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Criticism of asthetic absolutism (intellectualism) and relativism.
generally called the moral consciousness, that is to say,
expressive activity and passivity are found engaged with one another in an unfinished struggle. Between absolutists and relativists is a third class, Criticism which may be called that of the relative relativists. These %#: affirm the existence of absolute values in other fields, such as Logic and Ethic, but deny it in the field of AEsthetic. To dispute about Science or morals seems to them to be rational and justifiable, because science depends upon the universal, common to all men, and morality upon duty, which is also a law of human nature; but how dispute about art, which depends upon imagination ? Not only, however, is the imaginative activity universal and no less inherent in human nature than the logical concept and practical duty; but there is a preliminary objection to the thesis in question. If the absoluteness of the imagination be denied, we must also deny intellectual or conceptual truth and implicitly morality. Does not morality presuppose logical distinctions 2 How could these be known, otherwise than in expressions and words, that is to say, in imaginative form 2 If the absoluteness of the imagination were removed, the life of the spirit would tremble to its foundations. One individual would no longer understand another, nor indeed his own self of a moment before, which is already another individual considered a moment after. Nevertheless, variety of judgements is an indubitable objection fact. Men disagree as to logical, ethical, and economical soft.*.*. - - variation of the valuations; and they disagree equally or even more as stimulus and to the aesthetic. If certain reasons recorded by us above, ##. such as haste, prejudices, passions, etc., may lessen the importance of this disagreement, they do not on that account annul it. When speaking of the stimuli of reproduction we have added a caution, for we said that reproduction takes place, if all the other conditions remain equal. Do they remain equal 2 Does the hypothesis correspond to reality ? It would appear not. In order to reproduce an impression several times by means of a suitable physical stimulus it is necessary that this stimulus be not changed, and that
the organism remain in the same psychical conditions as those in which was experienced the impression that it is desired to reproduce. Now it is a fact that the physical stimulus is continually changing, and in like manner the psychological conditions. Oil-paintings grow dark, frescoes fade, statues lose noses, hands and legs, architecture becomes totally or partially a ruin, the tradition of the execution of a piece of music is lost, the text of a poem is corrupted by bad copyists or bad printing. These are obvious instances of the changes which daily occur in objects or physical stimuli. As regards psychological conditions, we will not dwell upon the cases of deafness or blindness, that is to say, upon the loss of entire orders of psychical impressions; these cases are secondary and of less importance compared with the fundamental, daily, inevitable and perpetual changes of the society around us and of the internal conditions of our individual life. The phonetic manifestations or words and verses of Dante's Commedia must produce a very different impression on an Italian citizen engaged in the politics of the third Rome, from that experienced by a well-informed and intimate contemporary of the poet. The Madonna of Cimabue is still in the Church of Santa Maria Novella; but does she speak to the visitor of to-day as to the Florentines of the thirteenth century 2 Even though she were not also darkened by time, must we not suppose that the impression which she now produces is altogether different from that of former times 2 And even in the case of the same individual poet, will a poem composed by him in youth make the same impression upon him when he re-reads it in his old age, with psychic conditions altogether changed 2 Criticism of It is true that certain aestheticians have attempted a *::::::::::" distinction between stimuli and stimuli, between natural natural and and conventional signs. The former are held to have a ” constant effect upon all; the latter only upon a limited circle. In their belief, signs employed in painting are natural, those used in poetry conventional. But the difference between them is at the most only one of degree.
It has often been said that painting is a language under-
The surmounting of variety. Restorations and historical interpretation.
As regards the physical object, palaeographers and philologists, who restore to texts their original physiognomy, restorers of pictures and of statues and other industrious toilers strive precisely to preserve or to restore to the physical object all its primitive energy. These efforts are certainly not always successful, or are not completely successful, for it is never or hardly ever possible to obtain a restoration complete in its smallest details. But the insurmountable is here only present accidentally and must not lead us to overlook the successes which actually are achieved.
Historical interpretation labours for its part to reintegrate in us the psychological conditions which have changed in the course of history. It revives the dead, completes the fragmentary, and enables us to see a work of art (a physical object) as its author saw it in the moment of production.
A condition of this historical labour is tradition, with the help of which it is possible to collect the scattered rays and concentrate them in one focus. With the help of memory we surround the physical stimulus with all the facts among which it arose ; and thus we enable it to act upon us as it acted upon him who produced it.
Where the tradition is broken, interpretation is arrested ; in this case, the products of the past remain silent for us. Thus the expressions contained in the Etruscan or Mexican inscriptions are unattainable ; thus we still hear discussions among ethnographers as to whether certain products of the art of savages are pictures or writings; thus archaeologists and prehistorians are not always able to establish with certainty whether the figures found on the pottery of a certain region, and on other instruments employed, are of a religious or profane nature. But the arrest of interpretation, as that of restoration, is never a definitely insurmountable barrier; and the daily discoveries of new historical sources and of new methods of better exploiting the old, which we may hope to see ever improving, link up again broken traditions.