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Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic by Benedetto Croce

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who have been piercing it from the other side. At a certain stage of
scientific elaboration, Linguistic, in so far as it is philosophy, must
be merged in Aesthetic; and indeed it is merged in it, without leaving a




The question, as to whether Aesthetic should be looked upon as ancient
or modern, has often been discussed. The answer will depend upon the
view taken of the nature of Aesthetic.

Benedetto Croce has proved that Aesthetic is _the science of expressive
activity_. But this knowledge cannot be reached, until has been defined
the nature of imagination, of representation, of expression, or whatever
we may term that faculty which is theoretic, but not intellectual, which
gives knowledge of the individual, but not of the universal.

Now the deviations from this, the correct theory, may arise in two ways:
by _defect_ or by _excess_. Negation of the special aesthetic activity,
or of its autonomy, is an instance of the former. This amounts to a
mutilation of the reality of the spirit. Of the latter, the substitution
or superposition of another mysterious and non-existent activity is an

These errors each take several forms. That which errs by defect may be:
(_a_) pure hedonism, which looks upon art as merely sensual pleasure;
(_b_) rigoristic hedonism, agreeing with (_a_), but adding that art is
irreconcilable with the loftiest activities of man; (_c_) moralistic or
pedagogic hedonism, which admits, with the two former, that art is mere
sensuality, but believes that it may not only be harmless, but of some
service to morals, if kept in proper subjection and obedience.

The error by excess also assumes several forms, but these are
indeterminable _a priori_. This view is fully dealt with under the name
of _mystic_, in the Theory and in the Appendix.

Graeco-Roman antiquity was occupied with the problem in all these forms.
In Greece, the problem of art and of the artistic faculty arose for the
first time after the sophistic movement, as a result of the Socratic

With the appearance of the word _mimesis_ or _mimetic_, we have a first
attempt at grouping the arts, and the expression, allegoric, or its
equivalent, used in defence of Homer's poetry, reminds us of what Plato
called "the old quarrel between philosophy and poetry."

But when internal facts were all looked upon as mere phenomena of
opinion or feeling, of pleasure or of pain, of illusion or of arbitrary
caprice, there could be no question of beautiful or ugly, of difference
between the true and the beautiful, or between the beautiful and the

The problem of the nature of art assumes as solved those problems
concerning the difference between rational and irrational, material and
spiritual, bare fact and value, etc. This was first done in the Socratic
period, and therefore the aesthetic problem could only arise after

And in fact it does arise, with Plato, _the author of the only great
negation of art which appears in the history of ideas_.

Is art rational or irrational? Does it belong to the noble region of the
soul, where dwell philosophy and virtue, or does it cohabit with
sensuality and with crude passion in the lower regions? This was the
question that Plato asked, and thus was the aesthetic problem stated for
the first time.

His Gorgias remarks with sceptical acumen, that tragedy is a deception,
which brings honour alike to deceived and to deceiver, and therefore it
is blameworthy not to know how to deceive and not to allow oneself to be
deceived. This suffices for Gorgias, but Plato, the philosopher, must
resolve the doubt. If it be in fact deception, down with tragedy and the
other arts! If it be not deception, then what is the place of tragedy in
philosophy and in the righteous life? His answer was that art or mimetic
does not realize the ideas, or the truth of things, but merely
reproduces natural or artificial things, which are themselves mere
shadows of the ideas. Art, then, is but a shadow of a shadow, a thing of
third-rate degree. The artificer fashions the object which the painter
paints. The artificer copies the divine idea and the painter copies him.
Art therefore does not belong to the rational, but to the irrational,
sensual sphere of the soul. It can serve but for sensual pleasure, which
disturbs and obscures. Therefore must mimetic, poetry, and poets be
excluded from the perfect Republic.

Plato observed with truth, that imitation does not rise to the logical
or conceptual sphere, of which poets and painters, as such, are, in
fact, ignorant. But he _failed to realize_ that there could be any form
of knowledge other than the intellectual.

We now know that Intuition lies on this side or outside the Intellect,
from which it differs as much as it does from passion and sensuality.

Plato, with his fine aesthetic sense, would have been grateful to anyone
who could have shown him how to place art, which he loved and practised
so supremely himself, among the lofty activities of the spirit. But in
his day, no one could give him such assistance. His conscience and his
reason saw that art makes the false seem the true, and therefore he
resolutely banished it to the lower regions of the spirit.

The tendency among those who followed Plato in time was to find some
means of retaining art and of depriving it of the baleful influence
which it was believed to exercise. Life without art was to the
beauty-loving Greek an impossibility, although he was equally conscious
of the demands of reason and of morality. Thus it happened that art,
which, on the purely hedonistic hypothesis, had been treated as a
beautiful courtezan, became in the hands of the moralist, a pedagogue.
Aristophanes and Strabo, and above all Aristotle, dwell upon the
didactic and moralistic possibility of poetry. For Plutarch, poetry
seems to have been a sort of preparation for philosophy, a twilight to
which the eyes should grow accustomed, before emerging into the full
light of day.

Among the Romans, we find Lucretius comparing the beauties of his great
poem to the sweet yellow honey, with which doctors are wont to anoint
the rim of the cup containing their bitter drugs. Horace, as so
frequently, takes his inspiration from the Greek, when he offers the
double view of art: as courtezan and as pedagogue. In his _Ad Pisones_
occur the passages, in which we find mingled with the poetic function,
that of the orator--the practical and the aesthetic. "Was Virgil a poet
or an orator?" The triple duty of pleasing, moving, and teaching, was
imposed upon the poet. Then, with a thought for the supposed
meretricious nature of their art, the ingenious Horace remarks that both
must employ the seductions of form.

The _mystic_ view of art appeared only in late antiquity, with Plotinus.
The curious error of looking upon Plato as the head of this school and
as the Father of Aesthetic assumes that he who felt obliged to banish
art altogether from the domain of the higher functions of the spirit,
was yet ready to yield to it the highest place there. The mystical view
of Aesthetic accords a lofty place indeed to Aesthetic, placing it even
above philosophy. The enthusiastic praise of the beautiful, to be found
in the _Gorgias_, _Philebus_, _Phaedrus_, and _Symposium_ is responsible
for this misunderstanding, but it is well to make perfectly clear that
the beautiful, of which Plato discourses in those dialogues, has nothing
to do with the _artistically_ beautiful, nor with the mysticism of the

Yet the thinkers of antiquity were aware that a problem lay in the
direction of Aesthetic, and Xenophon records the sayings of Socrates
that the beautiful is "that which is fitting and answers to the end
required." Elsewhere he says "it is that which is loved." Plato likewise
vibrates between various views and offers several solutions. Sometimes
he appears almost to confound the beautiful with the true, the good and
the divine; at others he leans toward the utilitarian view of Socrates;
at others he distinguishes between what is beautiful In itself and what
possesses but a relative beauty. At other times again, he is a hedonist,
and makes it to consist of pure pleasure, that is, of pleasure with no
shadow of pain; or he finds it in measure and proportion, or in the very
sound, the very colour itself. The reason for all this vacillation of
definition lay in Plato's exclusion of the artistic or mimetic fact from
the domain of the higher spiritual activities. The _Hippias major_
expresses this uncertainty more completely than any of the other
dialogues. What is the beautiful? That is the question asked at the
beginning, and left unanswered at the end. The Platonic Socrates and
Hippias propose the most various solutions, one after another, but
always come out by the gate by which they entered in. Is the beautiful
to be found in ornament? No, for gold embellishes only where it is in
keeping. Is the beautiful that which seems ugly to no man? But it is a
question of being, not of seeming. Is it their fitness which makes
things seem beautiful? But in that case, the fitness which makes them
appear beautiful is one thing, the beautiful another. If the beautiful
be the useful or that which leads to an end, then evil would also be
beautiful, because the useful may also end evilly. Is the beautiful the
helpful, that which leads to the good? No, for in that case the good
would not be beautiful, nor the beautiful good, because cause and effect
are different.

Thus they argued in the Platonic dialogues, and when we turn to the
pages of Aristotle, we find him also uncertain and inclined to vary his
definitions.[5] Sometimes for him the good and pleasurable are the
beautiful, sometimes it lies in actions, at others in things motionless,
or in bulk and order, or is altogether undefinable. Antiquity also
established canons of the beautiful, and the famous canon of
Polycleitus, on the proportions of the human body, fitly compares with
that of later times on the golden line, and with the Ciceronian phrase
from the Tusculan Disputations. But these are all of them mere empirical
observations, mere happy remarks and verbal substitutions, which lead to
unsurmountable difficulties when put to philosophical test.

One important identification is absent in all those early attempts at
truth. The beautiful is never identified with art, and the artistic fact
is always clearly distinguished from beauty, mimetic from its content.
Plotinus first identified the two, and with him the beautiful and art
are dissolved together in a passion and mystic elevation of the spirit.
The beauty of natural objects is the archetype existing in the soul,
which is the fountain of all natural beauty. Thus was Plato (he said) in
error, when he despised the arts for imitating nature, for nature
herself imitates the idea, and art also seeks her inspiration directly
from those ideas whence nature proceeds. We have here, with Plotinus and
with Neoplatonism, the first appearance in the world of mystical
Aesthetic, destined to play so important a part in later aesthetic

Aristotle was far more happy in his attempts at defining Aesthetic as
the science of representation and of expression than in his definitions
of the beautiful. He felt that some element of the problem had been
overlooked, and in attempting in his turn a solution, he had the
advantage over Plato of looking upon the ideas as simple concepts, not
as hypostases of concepts or of abstractions. Thus reality was more
vivid for Aristotle: it was the synthesis of matter and form. He saw
that art, or mimetic, was a theoretic fact, or a mode of contemplation.
"But if Poetry be a theoretic fact, in what way is it to be distinguished
from science and from historical knowledge?" Thus magnificently does the
great philosopher pose the problem at the commencement of his _Poetics_,
and thus alone can it be posed successfully. We ask the same question in
the same words to-day. But the problem is difficult, and the masterly
statement of it was not equalled by the method of solution then
available. He made an excellent start on his voyage of discovery, but
stopped half way, irresolute and perplexed. Poetry, he says, differs from
history, by portraying the possible, while history deals with what has
really happened. Poetry, like philosophy, aims at the universal, but in a
different way, which the philosopher indicates as something more (_mallon
tha katholon_) which differentiates poetry from history, occupied with the
particular (_malon tha kath ekaston_). What, then, is the possible, the
something more, and the particular of poetry? Aristotle immediately falls
into error and confusion, when he attempts to define these words. Since
art has to deal with the absurd and with the impossible, it cannot be
anything rational, but a mere imitation of reality, in accordance with
the Platonic theory--a fact of sensual pleasure. Aristotle does not,
however, attain to so precise a definition as Plato, whose erroneous
definition he does not succeed in supplanting. The truth is that he
failed of his self-imposed task; he failed to discern the true nature of
Aesthetic, although he restated and re-examined the problem with such
marvellous acumen.

After Aristotle, there comes a lull in the discussion, until Plotinus.
The _Poetics_ were generally little studied, and the admirable statement
of the problem generally neglected by later writers. Antique psychology
knew the fancy or imagination, as preserving or reproducing sensuous
impressions, or as an intermediary between the concepts and feeling: its
autonomous productive activity was not yet understood. In the _Life of
Apollonius of Tyana_, Philostratus is said to have been the first to
make clear the difference between mimetic and creative imagination. But
this does not in reality differ from the Aristotelian mimetic, which is
concerned, not only with the real, but also with the possible. Cicero
too, before Philostratus, speaks of a kind of exquisite beauty lying
hidden in the soul of the artist, which guides his hand and art.
Antiquity seems generally to have been entrammelled in the meshes of the
belief in mimetic, or the duplication of natural objects by the artist
Philostratus and the other protagonists of the imagination may have
meant to combat this error, but the shadows lie heavy until we reach

We find already astir among the sophists the question as to the nature
of language. Admitting that language is a sign, are we to take that
as signifying a spiritual necessity (_phusis_) or as a psychological
convention (_nomos_)? Aristotle made a valuable contribution to this
difficult question, when he spoke of a kind of proposition other than
those which predicate truth or falsehood, that is, logic. With him
_euchae_ is the term proper to designate desires and aspirations,
which are the vehicle of poetry and of oratory. (It must be remembered
that for Aristotle words, like poetry, belonged to mimetic.) The
profound remark about the third mode of proposition would, one would
have thought, have led naturally to the separation of linguistic
from logic, and to its classification with poetry and art. But the
Aristotelian logic assumed a verbal and formal character, which set
back the attainment of this position by many hundred years. Yet the
genius of Epicurus had an intuition of the truth, when he remarked
that the diversity of names for the same things arose, not from
arbitrary caprice, but from the diverse impression derived from the
same object. The Stoics, too, seem to have had an inkling of the
non-logical nature of speech, but their use of the word _lekton_
leaves it doubtful whether they distinguished by it the linguistic
representation from the abstract concept, or rather, generically, the
meaning from the sound.

