Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

Alexander
Baumgarten :
his
“AEsthetic.”

AEsthetic as science of sensory consciousness.

deduce all the parts of eloquence with mathematical
precision " (1727), and the latter sketched a Logic of
the Imagination (1740) to which he would have assigned
the study of similitudes and metaphors; even had he
carried out his project, it is difficult to see how it could
have differed materially, from a philosophic point of view,
from the treatises on the subject written by the Italian
rhetoricians of the seventeenth century.
These discussions and experiments filled the boyhood
and helped to form the intellect of young Alexander
Gottlieb Baumgarten of Berlin, a follower of the philo-
sophy of Wolff and, at the same time, student and teacher
of Latin rhetoric and poetry; these studies led him to
reconsider the problem and search for some method by
which the precepts of rhetoricians could be reduced to a
rigorous philosophical system. On taking his doctor's
degree in September 1735, when twenty-one years old, he
published a thesis Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis
ad poèma pertinentibus : * in which the word “AEsthetic”
appears for the first time as name of a special science.”
Baumgarten always remained much attached to his
youthful discovery, and in 1742 when called to teach at
the university of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and again in
I749, he gave by request a course of lectures on AEsthetic
(quaedam consilia dirigendarum facultatum inferiorum
novam per acroasin exposuit).” In 1750 he printed a
voluminous treatise wherein the word “AEsthetic ’’
attained the honours of a title-page ; * in 1758 he pub-
lished a more slender second part : illness and finally
death in 1762 prevented him from completing the work.
What was AEsthetic to Baumgarten ? Its objects are
sensible facts (alorømté), carefully distinguished by the
ancients from mental objects (vomitá); " hence it becomes
scientia cognitionis sensitivae, theoria liberalium artium,
* Halae Magdeburgicae, 1735 (reprinted, ed. B. Croce, Naples,
IQOO).
9 2 ha § II6. * Aesthetica, i. pref.
* Aesthetica. Scripsit Alex. Gottlieb Baumgarten, Prof. