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Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic by Benedetto Croce

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old doctrine of the "imitation of nature." F. Schlegel and Solger indeed
were largely responsible for the Romantic movement in France--Schlegel
with his belief in the characteristic or _interesting_ as the principle
of modern art, which led him to admire the cruel and the ugly; Solger
with his dialectic arrangement, whereby the finite or terrestrial
element is absorbed and annihilated in the divine and thus becomes the
tragic, or _vice versa_, and the result is the comic. Rosenkranz
published in Koenigsberg an Aesthetic of the Ugly, and the works of
Vischer and Zeising abound in subtleties relating to the Idea and to its
expression in the beautiful and sublime. These writers conceived of the
Idea as the Knight Purebeautiful, constrained to abandon his tranquil
ease through the machinations of the Ugly; the Ugly leads him into all
sorts of disagreeable adventures, from all of which he eventually
emerges victorious. The Sublime, the Comic, the Humorous, and so on, are
his Marengo, Austerlitz, and Jena. Another version of their knight's
adventures might be described as his conquest by his enemies, but at the
moment of conquest he transforms and irradiates his conquerors. To such
a mediocre and artificial mythology led the much-elaborated theory of
the Modifications of the Beautiful.

In England, the associationist psychology continued to hold sway, and
showed, with Dugald Stewart's miserable attempt at establishing two
forms of association, its incapacity to rise to the conception of the
imagination. With the poet Coleridge, England also showed the influence
of German thought, and Coleridge elaborated with Wordsworth a more
correct conception of poetry and of its difference from science. But the
most notable contribution in English at that period came from another
poet, P.B. Shelley, whose _Defence of Poetry_ contains profound, though
unsystematic views, as to the distinction between reason and
imagination, prose and poetry, on primitive language, and on the poetic
power of objectification.

In Italy, Francesco de Sanctis gave magnificent expression to the
independence of art. He taught literature in Naples from 1838 to 1848,
in Turin and Zurich from 1850 to 1860, and after 1870 he was a professor
in the University of Naples. His _Storia della letteratura italiana_ is
a classic, and in it and in monographs on individual writers he exposed
his doctrines.

Prompted by a natural love of speculation, he began to examine the old
grammarians and rhetoricians, with a view to systematize them. But very
soon he proceeded to criticize and to surpass their theories. The cold
rules of reason did not find favour with him, and he advised young men
to go direct to the original works.

The philosophy of Hegel began to penetrate Italy, and the study of Vico
was again taken up. De Sanctis translated the _Logic_ of Hegel in
prison, where the Bourbon Government had thrown him for his liberalism.
Benard had begun his translation of the _Aesthetic_ of Hegel, and so
completely in harmony was De Sanctis with the thought of this master,
that he is said to have guessed from a study of the first volume what
the unpublished volumes must contain, and to have lectured upon them to
his pupils. Traces of mystical idealism and of Hegelianism persist even
in his later works, and the distinction, which he always maintained,
between imagination and fancy certainly came to him from Hegel and
Schelling. He held fancy alone to be the true poetic faculty.

De Sanctis absorbed all the juice of Hegel, but rejected the husks of
his pedantry, of his formalism, of his apriority.

Fancy for De Sanctis was not the mystical transcendental apperception of
the German philosophers, but simply the faculty of poetic synthesis and
creation, opposed to the imagination, which reunites details and always
has something mechanical about it. Faith and poetry, he used to say, are
not dead, but transformed. His criticism of Hegel amounted in many
places to the correction of Hegel; and as regards Vico, he is careful to
point out, that when, in dealing with the Homeric poems, Vico talks of
generic types, he is no longer the critic of art, but the historian of
civilization. De Sanctis saw that, _artistically_, Achilles must always
be Achilles, never a force or an abstraction.

Thus De Sanctis succeeded in keeping himself free from the Hegelian
domination, at a moment when Hegel was the acknowledged master of

But his criticism extended also to other German aestheticians. By a
curious accident, he found himself at Zurich in the company of Theodore
Vischer, that ponderous Hegelian, who laughed disdainfully at the
mention of poetry, of music, and of the decadent Italian race. De
Sanctis laughed at Vischer's laughter. Wagner appeared to him a
corrupter of music, and "nothing in the world more unaesthetic than the
Aesthetic of Theodore Vischer." His lectures on Ariosto and Petrarch,
before an international public at Zurich, were delivered with the desire
of correcting the errors of these and of other German philosophers and
learned men. He gave his celebrated definitions of French and German
critics. The French critic does not indulge in theories: one feels
warmth of impression and sagacity of observation in his argument. He
never leaves the concrete; he divines the quality of the writer's genius
and the quality of his work, and studies the man, in order to understand
the writer. His great fault is shown in substituting for criticism of
the actual art work a historical criticism of the author and of his
time. For the German, on the other hand, there is nothing so simple that
he does not contrive to distort and to confuse it. He collects shadows
around him, from which shoot vivid rays. He laboriously brings to birth
that morsel of truth which he has within him. He would seize and define
what is most fugitive and impalpable in a work of art. Although nobody
talks so much of life as he does, yet no one so much delights in
decomposing and generalizing it. Having thus destroyed the particular,
he is able to show you as the result of this process, final in
appearance, but in reality preconceived and apriorist, one measurement
for all feet, one garment for all bodies.

About this time he studied Schopenhauer, who was then becoming the
fashion. Schopenhauer said of this criticism of De Sanctis: "That
Italian has absorbed me _in succum et sanguinem_." What weight did he
attach to Schopenhauer's much-vaunted writings on art? Having exposed
the theory of Ideas, he barely refers to the third volume, "which
contains an exaggerated theory of Aesthetic."

In his criticism of Petrarch, De Sanctis finally broke with metaphysical
Aesthetic, saying of Hegel's school that it believed the beautiful to
become art when it surpassed form and revealed the concept or pure idea.
This theory and the subtleties derived from it, far from characterizing
art, represent its contrary: the impotent velleity for art, which cannot
slay abstractions and come in contact with life.

De Sanctis held that outside the domain of art all Is shapeless. The
ugly is of the domain of art, if art give it form. Is there anything
more beautiful than Iago? If he be looked upon merely as a contrast to
Othello, then we are in the position of those who looked upon the stars
as placed where they are to serve as candles for the earth.

Form was for De Sanctis the word which should be inscribed over the
entrance to the Temple of Art. In the work of art are form and content,
but the latter is no longer chaotic: the artist has given to it a new
value, has enriched it with the gift of his own personality. But if the
content has not been assimilated and made his own by the artist, then
the work lacks generative power: it is of no value as art or literature,
though as history or scientific document its value may be great. The
Gods of Homer's _Iliad_ are dead, but the _Iliad_ remains. Guelf and
Ghibelline have disappeared from Italy: not so the _Divine Comedy_,
which is as vigorous to-day as when Dante first took pen in hand. Thus
De Sanctis held firmly to the independence of art, but he did not accept
the formula of "art for art's sake," in so far as it meant separation of
the artist from life, mutilation of the content, art reduced to mere

For De Sanctis, form was identical with imagination, with the artist's
power of expressing or representing his artistic vision. This much must
be admitted by his critics. But he never attained to a clear definition
of art. His theory of Aesthetic always remained a sketch: wonderful
indeed, but not clearly developed and deduced. The reason for this was
De Sanctis' love of the concrete. No sooner had he attained from general
ideas a sufficient clarity of vision for his own purposes, than he
plunged again into the concrete and particular. He did not confine his
activity to literature, but was active also in politics and in the
prosecution and encouragement of historical studies.

As a critic of literature, De Sanctis is far superior to Sainte-Beuve,
Lessing, Macaulay, or Taine. Flaubert's genial intuition adumbrated what
De Sanctis achieved. In one of his letters to Georges Sand, Flaubert
speaks of the lack of an _artistic_ critic. "In Laharpe's time,
criticism was grammatical; in the time of Sainte-Beuve and of Taine, it
is historical. They analyse with great subtlety the historical
environment in which the work appeared and the causes which have
produced it. But the _unconscious_ element In poetry? Whence does It
come? And composition? And style? And the point of view of the author?
Of all that they never speak. For such a critic, great imagination and
great goodness are necessary. I mean an ever-ready faculty of
enthusiasm, and then _taste_, a quality so rare, even among the best,
that it is never mentioned."

De Sanctis alone fulfilled the conditions of Flaubert, and Italy has in
his writings a looking-glass for her literature unequalled by any other

But with De Sanctis, the philosopher of art, the aesthetician, is not so
great as the critic of literature. The one is accessory to the other,
and his use of aesthetic terminology is so inconstant that a lack of
clearness of thought might be found in his work by anyone who had not
studied it with care. But his want of system is more than compensated by
his vitality, by his constant citation of actual works, and by his
intuition of the truth, which never abandoned him. His writings bear the
further charm of suggesting new kingdoms to conquer, new mines of
richness to explore.

While the cry of "Down with Metaphysic" was resounding in Germany, and a
furious reaction had set in against the sort of Walpurgisnacht to which
the later Hegelians had reduced science and history, the pupils of
Herbart came forward and with an insinuating air they seemed to say:
"What is this? Why, it is a rebellion against Metaphysic, the very thing
our master wished for and tried to achieve, half a century ago! But here
we are, his heirs and successors, and we want to be your allies! An
understanding between us will be easy. Our Metaphysic is in agreement
with the atomic theory, our Psychology with mechanicism, our Ethic and
Aesthetic with hedonism." Herbart, who died in 1841, would probably have
disdained and rejected his followers, who thus courted popularity and
cheapened Metaphysic, putting a literal interpretation on his realities,
his ideas and representations, and upon all his most lofty

The protagonist of these neo-Herbartians was Robert Zimmermann. He
constructed his system of Aesthetic out of Herbart, whom he perverted to
his own uses, and even employed the much-abused Hegelian dialectic in
order to introduce modifications of the beautiful into pure beauty. The
beautiful, he said, is a model which possesses greatness, fulness,
order, correction, and definite compensation. Beauty appears to us in a
characteristic form, as a copy of this model.

Vischer, against whom was directed this work of Zimmermann, found it
easy to reply. He ridiculed Zimmermann's meaning of the symbol as the
object around which are clustered beautiful forms. "Does an artist paint
a fox, simply that he may depict an object of animal nature. No, no, my
dear sir, far from it. This fox is a symbol, because the painter here
employs lines and colours, in order to express something different from
lines and colours. 'You think I am a fox,' cries the painted animal.
'You are mightily mistaken; I am, on the contrary, a portmanteau, an
exhibition by the painter of red, white, grey, and yellow tints.'"
Vischer also made fun of Zimmermann's enthusiasm for the aesthetic value
of the sense of touch. "What joy it must be to touch the back of the
bust of Hercules in repose! To stroke the sinuous limbs of the Venus of
Milo or of the Faun of Barberini must give a pleasure to the hand equal
to that of the ear as it listens to the puissant fugues of Bach or to
the suave melodies of Mozart." Vischer defined the formal Aesthetic of
Zimmermann as a queer mixture of mysticism and mathematic.

Lotze, in common with the great majority of thinkers, was dissatisfied
with Zimmermann, but could only oppose his formalism with a variety of
the old mystical Aesthetic. Who, he asked, could believe that the human
form pleases only by its external proportions, regardless of the spirit
within. Art, like beauty, should "enclose the world of values in the
world of forms." This struggle between the Aesthetic of the content and
the Aesthetic of the form attained its greatest height in Germany
between 1860 and 1870, with Zimmermann, Vischer, and Lotze as

These writers were followed by J. Schmidt, who in 1875 ventured to say
that both Lotze and Zimmermann had failed to see that the problem of
Aesthetic concerned, not the beauty or ugliness of the content or of the
form as mathematical relations, but their representation; Koestlin, who
erected an immense artificial structure with the materials of his
predecessors modified; Schasler, who is interesting as having converted
the old Vischer to his thesis of the importance of the Ugly, as
introducing modifications into the beautiful and being the principle of
movement there. Vischer confesses that at one time he had followed the
Hegelian method and believed that in the essence of beauty is born a
disquietude, a fermentation, a struggle: the Idea conquers, hurls the
image into the unlimited, and the Sublime is born; but the image,
offended in its finitude, declares war upon the Idea, and the Comic
appears. Thus the fight is finished and the Beautiful returns to itself,
as the result of these struggles. But now, he says, Schasler has
persuaded him that the Ugly is the leaven which is necessary to all the
special forms of the Beautiful.

