature has the works of art themselves for principal subject; the other branches of study call upon and interrogate works of art, but only as witnesses, from which to discover the truth of facts which are not aesthetic. The second difference to which we have referred may seem less profound. However, it is very great. Erudition devoted to rendering clear again the understanding of works of art, aims simply at making appear a certain internal fact, an aesthetic reproduction. Artistic and literary history, on the other hand, does not appear until such reproduction has been obtained. It demands, therefore, further labour. Like all other history, its object is to record precisely such facts as have really taken place, that is, artistic and literary facts. A man who, after having acquired the requisite historical erudition, reproduces in himself and tastes a work of art, may remain simply a man of taste, or express at the most his own feeling, with an exclamation of beautiful or ugly. This does not suffice for the making of a historian of literature and art. There is further need that the simple act of reproduction be followed in him by a second internal operation. What is this new operation? It is, in its turn, an expression: the expression of the reproduction; the historical description, exposition, or representation. There is this difference, then, between the man of taste and the historian: the first merely reproduces in his spirit the work of art; the second, after having reproduced it, represents it historically, thus applying to it those categories by which, as we know, history is differentiated from pure art. Artistic and literary history is, therefore, _a historical work of art founded upon one or more works of art_.

The denomination of artistic or literary critic is used in various senses: sometimes it is applied to the student who devotes his services to literature; sometimes to the historian who reveals the works of art of the past in their reality; more often to both. By critic is sometimes understood, in a more restricted sense, he who judges and describes contemporary literary works; and by historian, he who is occupied with less recent works. These are but linguistic usages and empirical distinctions, which may be neglected; because the true difference lies _between the learned man, the man of taste, and the historian of art_. These words designate, as it were, three successive stages of work, of which each is relatively independent of the one that follows, but not of that which precedes. As we have seen, a man may be simply learned, yet possess little capacity for understanding works of art; he may indeed be both learned and possess taste, yet be unable to write a page of artistic and literary history. But the true and complete historian, while containing in himself, as necessary pre-requisites, both the learned man and the man of taste, must add to their qualities the gift of historical comprehension and representation.

[Sidenote] _The method of artistic and literary history._

The method of artistic and literary history presents problems and difficulties, some common to all historical method, others peculiar to it, because they derive from the concept of art itself.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the problem of the origin of art._

History is wont to be divided into the history of man, the history or nature, and the mixed history of both the preceding. Without examining here the question of the solidity of this division, it is clear that artistic and literary history belongs in any case to the first, since it concerns a spiritual activity, that is to say, an activity proper to man. And since this activity is its subject, the absurdity of propounding the historical _problem of the origin of art_ becomes at once evident. We should note that by this formula many different things have in turn been included on many different occasions. _Origin_ has often meant _nature_ or _disposition_ of the artistic fact, and here was a real scientific or philosophic problem, the very problem, in fact, which our treatise has tried to solve. At other times, by origin has been understood the ideal genesis, the search for the reason of art, the deduction of the artistic fact from a first principle containing in itself both spirit and nature. This is also a philosophical problem, and it is complementary to the preceding, indeed it coincides with it, though it has sometimes been strangely interpreted and solved by means of an arbitrary and semi-fantastic metaphysic. But when it has been sought to discover further exactly in what way the artistic function was _historically formed_, this has resulted in the absurdity to which we have referred. If expression be the first form of consciousness, how can the historical origin be sought of what is _presupposed_ not to be a product of nature and of human history? How can we find the historical genesis of that which is a category, by means of which every historical genesis and fact are understood? The absurdity has arisen from the comparison with human institutions, which have, in fact, been formed in the course of history, and which have disappeared or may disappear in its course. There exists between the aesthetic fact and a human institution (such as monogamic marriage or the fief) a difference to some extent comparable with that between simple and compound bodies in chemistry. It is impossible to indicate the formation of the former, otherwise they would not be simple, and if this be discovered, they cease to be simple and become compound.

The problem of the origin of art, historically understood, is only justified when it is proposed to seek, not for the formation of the function, but where and when art has appeared for the first time (appeared, that is to say, in a striking manner), at what point or in what region of the globe, and at what point or epoch of its history; when, that is to say, not the origin of art, but its most antique or primitive history, is the object of research. This problem forms one with that of the appearance of human civilization on the earth. Data for its solution are certainly wanting, but there yet remains the abstract possibility, and certainly attempts and hypotheses for its solution abound.

[Sidenote] _History and the criterion of progress._

Every form of human history has the concept of _progress_ for foundation. But by progress must not be understood the imaginary and metaphysical _law of progress_, which should lead the generations of man with irresistible force to some unknown destiny, according to a providential plan which we can logically divine and understand. A supposed law of this sort is the negation of history itself, of that accidentality, that empiricity, that contingency, which distinguish the concrete fact from the abstraction. And for the same reason, progress has nothing to do with the so-called _law of evolution_. If evolution mean the concrete fact of reality which evolves (that is, which is reality), it is not a law. If, on the other hand, it be a law, it becomes confounded with the law of progress in the sense just described. The progress of which we speak here, is nothing but the _concept of human activity itself_, which, working upon the material supplied to it by nature, conquers obstacles and bends nature to its own ends.

Such conception of progress, that is to say, of human activity applied to a given material, is the _point of view_ of the historian of humanity. No one but a mere collector of stray facts, a simple seeker, or an incoherent chronicler, can put together the smallest narrative of human deeds, unless he have a definite point of view, that is to say, an intimate personal conviction regarding the conception of the facts which he has undertaken to relate. The historical work of art cannot be achieved among the confused and discordant mass of crude facts, save by means of this point of view, which makes it possible to carve a definite figure from that rough and incoherent mass. The historian of a practical action should know what is economy and what morality; the historian of mathematics, what are mathematics; the historian of botany, what is botany; the historian of philosophy, what is philosophy. But if he do not really know these things, he must at least have the illusion of knowing them; otherwise he will never be able to delude himself that he is writing history.

We cannot delay here to demonstrate the necessity and the inevitability of this subjective criterion in every narrative of human affairs. We will merely say that this criterion is compatible with the utmost objectivity, impartiality, and scrupulosity in dealing with data, and indeed forms a constitutive element of such subjective criterion. It suffices to read any book of history to discover at once the point of view of the author, if he be a historian worthy of the name and know his own business. There exist liberal and reactionary, rationalist and catholic historians, who deal with political or social history; for the history of philosophy there are metaphysical, empirical, sceptical, idealist, and spiritualist historians. Absolutely historical historians do not and cannot exist. Can it be said that Thucydides and Polybius, Livy and Tacitus, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Giannone and Voltaire, were without moral and political views; and, in our time, Guizot or Thiers, Macaulay or Balbo, Ranke or Mommsen? And in the history of philosophy, from Hegel, who was the first to raise it to a great elevation, to Ritter, Zeller, Cousin, Lewes, and our Spaventa, was there one who did not possess his conception of progress and criterion of judgment? Is there one single work of any value in the history of Aesthetic, which has not been written from this or that point of view, with this or that bias (Hegelian or Herbartian), from a sensualist or from an eclectic point of view, and so on? If the historian is to escape from the inevitable necessity of taking a side, he must become a political and scientific eunuch; and history is not the business of eunuchs. They would at most be of use in compiling those great tomes of not useless erudition, _elumbis atque fracta_, which are called, not without reason, monkish.

If, then, the concept of progress, the point of view, the criterion, be inevitable, the best to be done is not to try and escape from them, but to obtain the best possible. Everyone strives for this end, when he forms his own convictions, seriously and laboriously. Historians who profess to wish to interrogate the facts, without adding anything of their own to them, are not to be believed. This, at the most, is the result of ingenuousness and illusion on their part: they will always add what they have of personal, if they be truly historians, though it be without knowing it, or they will believe that they have escaped doing so, only because they have referred to it by innuendo, which is the most insinuating and penetrative of methods.

[Sidenote] _Non-existence of a unique line of progress in artistic and literary history._

Artistic and literary history cannot dispense with the criterion of progress any more easily than other history. We cannot show what a given work of art is, save by proceeding from a conception of art, in order to fix the artistic problem which the author of such work of art had to solve, and by determining whether or no he have solved it, or by how much and in what way he has failed to do so. But it is important to note that the criterion of progress assumes a different form in artistic and literary history to that which it assumes (or is believed to assume) in the history of science.

The whole history of knowledge can be represented by one single line of progress and regress. Science is the universal, and its problems are arranged in one single vast system, or complex problem. All thinkers weary themselves over the same problem as to the nature of reality and of knowledge: contemplative Indians and Greek philosophers, Christians and Mohammedans, bare heads and heads with turbans, wigged heads and heads with the black berretta (as Heine said); and future generations will weary themselves with it, as ours has done. It would take too long to inquire here if this be true or not of science. But it is certainly not true of art; art is intuition, and intuition is individuality, and individuality is never repeated. To conceive of the history of the artistic production of the human race as developed along a single line of progress and regress, would therefore be altogether erroneous.

At the most, and working to some extent with generalizations and abstractions, it may be admitted that the history of aesthetic products shows progressive cycles, but each cycle has its own problem, and is progressive only in respect to that problem. When many are at work on the same subject, without succeeding in giving to it the suitable form, yet drawing always more nearly to it, there is said to be progress. When he who gives to it definite form appears, the cycle is said to be complete, progress ended. A typical example of this would be the progress in the elaboration of the mode of using the subject-matter of chivalry, during the Italian Renaissance, from Pulci to Ariosto. (If this instance be made use of, excessive simplification of it must be excused.) Nothing but repetition and imitation could be the result of employing that same material after Ariosto. The result was repetition or imitation, diminution or exaggeration, a spoiling of what had already been achieved; in sum, decadence. The Ariostesque epigoni prove this. Progress begins with the commencement of a new cycle. Cervantes, with his more open and conscious irony, is an instance of this. In what did the general decadence of Italian literature at the end of the sixteenth century consist? Simply in having nothing more to say, and in repeating and exaggerating motives already found. If the Italians of this period had even been able to express their own decadence, they would not have been altogether failures, but have anticipated the literary movement of the Renaissance. Where the subject-matter is not the same, a progressive cycle does not exist. Shakespeare does not represent a progress as regards Dante, nor Goethe as regards Shakespeare. Dante, however, represents a progress in respect to the visionaries of the Middle Ages, Shakespeare to the Elizabethan dramatists, Goethe, with _Werther_ and the first part of _Faust_, in respect to the writers of the _Sturm und Drang_. This mode of presenting the history of poetry and art contains, however, as we have remarked, something of abstract, of merely practical, and is without rigorous philosophical value. Not only is the art of savages not inferior, as art, to that of civilized peoples, provided it be correlative to the impressions of the savage; but every individual, indeed every moment of the spiritual life of an individual, has its artistic world; and all those worlds are, artistically, incomparable with one another.

[Sidenote] _Errors committed in respect to this law._

Many have sinned and continue to sin against this special form of the criterion of progress in artistic and literary history. Some, for instance, talk of the infancy of Italian art in Giotto, and of its maturity in Raphael or in Titian; as though Giotto were not quite perfect and complete, in respect to his psychic material. He was certainly incapable of drawing a figure like Raphael, or of colouring it like Titian; but was Raphael or Titian by any chance capable of creating the _Matrimonio di San Francesco con la Poverta_, or the _Morte di San Francesco_? The spirit of Giotto had not felt the attraction of the body beautiful, which the Renaissance studied and raised to a place of honour; but the spirits of Raphael and of Titian were no longer curious of certain movements of ardour and of tenderness, which attracted the man of the fourteenth century. How, then, can a comparison be made, where there is no comparative term?

The celebrated divisions of the history of art suffer from the same defect. They are as follows: an oriental period, representing a disequilibrium between idea and form, with prevalence of the second; a classical, representing an equilibrium between idea and form; a romantic, representing a new disequilibrium between idea and form, with prevalence of the idea. There are also the divisions into oriental art, representing imperfection of form; classical, perfection of form; romantic or modern, perfection of content and of form. Thus classic and romantic have also received, among their many other meanings, that of progressive or regressive periods, in respect to the realization of some indefinite artistic ideal of humanity.

