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Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic by Benedetto Croce

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B.A. (OXON.)




I give here a close translation of the complete _Theory of Aesthetic_,
and in the Historical Summary, with the consent of the author, an
abbreviation of the historical portion of the original work.





Intuitive knowledge--Its independence in respect to the intellect--
Intuition and perception--Intuition and the concepts of space and
time--Intuition and sensation--Intuition and association--Intuition
and representation--Intuition and expression--Illusions as to their
difference--Identity of intuition and expression.


Corollaries and explanations--Identity of art and of intuitive knowledge--
No specific difference--No difference of intensity--Difference extensive
and empirical--Artistic genius--Content and form in Aesthetic--Critique
of the imitation of nature and of the artistic illusion--Critique of art
conceived as a sentimental, not a theoretic fact--The origin of Aesthetic,
and sentiment--Critique of the theory of Aesthetic senses--Unity and
indivisibility of the work of art--Art as deliverer.


Indissolubility of intellective and of intuitive knowledge--Critique
of the negations of this thesis--Art and science--Content and form:
another meaning. Prose and poetry--The relation of first and second
degree--Inexistence of other cognoscitive forms--Historicity--Identity
and difference in respect of art--Historical criticism--Historical
scepticism--Philosophy as perfect science. The so-called natural
sciences, and their limits--The phenomenon and the noumenon.


Critique of the verisimilar and of naturalism--Critique of ideas in
art, of art as thesis, and of the typical--Critique of the symbol and
of the allegory--Critique of the theory of artistic and literary
categories--Errors derived from this theory in judgments on art--
Empirical meaning of the divisions of the categories.


Critique of the philosophy of History--Aesthetic invasions of Logic--
Logic in its essence--Distinction between logical and non-logical
judgments--The syllogism--False Logic and true Aesthetic--Logic


The will--The will as ulterior grade in respect of knowledge--Objections
and explanations--Critique of practical judgments or judgments of
value--Exclusion of the practical from the aesthetic--Critique of
the theory of the end of art and of the choice of content--Practical
innocence of art--Independence of art--Critique of the saying: the
style is the man--Critique of the concept of sincerity in art.


The two forms of practical activity--The economically useful--
Distinction between the useful and the technical--Distinction between
the useful and the egoistic--Economic and moral volition--Pure
economicity--The economic side of morality--The merely economical and
the error of the morally indifferent--Critique of utilitarianism and
the reform of Ethic and of Economic--Phenomenon and noumenon in
practical activity.


The system of the spirit--The forms of genius--Inexistence of a fifth
form of activity--Law; sociality--Religiosity--Metaphysic--Mental
imagination and the intuitive intellect--Mystical Aesthetic--Mortality
and immortality of art.


The characteristics of art--Inexistence of modes of expression--
Impossibility of translations--Critique of rhetorical categories--
Empirical meaning of rhetorical categories--Their use as synonyms
of the aesthetic fact--Their use as indicating various aesthetic
imperfections--Their use as transcending the aesthetic fact, and
in the service of science--Rhetoric in schools--Similarities of
expressions--Relative possibility of translations.


Various meanings of the word sentiment--Sentiment as activity--
Identification of sentiment with economic activity--Critique of
hedonism--Sentiment as concomitant of every form of activity--Meaning
of certain ordinary distinctions of sentiments--Value and disvalue:
the contraries and their union--The beautiful as the value of expression,
or expression without adjunct--The ugly and the elements of beauty that
constitute it--Illusion that there exist expressions neither beautiful
nor ugly--Proper aesthetic sentiments and concomitant and accidental
sentiments--Critique of apparent sentiments.


Critique of the beautiful as what pleases the superior senses--Critique
of the theory of play--Critique of the theory of sexuality and of the
triumph--Critique of the Aesthetic of the sympathetic--Meaning in it of
content and of form--Aesthetic hedonism and moralism--The rigoristic
negation, and the pedagogic negation of art--Critique of pure beauty.


Pseudo-aesthetic concepts, and the Aesthetic of the sympathetic--
Critique of the theory of the ugly in art and of its surmounting--
Pseudo-aesthetic concepts appertain to Psychology--Impossibility of
rigorous definitions of these--Examples: definitions of the sublime,
of the comic, of the humorous--Relation between those concepts and
aesthetic concepts.


Aesthetic activity and physical concepts--Expression in the aesthetic
sense, and expression in the naturalistic sense--Intuitions and
memory--The production of aids to memory--The physically beautiful--
Content and form: another meaning--Natural beauty and artificial
beauty--Mixed beauty--Writings--The beautiful that is free and that
which is not free--Critique of the beautiful that is not free--
Stimulants of production.


Critique of aesthetic associationism--Critique of aesthetic physic--
Critique of the theory of the beauty of the human body--Critique of
the beauty of geometrical figures--Critique of another aspect of the
imitation of nature--Critique of the theory of the elementary forms of
the beautiful--Critique of the search for the objective conditions of
the beautiful--The astrology of Aesthetic.


The practical activity of externalization--The technique of
externalization--Technical theories of single arts--Critique of the
classifications of the arts--Relation of the activity of externalization
with utility and morality.


Aesthetic judgment. Its identity with aesthetic reproduction--
Impossibility of divergences--Identity of taste and genius--Analogy
with the other activities--Critique of absolutism (intellectualism) and
of aesthetic relativism--Critique of relative relativism--Objections
founded on the variation of the stimulus and of the psychic disposition--
Critique of the distinction of signs as natural and conventional--The
surmounting of variety--Restorations and historical interpretation.


Historical criticism in literature and art. Its importance--Artistic and
literary history. Its distinction from historical criticism and from the
aesthetic judgment--The method of artistic and literary history--Critique
of the problem of the origin of art--The criterion of progress and
history--Inexistence of a single line of progress in artistic and
literary history--Errors in respect of this law--Other meanings of
the word "progress" in relation to Aesthetic.


Summary of the inquiry--Identity of Linguistic with Aesthetic--
Aesthetic formulation of linguistic problems. Nature of language--
Origin of language and its development--Relation between Grammatic
and Logic--Grammatical categories or parts of speech--Individuality
of speech and the classification of languages--Impossibility of a
normative Grammatic--Didactic organisms--Elementary linguistic
elements, or roots--The aesthetic judgment and the model language--


Aesthetic ideas in Graeco-Roman antiquity--In the Middle Age and
at the Renaissance--Fermentation of thought in the seventeenth
century--Aesthetic ideas in Cartesianism, Leibnitzianism, and in
the "Aesthetic" of Baumgarten--G.B. Vico--Aesthetic doctrines in
the eighteenth century--Emmanuel Kant--The Aesthetic of Idealism
with Schiller and Hegel--Schopenhauer and Herbart--Friedrich
Schleiermacher--The philosophy of language with Humboldt and
Steinthal--Aesthetic in France, England, and Italy during the first
half of the nineteenth century--Francesco de Sanctis--The Aesthetic
of the epigoni--Positivism and aesthetic naturalism--Aesthetic
psychologism and other recent tendencies--Glance at the history
of certain particular doctrines--Conclusion.


Translation of the lecture on Pure Intuition and the lyrical nature of
art, delivered by Benedetto Croce before the International Congress of
Philosophy at Heidelberg.


There are always Americas to be discovered: the most interesting in

I can lay no claim to having discovered an America, but I do claim to
have discovered a Columbus. His name is Benedetto Croce, and he dwells
on the shores of the Mediterranean, at Naples, city of the antique

Croce's America cannot be expressed in geographical terms. It is more
important than any space of mountain and river, of forest and dale. It
belongs to the kingdom of the spirit, and has many provinces. That
province which most interests me, I have striven in the following pages
to annex to the possessions of the Anglo-Saxon race; an act which cannot
be blamed as predatory, since it may be said of philosophy more truly
than of love, that "to divide is not to take away."

The Historical Summary will show how many a brave adventurer has
navigated the perilous seas of speculation upon Art, how Aristotle's
marvellous insight gave him glimpses of its beauty, how Plato threw away
its golden fruit, how Baumgarten sounded the depth of its waters, Kant
sailed along its coast without landing, and Vico hoisted the Italian
flag upon its shore.

But Benedetto Croce has been the first thoroughly to explore it, cutting
his way inland through the tangled undergrowth of imperfect thought. He
has measured its length and breadth, marked out and described its
spiritual features with minute accuracy. The country thus won to
philosophy will always bear his name, _Estetica di Croce_, a new

It was at Naples, in the winter of 1907, that I first saw the Philosopher
of Aesthetic. Benedetto Croce, although born in the Abruzzi, Province of
Aquila (1866), is essentially a Neapolitan, and rarely remains long absent
from the city, on the shore of that magical sea, where once Ulysses
sailed, and where sometimes yet (near Amalfi) we may hear the Syrens sing
their song. But more wonderful than the song of any Syren seems to me the
Theory of Aesthetic as the Science of Expression, and that is why I have
overcome the obstacles that stood between me and the giving of this
theory, which in my belief is the truth, to the English-speaking world.

No one could have been further removed than myself, as I turned over at
Naples the pages of _La Critica_, from any idea that I was nearing the
solution of the problem of Art. All my youth it had haunted me. As an
undergraduate at Oxford I had caught the exquisite cadence of Walter
Pater's speech, as it came from his very lips, or rose like the perfume
of some exotic flower from the ribbed pages of the _Renaissance_.

Seeming to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, he solved it not--only
delighted with pure pleasure of poetry and of subtle thought as he led
one along the pathways of his Enchanted Garden, where I shall always
love to tread.

Oscar Wilde, too, I had often heard at his best, the most brilliant
talker of our time, his wit flashing in the spring sunlight of Oxford
luncheon-parties as now in his beautiful writings, like the jewelled
rapier of Mercutio. But his works, too, will be searched in vain by the
seeker after definite aesthetic truth.

With A.C. Swinburne I had sat and watched the lava that yet flowed from
those lips that were kissed in youth by all the Muses. Neither from him
nor from J.M. Whistler's brilliant aphorisms on art could be gathered
anything more than the exquisite pleasure of the moment: the
_monochronos haedonae_. Of the great pedagogues, I had known, but never
sat at the feet of Jowett, whom I found far less inspiring than any of
the great men above mentioned. Among the dead, I had studied Herbert
Spencer and Matthew Arnold, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Guyau: I had
conversed with that living Neo-Latin, Anatole France, the modern
Rousseau, and had enjoyed the marvellous irony and eloquence of his
writings, which, while they delight the society in which he lives, may
well be one of the causes that lead to its eventual destruction.

The solution of the problem of Aesthetic is not in the gift of the Muses.

To return to Naples. As I looked over those pages of the bound volumes
of _La Critica_. I soon became aware that I was in the presence of a
mind far above the ordinary level of literary criticism. The profound
studies of Carducci, of d'Annunzio, and of Pascoli (to name but three),
in which those writers passed before me in all their strength and in all
their weakness, led me to devote several days to the _Critica_. At the
end of that time I was convinced that I had made a discovery, and wrote
to the philosopher, who owns and edits that journal.

