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... book should be beautiful, but not to the extent of being
• criticism of non-free beauty.
o, difficult or impossible to read.
In respect of all this we must observe in the first place that the extrinsic purpose is not necessarily, precisely because it is such, a limit or impediment to the other. purpose of being a stimulus to aesthetic reproduction. It is therefore quite false to maintain that architecture, for example, is by its nature imperfect and not free, since it must also obey other practical purposes; in fact, the mere presence of fine works of architecture is enough to dispel any such illusion.
In the second place, not only are the two purposes not necessarily contradictory, but we must add that the artist always has the means of preventing this contradic
'tion from arising. How 2 by simply making the destina
tion of the object which serves a practical end enter as
material into his aesthetic intuition and externalization.
He will not need to add anything to the object, in order to
make it the instrument of aesthetic intuitions: it will be
so, if perfectly adapted to its practical purpose. Rustic
dwellings and palaces, churches and barracks, swords and
ploughs, are beautiful, not in so far as they are embellished
and adorned, but in so far as they express their end. A
garment is only beautiful because it is exactly suitable to
a given person in given conditions. The sword bound to
the side of the warrior Rinaldo by the amorous Armida
was not beautiful: “so adorned that it may seem a useless
ornament, not the free instrument of war,” or it was
beautiful, if you will, but to the eyes and imagination of
the sorceress, who liked to see her lover equipped in that
effeminate way. The aesthetic activity can always agree.
with the practical, because expression is truth.
It cannot however be denied that aesthetic contempla-
tion sometimes hinders practical usage. For instance, it
is a quite common experience to find certain new objects
seem so well adapted to their purpose, and therefore so
beautiful, that people occasionally feel scruples in mal-
treating them by passing from their contemplation to
their use. It was for this reason that King Frederick
William of Prussia showed such repugnance to sending his magnificent grenadiers, so well adapted to war, into the mud and fire of battle, while his less aesthetic son, Frederick the Great, obtained from them excellent – service. It might be objected to the explanation of the physically Stimulants beautiful as a simple aid to the reproduction of the inter- *** nally beautiful, or expressions, that the artist creates his expressions by painting or by sculpturing, by writing or by composing, and that therefore the physically beautiful, instead of following, sometimes precedes the aesthetically beautiful. This would be a somewhat superficial mode of understanding the procedure of the artist, who never in reality makes a stroke with his brush without having previously seen it with his imagination ; and if he has not yet seen it, he will make the stroke, not in order to externalize his expression (which does not yet exist), “ but as a kind of experiment and in order to have a point | of departure for further meditation and internal concentration. The physical point of departure is not the physically beautiful instrument of reproduction, but a means that may be called pedagogic, like retiring into solitude, or the many other expedients frequently very strange, adopted by artists and scientists, who vary in these according to their various idiosyncrasies. The old aesthetician Baumgarten advised poets seeking inspiration to ride on horseback, to drink wine in moderation, and (provided they were chaste) to look at beautiful women.
Criticism of aesthetic associationism.
ERRORS ARISING FROM THE CONFUSION
BETWEEN PHYSICS AND AESTHETIC
WE must mention a series of fallacious scientific doctrines
which have arisen from the failure to understand the
purely external relation between the aesthetic fact or
artistic vision and the physical fact or instrument which
aids in its reproduction, together with brief criticisms of
them deduced from what has already been said.
That form of associationism which identifies the
aesthetic fact with the association of two images finds
support in such lack of apprehension. By what path
has it been possible to arrive at such an error, so repug-
nant to our aesthetic consciousness, which is a conscious-
ness of perfect unity, never of duality ? Precisely because
the physical and aesthetic facts have been considered
Separately, as two distinct images, which enter the spirit,
the one drawn in by the other, first one and then the other.
A picture has been divided into the image of the picture
and the image of the meaning of the picture ; a poem, into
the image of the words and the image of the meaning of the
words. But this dualism of images is non-existent : the
physical fact does not enter the spirit as an image, but
causes the reproduction of the image (the only image,
which is the aesthetic fact), in so far as it blindly stimulates
the psychic organism and produces the impression which
answers to the aesthetic expression already produced.