[Sidenote] _Other meanings of the word “progress” in respect to Aesthetic._

There is no such thing, then, as an _aesthetic_ progress of humanity. However, by aesthetic progress is sometimes meant, not what the two words coupled together really signify, but the ever-increasing accumulation of our historical knowledge, which makes us able to sympathize with all the artistic products of all peoples and of all times, or, as is said, to make our taste more catholic. The difference appears very great, if the eighteenth century, so incapable of escaping from itself, be compared with our own time, which enjoys alike Hellenic and Roman art, now better understood, Byzantine, mediaeval, Arabic, and Renaissance art, the art of the Cinque Cento, baroque art, and the art of the seventeenth century. Egyptian, Babylonian, Etruscan, and even prehistoric art, are more profoundly studied every day. Certainly, the difference between the savage and civilized man does not lie in the human faculties. The savage has speech, intellect, religion, and morality, in common with civilized man, and he is a complete man. The only difference lies in that civilized man penetrates and dominates a larger portion of the universe with his theoretic and practical activity. We cannot claim to be more spiritually alert than, for example, the contemporaries of Pericles; but no one can deny that we are richer than they–rich with their riches and with those of how many other peoples and generations besides our own?

By aesthetic progress is also meant, in another sense, which is also improper, the greater abundance of artistic intuitions and the smaller number of imperfect or decadent works which one epoch produces in respect to another. Thus it may be said that there was aesthetic progress, an artistic awakening, at the end of the thirteenth or of the fifteenth centuries.

Finally, aesthetic progress is talked of, with an eye to the refinement and to the psychical complications exhibited in the works of art of the most civilized peoples, as compared with those of less civilized peoples, barbarians and savages. But in this case, the progress is that of the complex conditions of society, not of the artistic activity, to which the material is indifferent.

These are the most important points concerning the method of artistic and literary history.

XVIII

CONCLUSION:

IDENTITY OF LINGUISTIC AND AESTHETIC

[Sidenote] _Summary of the inquiry._

A glance over the path traversed will show that we have completed the entire programme of our treatise. We have studied the nature of intuitive or expressive knowledge, which is the aesthetic or artistic fact (I. and II.), and we have described the other form of knowledge, namely, the intellectual, with the secondary complications of its forms (III.). Having done this, it became possible to criticize all erroneous theories of art, which arise from the confusion between the various forms, and from the undue transference of the characteristics of one form to those of another (IV.), and in so doing to indicate the inverse errors which are found in the theory of intellectual knowledge and of historiography (V.). Passing on to examine the relations between the aesthetic activity and the other spiritual activities, no longer theoretic but practical, we have indicated the true character of the practical activity and the place which it occupies in respect to the theoretic activity, which it follows: hence the critique of the invasion of aesthetic theory by practical concepts (VI.). We have also distinguished the two forms of the practical activity, as economic and ethic (VII.), adding to this the statement that there are no other forms of the spirit beyond the four which we have analyzed; hence (VIII.) the critique of every metaphysical Aesthetic. And, seeing that there exist no other spiritual forms of equal degree, therefore there are no original subdivisions of the four established, and in particular of Aesthetic. From this arises the impossibility of classes of expressions and the critique of Rhetoric, that is, of the partition of expressions into simple and ornate, and of their subclasses (IX.). But, by the law of the unity of the spirit, the aesthetic fact is also a practical fact, and as such, occasions pleasure and pain. This led us to study the feelings of value in general, and those of aesthetic value, or of the beautiful, in particular (X.), to criticize aesthetic hedonism in all its various manifestations and complications (XI.), and to expel from the system of Aesthetic the long series of pseudo-aesthetic concepts, which had been introduced into it (XII.). Proceeding from aesthetic production to the facts of reproduction, we began by investigating the mode of fixing externally the aesthetic expression, with the view of reproduction. This is the so-called physically beautiful, whether it be natural or artificial (XIII.). We then derived from this distinction the critique of the errors which arise from confounding the physical with the aesthetic side of things (XIV.). We indicated the meaning of artistic technique, that which is the technique serving for reproduction, thus criticizing the divisions, limits, and classifications of the individual arts, and establishing the connections between art, economy, and morality (XV.). Because the existence of the physical objects does not suffice to stimulate to the full aesthetic reproduction, and because, in order to obtain this result, it is necessary to recall the conditions in which the stimulus first operated, we have also studied the function of historical erudition, directed toward the end of re-establishing our communication with the works of the past, and toward the creation of a base for aesthetic judgment (XVI.). We have closed our treatise by showing how the reproduction thus obtained is afterwards elaborated by the intellectual categories, that is to say, by an excursus on the method of literary and artistic history (XVII.).