In response to his invitation, I made my way, on a sunny day in November,
past the little shops of the coral-vendors that surround, like a
necklace, the Rione de la Bellezza, and wound zigzag along the
over-crowded Toledo. I knew that Signor Croce lived in the old part of
the town, but had hardly anticipated so remarkable a change as I
experienced on passing beneath the great archway and finding myself in
old Naples. This has already been described elsewhere, and I will not
here dilate upon this world within a world, having so much of greater
interest to tell in a brief space. I will merely say that the costumes
here seemed more picturesque, the dark eyes flashed more dangerously
than elsewhere, there was a quaint life, an animation about the streets,
different from anything I had known before. As I climbed the lofty stone
steps of the Palazzo to the floor where dwells the philosopher of
Aesthetic I felt as though I had stumbled into the eighteenth century
and were calling on Giambattista Vico. After a brief inspection by a
young man with the appearance of a secretary, I was told that I was
expected, and admitted into a small room opening out of the hall.
Thence, after a few moments' waiting, I was led into a much larger room.
The walls were lined all round with bookcases, barred and numbered,
filled with volumes forming part of the philosopher's great library. I
had not long to wait. A door opened behind me on my left, and a rather
short, thick-set man advanced to greet me, and pronouncing my name at
the same time with a slight foreign accent, asked me to be seated beside
him. After the interchange of a few brief formulae of politeness in
French, our conversation was carried on in Italian, and I had a better
opportunity of studying my host's air and manner. His hands he held
clasped before him, but frequently released them, to make those vivid
gestures with which Neapolitans frequently clinch their phrase. His most
remarkable feature was his eyes, of a greenish grey: extraordinary eyes,
not for beauty, but for their fathomless depth, and for the sympathy
which one felt welling up in them from the soul beneath. This was
especially noticeable as our conversation fell upon the question of Art
and upon the many problems bound up with it. I do not know how long that
first interview lasted, but it seemed a few minutes only, during which
was displayed before me a vast panorama of unknown height and headland,
of league upon league of forest, with its bright-winged birds of thought
flying from tree to tree down the long avenues into the dim blue vistas
of the unknown.

I returned with my brain awhirl, as though I had been in fairyland, and
when I looked at the second edition of the _Estetica_, with his
inscription, I was sure of it.

These lines will suffice to show how the translation of the _Estetica_
originated from the acquaintance thus formed, which has developed into
friendship. I will now make brief mention of Benedetto Croce's other
work, especially in so far as it throws light upon the _Aesthetic_.
For this purpose, besides articles in Italian and German reviews, I
have made use of the excellent monograph on the philosopher, by G.

First, then, it will be well to point out that the _Aesthetic_ forms
part of a complete philosophical system, to which the author gives the
general title of "Philosophy of the Spirit." The _Aesthetic_ is the
first of the three volumes. The second is the _Logic_, the third the
_Philosophy of the Practical_.

In the _Logic_, as elsewhere in the system, Croce combats that false
conception, by which natural science, in the shape of psychology, makes
claim to philosophy, and formal logic to absolute value. The thesis of
the _pure concept_ cannot be discussed here. It is connected with the
logic of evolution as discovered by Hegel, and is the only logic which
contains in itself the interpretation and the continuity of reality.
Bergson in his _L'Evolution Creatrice_ deals with logic in a somewhat
similar manner. I recently heard him lecture on the distinction between
spirit and matter at the College de France, and those who read French
and Italian will find that both Croce's _Logic_ and the book above
mentioned by the French philosopher will amply repay their labour. The
conception of nature as something lying outside the spirit which informs
it, as the non-being which aspires to being, underlies all Croce's
thought, and we find constant reference to it throughout his
philosophical system.

With regard to the third volume, the _Philosophy of the Practical_, it
is impossible here to give more than a hint of its treasures. I merely
refer in passing to the treatment of the will, which is posited as a
unity _inseparable from the volitional act_. For Croce there is no
difference between action and intention, means and end: they are one
thing, inseparable as the intuition-expression of Aesthetic. The
_Philosophy of the Practical_ is a logic and science of the will, not a
normative science. Just as in Aesthetic the individuality of expression
made models and rules impossible, so in practical life the individuality
of action removes the possibility of catalogues of virtues, of the exact
application of laws, of the existence of practical judgments and
judgments of value _previous to action_.

The reader will probably ask here: But what, then, becomes of morality?
The question will be found answered in the _Theory of Aesthetic_, and I
will merely say here that Croce's thesis of the _double degree_ of the
practical activity, economic and moral, is one of the greatest
contributions to modern thought. Just as it is proved in the _Theory of
Aesthetic_ that the _concept_ depends upon the _intuition_, which is the
first degree, the primary and indispensable thing, so it is proved in
the _Philosophy of the Practical_ that _Morality_ or _Ethic_ depends
upon _Economic_, which is the _first_ degree of the practical activity.
The volitional act is _always economic_, but true freedom of the will
exists and consists in conforming not merely to economic, but to moral
conditions, to the human spirit, which is greater than any individual.
Here we are face to face with the ethics of Christianity, to which Croce
accords all honour.

This Philosophy of the Spirit is symptomatic of the happy reaction of
the twentieth century against the crude materialism of the second half
of the nineteenth. It is the spirit which gives to the work of art its
value, not this or that method of arrangement, this or that tint or
cadence, which can always be copied by skilful plagiarists: not so the
_spirit_ of the creator. In England we hear too much of (natural)
science, which has usurped the very name of Philosophy. The natural
sciences are very well in their place, but discoveries such as aviation
are of infinitely less importance to the race than the smallest addition
to the philosophy of the spirit. Empirical science, with the collusion
of positivism, has stolen the cloak of philosophy and must be made to
give it back.

Among Croce's other important contributions to thought must be mentioned
his definition of History as being aesthetic and differing from Art
solely in that history represents the _real_, art the _possible_. In
connection with this definition and its proof, the philosopher recounts
how he used to hold an opposite view. Doing everything thoroughly, he
had prepared and written out a long disquisition on this thesis, which
was already in type, when suddenly, from the midst of his meditations,
_the truth flashed upon him_. He saw for the first time clearly that
history cannot be a science, since, like art, it always deals with the
particular. Without a moment's hesitation he hastened to the printers
and bade them break up the type.

This incident is illustrative of the sincerity and good faith of
Benedetto Croce. One knows him to be severe for the faults and
weaknesses of others, merciless for his own.

Yet though severe, the editor of _La Critica_ is uncompromisingly just,
and would never allow personal dislike or jealousy, or any extrinsic
consideration, to stand in the way of fair treatment to the writer
concerned. Many superficial English critics might benefit considerably
by attention to this quality in one who is in other respects also so
immeasurably their superior. A good instance of this impartiality is his
critique of Schopenhauer, with whose system he is in complete
disagreement, yet affords him full credit for what of truth is contained
in his voluminous writings.[2]

Croce's education was largely completed in Germany, and on account of
their thoroughness he has always been an upholder of German methods. One
of his complaints against the Italian Positivists is that they only read
second-rate works in French or at the most "the dilettante booklets
published in such profusion by the Anglo-Saxon press." This tendency
towards German thought, especially in philosophy, depends upon the fact
of the former undoubted supremacy of Germany in that field, but Croce
does not for a moment admit the inferiority of the Neo-Latin races, and
adds with homely humour in reference to Germany, that we "must not throw
away the baby with the bath-water"! Close, arduous study and clear
thought are the only key to scientific (philosophical) truth, and Croce
never begins an article for a newspaper without the complete collection
of the works of the author to be criticized, and his own elaborate notes
on the table before him. Schopenhauer said there were three kinds of
writers--those who write without thinking, the great majority; those who
think while they write, not very numerous; those who write after they
have thought, very rare. Croce certainly belongs to the last division,
and, as I have said, always feeds his thought upon complete erudition.
The bibliography of the works consulted for the _Estetica_ alone, as
printed at the end of the Italian edition, extends to many pages and
contains references to works in any way dealing with the subject in all
the European languages. For instance, Croce has studied Mr. B.
Bosanquet's eclectic works on Aesthetic, largely based upon German
sources and by no means without value. But he takes exception to Mr.
Bosanquet's statement that _he_ has consulted all works of importance on
the subject of Aesthetic. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bosanquet reveals his
ignorance of the greater part of the contribution to Aesthetic made by
the Neo-Latin races, which the reader of this book will recognize as of
first-rate importance.

This thoroughness it is which gives such importance to the literary and
philosophical criticisms of _La Critica_. Croce's method is always
historical, and his object in approaching any work of art is to classify
the spirit of its author, as expressed in that work. There are, he
maintains, but two things to be considered in criticizing a book. These
are, _firstly_, what is its _peculiarity_, in what way is it singular,
how is it differentiated from other works? _Secondly_, what is its
degree of purity?--That is, to what extent has its author kept himself
free from all considerations alien to the perfection of the work as an
expression, as a lyrical intuition? With the answering of these
questions Croce is satisfied. He does not care to know if the author
keep a motor-car, like Maeterlinck; or prefer to walk on Putney Heath,
like Swinburne. This amounts to saying that all works of art must be
judged by their own standard. How far has the author succeeded in doing
what he intended?

Croce is far above any personal animus, although the same cannot be said
of those he criticizes. These, like d'Annunzio, whose limitations he
points out--his egoism, his lack of human sympathy--are often very
bitter, and accuse the penetrating critic of want of courtesy. This
seriousness of purpose runs like a golden thread through all Croce's
work. The flimsy superficial remarks on poetry and fiction which too
often pass for criticism in England (Scotland is a good deal more
thorough) are put to shame by _La Critica_, the study of which I commend
to all readers who read or wish to read Italian.[3] They will find in
its back numbers a complete picture of a century of Italian literature,
besides a store-house of philosophical criticism. The _Quarterly_ and
_Edinburgh Reviews_ are our only journals which can be compared to _The
Critica_, and they are less exhaustive on the philosophical side. We
should have to add to these _Mind_ and the _Hibbert Journal_ to get even
an approximation to the scope of the Italian review.

As regards Croce's general philosophical position, it is important to
understand that he is _not_ a Hegelian, in the sense of being a close
follower of that philosopher. One of his last works is that in which he
deals in a masterly manner with the philosophy of Hegel. The title may
be translated, "What is living and what is dead of the philosophy of
Hegel." Here he explains to us the Hegelian system more clearly than
that wondrous edifice was ever before explained, and we realize at the
same time that Croce is quite as independent of Hegel as of Kant, of
Vico as of Spinoza. Of course he has made use of the best of Hegel, just
as every thinker makes use of his predecessors and is in his turn made
use of by those that follow him. But it is incorrect to accuse of
Hegelianism the author of an anti-hegelian _Aesthetic_, of a _Logic_
where Hegel is only half accepted, and of a _Philosophy of the
Practical_, which contains hardly a trace of Hegel. I give an instance.
If the great conquest of Hegel be the dialectic of opposites, his great
mistake lies in the confusion of opposites with things which are
distinct but not opposite. If, says Croce, we take as an example the
application of the Hegelian triad that formulates becoming (affirmation,
negation and synthesis), we find it applicable for those opposites which
are true and false, good and evil, being and not-being, but _not
applicable_ to things which are distinct but not opposite, such as art
and philosophy, beauty and truth, the useful and the moral. These
confusions led Hegel to talk of the death of art, to conceive as
possible a Philosophy of History, and to the application of the natural
sciences to the absurd task of constructing a Philosophy of Nature.
Croce has cleared away these difficulties by shewing that if from the
meeting of opposites must arise a superior synthesis, such a synthesis
cannot arise from things which are distinct _but not opposite_, since
the former are connected together as superior and inferior, and the
inferior can exist without the superior, but _not vice versa_. Thus we
see how philosophy cannot exist without art, while art, occupying the
lower place, can and does exist without philosophy. This brief example
reveals Croce's independence in dealing with Hegelian problems.