E. von Hartmann is in close relation with Schasler. His Aesthetic (1890)
also makes great use of the Ugly. Since he insists upon appearance as a
necessary characteristic of the beautiful, he considers himself
justified in calling his theory concrete idealism. Hartmann considers
himself in opposition to the formalism of Herbart, inasmuch as he
insists upon the idea as an indispensable and determining element of
beauty. Beauty, he says, is truth, but it is not historical truth, nor
scientific nor reflective truth: it is metaphysical and ideal. "Beauty
is the prophet of idealistic truth in an age without faith, hating
Metaphysic, and acknowledging only realistic truth." Aesthetic truth is
without method and without control: it leaps at once from the subjective
appearance to the essence of the ideal. But in compensation for this, it
possesses the fascination of conviction, which immediate intuition alone
possesses. The higher Philosophy rises, the less need has she of passing
through the world of the senses and of science: she approaches ever more
nearly to art. Thus Philosophy starts on the voyage to the ideal, like
Baedeker's traveller, "without too much baggage." In the Beautiful is
immanent logicity, the microcosmic idea, the unconscious. By means of
the unconscious, the process of intellectual intuition takes place in
it. The Beautiful is a mystery, because its root is in the Unconscious.

No philosopher has ever made so great a use of the Ugly as Hartmann. He
divides Beauty into grades, of which the one below is ugly as compared
with that above it. He begins with the mathematical, superior to the
sensibly agreeable, which is unconscious. Thence to formal beauty of the
second order, the dynamically agreeable, to formal beauty of the third
order, the passive teleological; to this degree belong utensils, and
language, which in Hartmann's view is a dead thing, inspired with
seeming life, only at the moment of use. Such things did the philosopher
of the Unconscious dare to print in the country of a Humboldt during the
lifetime of a Steinthal! He proceeds in his list of things beautiful,
with formal beauty of the fourth degree, which is the active or living
teleological, with the fifth, which is that of species. Finally he
reaches concrete beauty, or the individual microcosm, the highest of
all, because the individual idea is superior to the specific, and is
beauty, no longer formal, but of content.

All these degrees of beauty are, as has been said, connected with one
another by means of the ugly, and even in the highest degree, which has
nothing superior to it, the ugly continues its office of beneficent
titillation. The outcome of this ultimate phase is the famous theory of
the Modifications of the Beautiful. None of these modifications can
occur without a struggle, save the sublime and the graceful, which
appear without conflict at the side of supreme beauty. Hartmann gives
four instances: the solution is either immanent, logical,
transcendental, or combined. The idyllic, the melancholy, the sad, the
glad, the elegiac, are instances of the immanent solution; the comic in
all its forms is the logical solution; the tragic is the transcendental
solution; the combined form is found in the humorous, the tragi-comic.
When none of these solutions is possible, we have the ugly; and when an
ugliness of content is expressed by a formal ugliness, we have the
maximum of ugliness, the true aesthetic devil.

Hartmann is the last noteworthy representative of the German
metaphysical school. His works are gigantic in size and appear
formidable. But if one be not afraid of giants and venture to approach
near, one finds nothing but a big Morgante, full of the most commonplace
prejudices, quite easily killed with the bite of a crab!

During this period, Aesthetic had few representatives in other
countries. The famous conference of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences, held in Paris in 1857, gave to the world the "Science du Beau"
of Leveque. No one is interested in it now, but it is amusing to note
that Leveque announced himself to be a disciple of Plato, and went on to
attribute eight characteristics to the beautiful. These he discovered by
closely examining the lily! No wonder he was crowned with laurels! He
proved his wonderful theory by instancing a child playing with its
mother, a symphony of Beethoven, and the life of Socrates! One of his
colleagues, who could not resist making fun of his learned friend,
remarked that he would be glad to know what part was played in the life
of a philosopher by the normal vivacity of colour!

Thus German theory made no way in France, and England proved even more

J. Ruskin showed a poverty, an incoherence, and a lack of system in
respect to Aesthetic, which puts him almost out of court. His was the
very reverse of the philosophic temperament. His pages of brilliant
prose contain his own dreams and caprices. They are the work of an
artist and should be enjoyed as such, being without any value for
philosophy. His theoretic faculty of the beautiful, which he held to be
distinct alike from the intelligence and from feeling, is connected with
his belief in beauty as a revelation of the divine intentions, "the seal
which God sets upon his works." Thus the natural beauty, which is
perceived by the pure heart, when contemplating some object untouched by
the hand of man, is far superior to the work of the artist. Ruskin was
too little capable of analysis to understand the complicated
psychologico-aesthetic process taking place within him, as he
contemplated some streamlet, or the nest of some small bird.

At Naples flourished between 1861 and 1884 Antonio Tari, who kept
himself in touch with the movement of German thought, and followed the
German idealists in placing Aesthetic in a sort of middle kingdom, a
temperate zone, between the glacial, inhabited by the Esquimaux of
thought, and the torrid, dwelt in by the giants of action. He dethroned
the Beautiful, and put Aesthetic in its place, for the Beautiful is but
the first moment; the later ones are the Comic, the Humorous, and the
Dramatic. His fertile imagination found metaphors and similes in
everything: for instance, he called the goat the Devil, opposed to the
lamb, Jesus. His remarks on men and women are full of quaint fancies. He
granted to women grace, but not beauty, which resides in equilibrium.
This is proved by her falling down so easily when she walks; by her bow
legs, which have to support her wide hips, made for gestation; by her
narrow shoulders, and her opulent breast. She is therefore a creature
altogether devoid of equilibrium!

I wish that it were possible to record more of the sayings of the
excellent Tari, "the last joyous priest of an arbitrary Aesthetic,
source of confusion."

The ground lost to the German school of metaphysicians was occupied
during the second half of the nineteenth century by the evolutionary and
positivist metaphysicians, of whom Herbert Spencer is the most notable
representative. The peculiarity of this school lies in repeating at
second or third hand certain idealist views, deprived of the element of
pure philosophy, given to them by a Schelling or a Hegel, and in
substituting a quantity of minute facts and anecdotes, with a view to
providing the positivist varnish. These theories are dear to vulgar
minds, because they correspond to inveterate religious beliefs, and the
lustre of the varnish explains the good fortune of Spencerian positivism
in our time. Another notable trait of this school is its barbaric
contempt for history, especially for the history of philosophy, and its
consequent lack of all link with the series composed of the secular
efforts of so many thinkers. Without this link, there can be no fruitful
labour and no possibility of progress.

Spencer is colossal in his ignorance of all that has been written or
thought on the subject of Aesthetic (to limit ourselves to this branch
alone). He actually begins his work on the Philosophy of Style with
these words: "No one, I believe, has ever produced a complete theory of
the art of writing." This in 1852! He begins his chapter on aesthetic
feelings in the _Principles of Psychology_ by admitting that he has
heard of the observation made by a German author, whose name he forgets
(Schiller!), on the connexion between art and play. Had Spencer's
remarks on Aesthetic been written in the eighteenth century, they might
have occupied a humble place among the first rude attempts at aesthetic
speculation, but appearing in the nineteenth century, they are without
value, as the little of value they contain had been long said by others.

In his _Principles of Psychology_ Spencer looks upon aesthetic feelings
as arising from the discharge of the exuberant energy of the organism.
This he divides into degrees, and believes that we attain complete
enjoyment when these degrees are all working satisfactorily each on its
own plane, and when what is painful in excessive activity has been
avoided. His degrees are sensation, sensation accompanied by
representative elements, perception accompanied by more complex elements
of representation, then emotion, and that state of consciousness which
surpasses sensations and perceptions. But Spencer has no suspicion of
what art really is. His views oscillate between sensualism and moralism,
and he sees little in the whole art of antiquity, of the Middle Ages, or
of modern times, which can be looked upon as otherwise than imperfect!

The Physiology of Aesthetics has also had its votaries in Great Britain,
among whom may be mentioned J. Sully, A. Bain, and Allen. These at any
rate show some knowledge of the concrete fact of art. Allen harks back
to the old distinction between necessary and vital activities and
superfluous activities, and gives a physiological definition, which may
be read in his _Physiological Aesthetics_. More recent writers also look
upon the physiological fact as the cause of the pleasure of art; but for
them it does not alone depend upon the visual organ, and the muscular
phenomena associated with it, but also on the participation of some of
the most important bodily functions, such as respiration, circulation,
equilibrium, intimate muscular accommodation. They believe that art owes
its origin to the pleasure that some prehistoric man must have
experienced in breathing regularly, without having to re-adapt his
organs, when he traced for the first time on a bone or on clay regular
lines separated by regular intervals.

A similar order of physico-aesthetic researches has been made in
Germany, under the auspices of Helmholtz, Bruecke, and Stumpf. But these
writers have succeeded better than the above-mentioned, by restricting
themselves to the fields of optic and acoustic, and have supplied
information as to the physical processes of artistic technique and as to
the pleasure of visual and auditive impressions, without attempting to
melt Aesthetic into Physic, or to deprive the former of its spiritual
character. They have even occasionally indicated the difference between
the two kinds of research. Even the degenerate Herbartians, converting
the metaphysical forms of their master into physiological phenomena,
made soft eyes at the new sensualists and aesthetico-physiologists.

The Natural Sciences have become in our day a sort of superstition,
allied to a certain, perhaps unconscious, hypocrisy. Not only have
chemical, physical, and physiological laboratories become a sort of
Sibylline grots, where resound the most extraordinary questions about
everything that can interest the spirit of man, but even those who
really do prosecute their researches with the old inevitable method of
internal observation, have been unable to free themselves from the
illusion that they are, on the contrary, employing _the method of the
natural sciences_.

Hippolyte Taine's Philosophy of Art represents such an illusion. He
declares that when we have studied the diverse manifestations of art in
all peoples and at all epochs, we shall then possess a complete
Aesthetic. Such an Aesthetic would be a sort of Botany applied to the
works of man. This mode of study would provide moral science with a
basis equally as sure as that which the natural sciences already
possess. Taine then proceeds to define art without regard to the natural
sciences, by analysing, like a simple mortal, what passes in the human
soul when brought face to face with a work of art. But what analysis and
what definitions!

Art, he says, is imitation, but of a sort that tries to express an
essential characteristic. Thus the principal characteristic of a lion is
to be "a great carnivore," and we observe this characteristic in all its
limbs. Holland has for essential characteristic that of being a land
formed of alluvial soil.

Now without staying to consider these two remarkable instances, let us
ask, what is this essential characteristic of Taine? It is the same as
the ideas, types, or concepts that the old aesthetic teaching assigned
to art as its object. Taine himself removes all doubt as to this, by
saying that this characteristic is what philosophers call the essence of
things, and for that reason they declare that the purpose of art is to
manifest things. He declares that he will not employ the word essence,
which is technical. But he accepts and employs the thought that the word
expresses. He believes that there are two routes by which man can attain
to the superior life: science and art. By the first, he apprehends
fundamental laws and causes, and expresses them in abstract terms; by
the second, he expresses these same laws and causes in a manner
comprehensible to all, by appealing to the heart and feeling, as well as
to the reason of man. Art is both superior and popular; it makes
manifest what is highest, and makes it manifest to all.

That Taine here falls into the old pedagogic theory of Aesthetic is
evident. Works of art are arranged for him in a scale of values, as for
the aesthetic metaphysicians. He began by declaring the absurdity of all
judgment of taste, "a chacun son gout," but he ends by declaring that
personal taste is without value, that we must establish a common measure
before proceeding to praise or blame. His scale of values is double or
triple. We must first fix the degree of importance of the
characteristic, that is, the greater or less generality of the idea, and
the degree of good in it, that is to say, its greater or lesser moral
value. These, he says, are two degrees of the same thing, strength, seen
from different sides. We must also establish the degree of convergence
of the effects, that is, the fulness of expression, the harmony between
the idea and the form.

This half-moral, half-metaphysical exposition is accompanied with the
usual protestations, that the matter in hand is to be studied
methodically, analytically, as the naturalist would study it, that he
will try to reach "a law, not a hymn." As if these protestations could
abolish the true nature of his thought! Taine actually went so far as to
attempt dialectic solutions of works of art! "In the primitive period of
Italian art, we find the soul without the body: Giotto. At the
Renaissance, with Verrocchio and his school, we find the body without
the soul. With Raphael, in the sixteenth century, we find expression and
anatomy in harmony: body and soul." Thesis, antithesis, synthesis!