The aesthetic fact has thus been considered both in itself and in its relations with the other spiritual activities, with the feelings of pleasure and of pain, with the facts that are called physical, with memory, and with historical elaboration. It has passed from the position of _subject_ to that of _object_, that is to say, from the moment of _its birth_, until gradually it becomes changed for the spirit into _historical argument_.

Our treatise may appear to be somewhat meagre, when compared with the great volumes usually consecrated to Aesthetic. But it will not seem so, when it is observed that these volumes, as regards nine-tenths of their contents, are full of matter which does not appertain to Aesthetic, such as definitions, either psychical or metaphysical, of pseudo-aesthetic concepts (of the sublime, the comic, the tragic, the humorous, etc.), or of the exposition of the supposed Zoology, Botany, and Mineralogy of Aesthetic, and of universal history judged from the aesthetic standpoint. The whole history of concrete art and literature has also been dragged into those Aesthetics and generally mangled; they contain judgments upon Homer and Dante, upon Ariosto and Shakespeare, upon Beethoven and Rossini, Michelangelo and Raphael. When all this has been deducted from them, our treatise will no longer be held to be too meagre, but, on the contrary, far more copious than ordinary treatises, for these either omit altogether, or hardly touch at all, the greater part of the difficult problems proper to Aesthetic, which we have felt it to be our duty to study.

[Sidenote] _Identity of Linguistic and Aesthetic._

Aesthetic, then, as the science of expression, has been here studied by us from every point of view. But there yet remains to justify the sub-title, which we have joined to the title of our book, _General Linguistic_, and to state and make clear the thesis that the science of art is that of language. Aesthetic and Linguistic, in so far as they are true sciences, are not two different sciences, but one single science. Not that there is a special Linguistic; but the linguistic science sought for, general Linguistic, _in so far as what it contains is reducible to philosophy_, is nothing but Aesthetic. Whoever studies general Linguistic, that is to say, philosophical Linguistic, studies aesthetic problems, and _vice versa_. _Philosophy of language and philosophy of art are the same thing_.

Were Linguistic a _different_ science from Aesthetic, it should not have expression, which is the essentially aesthetic fact, for its object. This amounts to saying that it must be denied that language is expression. But an emission of sounds, which expresses nothing, is not language. Language is articulate, limited, organized sound, employed in expression. If, on the other hand, language were a _special_ science in respect to Aesthetic, it would necessarily have for its object a _special class_ of expressions. But the inexistence of classes of expression is a point which we have already demonstrated.

[Sidenote] _Aesthetic formulization of linguistic problems. Nature of language._

The problems which Linguistic serves to solve, and the errors with which Linguistic strives and has striven, are the same that occupy and complicate Aesthetic. If it be not always easy, it is, on the other hand, always possible, to reduce the philosophic questions of Linguistic to their aesthetic formula.

The disputes as to the nature of the one find their parallel in those as to the nature of the other. Thus it has been disputed, whether Linguistic be a scientific or a historical discipline, and the scientific having been distinguished from the historical, it has been asked whether it belong to the order of the natural or of the psychological sciences, by the latter being understood empirical Psychology, as much as the science of the spirit. The same has happened with Aesthetic, which some have looked upon as a natural science, confounding aesthetic expression with physical expression. Others have looked upon it as a psychological science, confounding expression in its universality, with the empirical classification of expressions. Others again, denying the very possibility of a science of such a subject, have looked upon it as a collection of historical facts. Finally, it has been realized that it belongs to the sciences of activity or of values, which are the spiritual sciences.

Linguistic expression, or speech, has often seemed to be a fact of _interjection_, which belongs to the so-called physical expressions of the feelings, common alike to men and animals. But it was soon admitted that an abyss yawns between the “Ah!” which is a physical reflex of pain, and a word; as also between that “Ah!” of pain and the “Ah!” employed as a word. The theory of the interjection being abandoned (jocosely termed the “Ah! Ah!” theory by German linguists), the theory of _association or convention_ appeared. This theory was refuted by the same objection which destroyed aesthetic associationism in general: speech is unity, not multiplicity of images, and multiplicity does not explain, but presupposes the existence of the expression to explain. A variant of linguistic associationism is the imitative, that is to say, the theory of the onomatopoeia, which the same philologists deride under the name of the “bow-wow” theory, after the imitation of the dog’s bark, which, according to the onomatopoeists, gives its name to the dog.