I know of no philosopher more generous than Croce in praise and
elucidation of other workers in the same field, past and present. For
instance, and apart from Hegel, _Kant_ has to thank him for drawing
attention to the marvellous excellence of the _Critique of Judgment_,
generally neglected in favour of the Critiques of _Pure Reason and of
Practical Judgment_; _Baumgarten_ for drawing the attention of the world
to his obscure name and for reprinting his Latin thesis in which the
word _Aesthetic_ occurs for the first time; and _Schleiermacher_ for the
tributes paid to his neglected genius in the History of Aesthetic. _La
Critica_, too, is full of generous appreciation of contemporaries by
Croce and by that profound thinker, Gentile.

But it is not only philosophers who have reason to be grateful to Croce
for his untiring zeal and diligence. Historians, economists, poets,
actors, and writers of fiction have been rescued from their undeserved
limbo by this valiant Red Cross knight, and now shine with due
brilliance in the circle of their peers. It must also be admitted that a
large number of false lights, popular will o' the wisps, have been
ruthlessly extinguished with the same breath. For instance, Karl Marx,
the socialist theorist and agitator, finds in Croce an exponent of his
views, in so far as they are based upon the truth, but where he
blunders, his critic immediately reveals the origin and nature of his
mistakes. Croce's studies in Economic are chiefly represented by his
work, the title of which may be translated "Historical Materialism and
Marxist Economic."

To indicate the breadth and variety of Croce's work I will mention the
further monograph on the sixteenth century Neapolitan Pulcinella (the
original of our Punch), and the personage of the Neapolitan in comedy, a
monument of erudition and of acute and of lively dramatic criticism,
that would alone have occupied an ordinary man's activity for half a
lifetime. One must remember, however, that Croce's average working day
is of ten hours. His interest is concentrated on things of the mind, and
although he sits on several Royal Commissions, such as those of the
Archives of all Italy and of the monument to King Victor Emmanuel, he
has taken no university degree, and much dislikes any affectation of
academic superiority. He is ready to meet any one on equal terms and try
with them to get at the truth on any subject, be it historical,
literary, or philosophical. "Truth," he says, "is democratic," and I can
testify that the search for it, in his company, is very stimulating. As
is well said by Prezzolini, "He has a new word for all."

There can be no doubt of the great value of Croce's work as an
_educative influence_, and if we are to judge of a philosophical system
by its action on others, then we must place the _Philosophy of the
Spirit_ very high. It may be said with perfect truth that since the
death of the poet Carducci there has been no influence in Italy to
compare with that of Benedetto Croce.

His dislike of Academies and of all forms of prejudice runs parallel
with his breadth and sympathy with all forms of thought. His activity in
the present is only equalled by his reverence for the past. Naples he
loves with the blind love of the child for its parent, and he has been
of notable assistance to such Neapolitan talent as is manifested in the
works of Salvatore di Giacomo, whose best poems are written in the
dialect of Naples, or rather in a dialect of his own, which Croce had
difficulty in persuading the author always to retain. The original jet
of inspiration having been in dialect, it is clear that to amend this
inspiration at the suggestion of wiseacres at the Cafe would have been
to ruin it altogether.

Of the popularity that his system and teaching have already attained we
may judge by the fact that the _Aesthetic_[4], despite the difficulty of
the subject, is already in its third edition in Italy, where, owing to
its influence, philosophy sells better than fiction; while the French
and Germans, not to mention the Czechs, have long had translations of
the earlier editions. His _Logic_ is on the point of appearing in its
second edition, and I have no doubt that the _Philosophy of the
Practical_ will eventually equal these works in popularity. _The
importance and value of Italian thought have been too long neglected in
Great Britain_. Where, as in Benedetto Croce, we get the clarity of
vision of the Latin, joined to the thoroughness and erudition of the
best German tradition, we have a combination of rare power and
effectiveness, which can by no means be neglected.

The philosopher feels that he has a great mission, which is nothing less
than the leading back of thought to belief in the spirit, deserted by so
many for crude empiricism and positivism. His view of philosophy is that
it sums up all the higher human activities, including religion, and that
in proper hands it is able to solve any problem. But there is no
finality about problems: the solution of one leads to the posing of
another, and so on. Man is the maker of life, and his spirit ever
proceeds from a lower to a higher perfection. Connected with this view
of life is Croce's dislike of "Modernism." When once a problem has been
correctly solved, it is absurd to return to the same problem. Roman
Catholicism cannot march with the times. It can only exist by being
conservative--its only Logic is to be illogical. Therefore, Croce is
opposed to Loisy and Neo-Catholicism, and supports the Encyclical
against Modernism. The Catholic religion, with its great stores of myth
and morality, which for many centuries was the best thing in the world,
is still there for those who are unable to assimilate other food.
Another instance of his dislike for Modernism is his criticism of
Pascoli, whose attempts to reveal enigmas in the writings of Dante he
looks upon as useless. We do not, he says, read Dante in the twentieth
century for his hidden meanings, but for his revealed poetry.

I believe that Croce will one day be recognized as one of the very few
great teachers of humanity. At present he is not appreciated at nearly
his full value. One rises from a study of his philosophy with a sense of
having been all the time as it were in personal touch with the truth,
which is very far from the case after the perusal of certain other

Croce has been called the philosopher-poet, and if we take philosophy as
Novalis understood it, certainly Croce does belong to the poets, though
not to the formal category of those who write in verse. Croce is at any
rate a born philosopher, and as every trade tends to make its object
prosaic, so does every vocation tend to make it poetic. Yet no one has
toiled more earnestly than Croce. "Thorough" might well be his motto,
and if to-day he is admitted to be a classic without the stiffness one
connects with that term, be sure he has well merited the designation.
His name stands for the best that Italy has to give the world of
serious, stimulating thought. I know nothing to equal it elsewhere.

Secure in his strength, Croce will often introduce a joke or some
amusing illustration from contemporary life, in the midst of a most
profound and serious argument. This spirit of mirth is a sign of
superiority. He who is not sure of himself can spare no energy for the
making of mirth. Croce loves to laugh at his enemies and with his
friends. So the philosopher of Naples sits by the blue gulf and explains
the universe to those who have ears to hear. "One can philosophize
anywhere," he says--but he remains significantly at Naples.

Thus I conclude these brief remarks upon the author of the _Aesthetic_,
confident that those who give time and attention to its study will be
grateful for having placed in their hands this pearl of great price from
the diadem of the antique Parthenope.



[1] Napoli, Riccardo Ricciardi, 1909.

[2] The reader will find this critique summarized in the historical
portion of this volume.

[3] _La Critica_ is published every other month by Laterza of Bari.

[4] This translation is made from the third Italian edition (Bari,
1909), enlarged and corrected by the author. The _Theory of
Aesthetic_ first appeared in 1900 in the form of a communication
to the _Accademia Pontiana_ of Naples, vol. xxx. The first edition
is dated 1902, the second 1904 (Palermo).



[Sidenote] _Intuitive knowledge._

Human knowledge has two forms: it is either intuitive knowledge or
logical knowledge; knowledge obtained through the imagination or
knowledge obtained through the intellect; knowledge of the individual or
knowledge of the universal; of individual things or of the relations
between them: it is, in fact, productive either of images or of

In ordinary life, constant appeal is made to intuitive knowledge. It
is said to be impossible to give expression to certain truths; that
they are not demonstrable by syllogisms; that they must be learnt
intuitively. The politician finds fault with the abstract reasoner, who
is without a lively knowledge of actual conditions; the pedagogue
insists upon the necessity of developing the intuitive faculty in the
pupil before everything else; the critic in judging a work of art makes
it a point of honour to set aside theory and abstractions, and to judge
it by direct intuition; the practical man professes to live rather by
intuition than by reason.

But this ample acknowledgment, granted to intuitive knowledge in
ordinary life, does not meet with an equal and adequate acknowledgment
in the field of theory and of philosophy. There exists a very ancient
science of intellective knowledge, admitted by all without discussion,
namely, Logic; but a science of intuitive knowledge is timidly and with
difficulty admitted by but a few. Logical knowledge has appropriated the
lion's share; and if she does not quite slay and devour her companion,
yet yields to her with difficulty the humble little place of maidservant
or doorkeeper. What, it says, is intuitive knowledge without the light
of intellective knowledge? It is a servant without a master; and though
a master find a servant useful, the master is a necessity to the
servant, since he enables him to gain his livelihood. Intuition is
blind; Intellect lends her eyes.

[Sidenote] _Its independence in respect to intellective knowledge._

Now, the first point to be firmly fixed in the mind is that intuitive
knowledge has no need of a master, nor to lean upon any one; she does
not need to borrow the eyes of others, for she has most excellent eyes
of her own. Doubtless it is possible to find concepts mingled with
intuitions. But in many other intuitions there is no trace of such a
mixture, which proves that it is not necessary. The impression of a
moonlight scene by a painter; the outline of a country drawn by a
cartographer; a musical motive, tender or energetic; the words of a
sighing lyric, or those with which we ask, command and lament in
ordinary life, may well all be intuitive facts without a shadow of
intellective relation. But, think what one may of these instances, and
admitting further that one may maintain that the greater part of the
intuitions of civilized man are impregnated with concepts, there yet
remains to be observed something more important and more conclusive.
Those concepts which are found mingled and fused with the intuitions,
are no longer concepts, in so far as they are really mingled and fused,
for they have lost all independence and autonomy. They have been
concepts, but they have now become simple elements of intuition.
The philosophical maxims placed in the mouth of a personage of tragedy
or of comedy, perform there the function, not of concepts, but of
characteristics of such personage; in the same way as the red in a
painted figure does not there represent the red colour of the
physicists, but is a characteristic element of the portrait. The whole
it is that determines the quality of the parts. A work of art may be
full of philosophical concepts; it may contain them in greater
abundance and they may be there even more profound than in a
philosophical dissertation, which in its turn may be rich to
overflowing with descriptions and intuitions. But, notwithstanding all
these concepts it may contain, the result of the work of art is an
intuition; and notwithstanding all those intuitions, the result of the
philosophical dissertation is a concept. The _Promessi Sposi_ contains
copious ethical observations and distinctions, but it does not for
that reason lose in its total effect its character of simple story, of
intuition. In like manner the anecdotes and satirical effusions which
may be found in the works of a philosopher like Schopenhauer, do not
remove from those works their character of intellective treatises. The
difference between a scientific work and a work of art, that is,
between an intellective fact and an intuitive fact lies in the result,
in the diverse effect aimed at by their respective authors. This it is
that determines and rules over the several parts of each.