With G.T. Fechner we find the like protestations and the like
procedure. He will study Aesthetic inductively, from beneath. He seeks
clarity, not loftiness. Proceeding thus inductively, he discovers a long
series of laws or principles of Aesthetic, such as unity in variety,
association and contrast, change and persistence, the golden mean, etc.
He exhibits this chaos with delight at showing himself so much of a
physiologist, and so inconclusive. Then he proceeds to describe his
experiments in Aesthetics. These consist of attempts to decide, for
instance, by methods of choice, which of certain rectangles of cardboard
is the most agreeable, and which the most disagreeable, to a large
number of people arbitrarily chosen. Naturally, these results do not
agree with others obtained on other occasions, but Fechner knows that
errors correct themselves, and triumphantly publishes long lists of
these valuable experiments. He also communicates to us the shapes and
measurements of a large number of pictures in museums, as compared with
their respective subjects! Such are the experiments of physiological

But Fechner, when he comes to define what beauty and what art really
are, is, like everyone else, obliged to fall back upon introspection.
But his definition is trivial, and his comparison of his three degrees
of beauty to a family is simply grotesque in its _naivete_. He terms
this theory the eudemonistic theory, and we are left wondering why, when
he had this theory all cut and dried in his mind, he should all the same
give himself the immense trouble of compiling his tables and of
enumerating his laws and principles, which do not agree with his theory.
Perhaps it was all a pastime for him, like playing at patience, or
collecting postage-stamps?

Another example of superstition in respect to the natural sciences
is afforded by Ernest Grosse. Grosse abounds in contempt for what
he calls speculative Aesthetic. Yet he desires a Science of Art
(Kunstwissenschaft), which shall formulate its laws from those
historical facts which have hitherto been collected.

But Grosse wishes us to complete the collection of historical evidence
with ethnographical and prehistoric materials, for we cannot obtain
really general laws of art from the exclusive study of cultivated
peoples, "just as a theory of reproduction exclusively based upon the
form it takes with mammifers, must necessarily be imperfect!"

He is, however, aware that the results of experiences among savages and
prehistoric races do not alone suffice to furnish us with an equipment
for such investigations as that concerning the nature of Art, and, like
any ordinary mortal, he feels obliged to interrogate, before starting,
the spirit of man. He therefore proceeds to define Aesthetic on
apriorist principles, which, he remarks, can be discarded when we shall
have obtained the complete theory, in like manner with the scaffolding
that has served for the erection of a house.

Words! Words! Vain words! He proceeds to define Aesthetic as the
activity which in its development and result has the immediate value of
feeling, and is, therefore, an end in itself. Art is the opposite of
practice; the activity of games stands intermediate between the two,
having also its end in its own activity.

The Aesthetics of Taine and of Grosse have been called sociological.
Seeing that any true definition of sociology as a science is impossible,
for it is composed of psychological elements, which are for ever
varying, we do not delay to criticize the futile attempts at definition,
but pass at once to the objective results attained by the sociologists.
This superstition, like the naturalistic, takes various forms in
practical life. We have, for instance, Proudhon (1875), who would hark
back to Platonic Aesthetic, class the aesthetic activity among the
merely sensual, and command the arts to further the cause of virtue, on
pain of judicial proceedings in case of contumacy.

But M. Guyau is the most important of sociological aestheticians. His
works, published in Paris toward the end of last century, and his
posthumous work, entitled _Les problemes de l'Esthetique contemporaine_,
substitute for the theory of play, that of _life_, and the posthumous
work above-mentioned makes it evident that by life he means social life.
Art is the development of social sympathy, but the whole of art does not
enter into sociology. Art has two objects; the production of agreeable
sensations (colours, sounds, etc.) and of phenomena of psychological
induction, which include ideas and feelings of a more complex nature
than the foregoing, such as sympathy for the personages represented,
interest, piety, indignation, etc. Thus art becomes the expression of
life. Hence arise two tendencies: one for harmony, consonance, for all
that delights the ear and eye; the other transforming life, under the
dominion of art. True genius is destined to balance these two
tendencies; but the decadent and the unbalanced deprive art of its
sympathetic end, setting aesthetic sympathy against human sympathy. If
we translate this language into that with which we are by this time
quite familiar, we shall see that Guyau admits an art that is merely
hedonistic, and places above it another art, also hedonistic, but
serving the ends of morality.

M. Nordau wages war against the decadent and unbalanced, in much the
same manner as Guyau. He assigns to art the function of re-establishing
the integrity of life, so much broken up and specialized in our
industrial civilization. He remarks that there is such a thing as art
for art's sake, the simple expression of the internal states of the
individual, but it is the art of the cave-dweller.

C. Lombroso's theory of genius as degeneration may be grouped with the
naturalistic theories. His argument is in essence the following. Great
mental efforts, and total absorption in one dominant thought, often
produce physiological disorders or atrophy of important vital functions.
Now these disorders often lead to madness; therefore, genius may be
identified with madness. This proof, from the particular to the general,
does not follow that of traditional Logic. But with Lombroso, Buechner,
Nordau, and the like we have come to the boundary between specious and
vulgar error. They confuse scientific analysis with historical research.
Such inquiries may have value for history, but they have none for
Aesthetic. Thus, too, A. Lang maintains that the doctrine of the origin
of art as disinterested expression of the mimetic faculty is not
confirmed in what we know of primitive art, which is rather decorative
than expressive. But primitive art, which is a given fact to be
interpreted, cannot ever become its own criterion of interpretation.

The naturalistic misunderstanding has had a bad effect on linguistic
researches, which have not been carried out on the lofty plane to which
Humboldt and Steinthal had brought them.

Max Mueller is popular and exaggerated. He fails clearly to distinguish
thought from logical thought, although in one place he remarks that the
formation of names has a more intimate connexion with wit than with
judgment. He holds that the science of language is not historical, but
natural, because language is not the invention of man, altogether
ignoring the science of the spirit, philosophy, of which language is a
part. For Max Mueller, the natural sciences were the only sciences. The
consciousness of the science of the spirit becomes ever more obscured,
and we find the philologist W.D. Whitney combating Max Mueller's
"miracles" and maintaining the separability of thought and speech.

With Hermann Paul (1880) we have an awakening of Humboldt's spirit. Paul
maintains that the origin of language is the speech of the individual
man, and that a language has its origin every time it is spoken. Paul
also showed the fallacies contained in the _Voelkerpsychologie_ of
Steinthal and Lazarus, demonstrating that there is no such thing as a
collective soul, and that there is no language save that of the

W. Wundt (1886), on the other hand, commits the error of connecting
language with Ethnopsychology and other non-existent sciences, and
actually terms the glorious doctrine of Herder and of Humboldt
_Wundertheorie_, or theory of miracle, accusing them of mystical
obscurity. Wundt confuses the question of the historical appearance of
language with that of its internal nature and genesis. He looks upon the
theory of evolution as having attained to its complete triumph, in its
application to organic nature in general, and especially to man. He has
no suspicion whatever of the function of fancy, and of the true relation
between thought and expression, between expression in the naturalistic,
and expression in the spiritual and linguistic sense. He looks upon
speech as a specially developed form of psycho-physical vital
manifestations, of expressive animal movements. Language is developed
continuously from such facts, and thus is explained how, "beyond the
general concept of expressive movement, there is no specific quality
which delimits language in a non-arbitrary manner."

Thus the philosophy of Wundt reveals its weak side, showing itself
incapable of understanding the spiritual nature of language and of art.
In the _Ethic_ of the same author, aesthetic facts are presented as a
mixture of logical and ethical elements, a special normative aesthetic
science is denied, and Aesthetic is merged in Logic and Ethic.

The neo-critical and neo-Kantian movement in thought was not able to
maintain the concept of the spirit against the hedonistic, moralistic,
and psychological views of Aesthetic, in vogue from about the middle of
last century. Neo-criticism inherited from Kant his view as to the
slight importance of the creative imagination, and appears indeed to have
been ignorant of any form of knowledge, other than the intellective.

Kirchmann (1868) was one of the early adherents to psychological
Aesthetic, defining the beautiful as the idealized image of pleasure,
the ugly as that of pain. For him the aesthetic fact is the idealized
image of the real. Failing to apprehend the true nature of the aesthetic
fact, Kirchmann invented a new psychological category of ideal or
apparent feelings, which he thought were attenuated images from those
of real life.

The aged Theodore Fischer describes Aesthetic in his auto-criticism as
the union of mimetic and harmony, and the beautiful as the harmony of
the universe, which is never realized in fact, because it is infinite.
When we think to grasp the beautiful, we experience that exquisite
illusion, which is the aesthetic fact. Robert Fischer, son of the
foregoing, introduced the word _Einfuehlung_, to express the vitality
which he believed that man inspired into things with the help of the
aesthetic process.

E. Siebeck and M. Diez, the former writing in 1875, the latter in 1892,
unite a certain amount of idealistic influence, derived from Kant and
Herbart, with the merely empirical and psychological views that have of
late been the fashion. Diez, for instance, would explain the artistic
function as the ideal of feeling, placing it parallel to science; the
ideal of thought, morality; the ideal of will and religion, the ideal of
the personality. But this ideal of feeling escapes definition, and we
see that these writers have not had the courage of their ideas: they
have not dared to push their thought to its logical conclusion.

The merely psychological and associationist view finds in Theodore Lipps
its chief exponent. He criticizes and rejects a series of aesthetic
theories, such as those of play, of pleasure, of art as recognition of
real life, even if disagreeable, of emotionality, of syncretism, which
attaches to art a number of other ends, in addition to those of play and
of pleasure.

The theory of Lipps does not differ very greatly from that of Jouffroy,
for he assumes that artistic beauty is the sympathetic. "Our ego,
transplanted, objectified, and recognized in others, is the object of
sympathy. We feel ourselves in others, and others in us." Thus the
aesthetic pleasure is entirely composed of sympathy. This extends even
to the pleasure derived from architecture, geometrical forms, etc.
Whenever we meet with the positive element of human personality, we
experience this feeling of beatitude, which is the aesthetic emotion.
But the value of the personality is an ethical value: the whole sphere
of ethic is included in it. Therefore all artistic or aesthetic pleasure
is the enjoyment of something which has ethical value, but this value is
not an element of a compound, but the object of aesthetic intuition.
Thus is aesthetic activity deprived of all autonomous existence and
reduced to a mere retainer of Ethic.

C. Groos (1895) shows some signs of recognizing aesthetic activity as a
theoretic value. Feeling and intellect, he says, are the two poles of
knowledge, and he recognizes the aesthetic fact as internal imitation.
Everything beautiful belongs to aestheticity, but not every aesthetic
fact is beautiful. The beautiful is the representation of sensible
pleasure, and the ugly of sensible displeasure. The sublime is the
representation of something powerful, in a simple form. The comic is the
representation of an inferiority, which provokes in us the pleasurable
feeling of "superiority." Groos very wisely makes mock of the supposed
function of the Ugly, which Hartmann and Schasler had inherited and
developed from a long tradition. Lipps and Groos agree in denying
aesthetic value to the comic, but Lipps, although he gives an excellent
analysis of the comic, is nevertheless in the trammels of his moralistic
thesis, and ends by sketching out something resembling the doctrine of
the overcoming of the ugly, by means of which may be attained a higher
aesthetic and (sympathetic) value.

Labours such as those of Lipps have been of value, since they have
cleared away a number of errors that blocked the way, and restrained
speculation to the field of the internal consciousness. Similar is the
merit of E. Veron's treatise (1883) on the double form of Aesthetic, in
which he combats the academic view of the absolute beauty, and shows
that Taine confuses Art and Science, Aesthetic and Logic. He acutely
remarks that if the object of art were to reveal the essence of things,
the greatest artists would be those who best succeeded in doing this,
and the greatest works would all be _identical_; whereas we know that
the very opposite is the case. Veron was a precursor of Guyau, and we
seek for scientific system in vain in his book. Veron looks upon art as
two things: the one _decorative_, pleasing eye and ear, the other
_expressive_, "l'expression emue de la personalite humaine." He thought
that decorative art prevailed in antiquity, expressive art in modern

We cannot here dwell upon the aesthetic theories of men of letters, such
as that of E. Zola, developing his thesis of natural science and history
mixed, which is known as that of the human document or as the
experimental theory, or of Ibsen and the moralization of the art
problem, as presented by him and by the Scandinavian school. Perhaps no
French writer has written more profoundly upon art than Gustave
Flaubert. His views are contained in his Correspondence, which has been
published. L. Tolstoi wrote his book on art while under the influence of
Veron and his hatred of the concept of the beautiful. Art, he says,
communicates the feelings, as the word communicates the thoughts. But
his way of understanding this may be judged from the comparison which he
institutes between Art and Science. According to this, "Art has for its
mission to make assimilable and sensible what may not have been
assimilated in the form of argument. There is no science for science's
sake, no art for art's sake. Every human effort should be directed
toward increasing morality and suppressing violence." This amounts to
saying that well-nigh all the art that the world has hitherto seen is
false. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Dante, Tasso,
Milton, Shakespeare, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Bach, Beethoven, are all,
according to Tolstoi, "false reputations, made by the critics."