The most usual theory of our times as regards language (apart from mere crass naturalism) consists of a sort of eclecticism or mixture of the various theories to which we have referred. It is assumed that language is in part the product of interjections and in part of onomatopes and conventions. This doctrine is altogether worthy of the scientific and philosophic decadence of the second half of the nineteenth century.

[Sidenote] _Origin of language and its development._

We must here note a mistake into which have fallen those very philologists who have best penetrated the active nature of language. These, although they admit that language was _originally a spiritual creation_, yet maintain that it was largely increased later by _association_. But the distinction does not prevail, for origin in this case cannot mean anything but nature or essence. If, therefore, language be a spiritual creation, it will always be a creation; if it be association, it will have been so from the beginning. The mistake has arisen from not having grasped the general principle of Aesthetic, which we have noted: namely, that expressions already produced must redescend to the rank of impressions before they can give rise to new impressions. When we utter new words, we generally transform the old ones, varying or enlarging their meaning; but this process is not associative. It is creative, although the creation has for material the impressions, not of the hypothetical primitive man, but of man who has lived long ages in society, and who has, so to say, stored so many things in his psychic organism, and among them so much language.

[Sidenote] _Relation between Grammar and Logic._

The question of the distinction between the aesthetic and the intellectual fact has appeared in Linguistic as that of the relations between Grammar and Logic. This question has found two solutions, which are partially true: that of the indissolubility of Logic and Grammar, and that of their dissolubility. The complete solution is this: if the logical form be indissoluble from the grammatical (aesthetic), the grammatical is dissoluble from the logical.

[Sidenote] _Grammatical classes or parts of speech._

If we look at a picture which, for example, portrays a man walking on a country road, we can say: “This picture represents a fact of movement, which, if conceived as volitional, is called _action_. And because every movement implies _matter_, and every action a being that acts, this picture also represents either _matter_ or a _being_. But this movement takes place in a definite place, which is a part of a given _star_ (the Earth), and precisely in that part of it which is called _terra-firma_, and more properly in a part of it that is wooded and covered with grass, which is called _country_, cut naturally or artificially, in a manner which is called _road_. Now, there is only one example of that given star, which is called Earth: Earth is an _individual_. But _terra-firma_, _country_, _road_, are _classes or universals_, because there are other terra-firmas, other countries, other roads.” And it would be possible to continue for a while with similar considerations. By substituting a phrase for the picture that we have imagined, for example, one to this effect, “Peter is walking on a country road,” and by making the same remarks, we obtain the concepts of _verb_ (motion or action), of _noun_ (matter or agent), of _proper noun_, of _common nouns_; and so on.

What have we done in both cases? Neither more nor less than to submit to logical elaboration what was first elaborated only aesthetically; that is to say, we have destroyed the aesthetical by the logical. But, as in general Aesthetic, error begins when It is wished to return from the logical to the aesthetical, and it is asked what is the expression of movement, action, matter, being, of the general, of the individual, etc.; thus in like manner with language, error begins when motion or action are called verb, being, or matter, noun or substantive, and when linguistic categories, or _parts of speech_, are made of all these, noun and verb and so on. The theory of parts of speech is at bottom altogether the same as that of artistic and literary classes, already criticized in the Aesthetic.

It is false to say that the verb or the noun is expressed in definite words, truly distinguishable from others. Expression is an indivisible whole. Noun and verb do not exist in themselves, but are abstractions made by our destroying the sole linguistic reality, which is _the proposition_. This last is to be understood, not in the usual mode of grammarians, but as an organism expressive of a complete meaning, from an exclamation to a poem. This sounds paradoxical, but is nevertheless a most simple truth.

And as in Aesthetic, the artistic productions of certain peoples have been looked upon as imperfect, owing to the error above mentioned, because the supposed kinds have seemed still to be indiscriminate or absent with them; so, in Linguistic, the theory of the parts of speech has caused the analogous error of dividing languages into formed and unformed, according to whether there appear in them or not some of those supposed parts of speech; for example, the verb.