[Sidenote] _Intuition and perception._

But to admit the independence of intuition as regards concept does not
suffice to give a true and precise idea of intuition. Another error
arises among those who recognize this, or who, at any rate, do not make
intuition explicitly dependent upon the intellect. This error obscures
and confounds the real nature of intuition. By intuition is frequently
understood the _perception_ or knowledge of actual reality, the
apprehension of something as _real_.

Certainly perception is intuition: the perception of the room in which I
am writing, of the ink-bottle and paper that are before me, of the pen I
am using, of the objects that I touch and make use of as instruments of
my person, which, if it write, therefore exists;--these are all
intuitions. But the image that is now passing through my brain of a me
writing in another room, in another town, with different paper, pen and
ink, is also an intuition. This means that the distinction between
reality and non-reality is extraneous, secondary, to the true nature of
intuition. If we assume the existence of a human mind which should have
intuitions for the first time, it would seem that it could have
intuitions of effective reality only, that is to say, that it could have
perceptions of nothing but the real. But if the knowledge of reality be
based upon the distinction between real images and unreal images, and if
this distinction does not originally exist, these intuitions would in
truth not be intuitions either of the real or of the unreal, but pure
intuitions. Where all is real, nothing is real. The child, with its
difficulty of distinguishing true from false, history from fable, which
are all one to childhood, can furnish us with a sort of very vague and
only remotely approximate idea of this ingenuous state. Intuition is the
indifferentiated unity of the perception of the real and of the simple
image of the possible. In our intuitions we do not oppose ourselves to
external reality as empirical beings, but we simply objectify our
impressions, whatever they be.

[Sidenote] _Intuition and the concepts of space and time._

Those, therefore, who look upon intuition as sensation formed and
arranged simply according to the categories of space and time, would
seem to approximate more nearly to the truth. Space and time (they say)
are the forms of intuition; to have intuitions is to place in space and
in temporal sequence. Intuitive activity would then consist in this
double and concurrent function of spatiality and temporality. But for
these two categories must be repeated what was said of intellectual
distinctions, found mingled with intuitions. We have intuitions without
space and without time: a tint of sky and a tint of sentiment, an Ah! of
pain and an effort of will, objectified in consciousness. These are
intuitions, which we possess, and with their making, space and time have
nothing to do. In some intuitions, spatiality may be found without
temporality, in others, this without that; and even where both are
found, they are perceived by posterior reflexion: they can be fused with
the intuition in like manner with all its other elements: that is, they
are in it _materialiter_ and not _formaliter_, as ingredients and not as
essentials. Who, without a similar act of interruptive reflexion, is
conscious of temporal sequence while listening to a story or a piece of
music? That which intuition reveals in a work of art is not space and
time, but character, individual physiognomy. Several attempts may be
noted in modern philosophy, which confirm the view here exposed. Space
and time, far from being very simple and primitive functions, are shown
to be intellectual constructions of great complexity. And further, even
in some of those who do not altogether deny to space and time the
quality of forming or of categories and functions, one may observe the
attempt to unify and to understand them in a different manner from that
generally maintained in respect of these categories. Some reduce
intuition to the unique category of spatiality, maintaining that time
also can only be conceived in terms of space. Others abandon the three
dimensions of space as not philosophically necessary, and conceive the
function of spatiality as void of every particular spatial
determination. But what could such a spatial function be, that should
control even time? May it not be a residuum of criticisms and of
negations from which arises merely the necessity to posit a generic
intuitive activity? And is not this last truly determined, when one
unique function is attributed to it, not spatializing nor temporalizing,
but characterizing? Or, better, when this is conceived as itself a
category or function, which gives knowledge of things in their
concretion and individuality?

[Sidenote] _Intuition and sensation._

Having thus freed intuitive knowledge from any suggestion of
intellectualism and from every posterior and external adjunct, we must
now make clear and determine its limits from another side and from a
different kind of invasion and confusion. On the other side, and before
the inferior boundary, is sensation, formless matter, which the spirit
can never apprehend in itself, in so far as it is mere matter. This it
can only possess with form and in form, but postulates its concept as,
precisely, a limit. Matter, in its abstraction, is mechanism, passivity;
it is what the spirit of man experiences, but does not produce. Without
it no human knowledge and activity is possible; but mere matter produces
animality, whatever is brutal and impulsive in man, not the spiritual
dominion, which is humanity. How often do we strive to understand
clearly what is passing within us? We do catch a glimpse of something,
but this does not appear to the mind as objectified and formed. In such
moments it is, that we best perceive the profound difference between
matter and form. These are not two acts of ours, face to face with one
another; but we assault and carry off the one that is outside us, while
that within us tends to absorb and make its own that without. Matter,
attacked and conquered by form, gives place to concrete form. It is the
matter, the content, that differentiates one of our intuitions from
another: form is constant: it is spiritual activity, while matter is
changeable. Without matter, however, our spiritual activity would not
leave its abstraction to become concrete and real, this or that
spiritual content, this or that definite intuition.

It is a curious fact, characteristic of our times, that this very form,
this very activity of the spirit, which is essentially ourselves, is so
easily ignored or denied. Some confound the spiritual activity of man
with the metaphorical and mythological activity of so-called nature,
which is mechanism and has no resemblance to human activity, save when
we imagine, with Aesop, that _arbores loquuntur non tantum ferae_. Some
even affirm that they have never observed in themselves this
"miraculous" activity, as though there were no difference, or only one
of quantity, between sweating and thinking, feeling cold and the energy
of the will. Others, certainly with greater reason, desire to unify
activity and mechanism in a more general concept, though admitting that
they are specifically distinct. Let us, however, refrain for the moment
from examining if such a unification be possible, and in what sense, but
admitting that the attempt may be made, it is clear that to unify two
concepts in a third implies a difference between the two first. And here
it is this difference that is of importance and we set it in relief.

[Sidenote] _Intuition and association._

Intuition has often been confounded with simple sensation. But, since
this confusion is too shocking to good sense, it has more frequently
been attenuated or concealed with a phraseology which seems to wish to
confuse and to distinguish them at the same time. Thus, it has been
asserted that intuition is sensation, but not so much simple sensation
as _association_ of sensations. The equivoque arises precisely from the
word "association." Association is understood, either as memory,
mnemonic association, conscious recollection, and in that case is
evident the absurdity of wishing to join together in memory elements
which are not intuified, distinguished, possessed in some way by the
spirit and produced by consciousness: or it is understood as association
of unconscious elements. In this case we remain in the world of
sensation and of nature. Further, if with certain associationists we
speak of an association which is neither memory nor flux of sensations,
but is a _productive_ association (formative, constructive,
distinguishing); then we admit the thing itself and deny only its name.
In truth, productive association is no longer association in the sense
of the sensualists, but _synthesis_, that is to say, spiritual activity.
Synthesis may be called association; but with the concept of
productivity is already posited the distinction between passivity and
activity, between sensation and intuition.

[Sidenote] _Intuition and representation._

Other psychologists are disposed to distinguish from sensation something
which is sensation no longer, but is not yet intellective concept: _the
representation or image_. What is the difference between their
representation or image, and our intuitive knowledge? The greatest, and
none at all. "Representation," too, is a very equivocal word. If by
representation be understood something detached and standing out from
the psychic base of the sensations, then representation is intuition.
If, on the other hand, it be conceived as a complex sensation, a return
is made to simple sensation, which does not change its quality according
to its richness or poverty, operating alike in a rudimentary or in a
developed organism full of traces of past sensations. Nor is the
equivoque remedied by defining representation as a psychic product of
secondary order in relation to sensation, which should occupy the first
place. What does secondary order mean here? Does it mean a qualitative,
a formal difference? If so, we agree: representation is elaboration of
sensation, it is intuition. Or does it mean greater complexity and
complication, a quantitative, material difference? In that case
intuition would be again confused with simple sensation.

[Sidenote] _Intuition and expression._

And yet there is a sure method of distinguishing true intuition, true
representation, from that which is inferior to it: the spiritual fact
from the mechanical, passive, natural fact. Every true intuition or
representation is, also, _expression_. That which does not objectify
itself in expression is not intuition or representation, but sensation
and naturality. The spirit does not obtain intuitions, otherwise than by
making, forming, expressing. He who separates intuition from expression
never succeeds in reuniting them.

_Intuitive activity possesses intuitions to the extent that it expresses
them_.--Should this expression seem at first paradoxical, that is
chiefly because, as a general rule, a too restricted meaning is given to
the word "expression." It is generally thought of as restricted to
verbal expression. But there exist also non-verbal expressions, such as
those of line, colour, and sound; to all of these must be extended our
affirmation. The intuition and expression together of a painter are
pictorial; those of a poet are verbal. But be it pictorial, or verbal,
or musical, or whatever else it be called, to no intuition can
expression be wanting, because it is an inseparable part of intuition.
How can we possess a true intuition of a geometrical figure, unless we
possess so accurate an image of it as to be able to trace it immediately
upon paper or on a slate? How can we have an intuition of the contour of
a region, for example, of the island of Sicily, if we are not able to
draw it as it is in all its meanderings? Every one can experience the
internal illumination which follows upon his success in formulating to
himself his impressions and sentiments, but only so far as he is able to
formulate them. Sentiments or impressions, then, pass by means of words
from the obscure region of the soul into the clarity of the
contemplative spirit. In this cognitive process it is impossible to
distinguish intuition from expression. The one is produced with the
other at the same instant, because they are not two, but one.

[Sidenote] _Illusions as to their difference._

The principal reason which makes our theme appear paradoxical as we
maintain it, is the illusion or prejudice that we possess a more
complete intuition of reality than we really do. One often hears people
say that they have in their minds many important thoughts, but that they
are not able to express them. In truth, if they really had them, they
would have coined them into beautiful, ringing words, and thus expressed
them. If these thoughts seem to vanish or to become scarce and poor in
the act of expressing them, either they did not exist or they really
were scarce and poor. People think that all of us ordinary men imagine
and have intuitions of countries, figures and scenes, like painters; of
bodies, like sculptors; save that painters and sculptors know how to
paint and to sculpture those images, while we possess them only within
our souls. They believe that anyone could have imagined a Madonna of
Raphael; but that Raphael was Raphael owing to his technical ability in
putting the Madonna upon the canvas. Nothing can be more false than this
view. The world of which as a rule we have intuitions, is a small thing.
It consists of little expressions which gradually become greater and
more ample with the increasing spiritual concentration of certain
moments. These are the sort of words which we speak within ourselves,
the judgments that we tacitly express: "Here is a man, here is a horse,
this is heavy, this is hard, this pleases me," etc. It is a medley of
light and colour, which could not pictorially attain to any more sincere
expression than a haphazard splash of colours, from among which would
with difficulty stand out a few special, distinctive traits. This and
nothing else is what we possess in our ordinary life; this is the basis
of our ordinary action. It is the index of a book. The labels tied to
things take the place of the things themselves. This index and labels
(which are themselves expressions) suffice for our small needs and small
actions. From time to time we pass from the index to the book, from the
label to the thing, or from the slight to the greater intuitions, and
from these to the greatest and most lofty. This passage is sometimes far
from being easy. It has been observed by those who have best studied the
psychology of artists, that when, after having given a rapid glance at
anyone, they attempt to obtain a true intuition of him, in order, for
example, to paint his portrait, then this ordinary vision, that seemed
so precise, so lively, reveals itself as little better than nothing.
What remains is found to be at the most some superficial trait, which
would not even suffice for a caricature. The person to be painted stands
before the artist like a world to discover. Michael Angelo said, "one
paints, not with one's hands, but with one's brain." Leonardo shocked
the prior of the convent delle Grazie by standing for days together
opposite the "Last Supper" without touching it with the brush. He
remarked of this attitude "that men of the most lofty genius, when they
are doing the least work, are then the most active, seeking invention
with their minds." The painter is a painter, because he sees what others
only feel or catch a glimpse of, but do not see. We think we see a
smile, but in reality we have only a vague impression of it, we do not
perceive all the characteristic traits from which it results, as the
painter perceives them after his internal meditations, which thus enable
him to fix them on the canvas. Even in the case of our intimate friend,
who is with us every day and at all hours, we do not possess intuitively
more than, at the most, certain traits of his physiognomy, which enable
us to distinguish him from others. The illusion is less easy as regards
musical expression; because it would seem strange to everyone to say
that the composer had added or attached notes to the motive, which is
already in the mind of him who is not the composer. As if Beethoven's
Ninth Symphony were not his own intuition and his own intuition the
Ninth Symphony. Thus, just as he who is deceived as to his material
wealth is confuted by arithmetic, which states its exact amount, so is
he confuted who nourishes delusions as to the wealth of his own thoughts
and images. He is brought back to reality, when he is obliged to cross
the Bridge of Asses of expression. We say to the former, count; to the
latter, speak, here is a pencil, draw, express yourself.

We have each of us, as a matter of fact, a little of the poet, of the
sculptor, of the musician, of the painter, of the prose writer: but how
little, as compared with those who are so called, precisely because of
the lofty degree in which they possess the most universal dispositions
and energies of human nature! How little does a painter possess of the
intuitions of a poet! How little does one painter possess those of
another painter! Nevertheless, that little is all our actual patrimony
of intuitions or representations. Beyond these are only impressions,
sensations, feelings, impulses, emotions, or whatever else one may term
what is outside the spirit, not assimilated by man, postulated for the
convenience of exposition, but effectively inexistent, if existence be
also a spiritual fact.

[Sidenote] _Identity of intuition and expression._

We may then add this to the verbal variants descriptive of intuition,
noted at the beginning: intuitive knowledge is expressive knowledge,
independent and autonomous in respect to intellectual function;
indifferent to discriminations, posterior and empirical, to reality and
to unreality, to formations and perceptions of space and time, even when
posterior: intuition or representation is distinguished as form from
what is felt and suffered, from the flux or wave of sensation, or from
psychic material; and this form this taking possession of, is
expression. To have an intuition is to express. It is nothing else!
(nothing more, but nothing less) than _to express_.



[Sidenote] _Corollaries and explanations._

Before proceeding further, it seems opportune to draw certain
consequences from what has been established and to add some explanation.

[Sidenote] _Identity of art and intuitive knowledge._

We have frankly identified intuitive or expressive knowledge with the
aesthetic or artistic fact, taking works of art as examples of intuitive
knowledge and attributing to them the characteristics of intuition, and
_vice versa_. But our identification is combated by the view, held even
by many philosophers, who consider art to be an intuition of an
altogether special sort. "Let us admit" (they say) "that art is
intuition; but intuition is not always art: artistic intuition is of a
distinct species differing from intuition in general by something

[Sidenote] _No specific difference._

But no one has ever been able to indicate of what this something more
consists. It has sometimes been thought that art is not a simple
intuition, but an intuition of an intuition, in the same way as the
concept of science has been defined, not as the ordinary concept, but as
the concept of a concept. Thus man should attain to art, by
objectifying, not his sensations, as happens with ordinary intuition,
but intuition itself. But this process of raising to a second power does
not exist; and the comparison of it with the ordinary and scientific
concept does not imply what is wished, for the good reason that it is
not true that the scientific concept is the concept of a concept. If
this comparison imply anything, it implies just the opposite. The
ordinary concept, if it be really a concept and not a simple
representation, is a perfect concept, however poor and limited. Science
substitutes concepts for representations; it adds and substitutes other
concepts larger and more comprehensive for those that are poor and
limited. It is ever discovering new relations. But its method does not
differ from that by which is formed the smallest universal in the brain
of the humblest of men. What is generally called art, by antonomasia,
collects intuitions that are wider and more complex than those which we
generally experience, but these intuitions are always of sensations and

Art is the expression of impressions, not the expression of expressions.

[Sidenote] _No difference of intensity._

For the same reason, it cannot be admitted that intuition, which is
generally called artistic, differs from ordinary intuition as to
intensity. This would be the case if it were to operate differently on
the same matter. But since artistic function is more widely distributed
in different fields, but yet does not differ in method from ordinary
intuition, the difference between the one and the other is not intensive
but extensive. The intuition of the simplest popular love-song, which
says the same thing, or very nearly, as a declaration of love such as
issues at every moment from the lips of thousands of ordinary men, may
be intensively perfect in its poor simplicity, although it be
extensively so much more limited than the complex intuition of a
love-song by Leopardi.

[Sidenote] _The difference is extensive and empirical._

The whole difference, then, is quantitative, and as such, indifferent to
philosophy, _scientia qualitatum_. Certain men have a greater aptitude,
a more frequent inclination fully to express certain complex states of
the soul. These men are known in ordinary language as artists. Some very
complicated and difficult expressions are more rarely achieved and these
are called works of art. The limits of the expressions and intuitions
that are called art, as opposed to those that are vulgarly called
not-art, are empirical and impossible to define. If an epigram be art,
why not a single word? If a story; why not the occasional note of the
journalist? If a landscape, why not a topographical sketch? The teacher
of philosophy in Moliere's comedy was right: "whenever we speak we
create prose." But there will always be scholars like Monsieur Jourdain,
astonished at having created prose for forty years without knowing it,
and who will have difficulty in persuading themselves that when they
call their servant John to bring their slippers, they have spoken
nothing less than--prose.

We must hold firmly to our identification, because among the principal
reasons which have prevented Aesthetic, the science of art, from
revealing the true nature of art, its real roots in human nature, has
been its separation from the general spiritual life, the having made of
it a sort of special function or aristocratic circle. No one is
astonished when he learns from physiology that every cellule is an
organism and every organism a cellule or synthesis of cellules. No one
is astonished at finding in a lofty mountain the same chemical elements
that compose a small stone or fragment. There is not one physiology of
small animals and one of large animals; nor is there a special chemical
theory of stones as distinct from mountains. In the same way, there is
not a science of lesser intuition distinct from a science of greater
intuition, nor one of ordinary intuition distinct from artistic
intuition. There is but one Aesthetic, the science of intuitive or
expressive knowledge, which is the aesthetic or artistic fact. And this
Aesthetic is the true analogy of Logic. Logic includes, as facts of the
same nature, the formation of the smallest and most ordinary concept and
the most complicated scientific and philosophical system.

[Sidenote] _Artistic genius._

Nor can we admit that the word _genius_ or artistic genius, as distinct
from the non-genius of the ordinary man, possesses more than a
quantitative signification. Great artists are said to reveal us to
ourselves. But how could this be possible, unless there be identity of
nature between their imagination and ours, and unless the difference be
only one of quantity? It were well to change _poeta nascitur_ into _homo
nascitur poeta_: some men are born great poets, some small. The cult and
superstition of the genius has arisen from this quantitative difference
having been taken as a difference of quality. It has been forgotten that
genius is not something that has fallen from heaven, but humanity
itself. The man of genius, who poses or is represented as distant from
humanity, finds his punishment in becoming or appearing somewhat
ridiculous. Examples of this are the _genius_ of the romantic period and
the _superman_ of our time.

But it is well to note here, that those who claim unconsciousness as the
chief quality of an artistic genius, hurl him from an eminence far above
humanity to a position far below it. Intuitive or artistic genius, like
every form of human activity, is always conscious; otherwise it would be
blind mechanism. The only thing that may be wanting to the artistic
genius is the _reflective_ consciousness, the superadded consciousness
of the historian or critic, which is not essential to artistic genius.

[Sidenote] _Content and form in Aesthetic._

The relation between matter and form, or between _content and form_, as
it is generally called, is one of the most disputed questions in
Aesthetic. Does the aesthetic fact consist of content alone, or of form
alone, or of both together? This question has taken on various meanings,
which we shall mention, each in its place. But when these words are
taken as signifying what we have above defined, and matter is understood
as emotivity not aesthetically elaborated, that is to say, impressions,
and form elaboration, intellectual activity and expression, then our
meaning cannot be doubtful. We must, therefore, reject the thesis that
makes the aesthetic fact to consist of the content alone (that is, of
the simple impressions), in like manner with that other thesis, which
makes it to consist of a junction between form and content, that is, of
impressions plus expressions. In the aesthetic fact, the aesthetic
activity is not added to the fact of the impressions, but these latter
are formed and elaborated by it. The impressions reappear as it were in
expression, like water put into a filter, which reappears the same and
yet different on the other side. The aesthetic fact, therefore, is form,
and nothing but form.