We must also class F. Nietzsche with the artists, rather than with the
philosophers. We should do him an injustice (as with J. Ruskin) were we
to express in intellectual terminology his aesthetic affirmations. The
criticism which they provoke would be too facile. Nowhere has Nietzsche
given a complete theory of art, not even in his first book, _Die Geburt
der Tragoedie oder Griechentum und Pessimismus_. What seems to be theory
there, is really the confession of the feelings and aspirations of the
writer. Nietzsche was the last, splendid representative of the romantic
period. He was, therefore, deeply preoccupied with the art problem and
with the relation of art to natural science and to philosophy, though he
never succeeded in definitely fixing those relations. From Romanticism,
rather than from Schopenhauer, he gathered those elements of thought out
of which he wove his conception of the two forms of art: the Apollonian,
all serene contemplation, as expressed in the epic and in sculpture; the
Dionysaic, all tumult and agitation, as expressed in music and the
drama. These doctrines are not rigorously proved, and their power of
resistance to criticism is therefore but slender, but they serve to
transport the mind to a more lofty spiritual level than any others of
the second half of the nineteenth century.

The most noteworthy thought on aesthetic of this period is perhaps to be
found among the aestheticians of special branches of the arts, and since
we know that laws relating only to special branches are not conceivable,
this thought may be considered as bearing upon the general theory of

The Bohemian critic E. Hanslick (1854) is perhaps the most important of
these writers. His work _On Musical Beauty_ has been translated into
several languages. His polemic is chiefly directed against R. Wagner and
the pretension of finding in music a determined content of ideas and
feelings. He expresses equal contempt for those sentimentalists who
derive from music merely pathological effects, passionate excitement, or
stimulus for practical activity, in place of enjoying the musical works.
"If a few Phrygian notes sufficed to instil courage into the soldier
facing the enemy, or a Doric melody to assure the fidelity of a wife
whose husband was absent, then the loss of Greek music may cause pain to
generals and to husbands, but aestheticians and composers will have no
reason to deplore it." "If every Requiem, every lamenting Adagio,
possessed the power to make us sad, who would be able to support
existence in such conditions? But if a true musical work look upon us
with the clear and brilliant eyes of beauty, we feel ourselves bound by
its invincible fascination, though its theme be all the sorrows of the

For Hanslick, the only end of music was form, or musical beauty. The
followers of Herbart showed themselves very tender towards this
unexpected and vigorous ally, and Hanslick, not to be behindhand in
politeness, returned their compliments, by referring to Herbart and to
R. Zimmermann, in the later editions of his work, as having "completely
developed the great aesthetic principle of form." Unfortunately Hanslick
meant something altogether different from the Herbartians by his use of
the word form. Symmetry, merely acoustic relations, and the pleasure of
the ear, did not constitute the musically beautiful for him. Mathematics
were in his view useless in the Aesthetic of music. "Sonorous forms are
not empty, but perfectly full; they cannot be compared to simple lines
enclosing a space; they are the spirit, which takes form, making its own
bodily configuration. Music is more of a picture than is an arabesque;
but it is a picture of which the subject is inexpressible in words, nor
is it to be enclosed in a precise concept. In music, there is a meaning
and a connexion, but of a specially musical nature: it is a language
which we speak and understand, but which it is impossible to translate."
Hanslick admits that music, if it do not render the quality of
sentiments, renders their tone or dynamic side; it renders adjectives,
if it fail to render substantives; if not "murmuring tenderness" or
"impetuous courage," at any rate the "murmuring" and the "impetuous."

The essence of his book is contained in the negation that it is possible
to separate form and content in music. "Take any motive you will, and
say where form begins and content ends. Are we to call the sounds
content? Very good, but they have already received form. What are we to
call form? Sounds again? But they are already form filled, that is to
say, possessing a content." These observations testify to an acute
penetration of the nature of art. Hanslick's belief that they were
characteristics peculiar to music, not common to every form of art,
alone prevented him from seeing further.

C. Fiedler, published in German (in 1887) an extremely luminous work on
the origin of artistic activity. He describes eloquently how the passive
spectator seems to himself to grasp all reality, as the shows of life
pass before him; but at the moment that he tries to realize this
artistically, all disappears, and leaves him with the emptiness of his
own thoughts. Yet by concentration alone do we attain to expression; art
is a language that we gradually learn to speak. Artistic activity is
only to be attained by limiting ourselves; it must consist of "forms
precisely determined, tangible, sensibly demonstrable, precisely because
it is spiritual." Art does not imitate nature, for what is nature, but
that vast confusion of perceptions and representations that were
referred to above? Yet in a sense art does imitate nature; it uses
nature to produce values of a kind peculiar to itself. Those values are
true visibility.

Fiedler's views correspond with those of his predecessor, Hanslick, but
are more rigorously and philosophically developed. The sculptor A.
Hildebrand may be mentioned with these, as having drawn attention to the
nature of art as architectonic rather than imitative, with special
application to the art of sculpture.

What we miss with these and with other specialists, is a broad view of
art and language, as one and the same thing, the inheritance of all
humanity, not of a few persons, specially endowed. H. Bergson in his
book on laughter (1900) falls under the same criticism. He develops his
theory of art in a manner analogous to Fiedler, and errs like him in
looking upon it as something different and exceptional in respect to the
language of every moment. He declares that in life the individuality of
things escapes us: we see only as much as suffices for our practical
ends. The influence of language aids this rude simplification: all but
proper names are abstractions. Artists arise from time to time, who
recover the riches hidden beneath the labels of ordinary life.

Amid the ruin of idealist metaphysics, is to be desired a healthy return
to the doctrine of Baumgarten, corrected and enriched with the
discoveries that have been made since his time, especially by
romanticism and psychology. C. Hermann (1876) announced this return, but
his book is a hopeless mixture of empirical precepts and of metaphysical
beliefs regarding Logic and Aesthetic, both of which, he believes, deal
not with the empirical thought and experience of the soul, but with the
pure and absolute.

B. Bosanquet (1892) gives the following definition of the beautiful, as
"that which has a characteristic or individual expressivity for the
sensible perception, or for the imagination, subject to the conditions
of general or abstract expressivity for the same means." The problem as
posed by this writer by the antithesis of the two German schools of form
and content, appears to us insoluble.

Though De Sanctis left no school in Italy, his teaching has been cleared
of the obscurities that had gathered round it during the last ten years;
and the thesis of the true nature of history, and of its nature,
altogether different from natural science, has been also dealt with in
Germany, although its precise relation to the aesthetic problem has not
been made clear. Such labours and such discussions constitute a more
favourable ground for the scientific development of Aesthetic than the
stars of mystical metaphysic or the stables of positivism and of

We have now reached the end of the inquiry into the history of aesthetic
speculation, and we are struck with the smallness of the number of those
who have seen clearly the nature of the problem. No doubt, amid the
crowd of artists, critics, and writers on other subjects, many have
incidentally made very just remarks, and if all these were added to the
few philosophers, they would form a gallant company. But if, as Schiller
truly observed, the rhythm of philosophy consist in a withdrawal from
public opinion, in order to return to it with renewed vigour, it is
evident that this withdrawal is essential, and indeed that in it lies
the whole progress of philosophy.

During our long journey, we have witnessed grave aberrations from the
truth, which were at the same time attempts to reach it; such were the
hedonism of the sophists and rhetoricians of antiquity, of the
sensualists of the eighteenth and second half of the nineteenth
centuries; the moralistic hedonism of Aristophanes and the Stoics, of
the Roman eclectics, of the writers of the Middle Age and of the
Renaissance; the ascetic and logical hedonism of Plato and the Fathers
of the Church; the aesthetic mysticism of Plotinus, reborn to its
greatest triumphs, during the classic period of German thought.

Through the midst of these variously erroneous theories, that traverse
the field of thought in all directions, runs a tiny rivulet of golden
truth. Starting from the subtle empiricism of Aristotle, it flows in the
profound penetration of Vico to the nineteenth century, where it appears
again in the masterly analyses of Schleiermacher, Humboldt, and De

This brief list shows that the science of Aesthetic is no longer to be
discovered, but it also shows _that it is only at its beginning_.

The birth of a science is like the birth of a human being. In order to
live, a science, like a man, has to withstand a thousand attacks of all
sorts. These appear in the form of errors, which must be extirpated, if
the science is not to perish. And when one set has been weeded, another
crops up; when these have been dealt with, the former errors often
return. Therefore _scientific criticism_ is always necessary. No science
can repose on its laurels, complete, unchallenged. Like a human being,
it must maintain its position by constant efforts, constant victories
over error. The general errors which reveal a negation of the very
concept of art have already been dealt with in the Historical Summary.
The particular errors have been exposed in the Theory. They may be
divided under three heads: (i.) Errors as to the characteristic quality
of the aesthetic fact, or (ii.) as to its specific quality, or (iii.) as
to its generic quality. These are contradictions of the characteristics
of intuition, of theoretic contemplation, and of spiritual activity,
which constitute the aesthetic fact.

The principal bar to a proper understanding of the true nature of
language has been and still is Rhetoric, with the modern form it has
assumed, as style. The rhetorical categories are still mentioned in
treatises and often referred to, as having definite existence among the
parts of speech. Side by side with such phrases goes that of the double
form, or metaphor, which implies that there are two ways of saying the
same thing, the one simple, the other ornate.

Kant, Herbart, Hegel, and many minor personages, have been shown to be
victims of the rhetorical categories, and in our own day we have writers
in Italy and in Germany who devote much attention to them, such as R.
Bonghi and G. Groeber; the latter employs a phraseology which he borrows
from the modern schools of psychology, but this does not alter the true
nature of his argument. De Sanctis gave perhaps the clearest and most
stimulating advice in his lectures on Rhetoric, which he termed

But even he failed to systematize his thought, and we may say that the
true critique of Rhetoric can only be made from the point of view of the
aesthetic activity, which is, as we know, _one_, and therefore does not
give rise to divisions, and _cannot express the same content now in one
form, now in another_. Thus only can we drive away the double monster of
naked form deprived of imagination, and of decorated form, which would
represent something more than imagination. The same remarks apply to
artistic and literary styles, and to their various laws or rules. In
modern times they have generally been comprised with rhetoric, and
although now discredited, they cannot be said to have altogether

J.C. Scaliger may be entitled the protagonist of the unities in
comparatively modern times: he it was who "laid the foundations of the
classical Bastille," and supplied tyrants of literature, like Boileau,
with some of their best weapons. Lessing opposed the French rules and
restrictions with German rules and restrictions, giving as his opinion
that Corneille and others had wrongly interpreted Aristotle, whose rules
did not really prevent Shakespeare from being included among correct
writers! Lessing undoubtedly believed in intellectual rules for poetry.
Aristotle was the tyrant, father of tyrants, and we find Corneille
saying "qu'il est aise de s'accommoder avec Aristote," much in the same
way as Tartuffe makes his "accommodements avec le ciel." In the next
century, several additions were made to the admitted styles, as for
instance the "tragedie bourgeoise."

But these battles of the rules with one another are less interesting
than the rebellion against all the rules, which began with Pietro
Aretino in the sixteenth century, who makes mock of them in the
prologues to his comedies. Giordano Bruno took sides against the makers
of rules, saying that the rules came from the poetry, and "therefore
there are as many genuses and species of true rules as there are genuses
and species of true poets." When asked how the true poets are to be
known, he replies, "by repeating their verses, which either cause
delight, or profit, or both." Guarini, too, said that "the world judges
poetry, and its sentence is without appeal."