[5] In the Appendix will be found further striking quotations from
and references to Aristotle.--(D.A.)



Well-nigh all the theories of antique Aesthetic reappear in the Middle
Ages, as it were by spontaneous generation. Duns Scotus Erigena
translated the Neoplatonic mysticism of the pseudo-Dionysus. The
Christian God took the place of the chief Good or Idea: God, wisdom,
goodness, supreme beauty are the fountains of natural beauty, and these
are steps in the stair of contemplation of the Creator. In this manner
speculation began to be diverted from the art fact, which had been so
prominent with Plotinus. Thomas Aquinas followed Aristotle in
distinguishing the beautiful from the good, and applied his doctrine of
imitation to the beauty of the second person of the Trinity (_in quantum
est imago expressa Patris_). With the troubadours, we may find traces of
the hedonistic view of art, and the rigoristic hypothesis finds in
Tertullian and in certain Fathers of the Church staunch upholders. The
retrograde Savonarola occupied the same position at a later period. But
the narcotic, moralistic, or pedagogic view mostly prevailed, for it
best suited an epoch of relative decadence in culture. It suited
admirably the Middle Age, offering at once an excuse for the new-born
Christian art, and for those works of classical or pagan art which yet
survived. Specimens of this view abound all through the Middle Age. We
find it, for instance, in the criticism of Virgil, to whose work were
attributed four distinct meanings: literal, allegorical, moral, and
anagogic. For Dante poetry was _nihil aliud quam fictio rhetorica in
musicaque posita_. "If the vulgar be incapable of appreciating my inner
meaning, then they shall at least incline their minds to the perfection
of my beauty. If from me ye cannot gather wisdom, at the least shall ye
enjoy me as a pleasant thing." Thus spoke the Muse of Dante, whose
_Convivio_ is an attempt to aid the understanding in its effort to grasp
the moral and pedagogic elements of verse. Poetry was the _gaia
scienza_, "a fiction containing many useful things covered or veiled."

It would be inexact to identify art in the Middle Age with philosophy
and theology. Its pleasing falsity could be adapted to useful ends, much
in the same way as matrimony excuses love and sexual union. This,
however, implies that for the Middle Age the ideal state was celibacy;
that is, pure knowledge, divorced from art.

The only line of explanation that was altogether neglected in the Middle
Age was the right one.

The _Poetics_ of Aristotle were badly rendered into Latin, from the
faulty paraphrase of Averroes, by one Hermann (1256). The nominalist and
realist dispute brought again into the arena the relations between
thought and speech, and we find Duns Scotus occupied with the problem in
his _De modis significandi seu grammatica speculativa_. Abelard had
defined sensation as _confusa conceptio_, and with the importance given
to intuitive knowledge, to the perception of the individual, of the
_species specialissima_ in Duns Scotus, together with the denomination
of the forms of knowledge as _confusae, indistinctae_, and _distinctae_,
we enter upon a terminology, which we shall see appearing again, big
with results, at the commencement of modern Aesthetic.

The doctrine of the Middle Age, in respect to art and letters, may thus
be regarded as of interest rather to the history of culture than to that
of general knowledge. A like remark holds good of the Renaissance.
Theories of antiquity are studied, countless treatises in many forms are
written upon them, but no really new Ideas as regards aesthetic science
appear on the horizon.

We find among the spokesmen of mystical Aesthetic in the thirteenth
century such names as Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Bembo
and many others wrote on the Beautiful and on Love in the century that
followed. The _Dialogi di Amore_, written in Italian by a Spanish Jew
named Leone and published in 1535, had a European success, being
translated into many languages. He talks of the universality of love and
of its origin, of beauty that is grace, which delights the soul and
impels it to love. Knowledge of lesser beauties leads to loftier
spiritual beauties. Leone called these remarks _Philographia_.

Petrarch's followers versified similar intuitions, while others wrote
parodies and burlesques of this style; Luca Paciolo, the friend of
Leonardo, made the (false) discovery of the golden section, basing his
speculating upon mathematics; Michael Angelo established an empirical
canon for painting, attempting to give rules for imparting grace and
movement to figures, by means of certain arithmetical proportions;
others found special meanings in colours; while the Platonicians placed
the seat of beauty in the soul, the Aristotelians in physical qualities.
Agostino Nifo, the Averroist, after some inconclusive remarks, is at
last fortunate enough to discover where natural beauty really dwells:
its abode is the body of Giovanna d'Aragona, Princess of Tagliacozzo, to
whom he dedicates his book. Tasso mingled the speculations of the
_Hippias major_ with those of Plotinus.

Tommaso Campanella, in his _Poetica_, looks upon the beautiful as
_signum boni_, the ugly as _signum mali_. By goodness, he means Power,
Wisdom, and Love. Campanella was still under the influence of the
erroneous Platonic conception of the beautiful, but the use of the word
_sign_ in this place represents progress. It enabled him to see that
things in themselves are neither beautiful nor ugly.

Nothing proves more clearly that the Renaissance did not overstep the
limits of aesthetic theory reached in antiquity, than the fact that the
pedagogic theory of art continued to prevail, in the face of
translations of the _Poetics_ of Aristotle and of the diffuse labours
expended upon that work. This theory was even grafted upon the
_Poetics_, where one is surprised to find it. There are a few hedonists
standing out from the general trend of opinion. The restatement of the
pedagogic position, reinforced with examples taken from antiquity, was
disseminated throughout Europe by the Italians of the Renaissance.
France, Spain, England, and Germany felt its influence, and we find the
writers of the period of Louis XIV. either frankly didactic, like Le
Bossu (1675), for whom the first object of the poet is to instruct, or
with La Menardiere (1640) speaking of poetry as "cette science agreable
qui mele la gravite des preceptes avec la douceur du langage." For the
former of these critics, Homer was the author of two didactic manuals
relating to military and political matters: the _Iliad_ and the

Didacticism has always been looked upon as the Poetic of the
Renaissance, although the didactic is not mentioned among the kinds of
poetry of that period. The reason of this lies in the fact that for the
Renaissance all poetry was didactic, in addition to any other qualities
which it might possess. The active discussion of poetic theory, the
criticism of Aristotle and of Plato's exclusion of poetry, of the
possible and of the verisimilar, if it did not contribute much original
material to the theory of art, yet at any rate sowed the seeds which
afterwards germinated and bore fruit. Why, they asked with Aristotle, at
the Renaissance, does poetry deal with the universal, history with the
particular? What is the reason for poetry being obliged to seek
verisimilitude? What does Raphael mean by the "certain idea," which he
follows in his painting?

These themes and others cognate were dealt with by Italian and by
Spanish writers, who occasionally reveal wonderful acumen, as when
Francesco Patrizio, criticizing Aristotle's theory of imitation,
remarks: "All languages and all philosophic writings and all other
writings would be poetry, because they are made of words, and words are
imitations." But as yet no one dared follow such a clue to the
labyrinth, and the Renaissance closes with the sense of a mystery yet to
be revealed.



The seventeenth century is remarkable for the ferment of thought upon
this difficult problem. Such words as genius, taste, imagination or
fancy, and feeling, appear in this literature, and deserve a passing
notice. As regards the word "genius," we find the Italian "ingegno"
opposed to the intellect, and Dialectic adorned with the attributes of
the latter, while Rhetoric has the advantage of "ingegno" in all its
forms, such as "concetti" and "acutezze." With these the English word
ingenious has an obvious connection, especially in its earlier use as
applied to men of letters. The French worked upon the word "ingegno" and
evolved from it in various associations the expressions "esprit," "beaux
Esprits." The manual of the Spanish Jesuit, Baltasar Gracian, became
celebrated throughout Europe, and here we find "ingegno" described as
the truly inventive faculty, and from it the English word "genius," the
Italian "genio," the French "genie," first enter into general use.

The word "gusto" or taste, "good taste," in its modern sense, also
sprang into use about this time. Taste was held to be a judicial
faculty, directed to the beautiful, and thus to some extent distinct
from the intellectual judgment. It was further bisected into active and
passive; but the former ran into the definition of "ingegno," the latter
described sterility. The word "gusto," or taste as judgment, was in use
in Italy at a very early period; and in Spain we find Lope di Vega and
his contemporaries declaring that their object is to "delight the taste"
of their public. These uses of the word are not of significance as
regards the problem of art, and we must return to Baltasar Gracian
(1642) for a definition of taste as a special faculty or attitude of the
soul. Italian writers of the period echo the praises of this laconic
moralist, who, when he spoke of "a man of taste," meant to describe what
we call to-day "a man of tact" in the conduct of life.

The first use of the word in a strictly aesthetic sense occurs in France
in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. La Bruyere writes in his
_Caracteres_ (1688): "Il y a dans l'art un point de perfection, comme de
bonte ou de maturite dans la nature: celui qui le sent et qui l'aime, a
le gout parfait; celui qui ne le sent pas, et qui aime au deca ou au
dela, a le gout defectueux. Il y a donc un bon et un mauvais gout, et
l'on dispute des gouts avec fondement." Delicacy and variability or
variety were appended as attributes of taste. This French definition of
the Italian word was speedily adopted in England, where it became "good
taste," and we find it used in this sense in Italian and German writers
of about this period.

The words "imagination" and "fancy" were also passed through the
crucible in this century. We find the Cardinal Sforza-Pallavicino (1644)
blaming those who look for truth or falsehood, for the verisimilar or
for historical truth, in poetry. Poetry, he holds, has to do with the
primary apprehensions, which give neither truth nor falsehood. Thus the
fancy takes the place of the verisimilar of certain students of
Aristotle. The Cardinal continues his eloquence with the clinching
remark that if the intention of poetry were to be believed true, then
its real end would be falsehood, which is absolutely condemned by the
law of nature and by God. The sole object of poetic fables is, he says,
to adorn our intellect with sumptuous, new, marvellous, and splendid
imaginings, and so great has been the benefits accruing from this to the
human race, that poets have been rewarded with a glory superior to any
other, and their names have been crowned with divine honours. This, he
says in his treatise, _Del Bene_, has been the just reward of poets,
albeit they have not been bearers of knowledge, nor have they manifested

This throwing of the bridle on the neck of Pegasus seemed to Muratori
sixty years later to be altogether too risky a proceeding--although
advocated by a Prince of the Church! He reinserts the bit of the
verisimilar, though he talks with admiration of the fancy, that
"inferior apprehensive" faculty, which is content to "represent" things,
without seeking to know if they be true or false, a task which it leaves
to the "superior apprehensive" faculty of the intellect. The severe
Gravina, too, finds his heart touched by the beauty of poetry, when he
calls it "a witch, but wholesome."

As early as 1578, Huarte had maintained that eloquence is the work of
the imagination, not of the intellect; in England, Bacon (1605)
attributed knowledge to the intellect, history to memory, and poetry to
the imagination or fancy; Hobbes described the manifestations of the
latter; and Addison devoted several numbers of the _Spectator_ to the
analysis of "the pleasures of the imagination."

During the same period, the division between those who are accustomed "a
juger par le sentiment" and those who "raisonnent par les principes"
became marked in France, Du Bos (1719) is an interesting example of the
upholder of the feelings as regards the production of art. Indeed, there
is in his view no other criterion, and the feeling for art is a sixth
sense, against which intellectual argument is useless. This French
school of thought found a reflex in England with the position assigned
there to emotion in artistic work. But the confusion of such words as
imagination, taste, feeling, wit, shows that at this time there was a
suspicion that these words were all applicable to the same fact.
Alexander Pope thus distinguished wit and judgment:

For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Though meant each other's aid like man and wife.