From this it results, not that the content is something superfluous (it
is, on the contrary, the necessary point of departure for the expressive
fact); but that _there is no passage_ between the quality of the content
and that of the form. It has sometimes been thought that the content, in
order to be aesthetic, that is to say, transformable into form, should
possess some determinate or determinable quality. But were that so, then
form and content, expression and impression, would be the same thing. It
is true that the content is that which is convertible into form, but it
has no determinable qualities until this transformation takes place. We
know nothing of its nature. It does not become aesthetic content at
once, but only when it has been effectively transformed. Aesthetic
content has also been defined as what is _interesting_. That is not an
untrue statement; it is merely void of meaning. What, then, is
interesting? Expressive activity? Certainly the expressive activity
would not have raised the content to the dignity of form, had it not
been interested. The fact of its having been interested is precisely the
fact of its raising the content to the dignity of form. But the word
"interesting" has also been employed in another not illegitimate sense,
which we shall explain further on.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the imitation of nature and of the artistic

The proposition that art is _imitation of nature_ has also several
meanings. Now truth has been maintained or at least shadowed with these
words, now error. More frequently, nothing definite has been thought.
One of the legitimate scientific meanings occurs when imitation is
understood as representation or intuition of nature, a form of
knowledge. And when this meaning has been understood, by placing in
greater relief the spiritual character of the process, the other
proposition becomes also legitimate: namely, that art is the
_idealization_ or _idealizing_ imitation of nature. But if by imitation
of nature be understood that art gives mechanical reproductions, more or
less perfect duplicates of natural objects, before which the same tumult
of impressions caused by natural objects begins over again, then the
proposition is evidently false. The painted wax figures that seem to be
alive, and before which we stand astonished in the museums where such
things are shown, do not give aesthetic intuitions. Illusion and
hallucination have nothing to do with the calm domain of artistic
intuition. If an artist paint the interior of a wax-work museum, or if
an actor give a burlesque portrait of a man-statue on the stage, we
again have spiritual labour and artistic intuition. Finally, if
photography have anything in it of artistic, it will be to the extent
that it transmits the intuition of the photographer, his point of view,
the pose and the grouping which he has striven to attain. And if it be
not altogether art, that is precisely because the element of nature in
it remains more or less insubordinate and ineradicable. Do we ever,
indeed, feel complete satisfaction before even the best of photographs?
Would not an artist vary and touch up much or little, remove or add
something to any of them?

[Sidenote] _Critique of art conceived as a sentimental not a
theoretical fact. Aesthetic appearance and feeling._

The statements repeated so often, with others similar, that art is not
knowledge, that it does not tell the truth, that it does not belong to
the world of theory, but to the world of feeling, arise from the failure
to realize exactly the theoretic character of the simple intuition. This
simple intuition is quite distinct from intellectual knowledge, as it is
distinct from the perception of the real. The belief that only the
intellective is knowledge, or at the most also the perception of the
real, also arises from the failure to grasp the theoretic character of
the simple intuition. We have seen that intuition is knowledge, free of
concepts and more simple than the so-called perception of the real.
Since art is knowledge and form, it does not belong to the world of
feeling and of psychic material. The reason why so many aestheticians
have so often insisted that art is _appearance_ (_Schein_), is precisely
because they have felt the necessity of distinguishing it from the more
complex fact of perception by maintaining its pure intuitivity. For the
same reason it has been claimed that art is _sentiment_. In fact, if the
concept as content of art, and historical reality as such, be excluded,
there remains no other content than reality apprehended in all its
ingenuousness and immediateness in the vital effort, in _sentiment_,
that is to say, pure intuition.

[Sidenote] _Critique of theory of aesthetic senses._

The theory of the _aesthetic senses_ has also arisen from the failure to
establish, or from having lost to view the character of the expression
as distinct from the impression, of the form as distinct from the

As has just been pointed out, this reduces itself to the error of
wishing to seek a passage from the quality of the content to that of the
form. To ask, in fact, what the aesthetic senses may be, implies asking
what sensible impressions may be able to enter into aesthetic
expressions, and what must of necessity do so. To this we must at once
reply, that all impressions can enter into aesthetic expressions or
formations, but that none are bound to do so. Dante raised to the
dignity of form not only the "sweet colour of the oriental sapphire"
(visual impression), but also tactile or thermic impressions, such as
the "thick air" and the "fresh rivulets" which "parch all the more" the
throat of the thirsty. The belief that a picture yields only visual
impressions is a curious illusion. The bloom of a cheek, the warmth of a
youthful body, the sweetness and freshness of a fruit, the cutting of a
sharpened blade, are not these, also, impressions that we have from a
picture? Maybe they are visual? What would a picture be for a
hypothetical man, deprived of all or many of his senses, who should in
an instant acquire the sole organ of sight? The picture we are standing
opposite and believe we see only with our eyes, would appear to his eyes
as little more than the paint-smeared palette of a painter.

Some who hold firmly to the aesthetic character of given groups of
impressions (for example, the visual, the auditive), and exclude others,
admit, however, that if visual and auditive impressions enter _directly_
into the aesthetic fact, those of the other senses also enter into it,
but only as _associated_. But this distinction is altogether arbitrary.
Aesthetic expression is a synthesis, in which it is impossible to
distinguish direct and indirect. All impressions are by it placed on a
level, in so far as they are aestheticised. He who takes into himself
the image of a picture or of a poem does not experience, as it were, a
series of impressions as to this image, some of which have a prerogative
or precedence over others. And nothing is known of what happens prior to
having received it, for the distinctions made after reflexion have
nothing to do with art.

The theory of the aesthetic senses has also been presented in another
way; that is to say, as the attempt to establish what physiological
organs are necessary for the aesthetic fact. The physiological organ or
apparatus is nothing but a complex of cellules, thus and thus
constituted, thus and thus disposed; that is to say, it is merely
physical and natural fact or concept. But expression does not recognize
physiological facts. Expression has its point of departure in the
impressions, and the physiological path by which these have found their
way to the mind is to it altogether indifferent. One way or another
amounts to the same thing: it suffices that they are impressions.

It is true that the want of given organs, that is, of given complexes of
cells, produces an absence of given impressions (when these are not
obtained by another path by a kind of organic compensation). The man
born blind cannot express or have the intuition of light. But the
impressions are not conditioned solely by the organ, but also by the
stimuli which operate upon the organ. Thus, he who has never had the
impression of the sea will never be able to express it, in the same way
as he who has never had the impression of the great world or of the
political conflict will never express the one or the other. This,
however, does not establish a dependence of the expressive function on
the stimulus or on the organ. It is the repetition of what we know
already: expression presupposes impression. Therefore, given expressions
imply given impressions. Besides, every impression excludes other
impressions during the moment in which it dominates; and so does every

[Sidenote] _Unity and indivisibility of the work of art._

Another corollary of the conception of expression as activity is the
_indivisibility_ of the work of art. Every expression is a unique
expression. Activity is a fusion of the impressions in an organic whole.
A desire to express this has always prompted the affirmation that the
world of art should have _unity_, or, what amounts to the same thing,
_unity in variety_. Expression is a synthesis of the various, the
multiple, in the one.

The fact that we divide a work of art into parts, as a poem into scenes,
episodes, similes, sentences, or a picture into single figures and
objects, background, foreground, etc., may seem to be an objection to
this affirmation. But such division annihilates the work, as dividing
the organism into heart, brain, nerves, muscles and so on, turns the
living being into a corpse. It is true that there exist organisms in
which the division gives place to more living things, but in such a
case, and if we transfer the analogy to the aesthetic fact, we must
conclude for a multiplicity of germs of life, that is to say, for a
speedy re-elaboration of the single parts into new single expressions.

It will be observed that expression is sometimes based on other
expressions. There are simple and there are _compound_ expressions. One
must admit some difference between the _eureka_, with which Archimedes
expressed all his joy after his discovery, and the expressive act
(indeed all the five acts) of a regular tragedy. Not in the least:
expression is always directly based on impressions. He who conceives a
tragedy puts into a crucible a great quantity, so to say, of
impressions: the expressions themselves, conceived on other occasions,
are fused together with the new in a single mass, in the same way as we
can cast into a smelting furnace formless pieces of bronze and most
precious statuettes. Those most precious statuettes must be melted in
the same way as the formless bits of bronze, before there can be a new
statue. The old expressions must descend again to the level of
impressions, in order to be synthetized in a new single expression.

[Sidenote] _Art as the deliverer._

By elaborating his impressions, man _frees_ himself from them. By
objectifying them, he removes them from him and makes himself their
superior. The liberating and purifying function of art is another aspect
and another formula of its character of activity. Activity is the
deliverer, just because it drives away passivity.

This also explains why it is customary to attribute to artists alike the
maximum of sensibility or _passion_, and the maximum insensibility or
Olympic _serenity_. Both qualifications agree, for they do not refer to
the same object. The sensibility or passion relates to the rich material
which the artist absorbs into his psychic organism; the insensibility or
serenity to the form with which he subjugates and dominates the tumult
of the feelings and of the passions.



[Sidenote] _Indissolubility of intellective from intuitive knowledge._

The two forms of knowledge, aesthetic and intellectual or conceptual,
are indeed diverse, but this does not amount altogether to separation
and disjunction, as we find with two forces going each its own way. If
we have shown that the aesthetic form is altogether independent of the
intellectual and suffices to itself without external support, we have
not said that the intellectual can stand without the aesthetic. This
_reciprocity_ would not be true.

What is knowledge by concepts? It is knowledge of relations of things,
and those things are intuitions. Concepts are not possible without
intuitions, just as intuition is itself impossible without the material
of impressions. Intuitions are: this river, this lake, this brook, this
rain, this glass of water; the concept is: water, not this or that
appearance and particular example of water, but water in general, in
whatever time or place it be realized; the material of infinite
intuitions, but of one single and constant concept.

However, the concept, the universal, if it be no longer intuition in one
respect, is in another respect intuition, and cannot fail of being
intuition. For the man who thinks has impressions and emotions, in so
far as he thinks. His impression and emotion will not be love or hate,
but _the effort of his thought itself_, with the pain and the joy, the
love and the hate joined to it. This effort cannot but become intuitive
in form, in becoming objective to the mind. To speak, is not to think
logically; but to _think logically_ is, at the same time, to _speak_.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the negations of this thesis._

That thought cannot exist without speech, is a truth generally admitted.
The negations of this thesis are all founded on equivoques and errors.

The first of the equivoques is implied by those who observe that one can
likewise think with geometrical figures, algebraical numbers,
ideographic signs, without a single word, even pronounced silently and
almost insensibly within one. They also affirm that there are languages
in which the word, the phonetic sign, expresses nothing, unless the
written sign also be looked at. But when we said "speech," we intended
to employ a synecdoche, and that "expression" generically, should be
understood, for expression is not only so-called verbal expression, as
we have already noted. It may be admitted that certain concepts may be
thought without phonetic manifestations. But the very examples adduced
to show this also prove that those concepts never exist without

Others maintain that animals, or certain animals, think or reason
without speaking. Now as to how, whether, and what animals think,
whether they be rudimentary, half-savage men resisting civilization,
rather than physiological machines, as the old spiritualists would have
it, are questions that do not concern us here. When the philosopher
talks of animal, brutal, impulsive, instinctive nature and the like, he
does not base himself on conjectures as to these facts concerning dogs
or cats, lions or ants; but upon observations of what is called animal
and brutal in man: of the boundary or animal basis of what we feel in
ourselves. If individual animals, dogs or cats, lions or ants, possess
something of the activity of man, so much the better, or so much the
worse for them. This means that as regards them also we must talk, not
of their nature as a whole, but of its animal basis, as being perhaps
larger and more strong than the animal basis of man. And if we suppose
that animals think, and form concepts, what is there in the line of
conjecture to justify the admission that they do so without
corresponding expressions? The analogy with man, the knowledge of the
spirit, human psychology, which is the instrument of all our conjectures
as to animal psychology, would oblige us to suppose that if they think
in any way, they also have some sort of speech.