[Sidenote] _The individuality of speech and the classification of languages._

Linguistic also discovered the irreducible individuality of the aesthetic fact, when it affirmed that the word is what is really spoken, and that two truly identical words do not exist. Thus were synonyms and homonyms destroyed, and thus was shown the impossibility of really translating one word into another, from so-called dialect into so-called language, and from a so-called mother-tongue into a so-called foreign tongue.

But the attempt to classify languages agrees ill with this correct view. Languages have no reality beyond the propositions and complexes of propositions really written and pronounced by given peoples for definite periods. That is to say, they have no existence outside the works of art, in which they exist concretely. What is the art of a given people but the complex of all its artistic products? What is the character of an art (say, Hellenic art or Provencal literature), but the complex physiognomy of those products? And how can such a question be answered, save by giving the history of their art (of their literature, that is to say, of their language in action)?

It will seem that this argument, although possessing value as against many of the wonted classifications of languages, yet is without any as regards that queen of classifications, the historico-genealogical, that glory of comparative philology. And this is certainly true. But why? Precisely because the historico-genealogical method is not a classification. He who writes history does not classify, and the philologists themselves have hastened to say that the languages which can be arranged in a historical series (those whose series have been traced) are, not distinct and definite species, but a complex of facts in the various phases of its development.

[Sidenote] _Impossibility of a normative grammar._

Language has sometimes been looked upon as an act of volition or of choice. But others have discovered the impossibility of creating language artificially, by an act of will. _Tu, Caesar, civitatem dare potes homini, verbo non poles!_ was once said to the Roman Emperor.

The aesthetic (and therefore theoretic) nature of expression supplies the method of correcting the scientific error which lies in the conception of a (normative) _Grammar_, containing the rules of speaking well. Good sense has always rebelled against this error. An example of such rebellion is the “So much the worse for grammar” of Voltaire. But the impossibility of a normative grammar is also recognized by those who teach it, when they confess that to write well cannot be learned by rules, that there are no rules without exceptions, and that the study of Grammar should be conducted practically, by reading and by examples, which form the literary taste. The scientific reason of this impossibility lies in what we have already proved: that a technique of the theoretical amounts to a contradiction in terms. And what could a (normative) grammar be, but just a technique of linguistic expression, that is to say, of a theoretic fact?

[Sidenote] _Didactic purposes._

The case in which Grammar is understood merely as an empirical discipline, that is to say, as a collection of groups useful for learning languages, without any claim whatever to philosophic truth, is quite different. Even the abstractions of the parts of speech are in this case both admissible and of assistance.

Many books entitled treatises of Linguistic have a merely didactic purpose; they are simply scholastic manuals. We find in them, in truth, a little of everything, from the description of the vocal apparatus and of the artificial machines (phonographs) which can imitate it, to summaries of the most important results obtained by Indo-European, Semitic, Coptic, Chinese, or other philologies; from philosophic generalizations on the origin or nature of language, to advice on calligraphy, and the arrangement of schedules for philological spoils. But this mass of notions, which is here taught in a fragmentary and incomplete manner as regards the language in its essence, the language as expression, resolves itself into notions of Aesthetic. Nothing exists outside _Aesthetic_, which gives knowledge of the nature of language, and _empirical Grammar_, which is a pedagogic expedient, save the _History of languages_ in their living reality, that is, the history of concrete literary productions, which is substantially identical with the _History of literature_.

[Sidenote] _Elementary linguistic facts or roots._

The same mistake of confusing the physical with the aesthetic, from which the elementary forms of the beautiful originate, is made by those who seek for elementary aesthetic facts, decorating with that name the divisions of the longer series of physical sounds into shorter series. Syllables, vowels, and consonants, and the series of syllables called words which give no definite sense when taken alone, are not facts of language, but simple physical concepts of sounds.

Another mistake of the same sort is that of roots, to which the most able philologists now accord but a very limited value. Having confused physical with linguistic or expressive facts, and observing that, in the order of ideas, the simple precedes the complex, they necessarily ended by thinking that _the smaller_ physical facts were _the more simple_. Hence the imaginary necessity that the most antique, primitive languages, had been monosyllabic, and that the progress of historical research must lead to the discovery of monosyllabic roots. But (to follow up the imaginary hypothesis) the first expression that the first man conceived may also have had a mimetic, not a phonic reflex: it may have been exteriorised, not in a sound but in a gesture. And assuming that it was exteriorised in a sound, there is no reason to suppose that sound to have been monosyllabic rather than plurisyllabic. Philologists frequently blame their own ignorance and impotence, if they do not always succeed in reducing plurisyllabism to monosyllabism, and they trust in the future. But their faith is without foundation, as their blame of themselves is an act of humility arising from an erroneous presumption.