Strangely enough, it was priest-ridden Spain that all through the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led the van of revolt against the
rules and precepts of the grammarians. While Torquato Tasso remained the
miserable slave of grammarians unworthy to lick the dust from his feet,
Lope de Vega slyly remarked that when he wrote his comedies, he locked
up the givers of precepts with six keys, that they might not reproach
him. J.B. Marino declared that he knew the rules better than all the
pedants in the world; "but the true rule is to know when to break the
rules, in accordance with the manners of the day and the taste of the
age." Among the most acute writers of the end of the seventeenth century
is to be mentioned Gravina, who well understood that a work of art must
be its own criterion, and said so clearly when praising a contemporary
for a work which did not enter any one of the admitted categories.
Unfortunately Gravina did not clearly formulate his views.

France of the eighteenth century produced several writers like Du Bos,
who declared that men will always prefer the poems that move them, to
those composed according to rule. La Motte combated the unities of place
and time, and Batteux showed himself liberal in respect to rules.
Voltaire, although he opposed La Motte and described the three unities
as the three great laws of good sense, was also capable of declaring
that all styles but the tiresome are good, and that the best style is
that which is best used. In England we find Home in his _Elements of
Criticism_ deriding the critics for asserting that there must be a
precise criterion for distinguishing epic poetry from all other forms of
composition. Literary compositions, he held, melt into one another, just
like colours.

The literary movement of the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of
the nineteenth centuries attacked rules of all sorts. We will not dwell
upon the many encounters of these periods, nor record the names of those
that conquered gloriously, or their excesses. In France the preface to
the _Cromwell_ of V. Hugo (1827), in Italy the _Lettera semiseria di
Grisostomo_, were clarions of rebellion. The principle first laid down
by A.W. Schlegel, that the form of compositions must be organic and not
mechanic, resulting from the nature of the subject, from its internal
development not from an external stamp, was enunciated in Italy. Art is
always a whole, a synthesis.

But it would be altogether wrong to believe that this empirical defeat
of the styles and rules implied their final defeat in philosophy. Even
writers who were capable of dispensing with prejudice when judging works
of art, once they spoke as philosophers, were apt to reassume their
belief in those categories which, empirically, they had discarded. The
spectacle of these literary or rhetorical categories, raised by German
philosophers to the honours of philosophical deduction, is even more
amusing than that which afforded amusement to Home. The truth is that
they were unable to free their aesthetic systems of intellectualism,
although they proclaimed the empire of the mystic idea. Schelling (1803)
at the beginning, Hartmann (1890) at the end of the century, furnish a
good example of this head and tail.

Schelling, in his Philosophy of Art, declares that, historically
speaking, the first place in the styles of poetry is due to Epic, but,
scientifically speaking, it falls to Lyric. In truth, if poetry be the
representation of the infinite in the finite, then lyric poetry, in
which prevails the finite, must be its first moment. Lyric poetry
corresponds to the first of the ideal series, to reflection, to
knowledge; epic poetry corresponds to the second power, to action. This
philosopher finally proceeds to the unification of epic and lyric
poetry, and from their union he deduces the dramatic form, which is in
his view "the supreme incarnation of the essence and of the _in-se_ of
every art."

With Hartmann, poetry is divided into poetry of declamation and poetry
for reading. The first is subdivided into Epic, Lyric, and Dramatic; the
Epic is divided into plastic epic, proper epic, pictorial epic, and
lyrical epic; Lyric is divided into epical lyric, lyrical lyric, and
dramatic lyric; Dramatic is divided into lyrical dramatic, epical
dramatic, and dramatical dramatic. The second (readable poetry) is
divided into poetry which is chiefly epical, lyrical, and dramatic, with
the tertiary division of moving, comic, tragic, and humoristic; and
poetry which can all be read at once, like a short story, or that
requires several sittings, like a romance.

These brief extracts show of what dialectic pirouettes and sublime
trivialities even philosophers are capable, when they begin to treat
of the Aesthetic of the tragic, comic, and humorous. Such false
distinctions are still taught in the schools of France and Germany, and
we find a French critic like Ferdinand Brunetiere devoting a whole
volume to the evolution of literary styles or classes, which he really
believes to constitute literary history. This prejudice, less frankly
stated, still infests many histories of literature, even in Italy.

We believe that the falsity of these rules of classes should be
scientifically demonstrated. In our Theory of Aesthetic we have shown
how we believe that it should be demonstrated.

The proof of the theory of the limits of the arts has been credited to
Lessing, but his merit should rather be limited to having been the first
to draw attention to the problem. His solution was false, but his
achievement nevertheless great, in having posed the question clearly. No
one before him, in antiquity, in the Middle Age, or in modern times, had
seriously asked: What is the value of the distinctions between the arts?
Which of them comes first? Which second? Leonardo da Vinci had declared
his personal predilection for painting, Michael Angelo for sculpture,
but the question had not been philosophically treated before Lessing.

Lessing's attention was drawn to the problem, through his desire to
disprove the assertions of Spence and of the Comte de Caylus, the former
in respect to the close union between poetry and painting in antiquity,
the latter as believing that a poem was good according to the number of
subjects which it should afford the painter. Lessing argued thus:
Painting manifests itself in space, poetry in time: the mode of
manifestation of painting is through objects which coexist, that of
poetry through objects which are consecutive. The objects which coexist,
or whose parts are coexistent, are called bodies. Bodies, then, owing to
their visibility, are the true objects of painting. Objects which are
consecutive, or whose parts are consecutive, are called, in general,
actions. Actions, then, are the suitable object of poetry. He admitted
that painting might represent an action, but only by means of bodies
which make allusion to it; that poetry can represent bodies, but only by
means of actions. Returning to this theme, he explained the action or
movement in painting as added by our imagination. Lessing was greatly
preoccupied with the naturalness and the unnaturalness of signs, which
is tantamount to saying that he believed each art to be strictly limited
to certain modes of expression, which are only overstepped at the cost
of coherency. In the appendix to his _Laocooen_, he quotes Plutarch as
saying that one should not chop wood with a key, or open the door with
an axe. He who should do so would not only be spoiling both those
utensils, but would also be depriving himself of the utility of both. He
believed that this applied to the arts.

The number of philosophers and writers who have attempted empirical
classifications of the arts is enormous: it ranges in comparatively
recent times from Lessing, by way of Schasler, Solger, and Hartmann, to
Richard Wagner, whose theory of the combination of the arts was first
mooted in the eighteenth century.

Lotze, while reflecting upon the futility of these attempts, himself
adopts a method, which he says is the most "convenient," and thereby
incurs the censure of Schasler. This method is in fact suitable for his
studies in botany and in zoology, but useless for the philosophy of the
spirit. Thus both these thinkers maintained Lessing's wrong principle as
to the constancy, the limits, and the peculiar nature of each art.

Who among aestheticians has criticized this principle? Aristotle had a
glimpse of the truth, when he refused to admit that the distinction
between prose and poetry lay in an external fact, the metre.
Schleiermacher seems to have been the only one who was thoroughly aware
of the difficulty of the problem. In analysis, indeed, he goes so far as
to say that what the arts have in common is not the external fact, which
is an element of diversity; and connecting such an observation as this
with his clear distinction between art and what is called technique, we
might argue that Schleiermacher looked upon the divisions between the
arts as non-existent. But he does not make this logical inference, and
his thought upon the problem continues to be wavering and undecided.
Nebulous, uncertain, and contradictory as is this portion of
Schleiermacher's theory, he has yet the great merit of having doubted
Lessing's theory, and of having asked himself by what right are special
arts held to be distinct in art.

Schleiermacher _absolutely denied the existence of a beautiful in
nature_, and praised Hegel for having sustained this negation. Hegel did
not really deserve this praise, as his negation was rather verbal than
effective; but the importance of this thesis as stated by Schleiermacher
is very great, in so far as he denied the existence of an objective
natural beauty not produced by the spirit of man. This theory of the
beautiful in nature, when taken in a metaphysical sense, does not
constitute an error peculiar to aesthetic science. It forms part of a
fallacious general theory, which can be criticized together with its

The theory of aesthetic senses, that is, of certain superior senses,
such as sight and hearing, being the only ones for which aesthetic
impressions exist, was debated as early as Plato. The _Hippias major_
contains a discussion upon this theme, which Socrates leads to the
conclusion that there exist beautiful things, which do not reach us
through impressions of eye or ear. But further than this, there exist
things which please the eye, but not the ear, and _vice versa_;
therefore the reason of beauty cannot be visibility or audibility, but
something different from, yet common to both. Perhaps this question has
never been so acutely and so seriously dealt with as in this Platonic
dialogue. Home, Herder, Hegel, Diderot, Rousseau, Berkeley, all dealt
with the problem, but in a more or less arbitrary manner. Herder, for
instance, includes touch with the higher aesthetic senses, but Hegel
removes it, as having immediate contact with matter as such, and with
its immediate sensible qualities.

Schleiermacher, with his wonted penetration, saw that the problem was
not to be solved so easily. He refuted the distinction between clear and
confused senses. He held that the superiority of sight and hearing over
the other senses lay in their free activity, in their capacity of an
activity proceeding from within, and able to create forms and sounds
without receiving external impressions. The eye and the ear are not
merely means of perception, for in that case there could be no visual
and no auditive arts. They are also functions of voluntary movements,
which fill the domain of the senses. Schleiermacher, however, considered
that the difference was rather one of quantity, and that we should allow
to the other senses a minimum of independence.

The sensualists, as we know, maintain that all the senses are aesthetic.
That is the hedonistic hypothesis, which has been dealt with and
disproved in this book. We have shown the embarrassment in which the
hedonists find themselves, when they have dubbed all the senses
"aesthetic," or have been obliged to differentiate in an absurd manner
some of the senses from the others. The only way out of the difficulty
lies in abandoning the attempt to unite orders of facts so diverse as
the representative form of the spirit and the conception of given
physical organs or of a given material of impressions.

The origin of classes of speech and of grammatical forms is to be found
in antiquity, and as regards the latter, the disputes among the
Alexandrian philosophers, the analogists, and the anomalists, resulted
in logic being identified with grammar. Anything which did not seem
logical was excluded from grammar as a deviation. The analogists,
however, did not have it all their own way, and grammar in the modern
sense of the word is a compromise between these extreme views, that is,
it contains something of the thought of Chrysippus, who composed a
treatise to show that the same thing can be expressed with different
sounds, and of Apollonius Discolus, who attempted to explain what the
rigorous analogists refused to admit into their schemes and
classifications. It is only of late years that we have begun to emerge
from the superstitious reverence for grammar, inherited from the Middle
Age. Such writers as Pott, in his introduction to Humboldt, and Paul in
his _Principien d. Sprachgeschichte_, have done good service in throwing
doubt upon the absolute validity of the parts of speech. If the old
superstitions still survive tenaciously, we must attribute this partly
to empirical and poetical grammar, partly to the venerable antiquity of
grammar itself, which has led the world to forget its illegitimate and
turbid origin.

The theory of the relativity of taste is likewise ancient, and it would
be interesting to know whether the saying "there's no accounting for
tastes" could be traced to a merely gustatory origin. In this sense, the
saying would be quite correct, as it is _quite wrong_ when applied to
aesthetic facts. The eighteenth century writers exhibit a piteous
perplexity of thought on this subject. Home, for instance, after much
debate, decides upon a common "standard of taste," which he deduces from
the necessity of social life and from what he calls "a final cause." Of
course it will not be an easy matter to fix this "standard of taste." As
regards moral conduct, we do not seek our models among savages, so with
regard to taste, we must have recourse to those few whose taste has not
been corrupted nor spoilt by pleasure, who have received good taste from
nature, and have perfected it by education and by the practice of life.
If after this has been done, there should yet arise disputes, it will be
necessary to refer to the principles of criticism, as laid down in his
book by the said Home.

We find similar contradictions and vicious circles in the _Discourse on
Taste_ of David Hume. We search his writings in vain for the distinctive
characteristics of the man of taste, whose judgments should be final.
Although he asserts that the general principles of taste are universal
in human nature, and admits that no notice should be accorded to
perversions and ignorance, yet there exist diversities of taste that are
irreconcilable, insuperable, and blameless.