It is from human psychology, that is, literary psychology, that comes
the other objection, to the effect that the concept can exist without
the word, because it is true that we all know books that are _well
thought and badly written_: that is to say, a thought which remains
thought _beyond_ the expression, _notwithstanding_ the imperfect
expression. But when we talk of books well thought and badly written, we
cannot mean other than that in those books are parts, pages, periods or
propositions well thought out and well written, and other parts (perhaps
the least important) ill thought out and badly written, not truly
thought out and therefore not truly expressed. Where Vico's _Scienza
nuova_ is really ill written, it is also ill thought out. If we pass
from the consideration of big books to a short proposition, the error or
the imprecision of this statement will be recognized at once. How could
a proposition be clearly thought and confusedly written out?

All that can be admitted is that sometimes we possess thoughts
(concepts) in an intuitive form, or in an abbreviated or, better,
peculiar expression, sufficient for us, but not sufficient to
communicate it with ease to another or other definite individuals. Hence
people say inaccurately, that we have the thought without the
expression; whereas it should properly be said that we have, indeed, the
expression, but in a form that is not easy of social communication.
This, however, is a very variable and altogether relative fact. There
are always people who catch our thought on the wing, and prefer it in
this abbreviated form, and would be displeased with the greater
development of it, necessary for other people. In other words, the
thought considered abstractly and logically will be the same; but
aesthetically we are dealing with two different intuition-expressions,
into both of which enter different psychological elements. The same
argument suffices to destroy, that is, to interpret correctly, the
altogether empirical distinction between an _internal_ and an _external_

[Sidenote] _Art and science._

The most lofty manifestations, the summits of intellectual and of
intuitive knowledge shining from afar, are called, as we know, Art and
Science. Art and Science, then, are different and yet linked together;
they meet on one side, which is the aesthetic side. Every scientific
work is also a work of art. The aesthetic side may remain little
noticed, when our mind is altogether taken up with the effort to
understand the thought of the man of science, and to examine its truth.
But it is no longer concealed, when we pass from the activity of
understanding to that of contemplation, and behold that thought either
developed before us, limpid, exact, well-shaped, without superfluous
words, without lack of words, with appropriate rhythm and intonation; or
confused, broken, embarrassed, tentative. Great thinkers are sometimes
termed great writers, while other equally great thinkers remain more or
less fragmentary writers, if indeed their fragments are scientifically
to be compared with harmonious, coherent, and perfect works.

[Sidenote] _Content and form: another meaning. Prose and poetry._

We pardon thinkers and men of science their literary mediocrity. The
fragments console us for the failure of the whole, for it is far more
easy to recover the well-arranged composition from the fragmentary work
of genius than to achieve the discovery of genius. But how can we pardon
mediocre expression in pure artists? _Mediocribus esse poetis non di,
non homines, non concessere columnae_. The poet or painter who lacks
form, lacks everything, because he lacks _himself_. Poetical material
permeates the Soul of all: the expression alone, that is to say, the
form, makes the poet. And here appears the truth of the thesis which
denies to art all content, as content being understood just the
intellectual concept. In this sense, when we take "content" as equal to
"concept" it is most true, not only that art does not consist of
content, but also that _it has no content_.

In the same way the distinction between _poetry and prose_ cannot be
justified, save in that of art and science. It was seen in antiquity
that such distinction could not be founded on external elements, such as
rhythm and metre, or on the freedom or the limitation of the form; that
it was, on the contrary, altogether internal. Poetry is the language of
sentiment; prose of the intellect; but since the intellect is also
sentiment, in its concretion and reality, so all prose has a poetical

[Sidenote] _The relation of first and second degree._

The relation between intuitive knowledge or expression, and intellectual
knowledge or concept, between art and science, poetry and prose, cannot
be otherwise defined than by saying that it is one of _double degree_.
The first degree is the expression, the second the concept: the first
can exist without the second, but the second cannot exist without the
first. There exists poetry without prose, but not prose without poetry.
Expression, indeed, is the first affirmation of human activity. Poetry
is "the maternal language of the human race"; the first men "were by
nature sublime poets." We also admit this in another way, when we
observe that the passage from soul to mind, from animal to human
activity, is effected by means of language. And this should be said of
intuition or expression in general. But to us it appears somewhat
inaccurate to define language or expression as an _intermediate_ link
between nature and humanity, as though it were a mixture of the one and
of the other. Where humanity appears, the rest has already disappeared;
the man who expresses himself, certainly emerges from the state of
nature, but he really does emerge: he does not stand half within and
half without, as the use of the phrase "intermediate link" would imply.

[Sidenote] _Inexistence of other forms of knowledge._

The cognitive intellect has no form other than these two. Expression and
concept exhaust it completely. The whole speculative life of man is
spent in passing from one to the other and back again.

[Sidenote] _History. Its identity with and difference from art._

_Historicity_ is incorrectly held to be a third theoretical form.
History is not form, but content: as form, it is nothing but intuition
or aesthetic fact. History does not seek for laws nor form concepts; it
employs neither induction nor deduction; it is directed _ad narrandum,
non ad demonstrandum_; it does not construct universals and
abstractions, but posits intuitions. The this, the that, the _individuum
omni modo determinatum_, is its kingdom, as it is the kingdom of art.
History, therefore, is included under the universal concept of art.

Faced with this proposition and with the impossibility of conceiving a
third mode of knowledge, objections have been brought forward which
would lead to the affiliation of history to intellective or scientific
knowledge. The greater portion of these objections is dominated by the
prejudice that in refusing to history the character of conceptual
science, something of its value and dignity has been taken from it. This
really arises from a false idea of art, conceived, not as an essential
theoretic function, but as an amusement, a superfluity, a frivolity.
Without reopening a long debate, which so far as we are concerned, is
finally closed, we will mention here one sophism which has been and
still is widely repeated. It is intended to show the logical and
scientific nature of history. The sophism consists in admitting that
historical knowledge has for its object the individual; but not the
representation, it is added, so much as the concept of the individual.
From this it is argued that history is also a logical or scientific form
of knowledge. History, in fact, should elaborate the concept of a
personage such as Charlemagne or Napoleon; of an epoch, like the
Renaissance or the Reformation; of an event, such as the French
Revolution and the Unification of Italy. This it is held to do in the
same way as Geometry elaborates the concepts of spatial form, or
Aesthetic those of expression. But all this is untrue. History cannot do
otherwise than represent Napoleon and Charlemagne, the Renaissance and
the Reformation, the French Revolution and the Unification of Italy as
individual facts with their individual physiognomy: that is, in the same
way as logicians state, that one cannot have a concept of an individual,
but only a representation. The so-called concept of the individual is
always a universal or general concept, full of details, very rich, if
you will, but however rich it be, yet incapable of attaining to that
individuality, to which historical knowledge, as aesthetic knowledge,
alone attains.

Let us rather show how the content of history comes to be distinguished
from that of art. The distinction is secondary. Its origin will be found
in what has already been observed as to the ideal character of the
intuition or first perception, in which all is real and therefore
nothing is real. The mind forms the concepts of external and internal at
a later stage, as it does those of what has happened and of what is
desired, of object and subject, and the like. Thus it distinguishes
historical from non-historical intuition, the _real_ from the _unreal_,
real fancy from pure fancy. Even internal facts, what is desired and
imagined, castles in the air, and countries of Cockagne, have their
reality. The soul, too, has its history. His illusions form part of the
biography of every individual. But the history of an individual soul is
history, because in it is always active the distinction between the real
and the unreal, even when the real is the illusions themselves. But
these distinctive concepts do not appear in history as do scientific
concepts, but rather like those that we have seen dissolved and melted
in the aesthetic intuitions, although they stand out in history in an
altogether new relief. History does not construct the concepts of the
real and unreal, but makes use of them. History, in fact, is not the
theory of history. Mere conceptual analysis is of no use in realizing
whether an event in our lives were real or imaginary. It is necessary to
reproduce the intuitions in the mind in the most complete form, as they
were at the moment of production, in order to recognize the content.
Historicity is distinguished in the concrete from pure imagination only
as one intuition is distinguished from another: in the memory.

[Sidenote] _Historical criticism._
[Sidenote] _Historical scepticism._

Where this is not possible, owing to the delicate and fleeting shades
between the real and unreal intuitions, which confuse the one with the
other, we must either renounce, for the time at least, the knowledge of
what really happened (and this we often do), or we must fall back upon
conjecture, verisimilitude, probability. The principle of verisimilitude
and of probability dominates in fact all historical criticism.
Examination of the sources and of authority is directed toward
establishing the most credible evidence. And what is the most credible
evidence, save that of the best observers, that is, of those who best
remember and (be it understood) have not desired to falsify, nor had
interest in falsifying the truth of things? From this it follows that
intellectual scepticism finds it easy to deny the certainty of any
history, for the certainty of history is never that of science.
Historical certainty is composed of memory and of authority, not of
analyses and of demonstration. To speak of historical induction or
demonstration, is to make a metaphorical use of these expressions, which
bear quite a different meaning in history to that which they bear in
science. The conviction of the historian is the undemonstrable
conviction of the juryman, who has heard the witnesses, listened
attentively to the case, and prayed Heaven to inspire him. Sometimes,
without doubt, he is mistaken, but the mistakes are in a negligible
minority compared with the occasions when he gets hold of the truth.
That is why good sense is right against the intellectualists, in
believing in history, which is not a "fable agreed upon," but that which
the individual and humanity remember of their past. We strive to enlarge
and to render as precise as possible this record, which in some places
is dim, in others very clear. We cannot do without it, such as it is,
and taken as a whole, it is rich in truth. In a spirit of paradox only,
can one doubt if there ever were a Greece or a Rome, an Alexander or a
Caesar, a feudal Europe overthrown by a series of revolutions, that on
the 1st of November 1517 the theses of Luther were seen fixed to the
door of the church of Wittenberg, or that the Bastile was taken by the
people of Paris on the 14th of July 1789.

"What proof givest thou of all this?" asks the sophist, ironically.
Humanity replies "I remember."

[Sidenote] _Philosophy as perfect science. The so-called natural
sciences, and their limits._

The world of what has happened, of the concrete, of history, is the
world that is called real, natural, including in this definition the
reality that is called physical, as well as that which is called
spiritual and human. All this world is intuition; historical intuition,
if it be realistically shown as it is, or imaginary intuition, artistic
in the strict sense, if shown under the aspect of the possible, that is
to say, of the imaginable.

Science, true science, which is not intuition but concept, not
individuality but universality, cannot be anything but a science of the
spirit, that is, of what is universal in reality: Philosophy. If natural
_sciences_ be spoken of, apart from philosophy, it is necessary to
observe that these are not perfect sciences: they are complexes of
knowledge, arbitrarily abstracted and fixed. The so-called natural
sciences themselves recognize, in fact, that they are surrounded by
limitations. These limitations are nothing more than historical and
intuitive data. They calculate, measure, establish equalities,
regularity, create classes and types, formulate laws, show in their own
way how one fact arises out of other facts; but in their progress they
are always met with facts which are known intuitively and historically.
Even geometry now states that it rests altogether on hypotheses, since
space is not three-dimensional or Euclidean, but this assumption is made
use of by preference, because it is more convenient. What there is of
truth in the natural sciences, is either philosophy or historical fact.
What they contain proper to themselves is abstract and arbitrary. When
the natural sciences wish to form themselves into perfect sciences, they
must issue from their circle and enter the philosophical circle. This
they do when they posit concepts which are anything but natural, such as
those of the atom without extension in space, of ether or vibrating
matter, of vital force, of space beyond the reach of intuition, and the
like. These are true and proper philosophical efforts, when they are not
mere words void of meaning. The concepts of natural science are, without
doubt, most useful; but one cannot obtain from them that _system_, which
belongs only to the spirit.