Furthermore, the limits of syllables, as those of words, are altogether arbitrary, and distinguished, as well as may be, by empirical use. Primitive speech, or the speech of the uncultured man, is _continuous_, unaccompanied by any reflex consciousness of the divisions of the word and of the syllables, which are taught at school. No true law of Linguistic can be founded on such divisions. Proof of this is to be found in the confession of linguists, that there are no truly phonetic laws of the hiatus, of cacophony, of diaeresis, of synaeresis, but merely laws of taste and convenience; that is to say, _aesthetic_ laws. And what are the laws of _words_ which are not at the same time laws of _style_?

[Sidenote] _Aesthetic judgment and the model language._

The search for a _model language_, or for a method of reducing linguistic usage to _unity_, arises from the misconception of a rationalistic measurement of the beautiful, from the concept which we have termed that of false aesthetic absoluteness. In Italy, we call this question that of the _unity of the language_.

Language is perpetual creation. What has been linguistically expressed cannot be repeated, save by the reproduction of what has already been produced. The ever-new impressions give rise to continuous changes of sounds and of meanings, that is, to ever-new expressions. To seek the model language, then, is to seek the immobility of motion. Every one speaks, and should speak, according to the echoes which things arouse in his soul, that is, according to his impressions. It is not without reason that the most convinced supporter of any one of the solutions of the problem of the unity of language (be it by the use of Latin, of fourteenth-century Italian, or of Florentine) feels a repugnance in applying his theory, when he is speaking in order to communicate his thoughts and to make himself understood. The reason for this is that he feels that were he to substitute Latin, fourteenth-century Italian, or Florentine speech for that of a different origin, but which answers to his impressions, he would be falsifying the latter. He would become a vain listener to himself, instead of a speaker, a pedant in place of a serious man, a histrion instead of a sincere person. To write according to a theory is not really to write: at the most, it is _making literature_.

The question of the unity of language is always reappearing, because, put as it is, there can be no solution to it, owing to its being based upon a false conception of what language is. Language is not an arsenal of ready-made arms, and it is not _vocabulary_, which, in so far as it is thought of as progressive and in living use, is always a cemetery, containing corpses more or less well embalmed, that is to say, a collection of abstractions.

Our mode of settling the question of the model language, or of the unity of the language, may seem somewhat abrupt, and yet we would not wish to appear otherwise than respectful towards the long line of literary men who have debated this question in Italy for centuries. But those ardent debates were, at bottom, debates upon aestheticity, not upon aesthetic science, upon literature rather than upon literary theory, upon effective speaking and writing, not upon linguistic science. Their error consisted in transforming the manifestation of a want into a scientific thesis, the need of understanding one another more easily among a people dialectically divided, in the philosophic search for a language, which should be one or ideal. Such a search was as absurd as that other search for a _universal language_, with the immobility of the concept and of the abstraction. The social need for a better understanding of one another cannot be satisfied save by universal culture, by the increase of communications, and by the interchange of thought among men.

[Sidenote] _Conclusion._

These observations must suffice to show that all the scientific problems of Linguistic are the same as those of Aesthetic, and that the truths and errors of the one are the truths and errors of the other. If Linguistic and Aesthetic appear to be two different sciences, this arises from the fact that people think of the former as grammar, or as a mixture between philosophy and grammar, that is, an arbitrary mnemonic scheme. They do not think of it as a rational science and as a pure philosophy of speech. Grammar, or something grammatical, also causes the prejudice in people’s minds, that the reality of language lies in isolated and combinable words, not in living discourse among expressive organisms, rationally indivisible.

Those linguists, or glottologists with philosophical endowments, who have best fathomed questions of language, resemble (to employ a worn but efficacious figure) workmen piercing a tunnel: at a certain point they must hear the voices of their companions, the philosophers of Aesthetic,