But there was a divergence of opinion as to whether the latter should be
looked upon as part of the intellect or not.

There was the same divergence of opinion as to taste and intellectual
judgment. As regards the former, the opposition to the intellectual
principle was reinforced in the eighteenth century by Kant in his
_Kritik der Urtheilskraft_. But Voltaire and writers anterior to him
frequently fell back into intellectualist definitions of a word invented
precisely to avoid them. Dacier (1684) writes of taste as "Une harmonie,
un accord de l'esprit et de la raison." The difficulties surrounding a
true definition led to the creation of the expression _non so che_, or
_je ne sais quoi_, or _no se que_, which throws into clear relief the
confusion between taste and intellectual judgment.

As regards imagination and feeling, or sentiment, there was a strong
tendency to sensualism. The Cardinal Sforza-Pallavicino talks of poetry
as ignoring alike truth or falsehood and yet delighting the senses. He
approves of the remark that poetry should make us "raise our eyebrows,"
but in later life this keen-eyed prince seems to have fallen back from
the brilliant intuition of his earlier years into the pedagogic theory.
Muratori was convinced that fancy was entirely sensual, and therefore he
posted the intellect beside it, "to refrain its wild courses, like a
friend having authority." Gravina practically coincides in this view of
poetic fancy, as a subordinate faculty, incapable of knowledge, fit only
to be used by moral philosophy for the introduction into the mind of the
true, by means of novelty and the marvellous.

In England, also, Bacon held poetry to belong to the fancy, and assigned
to it a place between history and science. Epic poetry he awarded to the
former, "parabolic" poetry to the latter. Elsewhere he talks of poetry
as a dream, and affirms that it is to be held "rather as an amusement of
the intelligence than as a science." For him music, painting, sculpture,
and the other arts are merely pleasure-giving. Addison reduced the
pleasures of the imagination to those caused by visible objects, or by
ideas taken from them. These pleasures he held to be inferior to those
of the senses and less refined than those of the intellect. He looked
upon imaginative pleasure as consisting in resemblances discovered
between imitations and things imitated, between copies and originals, an
exercise adapted to sharpen the spirit of observation.

The sensualism of the writers headed by Du Bos, who looked upon art as a
mere pastime, like a tournament or a bull-fight, shows that the truth
about Aesthetic had not yet succeeded in emerging from the other
spiritual activities. Yet the new words and the new views of the
seventeenth century have great importance for the origins of Aesthetic;
they were the direct result of the restatement of the problem by the
writers of the Renaissance, who themselves took it up where Antiquity
had left it. These new words, and the discussions which arose from them,
were the demands of Aesthetic for its theoretical justification. But
they were not able to provide this justification, and it could not come
from elsewhere.

With Descartes, we are not likely to find much sympathy for such studies
as relate to wit, taste, fancy, or feelings. He ignored the famous _non
so che_; he abhorred the imagination, which he believed to result from
the agitation of the animal spirits. He did not altogether condemn
poetry, but certainly looked upon it as the _folle du logis_, which must
be strictly supervised by the reason. Boileau is the aesthetic
equivalent of Cartesian intellectualism, Boileau _que la raison a ses
regles engage_, Boileau the enthusiast for allegory. France was infected
with the mathematical spirit of Cartesianism and all possibility of a
serious consideration of poetry and of art was thus removed. Witness the
diatribes of Malebranche against the imagination, and listen to the
Italian, Antonio Conti, writing from France in 1756 on the theme of the
literary disputes that were raging at the time: "They have introduced
the method of M. Descartes into belles-lettres; they judge poetry and
eloquence independently of their sensible qualities. Thus they also
confound the progress of philosophy with that of the arts. The Abbe
Terrasson says that the moderns are greater geometricians than the
ancients; therefore they are greater orators and greater poets." La
Motte, Fontenelle, Boileau, and Malebranche carried on this battle,
which was taken up by the Encyclopaedists, and when Du Bos published his
daring book, Jean Jacques le Bel published a reply to it (1726), in
which he denied to sentiment its claim to judge of art. Thus
Cartesianism could not possess an Aesthetic of the imagination. The
Cartesian J.P. de Crousaz (1715) found the beautiful to consist in what
is approved of, and thereby reduced it to ideas, ignoring the pleasing
and sentiment.

Locke was as intellectualist in the England of this period as was
Descartes in France. He speaks of wit as combining ideas in an agreeable
variety, which strikes the imagination, while the intellect or judgment
seeks for differences according to truth. The wit, then, consists of
something which is not at all in accordance with truth and reason. For
Shaftesbury, taste is a sense or instinct of the beautiful, of order and
proportion, identical with the moral sense and with its "preconceptions"
anticipating the recognition of reason. Body, spirit, and God are the
three degrees of beauty. Francis Hutcheson proceeded from Shaftesbury
and made popular "the internal sense of beauty, which lies somewhere
between sensuality and rationality and is occupied with discussing unity
in variety, concord in multiplicity, and the true, the good, and the
beautiful in their substantial identity." Hutcheson allied the pleasure
of art with this sense, that is, with the pleasure of imitation and of
the likeness of the copy to the original. This he looked upon as
relative beauty, to be distinguished from absolute beauty. The same view
dominates the English writers of the eighteenth century, among whom may
be mentioned Reid, the head of the Scottish school, and Adam Smith.

With far greater philosophical vigour, Leibnitz in Germany opened the
door to that crowd of psychic facts which Cartesian intellectualism had
rejected with horror. His conception of reality as _continuous_ (_natura
non facit saltus_) left room for imagination, taste, and their
congeners. Leibnitz believed that the scale of being ascended from the
lowliest to God. What we now term aesthetic facts were then identified
with what Descartes and Leibnitz had called "confused" knowledge, which
might become "clear," but not distinct. It might seem that when he
applied this terminology to aesthetic facts, Leibnitz had recognized
their peculiar essence, as being neither sensual nor intellectual. They
are not sensual for him, because they have their own "clarity,"
differing from pleasure and sensual emotion, and from intellectual
"distinctio." But the Leibnitzian law of continuity and intellectualism
did not permit of such an interpretation. Obscurity and clarity are here
to be understood as quantitative grades of a _single_ form of knowledge,
the distinct or intellectual, toward which they both tend and reach at a
superior grade. Though artists judge with confused perceptions, which
are clear but not distinct, these may yet be corrected and proved true
by intellective knowledge. The intellect clearly and distinctly knows
the thing which the imagination knows confusedly but clearly. This view
of Leibnitz amounts to saying that the realization of a work of art can
be perfected by intellectually determining its concept. Thus Leibnitz
held that there was only one true form of knowledge, and that all other
forms could only reach perfection in that. His "clarity" is not a
specific difference; it is merely a partial anticipation of his
intellective "distinction." To have posited this grade is an important
achievement, but the view of Leibnitz is not fundamentally different
from that of the creators of the words and intuitions already studied.
All contributed to attract attention to the peculiarity of aesthetic

Speculation on language at this period revealed an equally determined
intellectualist attitude. Grammar was held to be an exact science, and
grammatical variations to be explainable by the ellipse, by
abbreviation, and by failure to grasp the typical logical form. In
France, with Arnauld (1660), we have the rigorous Cartesian
intellectualism; Leibnitz and Locke both, speculated upon this subject,
and the former all his life nourished the thought of a universal
language. The absurdity of this is proved in this volume.

A complete change of the Cartesian system, upon which Leibnitz based his
own, was necessary, if speculation were ever to surpass the Leibnitzian
aesthetic. But Wolff and the other German pupils of Leibnitz were as
unable to shake themselves free of the all-pervading intellectualism as
were the French pupils of Descartes.

Meanwhile a young student of Berlin, named Alexander Amedeus Baumgarten,
was studying the Wolffian philosophy, and at the same time lecturing in
poetry and Latin rhetoric. While so doing, he was led to rethink and
pose afresh the problem of how to reduce the precepts of rhetoric to a
rigorous philosophical system. Thus it came about that Baumgarten
published in September 1735, at the age of twenty-one, as the thesis for
his degree of Doctor, an opuscule entitled, _Meditationes philosophicae
de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus_, and in it we find written
_for the first time_ the word "Aesthetic," as the name of a special
science. Baumgarten ever afterwards attached great importance to his
juvenile discovery, and lectured upon it by request in 1742, at
Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and again in 1749. It is interesting to know that
in this way Emmanuel Kant first became acquainted with the theory of
Aesthetic, which he greatly altered when he came to treat of it in his
philosophy. In 1750, Baumgarten published the first volume of a more
ample treatise, and a second part in 1762. But illness, and death in
1762, prevented his completing his work.

What is Aesthetic for Baumgarten? It is the science of sensible
knowledge. Its objects are the sensible facts (_aisthaeta_),
which the Greeks were always careful to distinguish from the mental
facts (_noaeta_). It is therefore _scientia cognitionis
sensitivae, theoria liberalium artium, gnoseologia inferior, ars pulcre
cogitandi, ars analogi rationis_. Rhetoric and Poetic are for him
special cases of Aesthetic, which is a general science, embracing both.
Its laws are diffused among all the arts, like the mariner's star
(_cynosura quaedam_), and they must be always referred to in all cases,
for they are universal, not empirical or merely inductive (_falsa regula
pejor est quam nulla_). Aesthetic must not be confounded with
Psychology, which supplies only suppositions. Aesthetic is an
independent science, which gives the rules for knowing sensibly, and is
occupied with the perfection of sensible knowledge, which is beauty. Its
contrary is ugliness. The beauty of objects and of matter must be
excluded from the beauty of sensible knowledge, because beautiful
objects can be badly thought and ugly objects beautifully thought.
Poetic representations are those which are confused or imaginative.
Distinction and intellectuality are not poetic. The greater the
determination, the greater the poetry; individuals absolutely determined
(_omnimodo determinata_) are very poetical, as are images or fancies,
and everything which refers to feeling. The judgment of sensible and
imaginative representations is taste.

Such are, in brief, the truths which Baumgarten stated in his
_Meditationes_, and further developed and exemplified in his
_Aesthetica_. Close study of the two works above-mentioned leads to the
conviction that Baumgarten did not succeed in freeing himself from the
unity of the Leibnitzian monadology. He obtained from Leibnitz his
conception of the poetic as consisting of the confused, but German
critics are wrong in believing that he attributed to it a positive, not
a negative quality. Had he really done this, he would have broken at a
blow the unity of the Leibnitzian monad, and conquered the science of

This giant's step he did not take: he failed to banish the
contradictions of Leibnitz and of the other intellectualists. To posit a
_perfection_ did not suffice. It was necessary to maintain it against
the _lex continui_ of Leibnitz and to proclaim its independence of all
intellectualism. Aesthetic truths for Baumgarten were those which did
not seem altogether false or altogether true: in fact, the verisimilar.
If it were objected to Baumgarten that one should not occupy oneself
with what, like poetry, he defines as confused and obscure, he would
reply that confusion is a condition of finding the truth, that we do not
pass at once from night to dawn. Thus he did not surpass the thought of
Leibnitz in this respect. Poor Baumgarten was always in suspense lest he
should be held to occupy himself with things unworthy of a philosopher!
"How can you, a professor of philosophy, dare to praise lying and the
mixture of truth and falsehood?" He imagined that some such reproach
might be addressed to him on account of his purely philosophical
speculations, and true enough he actually received a criticism of his
theory, in which it was argued, that if poetry consisted of sensual
perfection, then it was a bad thing for mankind. Baumgarten
contemptuously replied that he had not the time to argue with those
capable of confounding his _oratio perfecta sensitiva_ with an _oratio
perfecte (omnino!) sensitiva_.

The fact about Baumgarten is that apart from baptizing the new science
Aesthetic, and apart from his first definitions, he does not stray far
from the old ruts of scholastic thought. The excellent Baumgarten, with
all his ardour and all his convictions, is a sympathetic and interesting
figure in the history of Aesthetic not yet formed, but in process of

The revolutionary who set aside the old definitions of Aesthetic, and
for the first time revealed the true nature of art and poetry, is the
Italian, Giambattista Vico.