These historical and intuitive assumptions, which cannot be separated
from the natural sciences, furthermore explain, not only how, in the
progress of knowledge, that which was once considered to be truth
descends gradually to the grade of mythological beliefs and imaginary
illusions, but also how, among natural scientists, there are some who
term all that serves as basis of argument in their teaching _mythical
facts, verbal expedients_, or _conventions_. The naturalists and
mathematicians who approach the study of the energies of the spirit
without preparation, are apt to carry thither these mental habits and to
speak, in philosophy, of such and such conventions "as arranged by man."
They make conventions of truth and morality, and their supreme
convention is the Spirit itself! However, if there are to be
conventions, something must exist about which there is no convention to
be made, but which is itself the agent of the convention. This is the
spiritual activity of man. The limitation of the natural sciences
postulates the illimitation of philosophy.

[Sidenote] _The phenomenon and the noumenon._

These explications have firmly established that the pure or fundamental
forms of knowledge are two: the intuition and the concept--Art, and
Science or Philosophy. With these are to be included History, which is,
as it were, the product of intuition placed in contact with the concept,
that is, of art receiving in itself philosophic distinctions, while
remaining concrete and individual. All the other forms (natural sciences
and mathematics) are impure, being mingled with extraneous elements of
practical origin. The intuition gives the world, the phenomenon; the
concept gives the noumenon, the Spirit.



These relations between intuitive or aesthetic knowledge and the other
fundamental or derivative forms of knowledge having been definitely
established, we are now in a position to reveal the errors of a series
of theories which have been, or are, presented, as theories of

[Sidenote] _Critique of verisimilitude and of naturalism._

From the confusion between the exigencies of art in general and the
particular exigencies of history has arisen the theory (which has lost
ground to-day, but used to dominate in the past) of _verisimilitude_ as
the object of art. As is generally the case with erroneous propositions,
the intention of those who employed and employ the concept of
verisimilitude has no doubt often been much more reasonable than the
definition given of the word. By verisimilitude used to be meant the
artistic _coherence_ of the representation, that is to say, its
completeness and effectiveness. If "verisimilar" be translated by
"coherent," a most exact meaning will often be found in the discussions,
examples, and judgments of the critics. An improbable personage, an
improbable ending to a comedy, are really badly-drawn personages,
badly-arranged endings, happenings without artistic motive. It has been
said with reason that even fairies and sprites must have verisimilitude,
that is to say, be really sprites and fairies, coherent artistic
intuitions. Sometimes the word "possible" has been used instead of
"verisimilar." As we have already remarked in passing, this word
possible is synonymous with that which is imaginable or may be known
intuitively. Everything which is really, that is to say, coherently,
imagined, is possible. But formerly, and especially by the
theoreticians, by verisimilar was understood historical credibility, or
that historical truth which is not demonstrable, but conjecturable, not
true, but verisimilar. It has been sought to impose a like character
upon art. Who does not recall the great part played in literary history
by the criticism of the verisimilar? For example, the fault found with
the _Jerusalem Delivered_, based upon the history of the Crusades, or of
the Homeric poems, upon that of the verisimilitude of the costume of the
emperors and kings?

At other times has been imposed upon art the duty of the aesthetic
reproduction of historical reality. This is another of the erroneous
significations assumed by the theory concerning _the imitation of
nature_. Verism and naturalism have since afforded the spectacle of a
confusion of the aesthetic fact with the processes of the natural
sciences, by aiming at some sort of _experimental_ drama or romance.

[Sidenote] _Critique of ideas in art, of theses in art, and of the

The confusions between the methods of art and those of the philosophical
sciences have been far more frequent. Thus it has often been held to be
within the competence of art to develop concepts, to unite the
intelligible with the sensible, to represent _ideas or universals_,
putting art in the place of science, that is, confusing the artistic
function in general with the particular case in which it becomes

The theory of art as supporting _theses_ can be reduced to the same
error, as can be the theory of art considered as individual
representation, exemplifying scientific laws. The example, in so far as
it is an example, stands for the thing exemplified, and is thus an
exposition of the universal, that is to say, a form of science, more or
less popular or vulgarized.

The same may be said of the aesthetic theory of the _typical_, when by
type is understood, as it frequently is, just the abstraction or the
concept, and it is affirmed that art should make _the species shine in
the individual_. If by typical be here understood the individual, here,
too, we have a merely verbal variation. To typify would signify, in this
case, to characterize; that is, to determine and to represent the
individual. Don Quixote is a type; but of whom is he a type, if not of
all Don Quixotes? A type, that is to say, of himself. Certainly he is
not a type of abstract concepts, such as the loss of the sense of
reality, or of the love of glory. An infinite number of personages can
be thought of under these concepts, who are not Don Quixote. In other
words, we find our own impressions fully determined and verified in the
expression of a poet (for example in a poetical personage). We call that
expression typical, which we might call simply aesthetic. Poetical or
artistic universals have been spoken of in like manner, in order to show
that the artistic product is altogether spiritual and ideal in itself.

[Sidenote] _Critique of the symbol and of the allegory._

Continuing to correct these errors, or to make clear equivoques, we will
note that the _symbol_ has sometimes been given as essence of art. Now,
if the symbol be given as inseparable from the artistic intuition, it is
the synonym of the intuition itself, which always has an ideal
character. There is no double-bottom to art, but one only; in art all is
symbolical, because all is ideal. But if the symbol be looked upon as
separable--if on the one side can be expressed the symbol, and on the
other the thing symbolized, we fall back again into the intellectualist
error: that pretended symbol is the exposition of an abstract concept,
it is an _allegory_, it is science, or art that apes science. But we
must be just toward the allegorical also. In some cases, it is
altogether harmless. Given the _Gerusalemme liberata_, the allegory was
imagined afterwards; given the _Adone_ of Marino, the poet of the
lascivious insinuated afterwards that it was written to show how
"immoderate indulgence ends in pain"; given a statue of a beautiful
woman, the sculptor can write on a card that the statue represents
_Clemency_ or _Goodness_. This allegory linked to a finished work _post
festum_ does not change the work of art. What is it, then? It is an
expression externally _added_ to another expression. A little page of
prose is added to the _Gerusalemme_, expressing another thought of the
poet; a verse or a strophe is added to the _Adone_, expressing what the
poet would like to make a part of his public swallow; while to the
statue nothing more than the single word is added: _Clemency_ or

[Sidenote] _Critique of the theory of artistic and literary classes._

But the greatest triumph of the intellectualist error lies in the theory
of artistic and literary classes, which still has vogue in literary
treatises, and disturbs the critics and the historians of art. Let us
observe its genesis.

The human mind can pass from the aesthetic to the logical, just because
the former is a first step, in respect to the latter. It can destroy the
expressions, that is, the thought of the individual with the thought of
the universal. It can reduce expressive facts to logical relations. We
have already shown that this operation in its turn becomes concrete in
an expression, but this does not mean that the first expressions have
not been destroyed. They have yielded their place to the new
aesthetico-logical expressions. When we are on the second step, we have
left the first.

He who enters a picture-gallery, or who reads a series of poems, may,
after he has looked and read, go further: he may seek out the relations
of the things there expressed. Thus those pictures and compositions,
each of which is an individual inexpressible by logic, are resolved into
universals and abstractions, such as _costumes, landscapes, portraits,
domestic life, battles, animals, flowers, fruit, seascapes, lakes,
deserts, tragic, comic, piteous, cruel, lyrical, epic, dramatic,
knightly, idyllic facts_, and the like. They are often also resolved
into merely quantitative categories, such as _little picture, picture,
statuette, group, madrigal, song, sonnet, garland of sonnets, poetry,
poem, story, romance_, and the like.

When we think the concept _domestic life_, or _knighthood_, or _idyll_,
or _cruelty_, or any other quantitative concept, the individual
expressive fact from which we started is abandoned. From aesthetes that
we were, we have been changed into logicians; from contemplators of
expression, into reasoners. Certainly no objection can be made to such a
process. In what other way could science be born, which, if aesthetic
expressions be assumed in it, yet has for function to go beyond them?
The logical or scientific form, as such, excludes the aesthetic form. He
who begins to think scientifically has already ceased to contemplate
aesthetically; although his thought will assume of necessity in its turn
an aesthetic form, as has already been said, and as it would be
superfluous to repeat.

The error begins when we try to deduce the expression from the concept,
and to find in the thing substituting the laws of the thing substituted;
when the difference between the second and the first step has not been
observed, and when, in consequence, we declare that we are standing on
the first step, when we are really standing on the second. This error is
known as _the theory of artistic and literary classes_.

What is the aesthetic form of domestic life, of knighthood, of the
idyll, of cruelty, and so forth? How should these contents be
_represented_? Such is the absurd problem implied in the theory of
artistic and literary classes. It is in this that consists all search
after laws or rules of styles. Domestic life, knighthood, idyll,
cruelty, and the like, are not impressions, but concepts. They are not
contents, but logico-aesthetic forms. You cannot express the form, for
it is already itself expression. And what are the words cruelty, idyll,
knighthood, domestic life, and so on, but the expression of those

Even the most refined of these distinctions, those that have the most
philosophic appearance, do not resist criticism; as, for instance, when
works of art are divided into the subjective and the objective styles,
into lyric and epic, into works of feeling and works of design. It is
impossible to separate in aesthetic analysis, the subjective from the
objective side, the lyric from the epic, the image of feeling from that
of things.

[Sidenote] _Errors derived from this theory appearing in judgments
on art._

From the theory of the artistic and literary classes derive those
erroneous modes of judgment and of criticism, thanks to which, instead
of asking before a work of art if it be expressive, and what it
expresses, whether it speak or stammer, or be silent altogether, it is
asked if it be obedient to the _laws_ of the epic poem, or to those of
tragedy, to those of historical portraiture, or to those of landscape
painting. Artists, however, while making a verbal pretence of agreeing,
or yielding a feigned obedience to them, have really always disregarded
these _laws of styles_. Every true work of art has violated some
established class and upset the ideas of the critics, who have thus been
obliged to enlarge the number of classes, until finally even this
enlargement has proved too narrow, owing to the appearance of new works
of art, which are naturally followed by new scandals, new upsettings,
and-new enlargements.

From the same theory come the prejudices, owing to which at one time
(and is it really passed?) people used to lament that Italy had no
tragedy (until a poet arose who gave to Italy that wreath which was the
only thing wanting to her glorious hair), nor France the epic poem

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