But the criticism of the sensualist and relativist positions cannot be
made from the point of view of those who proclaim the absolute nature of
taste and yet place it among the intellectual concepts. It has been
shown to be impossible to escape from sensualism and relativity save by
falling into the intellectualist error. Muratori in the eighteenth
century is an instance of this. He was one of the first to maintain the
existence of a rule of taste and of universal beauty. Andre also spoke
of what appears beautiful in a work of art as being not that which
pleases at once, owing to certain particular dispositions of the
faculties of the soul and of the organs of the body, but that which has
the right of pleasing the reason and reflection through its own
excellence. Voltaire admitted an "universal taste," which was
"intellectual," as did many others. Kant appeared, and condemned alike
the intellectualist and the sensualistic error; but placing the
beautiful in a symbol of morality, he failed to discover the imaginative
absoluteness of taste. Later speculative philosophy did not attach
importance to the question.

The correct solution was slow in making its way. It lies, as we know, in
the fact that to judge a work of art we must place ourselves in the
position of the artist at the time of production, and that to judge is
to reproduce. Alexander Pope, in his _Essay on Criticism_, was among the
first to state this truth:

A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ.

Remarks equally luminous were made by Antonio Conti, Terrasson, and
Heydenreich in the eighteenth century, the latter with considerable
philosophical development. De Sanctis gave in his adhesion to this
formula, but a true theory of aesthetic criticism had not yet been
given, because for such was necessary, not only an exact conception of
nature in art, but also of the relations between the aesthetic fact and
its historical conditions. In more recent times has been denied the
possibility of aesthetic criticism; it has been looked upon as merely
individual and capricious, and historical criticism has been set up in
its place. This would be better called a criticism of extrinsic
erudition and of bad philosophical inspiration--positivist and
materialist. The true history of literature will always require the
reconstruction and then the judgment of the work of art. Those who have
wished to react against such emasculated erudition have often thrown
themselves into the opposite extreme, that is, into a dogmatic,
abstract, intellectualistic, or moralistic form of criticism.

This mention of the history of certain doctrines relating to Aesthetic
suffices to show the range of error possible in the theory. Aesthetic
has need to be surrounded by a vigilant and vigorous critical literature
which shall derive from it and be at once its safeguard and its source
of strength.


I here add as an appendix, at the request of the author, a translation
of his lecture which he delivered before the Third International
Congress of Philosophy, at Heidelberg, on 2nd September 1908.

The reader will find that it throws a vivid light upon Benedetto Croce's
general theory of Aesthetic.


_A Lecture delivered at Heidelberg at the second general session of the
Third International Congress of Philosophy._

There exists an _empirical_ Aesthetic, which although it admits the
existence of facts, called aesthetic or artistic, yet holds that they
are irreducible to a single principle, to a rigorous philosophical
concept. It wishes to limit itself to collecting as many of those facts
as possible, and in the greatest possible variety, thence, at the most,
proceeding to group them together in classes and types. The logical
ideal of this school, as declared on many occasions, is zoology or
botany. This Aesthetic, when asked what art is, replies by indicating
successively single facts, and by saying: "Art is this, and this, and
this too is art," and so on, indefinitely. Zoology and botany renew the
representatives of fauna and of flora in the same way. They calculate
that the species renewed amount to some thousand, but believe that they
might easily be increased to twenty or a hundred thousand, or even to a
million, or to infinity.

There is another Aesthetic, which has been called hedonistic,
utilitarian, moralistic, and so on, according to its various
manifestations. Its complex denomination should, however, be
_practicism_, because that is precisely what constitutes its essential
character. This Aesthetic differs from the preceding, in the belief that
aesthetic or artistic facts are not a merely empirical or nominalistic
grouping together, but that all of them possess a common foundation. Its
foundation is placed in the practical form of human activity. Those
facts are therefore considered, either generically, as manifestations of
pleasure and pain, and therefore rather as economic facts; or, more
particularly, as a special class of those manifestations; or again, as
instruments and products of the ethical spirit, which subdues and turns
to its own ends individual hedonistic and economic tendencies.

There is a third Aesthetic, the _intellectualist_, which, while also
recognizing the reducibility of aesthetic facts to philosophical
treatment, explains them as particular cases of logical thought,
identifying beauty with intellectual truth; art, now with the natural
sciences, now with philosophy. For this Aesthetic, what is prized in art
is what is learned from it. The only distinction that it admits between
art and science, or art and philosophy, is at the most that of more or
less, or of perfection and imperfection. According to this Aesthetic,
art would be the whole mass of easy and popular truths; or it would be a
transitory form of science, a semi-science and a semi-philosophy,
preparatory to the superior and perfect form of science and of

A fourth Aesthetic there is, which may be called _agnostic_. It springs
from the criticism of the positions just now indicated, and being guided
by a powerful consciousness of the truth, rejects them all, because it
finds them too evidently false, and because it is too loth to admit that
art is a simple fact of pleasure or pain, an exercise of virtue, or a
fragmentary sketch of science and philosophy. And while rejecting them,
it discovers, at the same time, that art is not now this and now that of
those things, or of other things, indefinitely, but that it has its own
principle and origin. However, it is not able to say what this principle
may be, and believes that it is impossible to do so. This Aesthetic
knows that art cannot be resolved into an empirical concept; knows that
pleasure and pain are united with the aesthetic activity only in an
indirect manner; that morality has nothing to do with art; that it is
impossible to rationalize art, as is the case with science and
philosophy, and to prove it beautiful or ugly with the aid of reason.
Here this Aesthetic is content to stop, satisfied with a knowledge
consisting entirely of negative terms.

Finally, there is an Aesthetic which I have elsewhere proposed to call
_mystic_. This Aesthetic avails itself of those negative terms, to
define art as a spiritual form without a practical character, because it
is theoretic, and without a logical or intellective form, because it is
a theoretic form, differing alike from those of science and of
philosophy, and superior to both. According to this view, art would be
the highest pinnacle of knowledge, whence what is seen from other points
seems narrow and partial; art would alone reveal the whole horizon or
all the abysses of Reality.

Now, the five Aesthetics so far mentioned are not referable to
contingent facts and historical epochs, as are, on the other hand, the
denominations of Greek and Mediaeval Aesthetic, of Renaissance and
eighteenth-century Aesthetic, the Aesthetic of Wolff and of Herbart, of
Vico and of Hegel. These five are, on the contrary, mental attitudes,
which are found in all periods, although they have not always
conspicuous representatives of the kind that are said to become
historical. Empirical Aesthetic is, for example, called Burke in the
eighteenth, Fechner in the nineteenth century; moralistic Aesthetic is
Horace or Plutarch in antiquity, Campanella in modern times;
intellectualist or logical Aesthetic is Cartesian in the seventeenth,
Leibnitzian in the eighteenth, and Hegelian in the nineteenth century;
agnostic Aesthetic is Francesco Patrizio at the Renaissance, Kant in the
eighteenth century; mystic Aesthetic is called Neoplatonism at the end
of the antique world, Romanticism at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and if it be adorned during the former period with the name of
Plotinus, in the latter it will bear the name of Schelling or of Solger,
And not only are those attitudes and mental tendencies common to all
epochs, but they are also all found to some extent developed or
indicated in every thinker, and even in every man. Thus it is somewhat
difficult to classify philosophers of Aesthetic according to one or the
other category, because each philosopher also enters more or less into
some other, or into all the other categories.

Nor can these five conceptions and points of view be looked upon as
increasable to ten or twenty, or to as many as desired, or that I have
placed them in a certain order, but that they could be capriciously
placed in another order. If this were so, they would be altogether
heterogeneous and disconnected among themselves, and the attempt to
examine and criticize them would seem altogether desperate, as also
would be that of comparing one with the other, or of stating a new one,
which should dominate them all. It is precisely thus that ordinary
sceptics look upon various and contrasting scientific views. They group
them all in the same plane, and believing that they can increase them at
will, conclude that one is as good as another, and that therefore every
one is free to select that which he prefers from a bundle of falsehoods.
The conceptions of which we speak are definite in number, and appear in
a necessary order, which is either that here stated by me, or another
which might be proposed, better than mine. This would be the necessary
order, which I should have failed to realize effectively. They are
connected one with the other, and in such a way that the view which
follows includes in itself that which precedes it.

Thus, if the last of the five doctrines indicated be taken, which may be
summed up as the proposition that art is a form of the theoretic spirit,
superior to the scientific and philosophic form--and if it be submitted
to analysis, it will be seen that in it is included, in the first place,
the proposition affirming the existence of a group of facts, which are
called aesthetic or artistic. If such facts did not exist, it is evident
that no question would arise concerning them, and that no
systematization would be attempted. And this is the truth of empirical
Aesthetic. But there is also contained in it the proposition: that the
facts examined are reducible to a definite principle or category of the
spirit. This amounts to saying, that they belong either to the practical
spirit, or to the theoretical, or to one of their subforms. And this is
the truth of practicist Aesthetic, which is occupied with the enquiry as
to whether these ever are practical facts, and affirms that in every
case they are a special category of the spirit. Thirdly, there is
contained in it the proposition: that they are not practical facts, but
facts which should rather be placed near the facts of logic or of
thought. This is the truth of intellectualistic Aesthetic. In the fourth
place, we find also the proposition; that aesthetic facts are neither
practical, nor of that theoretic form which is called logical and
intellective. They are something which cannot be identified with the
categories of pleasure, nor of the useful, nor with those of ethic, nor
with those of logical truth. They are something of which it is necessary
to find a further definition. This is the truth of that Aesthetic which
is termed agnostic or negative.

When these various propositions are severed from their connection; when,
that is to say, the first is taken without the second, the second
without the third, and so on,--and when each, thus mutilated, is
confined in itself and the enquiry which awaits prosecution is
arbitrarily arrested, then each one of these gives itself out as the
whole of them, that is, as the completion of the enquiry. In this way,
each becomes error, and the truths contained in empiricism, in
practicism, in intellectualism, in agnostic and in mystical Aesthetic,
become, respectively, falsity, and these tendencies of speculation are
indicated with names of a definitely depreciative colouring. Empiria
becomes empiricism, the heuristic comparison of the aesthetic activity
with the practical and logical, becomes a conclusion, and therefore
practicism and intellectualism. The criticism which rejects false
definitions, and is itself negative, affirms itself as positive and
definite, becoming agnosticism; and so on.

But the attempt to close a mental process in an arbitrary manner is
vain, and of necessity causes remorse and self-criticism. Thus it comes
about, that each one of those unilateral and erroneous doctrines
continually tends to surpass itself and to enter the stage which follows
it. Thus empiricism, for example, assumes that it can dispense with any
philosophical conception of art; but, since it severs art from
non-art--and, however empirical it be, it will not identify a
pen-and-ink sketch and a table of logarithms, as if they were just the
same thing, or a painting and milk or blood (although milk and blood
both possess colour)--thus empiricism too must at last resort to some
kind of philosophical concept. Therefore, we see the empiricists
becoming, turn and turn about, hedonists, moralists, intellectualists,
agnostics, mystics, and sometimes they are even better than mystics,
upholding an excellent conception of art, which can only be found fault
with because introduced surreptitiously and without justification. If
they do not make that progress, it is impossible for them to speak in
any way of aesthetic facts. They must return, as regards such facts, to
that indifference and to that silence from which they had emerged when
they affirmed the existence of these facts and began to consider them in
their variety. The same may be said of all other unilateral doctrines.
They are all reduced to the alternative of advancing or of going back,
and in so far as they do not wish to do either, they live amid
contradictions and in anguish. But they do free themselves from these,
more or less slowly, and thus are compelled to advance, more or less
slowly. And here we discover why it is so difficult, and indeed
impossible, exactly to identify thinkers, philosophers, and writers with
one or the other of the doctrines which we have enunciated, because each
one of them rebels when he finds himself limited to one of those
categories, and it seems to him that he is shut up in prison. It is
precisely because those thinkers try to shut themselves up in a
unilateral doctrine, that they do not succeed, and that they take a
step, now in one direction, now in another, and are conscious of being
now on this side, now on the other, of the criticisms which are
addressed to them. But the critics fulfil their duty by putting them in
prison, thus throwing into relief the absurdity into which they are led
by their irresolution, or their resolution not to resolve.