What were the ideas developed by Vico in his _Scienza nuova_ (1725)?
They were neither more nor less than the solution of the problem, posed
by Plato, attempted in vain by Aristotle, again posed and again unsolved
at the Renaissance.

Is poetry a rational or an irrational thing? Is it spiritual or animal?
If it be spiritual, what is its true nature, and in what way does it
differ from art and science?

Plato, we know, banished poetry to the inferior region of the soul,
among the animal spirits. Vico on the contrary raises up poetry, and
makes of it a period in the history of humanity. And since Vico's is an
ideal history, whose periods are not concerned with contingent facts,
but with spiritual forms, he makes of it a moment of the ideal history
of the spirit, a form of knowledge. Poetry comes before the intellect,
but _after_ feeling. Plato had _confused_ it with feeling, and for that
reason banished it from his Republic. "Men _feel_," says Vico, "before
observing, then they observe with perturbation of the soul, finally they
reflect with the pure intellect," He goes on to say, that poetry being
composed of passion and of feeling, the nearer it approaches to the
_particular_, the more _true_ it is, while exactly the reverse is true
of philosophy.

Imagination is independent and autonomous as regards the intellect. Not
only does the intellect fail of perfection, but all it can do is to
destroy it. "The studies of Poetry and Metaphysic are _naturally
opposed_. Poets are the feeling, philosophers the intellect of the human
race." The weaker the reason, the stronger the imagination. Philosophy,
he says, deals with abstract thought or universals, poetry with the
particular. Painters and poets differ only in their material. Homer and
the great poets appear in barbaric times. Dante, for instance, appeared
in "the renewed barbarism of Italy." The poetic ages preceded the
philosophical, and poetry is the father of prose, by "necessity of
nature," not by the "caprice of pleasure." Fables or "imaginary
universals" were conceived before "reasoned or philosophical
universals." To Homer, says Vico, belongs wisdom, but only poetic
wisdom. "His beauties are not those of a spirit softened and civilized
by any philosophy."

If any one make poetry in epochs of reflexion, he becomes a child again;
he does not reflect with his intellect, but follows his fancy and dwells
upon particulars. If the true poet make use of philosophic ideas, he
only does so that he may change logic into imagination.

Here we have a profound statement of the line of demarcation between
science and art. _They cannot be confused again_.

His statement of the difference between poetry and history is a trifle
less clear. He explains why to Aristotle poetry seemed more
philosophical than history, and at the same time he refutes Aristotle's
error that poetry deals with the universal, history with the particular.
Poetry equals science, not because it is occupied with the intellectual
concept, but because, like science, it is ideal. A good poetical fable
must be all ideal: "With the idea the poet gives their being to things
which are without it. Poetry is all fantastic, as being the art of
painting the idea, not icastic, like the art of painting portraits. That
is why poets, like painters, are called divine, because in that respect
they resemble God the Creator." Vico ends by identifying poetry and
history. The difference between them is posterior and accidental. "But,
as it is impossible to impart false ideas, because the false consists of
a vicious combination of ideas, so it is impossible to impart a
tradition, which, though it be false, has not at first contained some
element of truth. Thus mythology appears for the first time, not as the
invention of an individual, but as the spontaneous vision of the truth
as it appears to primitive man."

Poetry and language are for Vico substantially identical. He finds in
the origins of poetry the origins of languages and letters. He believed
that the first languages consisted in mute acts or acts accompanied by
bodies which had natural relations to the ideas that it was desired to
signify. With great cleverness he compared these pictured languages to
heraldic arms and devices, and to hieroglyphs. He observed that during
the barbarism of the Middle Age, the mute language of signs must return,
and we find it in the heraldry and blazonry of that epoch. Hence come
three kinds of languages: divine silent languages, heroic emblematic
languages, and speech languages.

Formal logic could never satisfy a man with such revolutionary ideas
upon poetry and language. He describes the Aristotelian syllogism as a
method which explains universals In their particulars, rather than
unites particulars to obtain universals, looks upon Zeno and the sorites
as a means of subtilizing rather than sharpening the intelligence, and
concludes that Bacon is a great philosopher, when he advocates and
illustrates _induction_, "which has been followed by the English to the
great advantage of experimental philosophy." Hence he proceeds to
criticize mathematics, which, had hitherto always been looked upon as
the type of the _perfect science_.

Vico is indeed a revolutionary, a pioneer. He knows very well that he is
in direct opposition to all that has been thought before about poetry.
"My new principles of poetry upset all that first Plato and then
Aristotle have said about the origin of poetry, all that has been said
by the Patrizzi, by the Scaligers, and by the Castelvetri. I have
discovered that It was through lack of human reason that poetry was born
so sublime that neither the Arts, nor the Poetics, nor the Critiques
could cause another equal to it to be born, I say equal, and not
superior." He goes as far as to express shame at having to report the
stupidities of great philosophers upon the origin of song and verse. He
shows his dislike for the Cartesian philosophy and its tendency to dry
up the imagination "by denying all the faculties of the soul which come
to it from the body," and talks of his own time as of one "which freezes
all the generous quality of the best poetry and thus precludes it from
being understood."

As regards grammatical forms, Vico may be described as an adherent of
the great reaction of the Renaissance against scholastic verbalism and
formalism. This reaction brought back as a value the experience of
feeling, and afterwards with Romanticism gave its right place to the
imagination. Vico, in his _Scienza nuova_, may be said to have been the
first to draw attention to the imagination. Although he makes many
luminous remarks on history and the development of poetry among the
Greeks, his work is not really a history, but a science of the spirit or
of the ideal. It is not the ethical, logical, or economic moment of
humanity which interests him, but the _imaginative_ moment. _He
discovered the creative imagination_, and it may almost be said of the
_Scienza nuova_ of Vico that it is Aesthetic, the discovery of a new
world, of a new mode of knowledge.

This was the contribution of the genius of Vico to the progress of
humanity: he showed Aesthetic to be an autonomous activity. It remained
to distinguish the science of the spirit from history, the modifications
of the human spirit from the historic vicissitudes of peoples, Aesthetic
from Homeric civilization.

But although Goethe, Herder, and Wolf were acquainted with the _Scienza
nuova_, the importance of this wonderful book did not at first dawn upon
the world. Wolf, in his prolegomena to Homer, thought that he was
dealing merely with an ingenious speculator on Homeric themes. He did
not realize that the intellectual stature of Vico far surpassed that of
the most able philologists.

The fortunes of Aesthetic after Vico were very various, and the list of
aestheticians who fell back into the old pedagogic definition, or
elaborated the mistakes of Baumgarten, is very long. Yet with C.H.
Heydenreich in Germany and Sulzer in Switzerland we find that the truths
contained in Baumgarten have begun to bear fruit. J.J. Herder (1769) was
more important than these, and he placed Baumgarten upon a pedestal,
though criticizing his pretension of creating an _ars pulchre cogitandi_
instead of a simple _scientia de pulchro et pulchris philosophice
cogitans_. Herder admitted Baumgarten's definition of poetry as _oratio
sensitiva perfecta_, perfect sensitived speech, and this is _probably
the best definition of poetry that has ever been given_. It touches the
real essence of poetry and opens to thought the whole of the philosophy
of the beautiful. Herder, although he does not cite Vico upon aesthetic
questions, yet praises him as a philosopher. His remarks about poetry as
"the maternal language of humanity, as the garden is more ancient than
the cultivated field, painting than writing, song than declamation,
exchange than commerce," are replete with the spirit of the Italian

But despite similar happy phrases, Herder is philosophically the
inferior of the great Italian. He is a firm believer in the Leibnitzian
law of continuity, and does not surpass the conclusions of Baumgarten.

Herder and his friend Hamann did good service as regards the philosophy
of language. The French encyclopaedists, J.J. Rousseau, d'Alembert, and
many others of this period, were none of them able to get free of the
idea that a word is either a natural, mechanical fact, or a sign
attached to a thought. The only way out of this difficulty is to look
upon the imagination as itself active and expressive in _verbal
imagination_, and language as the language of _intuition_, not of the
intelligence. Herder talks of language as "an understanding of the soul
with itself." Thus language begins to appear, not as an arbitrary
invention or a mechanical fact, but as a primitive affirmation of human
activity, as a _creation_.

But all unconscious of the discoveries of Vico, the great mass of
eighteenth century writers try their hands at every sort of solution.
The Abbe Batteux published in 1746 _Les Beaux-arts reduits a un seul
principe_, which is a perfect little bouquet of contradictions. The Abbe
finds himself confronted with difficulties at every turn, but with "un
peu d'esprit on se tire de tout," and when for instance he has to
explain artistic enjoyment of things displeasing, he remarks that the
imitation never being perfect like reality, the horror caused by reality

But the French were equalled and indeed surpassed by the English in
their amateur Aesthetics. The painter Hogarth was one day reading in
Italian a speech about the beauty of certain figures, attributed to
Michael Angelo. This led him to imagine that the figurative arts depend
upon a principle which consists of conforming to a given line. In 1745
he produced a serpentine line as frontispiece of his collection of
engravings, which he described as "the line of beauty." Thus he
succeeded in exciting universal curiosity, which he proceeded to satisfy
with his "Analysis of Beauty." Here he begins by rightly combating the
error of judging paintings by their subject and by the degree of their
imitation, instead of by their form, which is the essential in art. He
gives his definition of form, and afterwards proceeds to describe the
waving lines which are beautiful and those which are not, and maintains
that among them all there is but one that is really worthy to be called
"the line of beauty," and one definite serpentine line "the line of
grace." The pig, the bear, the spider, and the frog are ugly, because
they do not possess serpentine lines. E. Burke, with a like assurance in
his examples, was equally devoid of certainty in his general principles.
He declares that the natural properties of an object cause pleasure or
pain to the imagination, but that the latter also procures pleasure from
their resemblance to the original. He does not speak further of the
second of these, but gives a long list of the natural properties of the
sensible, beautiful object. Having concluded his list, he remarks that
these are in his opinion the qualities upon which beauty depends and
which are the least liable to caprice and confusion. But "comparative
smallness, delicate structure, colouring vivid but not too much so," are
all mere empirical observations of no more value than those of Hogarth,
with whom Burke must be classed as an aesthetician. Their works are
spoken of as "classics." Classics indeed they are, but of the sort that
arrive at no conclusion.

Henry Home (Lord Kaimes) is on a level a trifle above the two just
mentioned. He seeks "the true principles of the beaux-arts," in order to
transform criticism into "a rational science." He selects facts and
experience for this purpose, but in his definition of beauty, which he
divides into two parts, relative and intrinsic, he is unable to explain
the latter, save by a final cause, which he finds in the Almighty.

Such theories as the three above mentioned defy classification, because
they are not composed by any scientific method. Their authors pass from
physiological sensualism to moralism, from imitation of nature to
finalism, and to transcendental mysticism, without consciousness of the
incongruity of their theses, at variance each with itself.

The German, Ernest Platner, at any rate did not suffer from a like
confusion of thought. He developed his researches on the lines of
Hogarth, but was only able to discover a prolongation of sexual pleasure
in aesthetic facts. "Where," he exclaims, "is there any beauty that does
not come from the feminine figure, the centre of all beauty? The
undulating line is beautiful, because it is found in the body of woman;
essentially feminine movements are beautiful; the notes of music are
beautiful, when they melt into one another; a poem is beautiful, when
one thought embraces another with lightness and facility."

French sensualism shows itself quite incapable of understanding
aesthetic production, and the associationism of David Hume is not more
fortunate in this respect.