The efforts of the associationists (the usurpers of to-day
in the field of Æsthetic) to emerge from the difficulty, and
to reaffirm in some way the unity which has been destroyed
by their principle of association, are highly instructive.
Some maintain that the image recalled is unconscious;
others, leaving unconsciousness alone, hold that, on the
contrary, it is vague, vaporous, confused, thus reducing
the force of the aesthetic fact to the weakness of bad
memory. But the dilemma is inexorable : either keep
association and give up unity, or keep unity and give up
association. No third way out of the difficulty exists.
From the failure to analyse so-called natural beauty
thoroughly and to recognize that it is simply an incident
of aesthetic reproduction, and from having looked upon it,
on the contrary, as given in nature, is derived all that
portion of treatises upon AEsthetic entitled Beauty of
Nature or Æsthetic Physics ; sometimes even subdivided,
save the mark, into aesthetic Mineralogy, Botany and
Zoology. We do not wish to deny that such treatises
contain many just observations, and are sometimes them-
selves works of art, in so far as they represent beautifully
the imaginings and fancies or impressions of their authors.
But we must affirm it to be scientifically false to ask one-
self if the dog be beautiful and the ornithorhynchus ugly,
the lily beautiful and the artichoke ugly. Indeed, the
error is here double. On the one hand, asthetic Physics
falls back into the equivocation of the theory of artistic
and literary kinds, of attempting to attach aesthetic
determinations to the abstractions of our intellect ; on
the other, it fails to recognize, as we said, the true forma-
tion of so-called natural beauty, a formation which
excludes even the possibility of the question as to whether
Some given individual animal, flower or man be beautiful
or ugly. What is not produced by the aesthetic spirit, or
cannot be referred to it, is neither beautiful nor ugly.
The aesthetic process arises from the ideal connexions in
which natural objects are placed.
The double error can be exemplified by the question
as to the Beauty of the human body, upon which whole
volumes have been written. Here we must before every-
thing turn those who discuss this subject from the abstract
toward the concrete, by asking : “What do you mean by
Criticism of asthetic physics.
Criticism of the theory of the beauty of the human body.
Criticism of the beauty of geometrical figures.
the human body, that of the male, the female, or the
hermaphrodite 2 ” Let us assume that they reply by
dividing the inquiry into two distinct inquiries, as to male
and female beauty (there really are writers who seriously
discuss whether man or woman is the more beautiful);
and let us continue : “Masculine or feminine beauty;
but of what race of men—the white, the yellow or the
black, or any others that may exist, according to the
division you prefer 2 o’ Let us assume that they limit
themselves to the white race, and drive home the argu-
ment : “To what sub-species of the white race 2 ” And
when we have restricted them gradually to one corner of
the white world, going, let us say, from the Italian to the
Tuscan, the Siennese, the Porta Camollía quarter, we will
proceed : “Very good ; but at what age of the human
body, and in what condition and stage—that of the new-
born babe, of the child, of the boy, of the adolescent, of
the man of middle age, and so on ? and of him who is at
rest or of him who is at work, or of him who is occupied
like Paul Potter's bull, or the Ganymede of Rembrandt P’’
Having thus arrived, by successive reductions, at the
individual omnimode determinatum, or rather at “this man
here,” pointed out with the finger, it will be easy to expose
the other error, by recalling what we have said about the
natural fact, which is now beautiful, now ugly, according
to the point of view and to what is passing in the soul of
the artist. If even the Gulf of Naples have its detractors,
and if there be artists who declare it inexpressive, prefer-
ring the “gloomy firs,” the “clouds and perpetual north
winds,” of northern seas; is it really possible that such
relativity does not exist for the human body, source of the
most varied suggestions 2
The question of the beauty of geometrical figures is
connected with aesthetic Physics. But if by geometrical
figures be understood the concepts of geometry (the
concepts of the triangle, the square, the cone), these are
neither beautiful nor ugly, just because they are concepts.
If, on the other hand, by such figures be understood bodies
which possess definite geometrical forms, they will be