And from this necessary connection and progressive order of the various
propositions indicated arise also the resolve, the counsel, the
exhortation, to "return," as they say, to this or that thinker, to this
or that philosophical school of the past. Certainly, such returns are
impossible, understood literally; they are also a little ridiculous,
like all impossible attempts. We can never return to the past, precisely
because it is the past. No one is permitted to free himself from the
problems which are put by the present, and which he must solve with all
the means of the present (which includes in it the means of the past).
Nevertheless, it is a fact that the history of philosophy everywhere
resounds with cries of return. Those very people who in our day deride
the "return to Hume" or the "return to Kant," proceed to advise the
"return to Schelling," or the "return to Hegel." This means that we must
not understand those "returns" literally and in a material way. In
truth, they do not express anything but the necessity and the
ineliminability of the logical process explained above, for which the
affirmations contained in philosophical problems appear connected with
one another in such a way that the one follows the other, surpasses it,
and includes it in itself. Empiricism, practicism, intellectualism,
agnosticism, mysticism, are _eternal stages of the search for truth_.
They are eternally relived and rethought in the truth which each
contains. Thus it would be necessary for him who had not yet turned his
attention to aesthetic facts, to begin by passing them before his eyes,
that is to say, he must first traverse the empirical stage (about
equivalent to that occupied by mere men of letters and mere amateurs of
art); and while he is at this stage, he must be aroused to feel the want
of a principle of explanation, by making him compare his present
knowledge with the facts, and see if they are explained by it, that is
to say, if they be utilitarian and moral, or logical and intellective.
Then we should drive him who has made this examination to the
conclusion, that the aesthetic activity is something different from all
known forms, a form of the spirit, which it yet remains to characterize.
For the empiricists of Aesthetic, intellectualism and moralism represent
progress; for the intellectualists, hedonistic and moralistic alike,
agnosticism is progress and may be called Kant. But for Kantians, who
are real Kantians (and not neo-Kantians), progress is represented by the
mystical and romantic point of view; not because this comes after the
doctrine of Kant chronologically, but because it surpasses it ideally.
In this sense, and in this sense alone, we should now "return" to the
romantic Aesthetic. We should return to it, because it is ideally
superior to all the researches in Aesthetic made in the studies of
psychologists, of physio-psychologists, and of psycho-physiologists of
the universities of Europe and of America. It is ideally superior to the
sociological, comparative, prehistoric Aesthetic, which studies
especially the art of savages, of children, of madmen, and of idiots. It
is ideally superior also to that other Aesthetic, which has recourse to
the conceptions of the genetic pleasure, of games, of illusion, of
self-illusion, of association, of hereditary habit, of sympathy, of
social efficiency, and so on. It is ideally superior to the attempts at
logical explanation, which have not altogether ceased, even to-day,
although they are somewhat rare, because, to tell the truth, fanaticism
for Logic cannot be called the failing of our times. Finally, it is
ideally superior to that Aesthetic which repeats with Kant, that the
beautiful is finality without the idea of end, disinterested pleasure,
necessary and universal, which is neither theoretical nor practical, but
participates in both forms, or combines them in itself in an original
and ineffable manner. But we should return to it, bringing with us the
experience of a century of thought, the new facts collected, the new
problems that have arisen, the new ideas that have matured. Thus we
shall return again to the stage of mystical and romantic Aesthetic, but
not to the personal and historical stage of its representatives. For in
this matter, at least, they are certainly inferior to us: they lived a
century ago and therefore inherited so much the less of the problems and
of the results of thought which day by day mankind laboriously

They should return, but not to remain there; because, if a return to the
romantic Aesthetic be advisable for the Kantians (while the idealists
should not be advised to "return to Kant," that is to say, to a lower
stage, which represents a recession), so those who come over, or already
find themselves on the ground of mystical Aesthetic, should, on the
other hand be advised to proceed yet further, in order to attain to a
doctrine which represents a stage above it. This doctrine is that of the
_pure intuition_ (or, what amounts to the same thing, of pure
expression); a doctrine which also numbers representatives in all times,
and which may be said to be immanent alike in all the discourses that
are held and in all the judgments that are passed upon art, as in all
the best criticism and artistic and literary history.

This doctrine arises logically from the contradictions of mystical
Aesthetic; I say, _logically_, because it contains in itself those
contradictions and their solution; although _historically_ (and this
point does not at present concern us) that critical process be not
always comprehensible, explicit, and apparent.

Mystical Aesthetic, which makes of art the supreme function of the
theoretic spirit, or, at least, a function superior to that of
philosophy, becomes involved in inextricable difficulties. How could art
ever be superior to philosophy, if philosophy make of art its object,
that is to say, if it place art beneath itself, in order to analyse and
define it? And what could this new knowledge be, supplied by art and by
the aesthetic activity, appearing when the human spirit has come full
circle, after it has imagined, perceived, thought, abstracted,
calculated, and constructed the whole world of thought and history?

As the result of those difficulties and contradictions, mystical
Aesthetic itself also exhibits the tendency, either to surpass its
boundary, or to sink below its proper level. The descent takes place
when it falls back into agnosticism, affirming that art is art, that is,
a spiritual form, altogether different from the others and ineffable; or
worse, where it conceives art as a sort of repose or as a game; as
though diversion could ever be a category and the spirit know repose! We
find an attempt at overpassing its proper limit, when art is placed
below philosophy, as inferior to it; but this overpassing remains a
simple attempt, because the conception of art as instrument of universal
truth is always firmly held; save that this instrument is declared less
perfect and less efficacious than the philosophical instrument. Thus
they fall back again into intellectualism from another side.

These mistakes of mystical Aesthetic were manifested during the Romantic
period in some celebrated paradoxes, such as those of _art as irony_ and
of the _death of art_. They seemed calculated to drive philosophers to
desperation as to the possibility of solving the problem of the nature
of art, since every path of solution appeared closed. Indeed, whoever
reads the aestheticians of the romantic period, feels strongly inclined
to believe himself at the heart of the enquiry and to nourish a
confident hope of immediate discovery of the truth. Above all, the
affirmation of the theoretic nature of art, and of the difference
between its cognitive method and that of science and of logic, is felt
as a definite conquest, which can indeed be combined with other
elements, but which must not in any case be allowed to slip between the
fingers. And further, it is not true that all ways of solution are
closed, or that all have been attempted. There is at least one still
open that can be tried; and it is precisely that for which we resolutely
declare ourselves: the Aesthetic of the pure intuition.

This Aesthetic reasons as follows:--Hitherto, in all attempts to define
the place of art, it has been sought, either at the summit of the
theoretic spirit, above philosophy, or, at least, in the circle of
philosophy itself. But is not the loftiness of the search the reason why
no satisfactory result has hitherto been obtained? Why not invert the
attempt, and instead of forming the hypothesis that art is _one of the
summits or the highest grade_ of the theoretic spirit, form the very
opposite hypothesis, namely, that it is _one of the lower grades_, or
the lowest of all? Perhaps such epithets as "lower" and "lowest" are
irreconcilable with the dignity and with the splendid beauty of art? But
in the philosophy of the spirit, such words as lowest, weak, simple,
elementary, possess only the value of a scientific terminology. All the
forms of the spirit are necessary, and the higher is so only because
there is the lower, and the lower is as much to be despised or less to
be valued to the same extent as the first step of a stair is despicable,
or of less value in respect to the topmost step.

Let us compare art with the various forms of the theoretic spirit, and
let us begin with the sciences which are called _natural_ or _positive_.
The Aesthetic of pure intuition makes it clear that the said sciences
are more _complex_ than History, because they presuppose historical
material, that is, collections of things that have happened (to men or
animals, to the earth or to the stars). They submit this material to a
further treatment, which consists in the abstraction and systematization
of the historical facts. _History_, then, is less complex than the
natural sciences. History further presupposes the world of the
imagination and the pure philosophical concepts or categories, and
produces its judgments or historical propositions, by means of the
synthesis of the imagination with the concept. And _Philosophy_ may be
said to be even less complex than History, in so far as it is
distinguished from the former as an activity whose special function it
is to make clear the categories or pure concepts, neglecting, in a
certain sense at any rate, the world of phenomena. If we compare _Art_
with the three forms above mentioned, it must be declared inferior, that
is to say, less complex than the _natural Sciences_, in so far as it is
altogether without abstractions. In so far as it is without conceptual
determinations and does not distinguish between the real and the unreal,
what has really happened and what has been dreamed, it must be declared
inferior to _History_. In so far as it fails altogether to surpass the
phenomenal world, and does not attain to the definitions of the pure
concepts, it is inferior to _Philosophy_ itself. It is also inferior to
_Religion_, assuming that religion is (as it is) a form of speculative
truth, standing between thought and imagination. Art is governed
entirely by imagination; its only riches are images. Art does not
classify objects, nor pronounce them real or imaginary, nor qualify
them, nor define them. Art feels and represents them. Nothing more. Art
therefore is _intuition_, in so far as it is a mode of knowledge, not
abstract, but concrete, and in so far as it uses the real, without
changing or falsifying it. In so far as it apprehends it immediately,
before it is modified and made clear by the concept, it must be called
_pure intuition_.

The strength of art lies in being thus simple, nude, and poor. Its
strength (as often happens in life) arises from its very weakness. Hence
its fascination. If (to employ an image much used by philosophers for
various ends) we think of man, in the first moment that he becomes aware
of theoretical life, with mind still clear of every abstraction and of
every reflexion, in that first purely intuitive instant he must be a
poet. He contemplates the world with ingenuous and admiring eyes; he
sinks and loses himself altogether in that contemplation. By creating
the first representations and by thus inaugurating the life of
knowledge, art continually renews within our spirit the aspects of
things, which thought has submitted to reflexion, and the intellect to
abstraction. Thus art perpetually makes us poets again. Without art,
thought would lack the stimulus, the very material, for its hermeneutic
and critical labour. Art is the root of all our theoretic life. To be
the root, not the flower or the fruit, is the function of art. And
without a root, there can be no flower and no fruit.


Such is the theory of art as pure intuition, in its fundamental
conception. This theory, then, takes its origin from the criticism of
the loftiest of all the other doctrines of Aesthetic, from the criticism
of mystical or romantic Aesthetic, and contains in itself the criticism
and the truth of all the other Aesthetics. It is not here possible to
allow ourselves to illustrate its other aspects, such as would be those
of the identity, which it lays down, between intuition and expression,
between art and language. Suffice it to say, as regards the former, that
he alone who divides the unity of the spirit into soul and body can have
faith in a pure act of the soul, and therefore in an intuition, which
should exist as an intuition, and yet be without its body, expression.
Expression is the actuality of intuition, as action is of will; and in
the same way as will not exercised in action is not will, so an
intuition unexpressed is not an intuition. As regards the second point,
I will mention in passing that, in order to recognize the identity of
art and language, it is needful to study language, not in its
abstraction and in grammatical detail, but in its immediate reality, and
in all its manifestations, spoken and sung, phonic and graphic. And we
should not take at hazard any proposition, and declare it to be
aesthetic; because, if all propositions have an aesthetic side
(precisely because intuition is the elementary form of knowledge and is,
as it were, the garment of the superior and more complex forms), all are
not _purely_ aesthetic, but some are philosophical, historical,
scientific, or mathematical; some, in fact, of these are more than
aesthetic or logical; they are aestheticological. Aristotle, in his
time, distinguished between semantic and apophantic propositions, and
noted, that if all propositions be _semantic_, not all are _apophantic_.
Language is art, not in so far as it is apophantic, but in so far as it
is, generically, semantic. It is necessary to note in it the side by
which it is expressive, and nothing but expressive. It is also well to
observe (though this may seem superfluous) that it is not necessary to
reduce the theory of pure intuition, as has been sometimes done, to a
historical fact or to a psychological concept. Because we recognize in
poetry, as it were, the ingenuousness, the freshness, the barbarity of
the spirit, it is not therefore necessary to limit poetry to youth and
to barbarian peoples. Though we recognize language as the first act of
taking possession of the world achieved by man, we must not imagine that
language is born _ex nihilo_, once only in the course of the ages, and
that later generations merely adopt the ancient instrument, applying it
to a new order of things while lamenting its slight adaptability to the
usage of civilized times. Art, poetry, intuition, and immediate
expression are the moment of barbarity and of ingenuousness, which
perpetually recur in the life of the spirit; they are youth, that is,
not chronological, but ideal. There exist very prosaic barbarians and
very prosaic youths, as there exist poetical spirits of the utmost
refinement and civilization. The mythology of those proud, gigantic
Patagonians, of whom our Vico was wont to discourse, or of those _bons
Hurons_, who were lately a theme of conversation, must be looked upon as
for ever superseded.