The Dutchman Hemsterhuis (1769) developed an ingenious theory, mingling
mystical and sensualist theory with some just remarks, which afterwards,
in the hands of Jacobi, became sentimentalism. Hemsterhuis believed
beauty to be a phenomenon arising from the meeting by the
sentimentalism, which gives multiplicity, with the internal sense, which
tends to unity. Consequently the beautiful will be that which presents
the greatest number of ideas in the shortest space of time. To man is
denied supreme unity, but here he finds approximative unity. Hence the
joy arising from the beautiful, which has some analogy with the joy of

With Winckelmann (1764) Platonism or Neo-platonism was vigorously
renewed. The creator of the history of the figurative arts saw in the
divine indifference and more than human elevation of the works of Greek
sculpture a beauty which had descended from the seventh heaven and
become incarnate in them. Mendelssohn, the follower of Baumgarten, had
denied beauty to God: Winckelmann, the Neoplatonician, gave it back to
Him. He holds that perfect beauty is to be found only in God. "The
conception of human beauty becomes the more perfect in proportion as it
can be thought as in agreement with the Supreme Being, who is
distinguished from matter by His unity and indivisibility." To the other
characteristics of supreme beauty, Winckelmann adds "the absence of any
sort of signification" (Unbezeichnung). Lines and dots cannot explain
beauty, for it is not they alone which form it. Its form is not proper
to any definite person, it expresses no sentiment, no feeling of
passion, for these break up unity and diminish or obscure beauty.
According to Winckelmann, beauty must be like a drop of pure water taken
from the spring, which is the more healthy the less it has of taste,
because it is purified of all foreign elements.

A special faculty is required to appreciate this beauty, which
Winckelmann is inclined to call intelligence, or a delicate internal
sense, free of all instinctive passions, of pleasure, and of friendship.
Since it becomes a question of perceiving something immaterial,
Winckelmann banishes colour to a secondary place. True beauty, he says,
is that of form, a word which describes lines and contours, as though
lines and contours could not also be perceived by the senses, or could
appear to the eye without any colour.

It is the destiny of error to be obliged to contradict itself, when it
does not decide to dwell in a brief aphorism, in order to live as well
as may be with facts and concrete problems. The "History" of Winckelmann
dealt with historic concrete facts, with which it was necessary to
reconcile the idea of a supreme beauty. His admission of the contours of
lines and his secondary admission of colours is a compromise. He makes
another with regard to the principle of expression. "Since there is no
intermediary between pain and pleasure in human nature, and since a
human being without these feelings is inconceivable, we must place the
human figure in a moment of action and of passion, which is what is
termed expression in art." So Winckelmann studied expression after
beauty. He makes a third compromise between his one, indivisible,
supreme, and constant beauty and individual beauties. Winckelmann
preferred the male to the female body as the most complete incarnation
of supreme beauty, but he was not able to shut his eyes to the
indisputable fact that there also exist beautiful bodies of women and
even of animals.

Raphael Mengs, the painter, was an intimate friend of Winckelmann and
associated himself with him in his search for a true definition of the
beautiful. His ideas were generally in accordance with those of
Winckelmann. He defines beauty as "the visible idea of perfection, which
is to perfection what the visible is to the mathematical point." He
falls under the influence of the argument from design. The Creator has
ordained the multiplicity of beauties. Things are beautiful according to
our ideas of them, and these ideas come from the Creator. Thus each
beautiful thing has its own type, and a child would appear ugly if it
resembled a man. He adds to his remarks in this sense: "As the diamond
is alone perfect among stones, gold among metals, and man among living
creatures, so there is distinction in each species, and but little is
perfect." In his _Dreams of Beauty_, he looks upon beauty as "an
intermediate disposition," which contains a part of perfection and a
part of the agreeable, and forms a _tertium quid_, which differs from
the other two and deserves a special name. He names four sources of the
art of painting: beauty, significant or expressive character, harmony,
and colouring. The first of these he finds among the ancients, the
second with Raphael, the third with Correggio, the fourth with Titian.
Mengs does not succeed in rising above this empiricism of the studio,
save to declaim about the beauty of nature, virtue, forms, and
proportions, and indeed everything, including the First Cause, which is
the most beautiful of all.

The name of G.E. Lessing (1766) is well known to all concerned with art
problems. The ideas of Winckelmann reappear in Lessing, with less of a
metaphysical tinge. For Lessing, the end of art is the pleasing, and
since this is "a superfluous thing," he thought that the legislator
should not allow to art the liberty indispensable to science, which
seeks the truth, necessary to the soul. For the Greeks painting was, as
it should always be, "imitation of beautiful bodies." Everything
disagreeable or ill-formed should be excluded from painting. "Painting,
as clever imitation, may imitate deformity. Painting, as a fine art,
does not permit this." He was more inclined to admit deformity in
poetry, as there it is less shocking, and the poet can make use of it to
produce in us certain feelings, such as the ridiculous or the terrible.
In his _Dramaturgie_ (1767), Lessing followed the Peripatetics, and
believed that the rules of Aristotle were as absolute as the theorems of
Euclid. His polemic against the French school is chiefly directed to
claiming a place in poetry for the verisimilar, as against absolute
historical exactitude. He held the universal to be a sort of mean of
what appears in the individual, the catharsis was in his view a
transformation of the passions into virtuous dispositions, and he held
the duty of poetry to be inspiration of the love of virtue. He followed
Winckelmann in believing that the expression of physical beauty was the
supreme object of painting. This beauty exists only as an ideal, which
finds its highest expression in man. Animals possess it to a slighter
extent, vegetable and inanimate nature not at all. Those mistaken enough
to occupy themselves with depicting the latter are imitating beauties
deprived of all ideal. They work only with eye and hand; genius has
little if any share in their productions. Lessing found the physical
ideal to reside chiefly in form, but also in the ideal of colour, and in
permanent expression. Mere colouring and transitory expression were for
him without ideal, "because nature has not imposed upon herself anything
definite as regards them." At bottom he does not care for colouring,
finding in the pen drawings of artists "a life, a liberty, a delicacy,
lacking to their pictures." He asks "whether even the most wonderful
colouring can make up for such a loss, and whether it be not desirable
that the art of oil-painting had never been invented."

This "ideal beauty," wonderfully constructed from divine quintessence
and subtle pen and brush strokes, this academic mystery, had great
success. In Italy it was much discussed in the environment of Mengs and
of Winckelmann, who were working there.

The first counterblast to their aesthetic Neo-platonism came from an
Italian named Spalletti, and took the form of a letter addressed to
Mengs. He represents the _characteristic_ as the true principle of art.
The pleasure obtained from beauty is intellectual, and truth is its
object. When the soul meets with what is characteristic, and what really
suits the object to be represented, the work is held to be beautiful. A
well-made man with a woman's face is ugly. Harmony, order, variety,
proportion, etc.--these are elements of beauty, and man enjoys the
widening of his knowledge before disagreeable things characteristically
represented. Spalletti defines beauty as "that modification inherent to
the object observed, which presents it, as it should appear, with an
infallible characteristic."

Thus the Aristotelian thesis found a supporter in Italy, some years
before any protestation was heard in Germany. Louis Hirt, the historian
of art (1797) observed that ancient monuments represented all sorts of
forms, from the most beautiful and sublime to the most ugly and most
common. He therefore denied that ideal beauty was the principle of art,
and for it substituted the _characteristic_, applicable equally to gods,
heroes, and animals.

Wolfgang Goethe, in 1798, forgetting the juvenile period, during which
he had dared to raise a hymn to Gothic architecture, now began seriously
to seek a middle term between beauty and expression. He believed that he
had found it, in certain characteristic contents presenting to the
artist beautiful shapes, which the artist would then develop and reduce
to perfect beauty. Thus for Goethe at this period, the characteristic
was simply the _starting-point_, or framework, from which the beautiful
arose, through the power of the artist.

But these writers mentioned after J.B. Vico are not true philosophers.
Winckelmann, Mengs, Hogarth, Lessing, and Goethe are great in other
ways. Meier called himself a historian of art, but he was inferior both
to Herder and to Hamann. From J.B. Vico to Emmanuel Kant, European
thought is without a name of great importance as regards this subject.

Kant took up the problem, where Vico had left it, not in the historical,
but in the ideal sense. He resembled the Italian philosopher, in the
gravity and the tenacity of his studies in Aesthetic, but he was far
less happy in his solutions, which did not attain to the truth, and to
which he did not succeed in giving the necessary unity and
systematization. The reader must bear in mind that Kant is here
criticized solely as an aesthetician: his other conclusions do not enter
directly into the discussion.

What was Kant's idea of art? The answer is: the same in substance as
Baumgarten's. This may seem strange to those who remember his sustained
polemic against Wolf and the conception of beauty as confused
perception. But Kant always thought highly of Baumgarten. He calls him
"that excellent analyst" in the _Critique of Pure Reason_, and he used
Baumgarten's text for his University lectures on Metaphysic. Kant looked
upon Logic and Aesthetic as cognate studies, and in his scheme of
studies for 1765, and in the _Critique of Pure Reason_, he proposes to
cast a glance at the Critique of Taste, that is to say, Aesthetic,
"since the study of the one is useful for the other and they are
mutually illuminative." He followed Meier in his distinctions between
logical and aesthetic truth. He even quoted the Instance of the young
girl, whose face when distinctly seen, i.e. with a microscope, is no
longer beautiful. It is true, aesthetically, he said, that when a man is
dead he cannot come to life, although this be opposed both to logical
and to moral truth. It is aesthetically true that the sun plunges into
the sea, although that is not true logically or objectively.

No one, even among the greatest, can yet tell to what extent logical
truth should mingle with aesthetic truth. Kant believed that logical
truth must wear the habit of Aesthetic, in order to become _accessible_.
This habit, he thought, was discarded only by the rational sciences,
which tend to depth. Aesthetic certainly is subjective. It is satisfied
with authority or with an appeal to great men. We are so feeble that
Aesthetic must eke out our thoughts. Aesthetic is a vehicle of Logic.
But there are logical truths which are not aesthetic. We must exclude
from philosophy exclamations and other emotions, which belong to
aesthetic truth. For Kant, poetry is the harmonious play of thought and
sensation, differing from eloquence, because in poetry thoughts are
fitted to suggestions, in eloquence the reverse is true. Poetry should
make virtue and intellect visible, as was done by Pope in his _Essay on
Man_. Elsewhere, he says frankly that logical perfection is the
foundation of all the rest.

The confirmation of this is found in his _Critique of Judgment_, which
Schelling looked upon as the most important of the three _Critiques_,
and which Hegel and other metaphysical idealists always especially

For Kant art was always "a sensible and imaged covering for an
intellectual concept." He did not look upon art as pure beauty without a
concept. He looked upon it as a beauty adherent and fixed about a
concept. The work of genius contains two elements: imagination and
intelligence. To these must be added taste, which combines the two. Art
may even represent the ugly in nature, for artistic beauty "is not a
beautiful thing but a beautiful representation of a thing." But this
representation of the ugly has its limits in the arts (here Kant
remembers Lessing and Winckelmann), and an absolute limit in the
disgusting and the repugnant, which kills the representation itself. He
believes that there may be artistic productions without a concept, such
as are flowers in nature, and these would be ornaments to frameworks,
music without words, etc., etc., but since they represent nothing
reducible to a definite concept, they must be classed, like flowers,
with free beauties. This would certainly seem to exclude them from
Aesthetic, which, according to Kant, should combine imagination and

Kant is shut in with intellectualist barriers. A complete definition of
the _imagination_ is _wanting_ to his system. He does not admit that the
imagination belongs to the powers of the mind. He relegates it to the
facts of sensation. He is aware of the reproductive and combinative
imagination, but he does not recognize _fancy_ (_fantasia_), which is
the true productive imagination.

Yet Kant was aware that there exists an activity other than the
intellective. Intuition is referred to by him as preceding intellective
activity and differing from sensation. He does not speak of it, however,
in his critique of art, but in the first section of the _Critique of
Pure Reason_. Sensations do not enter the mind, until it has given them
_form_. This is neither sensation nor intelligence. It is _pure
intuition_, the sum of the _a priori_ principles of sensibility. He
speaks thus: "There must, then, exist a science that forms the first
part of the transcendental doctrine of the elements, distinct from that
which contains the principles of pure thought and is called
transcendental Logic."

What does he call this new science? He calls it _Transcendental
Aesthetic_, and refuses to allow the term to be used for the Critique of
Taste, which could never become a science.

But although he thus states so clearly the necessity of a science of the
form of the sensations, that is of _pure intuition_, Kant here appears
to fall into grave error. This arises from _his inexact idea_ of the
_essence of the aesthetic faculty or of art_, which, as we now know, is
pure intuition. He conceives the form of sensibility to be reducible to
the _two categories of space and time_.