But there arises an apparently very serious objection to the Aesthetic
of pure intuition, giving occasion to doubt whether this doctrine, if it
represent progress in respect to the doctrines which have preceded it,
yet is also a complete and definite doctrine as regards the fundamental
concept of art. Should it be submitted to a dialectic, by means of which
it must be surpassed and dissolved into a more lofty point of view? The
doctrine of pure intuition makes the value of art to consist of its
power of intuition; in such a manner that just in so far as pure and
concrete intuitions are achieved will art and beauty be achieved. But if
attention be paid to judgments of people of good taste and of critics,
and to what we all say when we are warmly discussing works of art and
manifesting our praise or blame of them, it would seem that what we seek
in art is something quite different, or at least something more than
simple force and intuitive and expressive purity. What pleases and what
is sought in art, what makes beat the heart and enraptures the
admiration, is life, movement, emotion, warmth, the feeling of the
artist. This alone affords the supreme criterion for distinguishing true
from false works of art, those with insight from the failures. Where
there are emotion and feeling, much is forgiven; where they are wanting,
nothing can make up for them. Not only are the most profound thoughts
and the most exquisite culture incapable of saving a work of art which
is looked upon as _cold_, but richness of imagery, ability and certainty
in the reproduction of the real, in description, characterization and
composition, and all other knowledge, only serve to arouse the regret
that so great a price has been paid and such labours endured, in vain.
We do not ask of an artist instruction as to real facts and thoughts,
nor that he should astonish us with the richness of his imagination, but
that he should have a _personality_, in contact with which the soul of
the hearer or spectator may be heated. A personality of any sort is
asked for in this case; its moral significance is excluded: let it be
sad or glad, enthusiastic or distrustful, sentimental or sarcastic,
benignant or malign, but it must be a soul. Art criticism would seem to
consist altogether in determining if there be a personality in the work
of art, and of what sort. A work that is a failure is an incoherent
work; that is to say, a work in which no single personality appears, but
a number of disaggregated and jostling personalities, that is, really,
none. There is no further correct significance than this in the
researches that are made as to the verisimilitude, the truth, the logic,
the necessity, of a work of art.

It is true that many protests have been made by artists, critics, and
philosophers by profession, against the characteristic of _personality_.
It has been maintained that the bad artist leaves traces of his
personality in the work of art, whereas the great artist cancels them
all. It has been further maintained that the artist should portray the
reality of life, and that he should not disturb it with the opinions,
judgments, and personal feelings of the author, and that the artist
should give the tears of things and not his own tears. Hence
_impersonality_, not personality, has been proclaimed to be the
characteristic of art, that is to say, the very opposite. However, it
will not be difficult to show that what is really meant by this opposing
formula is the same as in the first case. The theory of impersonality
really coincides with that of personality in every point. The opposition
of the artists, critics, and philosophers above mentioned, was directed
against the invasion by the empirical and volitional personality of the
artist of the spontaneous and ideal personality which constitutes the
subject of the work of art. For instance, artists who do not succeed in
representing the force of piety or of love of country, add to their
colourless imaginings declamation or theatrical effects, thinking thus
to arouse such feelings. In like manner certain orators and actors
introduce into a work of art an emotion extraneous to the work of art
itself. Within these limits, the opposition of the upholders of the
theory of impersonality was most reasonable. On the other hand, there
has also been exhibited an altogether irrational opposition to
personality in the work of art. Such is the lack of comprehension and
intolerance evinced by certain souls for others differently constituted
(of calm for agitated souls, for example).

Here we find at bottom the claim of one sort of personality to deny that
of another. Finally, it has been possible to demonstrate from among the
examples given of impersonal art, in the romances and dramas called
naturalistic, that in so far and to the extent that these are complete
artistic works, they possess personality. This holds good even when this
personality lies in a wandering or perplexity of thought regarding the
value to be given to life, or in blind faith in the natural sciences and
in modern sociology.

Where every trace of personality was really absent, and its place taken
by the pedantic quest for human documents, the description of certain
social classes and the generic or individual process of certain
maladies, there the work of art was absent. A work of science of more or
less superficiality, and without the necessary proofs and control,
filled its place. There is no upholder of impersonality but experiences
a feeling of fatigue for a work of the utmost exactitude in the
reproduction of reality in its empirical sequence, or of industrious and
apathetic combination of images. He asks himself why such a work was
executed, and recommends the author to adopt some other profession,
since that of artist was not intended for him.

Thus it is without doubt that if pure intuition (and pure expression,
which is the same thing) are indispensable in the work of art, the
personality of the artist is equally indispensable. If (to quote the
celebrated words in our own way) the _classic_ moment of perfect
representation or expression be necessary for the work of art, the
_romantic_ moment of feeling is not less necessary. Poetry, or art in
general, cannot be exclusively _ingenuous_ or _sentimental_; it must be
both ingenuous and sentimental. And if the first or representative
moment be termed _epic_, and the second, which is sentimental,
passionate, and personal, be termed _lyric_, then poetry and art must be
at once epic and lyric, or, if it please you better, _dramatic_. We use
these words here, not at all in their empirical and intellectualist
sense, as employed to designate special classes of works of art,
exclusive of other classes; but in that of elements or moments, which
must of necessity be found united in every work of art, how diverse
soever it may be in other respects.

Now this irrefutable conclusion seems to constitute exactly that
above-mentioned apparently serious objection to the doctrine which
defines art as pure intuition. But if the essence of art be merely
theoretic--and it is _intuibility_--can it, on the other hand, be
practical, that is to say, feeling, personality, and _passionality_? Or,
if it be practical, how can it be theoretic? It will be answered that
feeling is the _content_, intuibility the _form_; but form and content
do not in philosophy constitute a duality, like water and its recipient;
in philosophy content is form, and form is content. Here, on the other
hand, form and content appear to be different from one another; the
content is of one quality, the form of another. Thus art appears to be
the sum of two qualities, or, as Herbart used to say in his time, of
_two values_. Accordingly we have an altogether unmaintainable
Aesthetic, as is clear from recent largely vulgarized doctrines of
Aesthetic as operating with the concept of the _infused personality_.
Here we find, on the one hand, things intuible lying dead and soulless;
on the other, the artist's feeling and personality. The artist is then
supposed to put himself into things, by an act of magic, to make them
live and palpitate, love and adore. But if we start with the
_distinction_, we can never again reach _unity_: the distinction
requires an intellectual act, and what the intellect has divided
intellect or reason alone, not art or imagination, can reunite and
synthetize. Thus the Aesthetic of infusion or transfusion--when it does
not fall into the antiquated hedonistic doctrines of agreeable illusion,
of games, and generally of what affords a pleasurable emotion; or of
moral doctrines, where art is a symbol and an allegory of the good and
the true;--is yet not able, despite its airs of modernity and its
psychology, to escape the fate of the doctrine which makes of art a
semi-imaginative conception of the world, like religion. The process
that it describes is mythological, not aesthetic; it is a making of gods
or of idols. "To make one's gods is an unhappy art," said an old Italian
poet; but if it be not unhappy, certainly it is not poetic and not
aesthetic. The artist does not make the gods, because he has other
things to do. Another reason is that, to tell the truth, he is so
ingenuous and so absorbed in the image that attracts him, that he cannot
perform that act of abstraction and conception, wherein the image must
be surpassed and made the allegory of a universal, though it be of the
crudest description.

This recent theory, then, is of no use. It leads back to the
difficulties arising from the admission of two characteristics of art,
_intuibility_ and _lyricism_, not unified. We must recognize, either
that the duality must be destroyed and proved illusory, _or_ that we
must proceed to a more ample conception of art, in which that of pure
intuibility would remain merely secondary or particular. And to destroy
and prove it illusory must consist in showing that here too form is
content, and that pure intuition is _itself_ lyricism.

Now, the truth is precisely this: _pure intuition is essentially
lyricism_. All the difficulties concerning this question arise from not
having thoroughly understood that concept, from having failed to
penetrate its true nature and to explore its multiple relations. When we
consider the one attentively, we see the other bursting from its bosom,
or better, the one and the other reveal themselves as one and the same,
and we escape from the desperate trilemma, of either denying the lyrical
and personal character of art, or of asserting that it is adjunctive,
external and accidental, or of excogitating a new doctrine of Aesthetic,
which we do not know where to find. In fact, as has already been
remarked, what can pure intuition mean, but intuition pure of every
abstraction, of every conceptual element, and, for this reason, neither
science, history, nor philosophy? This means that the content of the
pure intuition cannot be either an abstract concept, or a speculative
concept or idea, or a conceptualized, that is historicized,
representation. Nor can it be a so-called perception, which is a
representation intellectually, and so historically, discriminated. But
outside logic in its various forms and blendings, no other psychic
content remains, save that which is called appetites, tendencies,
feelings, and will. These things are all the same and constitute the
practical form of the spirit, in its infinite gradations and in its
dialectic (pleasure and pain). Pure intuition, then, since it does not
produce concepts, must represent the will in its manifestations, that is
to say, it can represent nothing but _states of the soul_. And states of
the soul are passionality, feeling, personality, which are found in
every art and determine its lyrical character. Where this is absent, art
is absent, _precisely because pure intuition is absent_, and we have at
the most, in exchange for it, _that reflex_, philosophical, historical,
or scientific. In the last of these, passion is represented, not
immediately, but mediately, or, to speak exactly, it is no longer
represented, but thought. Thus the origin of language, that is, its true
nature, has several times been placed in _interjection_. Thus, too,
Aristotle, when he wished to give an example of those propositions which
were not _apophantic_, but generically _semantic_ (we should say, not
logical, but purely Aesthetic), and did not predicate the logically true
and false, but nevertheless said something, gave as example invocation
or prayer, _hae enchae_. He added that these propositions do not
appertain to Logic, but to Rhetoric and Poetic. A landscape is a
state of the soul; a great poem may all be contained in an exclamation
of joy, of sorrow, of admiration, or of lament. The more objective is a
work of art, by so much the more is it poetically suggestive.

If this deduction of lyricism from the intimate essence of pure
intuition do not appear easily acceptable, the reason is to be sought in
two very deep-rooted prejudices, of which it is useful to indicate here
the genesis. The first concerns the nature of the _imagination_, and its
likenesses to and differences from _fancy_. Imagination and fancy have
been clearly distinguished thus by certain aestheticians (and among
them, De Sanctis), as also in discussions relating to concrete art: they
have held fancy, not imagination, to be the special faculty of the poet
and the artist. Not only does a new and bizarre combination of images,
which is vulgarly called _invention_, not constitute the artist, but _ne
fait rien a l'affaire_, as Alceste remarked with reference to the length
of time expended upon writing a sonnet. Great artists have often
preferred to treat groups of images, which had already been many times
used as material for works of art. The novelty of these new works has
been solely that of art or form, that is to say, of the new _accent_
which they have known how to give to the old material, of the new way in
which they have _felt_ and therefore _intuified_ it, thus creating _new
images_ upon the old ones. These remarks are all obvious and universally
recognized as true. But if mere imagination as such has been excluded
from art, it has not therefore been excluded from the theoretic spirit.
Hence the disinclination to admit that a pure intuition must of
necessity express a state of the soul, whereas it may also consist, as
they believe, of a pure image, without a content of feeling. If we form
an arbitrary image of any sort, _stans pede in uno_, say of a bullock's
head on a horse's body, would not this be an intuition, a pure
intuition, certainly quite without any content of reflexion? Would one
not attain to a work of art in this way, or at any rate to an artistic
motive? Certainly not. For the image given as an instance, and every
other image that may be produced by the imagination, not only is not a
pure intuition, but it is not a _theoretic_ product of any sort. It is a
product of _choice_, as was observed in the formula used by our
opponents; and choice is external to the world of thought and
contemplation. It may be said that imagination is a practical artifice
or game, played upon that patrimony of images possessed by the soul;
whereas the fancy, the translation of practical into theoretical values,
of states of the soul into images, is the _creation_ of that patrimony

From this we learn that an image, which is not the expression of a state
of the soul, is not an image, since it is without any theoretical value;
and therefore it cannot be an obstacle to the identification of lyricism
and intuition. But the other prejudice is more difficult to eradicate,
because it is bound up with the metaphysical problem itself, on the
various solutions of which depend the various solutions of the aesthetic
problem, and _vice versa_. If art be intuition, would it therefore be
any intuition that one might have of a _physical_ object, appertaining
to _external nature_? If I open my eyes and look at the first object
that they fall upon, a chair or a table, a mountain or a river, shall I
have performed by so doing an aesthetic act? If so, what becomes of the
lyrical character, of which we have asserted the necessity? If not, what

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