Benedetto Croce has shown that space and time are far from being
categories or functions: they are complex posterior formations. Kant,
however, looked upon density, colour, etc., as material for sensations;
but the mind only observes colour or hardness when it has _already_
given a form to its sensations. Sensations, in so far as they are _crude
matter_, are _outside_ the mind: they are a _limit_. Colour, hardness,
density, etc., are _already_ intuitions. _They are the aesthetic
activity in its rudimentary manifestation._

Characterizing or qualifying imagination, that is, _aesthetic activity_,
should therefore _take the place occupied by the study of space and
time_ in the _Critique of Pure Reason_, and constitute the true
_Transcendental Aesthetic_, prologue to Logic.

Had Kant done this, he would have surpassed Leibnitz and Baumgarten; he
would have equalled Vico.

Kant did not identify the Beautiful with art. He established what he
called "the four moments of Beauty," amounting to a definition of it.
The two negative moments are, "That is beautiful which pleases _without
interest_"; this thesis was directed against the sensualist school of
English writers, with whom Kant had for a time agreed; and "That is
beautiful which pleases without a concept," directed against the
intellectualists. Thus he affirmed the existence of a spiritual domain,
distinct from that of organic pleasure, of the useful, the good, and the
true. The two other moments are, "That is beautiful which has the form
of finality without the representation of an end," and "That is
beautiful which is the object of universal pleasure." What is this
disinterested pleasure that we experience before pure colours, pure
sounds, and flowers? Benedetto Croce replies that this mysterious domain
has no existence; that the instances cited represent, either instances
of organic pleasure, or are artistic facts of expression.

Kant was less severe with the Neoplatonicians than with the two schools
of thought above mentioned. His _Critique of Judgment_ contains some
curious passages, in one of which he gives his distinction of form from
matter: "In music, the melody is the matter, harmony the form: in a
flower, the scent is the matter, the shape or configuration the form."
In the other arts, he found that the design was the essential. "Not what
pleases in sensation, but what is approved for its form, is the
foundation of taste."

In his pursuit of the phantom of a beauty, which is neither that of art
nor of sensual pleasure, exempt alike from expression and from
enjoyment, he became enveloped in inextricable contradictions. Little
disposed as he was to let himself be carried away by the imagination, he
expressed his contempt for philosopher-poets like Herder, and kept
saying and unsaying, affirming and then immediately criticizing his own
affirmations as to this mysterious beauty. The truth is that _this
mystery is simply his own individual uncertainty before a problem which
he could not solve_, owing to his having no clear idea of an activity of
sentiment. Such an activity represented for him a logical contradiction.
Such expressions as "necessary universal pleasure," "finality without
the idea of end," are verbal proofs of his uncertainty.

How was he to emerge from this uncertainty, this contradiction? He fell
back upon the concept of a base of subjective finality as the base of
the judgment of taste, that is of the subjective finality of nature by
the judgment. But nothing can be known or disclosed to the object by
means of this concept, which is indeterminate in itself and not adapted
for knowledge. Its determining reason is perhaps situated in "the
suprasensible substratum of humanity." Thus beauty becomes a symbol of
morality. "The subjective principle alone, that is, the indeterminate
idea of the suprasensible in us, can be indicated as the sole key to
reveal this faculty, which remains unknown to us in its origin. Nothing
but this principle can make that hidden faculty comprehensible."

Kant had a tendency to mysticism, which this statement does not serve to
conceal, but it was a mysticism without enthusiasm, a mysticism almost
against the grain. His failure to penetrate thoroughly the nature of the
aesthetic activity led him to see double and even triple, on several
occasions. Art being unknown to him in its essential nature, he invents
the functions of _space_ and _time_ and terms this _transcendental
aesthetic_; he develops the theory of the imaginative beautifying of the
intellectual concept by genius; he is finally forced to admit a
mysterious power of feeling, intermediate between the theoretic and the
practical activity. This power is cognoscitive and non-cognoscitive,
moral and indifferent to morality, agreeable and yet detached from the
pleasure of the senses. His successors hastened to make use of this
mysterious power, for they were glad to be able to find some sort of
justification for their bold speculations in the severe philosopher of

In addition to Schelling and Hegel, for whom, as has been said, the
_Critique of Judgment_ seemed the most important of the three Critiques,
we must now mention the name of a poet who showed himself as great in
philosophical as in aesthetic achievement.

_Friedrich Schiller_ first elaborated that portion of the Kantian
thought contained in the _Critique of Judgment_. Before any professional
philosopher, Schiller studied that sphere of activity which unites
feeling with reason. Hegel talks with admiration of this artistic
genius, who was also so profoundly philosophical and first announced the
principle of reconciliation between life as duty and reason on the one
hand, and the life of the senses and feeling on the other.

To Schiller belongs the great merit of having opposed the subjective
idealism of Kant and of having made the attempt to surpass it.

The exact relations between Kant and Schiller, and the extent to which
the latter may have been influenced by Leibnitz and Herder, are of less
importance to the history of Aesthetic than the fact that Schiller
_unified_ once for all art and beauty, which had been separated by Kant,
with his distinctions between adherent and pure beauty. Schiller's
artistic sense must doubtless have stood him here in good stead.

Schiller found a very unfortunate and misleading term to apply to the
aesthetic sphere. He called it the sphere of _play_ (Spiel). He strove
to explain that by this he did not mean ordinary games, nor material
amusement. For Schiller, this sphere of play lay intermediate between
thought and feeling. Necessity in art gives place to a free disposition
of forces; mind and nature, matter and form are here reconciled. The
beautiful is life, but not physiological life. A beautiful statue may
have life, and a living man be without it. Art conquers nature with
form. The great artist effaces matter with form. The less we are
sensible of the material in a work of art, the greater the triumph of
the artist. The soul of the spectator should leave the magic sphere of
art as pure and as perfect as when it left the hands of the Creator. The
most frivolous theme should be so treated that we can pass at once from
it to the most rigorous, and _vice versa_. Only when man has placed
himself outside the world and contemplates it aesthetically, can he know
the world. While he is merely the passive receiver of sensations, he is
one with the world, and therefore cannot realize it. Art is
indeterminism. With the help of art, man delivers himself from the yoke
of the senses, and is at the same time free of any rational or moral
duty: he may enjoy for a moment the luxury of serene contemplation.

Schiller was well aware that the moment art is employed to teach morals
directly, it ceases to be art. All other teachings give to the soul a
special imprint. Art alone is favourable to all without prejudice. Owing
to this indifference of art, it possesses a great educative power, by
opening the path to morality without preaching or persuasion; without
determining, it produces determinability. This was the main theme of the
celebrated "Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man," which Schiller
wrote to his patron the Duke of Holstein-Augustenburg. Here, and in his
lectures at the University of Jena, it is clear that Schiller addresses
himself to a popular audience. He began a work, on scientific Aesthetic,
which he intended to entitle "Kallias," but unfortunately died without
completing it. We possess only a few fragments, contained in his
correspondence with his friend Koerner. Koerner did not feel satisfied
with the formula of Schiller, and asks for some more precise and
objective mark of the beautiful. Schiller tells him that he has found
it, but what he had found we shall never know, as there is no document
to inform us.

The fault of Schiller's aesthetic theory was its lack of precision. His
artistic faculty enabled him to give unsurpassable descriptions of the
catharsis and of other effects of art, but he fails to give a precise
definition of the aesthetic function. True, he disassociates it from
morality, yet admits that it may in a measure be associated with it. The
only formal activities that he recognizes are the moral and the
intellectual, and he denies altogether (against the sensualists) that
art can have anything to do with passion or sensuality. His intellectual
world consisted only of the logical and the intellectual, leaving out
the imaginative activity.

What is art for Schiller? He admits four modes of relation between man
and external things. They are the physical, the logical, the moral, and
the aesthetic. He describes this latter as a mode by which things affect
the whole of our different forces, without being a definite object for
any one in particular. Thus a man may be said to please aesthetically,
"when he does so without appealing to any one of the senses directly,
and without any law or end being thought of in connection with him."
Schiller cannot be made to say anything more definite than this. His
general position was probably much like Kant's (save in the case above
mentioned, where he made a happy correction), and he probably looked
upon Aesthetic as a mingling of several faculties, as a play of

Schiller was faithful to Kant's teaching in its main lines, and his
uncertainty was largely due to this. The existence of a _third sphere_
uniting form and matter was for Schiller rather an ideal conformable to
reason than a _definite_ activity; it was supposititious, rather than

But the Romantic movement in literature, which was at that time gaining
ground, with its belief in a superhuman faculty called imagination, in
genius breaker of rules, found no such need for restraint. Schiller's
modest reserve was set aside, and with J.P. Richter we approach a
mythology of the imagination. Many of his observations are, however,
just, and his distinction between productive and reproductive
imagination is excellent. How could humanity appreciate works of genius,
he asks, were it without some common measure? All men who can go as far
as saying "this is beautiful" before a beautiful thing, are capable of
the latter. He then proceeds to establish to his own satisfaction
categories of the imagination, leading from simple talent to the supreme
form of male genius in which all faculties flourish together: a faculty
of faculties.

The Romantic conception of art is, in substance, that of idealist German
philosophy, where we find it in a more coherent and systematic form. It
is the conception of Schelling, Solger, and Hegel.

Fichte, Kant's first great pupil, cannot be included with these, for his
view of Aesthetic, largely influenced by Schiller, is transformed in the
Fichtian system to a moral activity, to a representation of the ethical
ideal. The subjective idealism of Fichte, however, generated an
Aesthetic: that of irony as the base of art. The I that has created the
universe can also destroy it. The universe is a vain appearance, smiled
at by the Ego its creator, who surveys it as an artist his work, from
without and from above. For Friedrich Schlegel, art was a perpetual
farce, a parody of itself; and Tieck defined irony as a force which
allows the poet to dominate his material.

Novalis, that Romantic Fichtian, dreamed of a magical idealism, an art
of creating by an instantaneous act of the Ego. But Schelling's "system
of transcendental idealism" was the first great philosophical
affirmation of Romanticism and of conscious Neo-platonism reborn in

Schelling has obviously studied Schiller, but he brings to the problem a
mind more purely philosophical and a method more exactly scientific. He
even takes Kant to task for faultiness of method. His remarks as to
Plato's position are curious, if not conclusive. He says that Plato
condemned the art of his time, because it was realistic and
naturalistic: like all antique art, it exhibited a _finite_ character.
Plato's judgment would have been quite different had he known Christian
art, of which the character is _infinity_.

Schelling held firm to the fusion of art and beauty effected by
Schiller, but he combated Winckelmann's theory of abstract beauty with
its negative conception of the characteristic, assigning to art the
limits of the individual. Art is characteristic beauty; it is not the
individual, but the living conception of the individual. When the artist
recognizes the eternal idea in an individual, and expresses it
outwardly, he transforms the individual into a world apart, into a
species, into an eternal idea. Characteristic beauty is the fulness of
form which slays form: it does not silence passion, but restrains it as
the banks of a river the waters that flow between them, but do not

Schelling's starting-point is the criticism of teleological judgment, as
stated by Kant in his third Critique. Teleology is the union of
theoretic with practical philosophy. But the system would not be
complete, unless we could show the identity of the two worlds, theoretic
and practical, in the subject itself. He must demonstrate the existence
of an activity, which is at once unconscious as nature and conscious as
spirit. This activity we find in Aesthetic, which is therefore "the
general organ of philosophy, the keystone of the whole building."

Poetry and philosophy alone possess the world of the ideal, in which the
real world vanishes. True art is not the impression of the moment, but
the representation of infinite life: it is transcendental intuition
objectified. The time will come when philosophy will return to poetry,
which was its source, and on the new philosophy will arise a new
mythology. Philosophy does not depict real things, but their ideas; so
too, art. Those same ideas, of which real things are, as philosophy
shows, the imperfect copies, reappear in art objectified as ideas, and
therefore in their perfection. Art stands nearest to philosophy, which
itself stands nearest to the Idea, and therefore nearest to perfection.
Art differs from philosophy only by its _specialization_: in all other
ways it is the ideal world in its most complete expression. The three
Ideas of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty correspond to the three powers of
the ideal and of the real world. Beauty is not the universal whole,
which is truth, nor is it the only reality, which is action: it is the
perfect mingling of the two. "Beauty exists where the real or particular
is so adequate to its concept that this infinite thing enters into the
finite, and is contemplated in the concrete." Philosophy unites truth,
morality, and beauty, in what they possess in common, and deduces them
from their unique Source, which is God. If philosophy assume the
character of science and of truth, although it be superior to truth, the
reason for this lies in the fact that science and truth are simply the
formal determination of philosophy.

Schelling looked upon mythology as a necessity for every art. Ideas are
Gods, considered from the point of view of reality; for the essence of
each is equal to God in a _particular_ form. The characteristics of all
Gods, including the Christian, are _pure limitation and absolute
indivisibility_. Minerva has wisdom and strength, but lacks womanly
tenderness; Juno has power and wisdom, but is without amorous charm,
which she borrows with the girdle of Venus, who in her turn is without
the wisdom of Minerva. What would these Gods become without their
limitations? They would cease to be the objects of Fancy. Fancy is a
faculty, apart from the pure intellect and from the reason. Distinct
from imagination, which develops the products of art, Fancy has
intuitions of them, grasps them herself, and herself represents them.
Fancy is to imagination as intellectual intuition is to reason. Fancy,
then, is intellectual intuition in art. In the thought of Schelling,
fancy, the new or artistic intuition, sister of intellectual intuition,
came to dominate alike the intellect and the old conception of the fancy
and the imagination, in a system for which reason alone did not suffice.

C.G. Solger followed Schelling and agreed with him in finding but little
truth in the theories of Kant, and especially of Fichte. He held that
their dialectic had failed to solve the difficulty of intellectual
intuition. He too conceived of fancy as distinct from imagination, and
divided the former into three degrees. Imagination he held to appertain
to ordinary knowledge, "which re-establishes the original intuition to
infinity." Fancy "originates from the original antithesis in the idea,
and so operates that the opposing elements which are separated from the
idea become perfectly united in reality. By means of fancy, we are able
to understand things more lofty than those of common knowledge, and in
them we recognize the idea itself as real. In art, fancy is the faculty
of transforming the idea into reality."

For Solger as for Schelling, beauty belongs to the region of Ideas,
which are inaccessible to common knowledge. Art is nearly allied to
religion, for as religion is the abyss of the idea, into which our
consciousness plunges, that it may become essential, so Art and the
Beautiful resolve, in their way, the world of distinctions, the
universal and the particular. Artistic activity is more than
theoretical: it is practical, realized and perfect, and therefore
belongs to practical, not to theoretic philosophy, as Kant wrongly
believed. Since art must touch infinity on one side, it cannot have
ordinary nature for its object. Art therefore _ceases_ in the portrait,
and this explains why the ancients generally chose Gods or Heroes as
models for sculpture. Every deity, even in a limited and particular
form, expresses a definite modification of the Idea.

G.G.F. Hegel gives the same definition of art as Solger and Schelling,
All three were mystical aestheticians, and the various shades of
mystical Aesthetic, presented by these three writers, are not of great
interest. Schelling forced upon art the abstract Platonic ideas, while
Hegel reduced it to the _concrete idea_. This concrete idea was for
Hegel the first and lowest of the three forms of the liberty of the
spirit. It represented immediate, sensible, objectified knowledge; while
Religion filled the second place, as representative consciousness with
adoration, which is an element foreign to art alone. The third place was
of course occupied by Philosophy, the free thought of the absolute
spirit. Beauty and Truth are one for Hegel; they are united in the Idea.
The beautiful he defined as _the sensible appearance of the Idea_.

Some writers have erroneously believed that the views of the three
philosophers above mentioned lead back to those of Baumgarten. But that
is not correct. They well understood that art cannot be made a medium
for the expression of philosophic concepts. Not only are they opposed to
the moralistic and intellectualistic view, but they are its active
opponents. Schelling says that aesthetic production is in its essence
absolutely free, and Hegel that art does not contain the universal as

Hegel accentuated the _cognoscitive_ character of art, more than any of
his predecessors. We have seen that he placed it with Philosophy and
Religion in the sphere of the absolute Spirit. But he does not allow
either to Art or to Religion any difference of function from that of
Philosophy, which occupies the highest place in his system. They are
therefore inferior, necessary, grades of the Spirit. Of what use are
they? Of none whatever, or at best, they merely represent transitory and
historical phases of human life.

Thus we see that the tendency of Hegelianism is _anti-artistic_, as it
is rationalistic and anti-religious.

This result of thought was a strange and a sad thing for one who loved
art so fervently as Hegel. Our memories conjure up Plato, who also loved
art well, and yet found himself logically obliged to banish the poet
from his ideal Republic, after crowning him with roses. But the German
philosopher was as staunch to the (supposed) command of reason as the
Greek, and felt himself obliged to announce the death of art. Art, he
says, occupies a lofty place in the human spirit, but not the most
lofty, for it is limited to a restricted content and only a certain
grade of truth can be expressed in art. Such are the Hellenic Gods, who
can be transfused in the sensible and appear in it adequately. The
Christian conception of truth is among those which cannot be so
expressed. The spirit of the modern world, and more precisely the spirit
of our religion and rational development, seem to have gone beyond the
point at which art is the chief way of apprehending the Absolute. The
peculiarity of artistic production no longer satisfies our highest
needs. Thought and reflexion have surpassed art, the beautiful. He goes
on to say that the reason generally given for this is the prevalence of
material and political interests. But the true reason is the inferiority
in degree of art as compared with pure thought. Art is dead, and
Philosophy can therefore supply its complete biography.

Hegel's _Vorlesungen Ueber Aesthetik_ amounts therefore to a funeral
oration upon Art.

Romanticism and metaphysical idealism had placed art, sometimes above
the clouds, sometimes within them, and believing that it was no good
there to anyone, Hegel provided a decent burial.

Nothing perhaps better shows how well this fantastic conception of art
suited the spirit of the time, than the fact that even the adversaries
of Schelling, Solger, and Hegel either admit agreement with that
conception, or find themselves involuntarily in agreement with it, while
believing themselves to be very remote. They too are mystical

We all know with what virulence Arthur Schopenhauer attacked and
combated Schelling, Hegel, and all the "charlatans" and "professors" who
had divided among them the inheritance of Kant.

Well, Schopenhauer's theory of art starts, just like Hegel's, from the
difference between the abstract and the concrete concept, which is the
_Idea_. Schopenhauer's ideas are the Platonic ideas, although in the
form which he gives to them, they have a nearer resemblance to the Ideas
of Schelling than to the Idea of Hegel.

Schopenhauer takes much trouble to differentiate his ideas from
intellectual concepts. He calls the idea "unity which has become
plurality by means of space and time. It is the form of our intuitive
apperception. The concept is, on the contrary, unity extracted from
plurality by means of abstraction, which is an act of our intellect. The
concept may be called _unitas post rem_, the idea _unitas ante rem_."

The origin of this psychological illusion of the ideas or types of
things is always to be found in the changing of the empirical
classifications created for their own purposes by the natural sciences,
into living realities.

Thus each art has for its sphere a special category of ideas.
Architecture and its derivatives, gardening (and strange to say
landscape-painting is included with it), sculpture and animal-painting,
historical painting and the higher forms of sculpture, etc., all possess
their special ideas. Poetry's chief object is man as idea. Music, on the
contrary, does not belong to the hierarchy of the other arts. Schelling
had looked upon music as expressing the rhythm of the universe itself.
For Schopenhauer, music does not express ideas, but the _Will itself_.

The analogies between music and the world, between fundamental notes and
crude matter, between the scale and the scale of species, between melody
and conscious will, lead Schopenhauer to the conclusion that music is
not only an arithmetic, as it appeared to Leibnitz, but indeed a
metaphysic: "the occult metaphysical exercise of a soul not knowing that
it philosophizes."

For Schopenhauer, as for his idealist predecessors, art is beatific. It
is the flower of life; he who is plunged in artistic contemplation
ceases to be an individual; he is the conscious subject, pure, freed
from will, from pain, and from time.

Yet in Schopenhauer's system exist elements for a better and a more
profound treatment of the problem of art. He could sometimes show
himself to be a lucid and acute analyst. For instance, he continually
remarks that the categories of space and time are not applicable to art,
_but only the general form of representation_. He might have deduced
from this that art is the most immediate, not the most lofty grade of
consciousness, since it precedes even the ordinary perceptions of space
and time. Vico had already observed that this freeing oneself from
ordinary perception, this dwelling in imagination, does not really mean
an ascent to the level of the Platonic Ideas, but, on the contrary, a
redescending to the sphere of immediate intuition, a return to

On the other hand, Schopenhauer had begun to submit the Kantian
categories to impartial criticism, and finding the two forms of
intuition insufficient, added a third, causality.

He also drew comparisons between art and history, and was more
successful here than the idealist excogitators of a philosophy of
history. Schopenhauer rightly saw that history was irreducible to
concepts, that it is the contemplation of the individual, and therefore
not a science. Having proceeded thus far, he might have gone further,
and realized that the material of history is always the particular in
its particularity, that of art what is and always is identical. But he
preferred to execute a variation on the general motive that was in
fashion at this time.

The fashion of the day! It rules in philosophy as elsewhere, and we are
now about to see the most rigid and arid of analysts, the leader of the
so-called _realist_ school, or school of _exact science_ in Germany in
the nineteenth century, plunge headlong into aesthetic mysticism.

G.F. Herbart (1813) begins his Aesthetic by freeing it from the
discredit attaching to Metaphysic and to Psychology. He declares that
the only true way of understanding art is to study particular examples
of the beautiful and to note what they reveal as to its essence.

We shall now see what came of Herbart's analysis of these examples of
beauty, and how far he succeeded in remaining free of Metaphysic.

For Herbart, beauty consists of _relations_. The science of Aesthetic
consists of an enumeration of all the fundamental relations between
colours, lines, tones, thoughts, and will. But for him these relations
are not empirical or physiological. They cannot therefore be studied in
a laboratory, because thought and the will form part of them, and these
belong as much to Ethics as to the external world. But Herbart
explicitly states that no true beauty is sensible, although sensation
may and does often precede and follow the intuition of beauty. There is
a profound distinction between the beautiful and the agreeable or
pleasant: the latter does not require a representation, while the former
consists in representations of relations, which are immediately followed
by a judgment expressing unconditioned approval. Thus the merely
pleasurable becomes more and more indifferent, but the beautiful appears
always as of more and more permanent value. The judgment of taste is
universal, eternal, immutable. The complete representation of the same
relations always carries with it the same judgment. For Herbart,
aesthetic judgments are the general class containing the sub-class of
ethical judgments. The five ethical ideas, of internal liberty, of
perfection, of benevolence, of equity, and of justice, are five
aesthetic ideas; or better, they are aesthetic concepts applied to the
will in its relations.

Herbart looked upon art as a complex fact, composed of an external
element possessing logical or psychological value, the content, and of a
true aesthetic element, which is the form. Entertainment, instruction,
and pleasure of all sorts are mingled with the beautiful, in order to
obtain favour for the work in question. The aesthetic judgment, calm and
serene in itself, may be accompanied by all sorts of psychic emotions,
foreign to it. But the content is always transitory, relative, subject
to moral laws, and judged by them. The form alone is perennial,
absolute, and free. The true catharsis can only be effected by
separating the form from the content. Concrete art may be the sum of two
values, _but the aesthetic fact is form alone_.

For those capable of penetrating beneath appearances, the aesthetic
doctrines of Herbart and of Kant will appear very similar. Herbart is
notable as insisting, in the manner of Kant, on the distinction between
free and adherent beauty (or adornment as sensuous stimulant), on the
existence of pure beauty, object of necessary and universal judgments,
and on a certain mingling of ethical with his aesthetic theory. Herbart,
indeed, called himself "a Kantian, but of the year 1828." Kant's
aesthetic theory, though it be full of errors, yet is rich in fruitful
suggestions. Kant belongs to a period when philosophy is still young and
pliant. Herbart came later, and is dry and one-sided. The romantics and
the metaphysical idealists had unified the theory of the beautiful and
of art. Herbart restored the old duality and mechanism, and gave us an
absurd, unfruitful form of mysticism, void of all artistic inspiration.

Herbart may be said to have taken all there was of false in the thought
of Kant and to have made it into a system.

The beginning of the nineteenth century in Germany is notable for the
great number of philosophical theories and of counter-theories, broached
and rapidly discussed, before being discarded. None of the most
prominent names in the period belong to philosophers of first-rate
importance, though they made so much stir in their day.

The thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher was obscured and misunderstood
amid those crowding mediocrities; yet it is perhaps the most interesting
and the most noteworthy of the period.

Schleiermacher looked upon Aesthetic as an altogether modern form of
thought. He perceived a profound difference between the "Poetics" of
Aristotle, not yet freed from empirical precepts, and the tentative of
Baumgarten in the eighteenth century. He praised Kant as having been the
first to include Aesthetic among the philosophical disciplines. He
admitted that with Hegel it had attained to the highest pinnacle, being
connected with religion and with philosophy, and almost placed upon
their level.

But he was dissatisfied with the absurdity of the attempt made by the
followers of Baumgarten to construct a science or theory of sensuous
pleasure. He disapproved of Kant's view of taste as being the principle
of Aesthetic, of Fichte's art as moral teaching, and of the vague
conception of the beautiful as the centre of Aesthetic.

He approved of Schiller's marking of the moment of spontaneity in
productive art, and he praised Schelling for having drawn attention to
the figurative arts, as being less liable than poetry to be diverted to
false and illusory moralistic ends. Before he begins the study of the
place due to the artistic activity in Ethic, he carefully excludes from
the study of Aesthetic all practical rules (which, being empirical, are
incapable of scientific demonstration).

For Schleiermacher, the sphere of Ethic included the whole Philosophy of
the Spirit, in addition to morality. These are the two forms of human
activity--that which, like Logic, is the same in all men, and is called
activity of identity, and the activity of difference or individuality.
There are activities which, like art, are internal or immanent and
individual, and others which are external or practical. _The true work
of art is the internal picture_. Measure is what differentiates the
artist's portrayal of anger on the stage and the anger of a really angry
man. Truth is not sought in poetry, or if it be sought there, it is
truth of an altogether different kind. The truth of poetry lies in
coherent presentation. Likeness to a model does not compose the merit of
a picture. Not the smallest amount of knowledge comes from art, which
expresses only the truth of a particular consciousness. Art has for its
field the immediate consciousness of self, which must be carefully
distinguished from the thought of the Ego. This last is the
consciousness of identity in the diversity of moments as they pass; the
immediate consciousness of self is the diversity itself of the moments,
of which we should be aware, for life is nothing but the development of
consciousness. In this field, art has sometimes been confused with two
facts which accompany it there: these are sentient consciousness (that
is, the feelings of pleasure and of pain) and religion. Schleiermacher
here alludes to the sensualistic aestheticians of the eighteenth
century, and to Hegel, who had almost identified art and religion. He
refutes both points of view by pointing out that sentient pleasure and
religious sentiment, however different they may be from other points of
view, are yet both determined by an objective fact; while art, on the
contrary, is free productivity.

Dream is the best parallel and proof of this free productivity. All the
essential elements of art are found in dream, which is the result of
free thoughts and of sensible intuitions, consisting simply of images.
But dream, as compared with art, is chaotic: when measure and order is
established in dream, it becomes art. Thoughts and images are alike
essential to art, and to both is necessary ponderation, reflexion,
measure, and unity, because otherwise every image would be confused with
every other image. Thus the moments of inspiration and of ponderation
are both necessary to art.

Schleiermacher's thought, so firm and lucid up to this point, begins to
become less secure, with the discussion of typicity and of the extent to
which the artist should follow Nature. He says that ideal figures, which
Nature would give, were she not impeded by external obstacles, are the
products of art. He notes that when the artist represents something
really given, such as a portrait or a landscape, he renounces freedom of
production and adheres to the real. In the artist is a double tendency,
toward the perfection of the type and toward the representation of
natural reality. He should not fall into the abstraction of the type,
nor into the insignificance of empirical reality. Schleiermacher feels
all the difficulty of such a problem as whether there be one or several
ideals of the human figure. This problem may be transferred to the
sphere of art, and we may ask whether the poet is to represent only the
ideal, or whether he should also deal with those obstacles to it that
impede Nature in her efforts to attain. Both views contain half the
truth. To art belongs the representation of the ideal as of the real, of
the subjective and of the objective alike. The representation of the
comic, that is of the anti-ideal and of the imperfect ideal, belongs to
the domain of art. For the human form, both morally and physically,
oscillates between the ideal and caricature.

He arrives at a most important definition as to the independence of art
in respect to morality. The nature of art, as of philosophic
speculation, excludes moral and practical effects. Therefore, _there is
no other difference between works of art than their respective artistic
perfection (Vollkommenheit in der Kunst)_. If we could correctly
predicate volitional acts in respect of works of art, then we should
find ourselves admiring only those works which stimulated the will, and
there would thus be established a difference of valuation, independent
of artistic perfection. The true work of art depends upon the degree of
perfection with which the external in it agrees with the internal.

Schleiermacher rightly combats Schiller's view that art is in any sense
a game. That, he says, is the view held by mere men of business, to whom
business alone is serious. But artistic activity is universal, and a man
completely deprived of it unthinkable, although the difference here
between man and man, is gigantic, ranging from the simple desire to
taste of art to the effective tasting of it, and from this, by infinite
gradations, to productive genius.

The regrettable fact that Schleiermacher's thought has reached us only
in an imperfect form, may account for certain of its defects, such as
his failure to eliminate aesthetic classes and types, his retention of a
certain residue of abstract formalism, his definition of art as the
activity of difference. Had he better defined the moment of artistic
reproduction, realized the possibility of tasting the art of various
times and of other nations, and examined the true relation of art to
science, he would have seen that this difference is merely empirical and
to be surmounted. He failed also to recognize the identity of the
aesthetic activity, with language as the base of all other theoretic

But Schleiermacher's merits far outweigh these defects. He removed from
Aesthetic its _imperativistic_ character; he distinguished _a form of
thought_ different from logical thought. He attributed to our science a
_non-metaphysical, anthropological_ character. He _denied_ the concept
of the beautiful, substituting for it _artistic perfection_, and
maintaining the aesthetic equality of a small with a great work of art,
he looked upon the aesthetic fact as an exclusively _human

Thus Schleiermacher, the theologian, in this period of metaphysical
orgy, of rapidly constructed and as rapidly destroyed systems,
perceived, with the greatest philosophical acumen, what is really
characteristic of art, and distinguished its properties and relations.
Even where he fails to see clearly his way, he never abandons analysis
for mere guess-work.

Schleiermacher, thus exploring the obscure region of the _immediate
consciousness_, or of the aesthetic fact, can almost be heard crying out
to his straying contemporaries: _Hic Rhodus, hi salta_!

Speculation upon the origin and nature of language was rife at this time
in Germany. Many theories were put forward, among the most curious being
that of Schelling, who held language and mythology to be the product of
a pre-human consciousness, allegorically expressed as the diabolic
suggestions which had precipitated the Ego from the infinite to the

Even Wilhelm von Humboldt was unable to free himself altogether from the
intellectualistic prejudice of the substantial identity and the merely
historical and accidental diversity of logical thought and language. He
speaks of a _perfect_ language, broken up and diminished with the lesser
capacities of lesser peoples. He believed that language is something
standing outside the individual, independent of him, and capable of
being revived by use. But there were two men in Humboldt, an old man and
a young one. The latter was always suggesting that language should be
looked upon as a living, not as a dead thing, as an activity, not as a
word. This duality of thought sometimes makes his writing difficult and
obscure. Although he speaks of an internal form of speech, he fails to
identify this with art as expression. The reason is that he looks upon
the word in too unilateral a manner, as a means of developing logical
thought, and his ideas of Aesthetic are too vague and too inexact to
enable him to discover their identity. Despite his perception of the
profound truth that poetry precedes prose, Humboldt gives grounds for
doubt as to whether he had clearly recognized and firmly grasped the
fact that language is always poetry, and that prose (science) is a
distinction, not of aesthetic form, but of content, that is, of logical

Steinthal, the greatest follower of Humboldt, solved his master's
contradictions, and in 1855 sustained successfully against the Hegelian
Becker the thesis that words are necessary for thought. He pointed to
the deaf-mute with his signs, to the mathematician with his formulae, to
the Chinese language, where the figurative portion is an essential of
speech, and declared that Becker was wrong in believing that the
Sanskrit language was derived from twelve cardinal concepts. He showed
effectively that the concept and the word, the logical judgment and the
proposition, are not comparable. The proposition is not a judgment, but
the representation of a judgment; and all propositions do not represent
logical judgments. Several judgments can be expressed with one
proposition. The logical divisions of judgments (the relations of
concepts) have no correspondence in the grammatical division of
propositions. "If we speak of a logical form of the proposition, we fall
into a contradiction in terms not less complete than his who should
speak of the angle of a circle, or of the periphery of a triangle." He
who speaks, in so far as he speaks, has not thoughts, but language.

When Steinthal had several times solemnly proclaimed the independence of
language as regards Logic, and that it produces its forms in complete
autonomy, he proceeded to seek the origin of language, recognizing with
Humboldt that the question of Its origin is the same as that of its
nature. Language, he said, belongs to the great class of reflex
movements, but this only shows one side of it, not its true nature.
Animals, like men, have reflex actions and sensations, though nature
enters the animal by force, takes it by assault, conquers and enslaves
it. With man is born language, because he is resistance to nature,
governance of his own body, and liberty. "Language is liberation; even
to-day we feel that our soul becomes lighter, and frees itself from a
weight, when we speak." Man, before he attains to speech, must be
conceived of as accompanying all his sensations with bodily movements,
mimetic attitudes, gestures, and particularly with articulate sounds.
What is still lacking to him, that he may attain to speech? The
connexion between the reflex movements of the body and the state of the
soul. If his sentient consciousness be already consciousness, then he
lacks the consciousness of consciousness; if it be already intuition,
then he lacks the intuition of intuition. In sum, he lacks the _internal
form of language_. With this comes speech, which forms the connexion.
Man does not choose the sound of his speech. This is given to him and he
adopts it instinctively.

When we have accorded to Steinthal the great merit of having rendered
coherent the ideas of Humboldt, and of having clearly separated
linguistic from logical thought, we must note that he too failed to
perceive the _identity_ of the internal form of language, or "intuition
of the intuition," as he called it, with the aesthetic _imagination_.
Herbart's psychology, to which Steinthal adhered, did not afford him any
means for this identification. Herbart separated logic from psychology,
calling it a normative science; he failed to discern the exact limits
between feeling and spiritual formation, psyche or soul, and spirit, and
to see that one of these spiritual formations is logical thought or
activity, which is not a code of laws imposed from without. For Herbart,
Aesthetic, as we know, was a code of beautiful formal relations. Thus
Steinthal, following Herbart in psychology, was bound to look upon Art
as a beautifying of thought, Linguistic as the science of speech,
Rhetoric and Aesthetic as the science of beautiful speech.

Steinthal never realized that to speak is to speak well or beautifully,
under penalty of _not_ speaking, and that the revolution which he and
Humboldt had effected in the conception of language must inevitably
react upon and transform Poetic, Rhetoric, and Aesthetic.

Thus, despite so many efforts of conscientious analysis on the part of
Humboldt and of Steinthal, the unity of language and of poetry, and the
identification of the science of language and the science of poetry
still found its least imperfect expression in the prophetic aphorisms of

The philosophical movement in Germany from the last quarter of the
eighteenth century to the first half of the nineteenth, notwithstanding
its many errors, is yet so notable and so imposing with the philosophers
already considered, as to merit the first place in the European thought
of that period. This is even more the case as regards Aesthetic than as
regards philosophy in general.

France was the prey of Condillac's sensualism, and therefore incapable
of duly appreciating the spiritual activity of art. We hardly get a
glimpse of Winckelmann's transcendental spiritualism in Quatremere de
Quincy, and the frigid academics of Victor Cousin were easily surpassed
by Theodore Jouffroy, though he too failed of isolating the aesthetic
fact. French Romanticism defined literature as "the expression of
society," admired under German influence the grotesque and the
characteristic, declared the independence of art in the formula of "art
for art's sake," but did not succeed in surpassing philosophically the

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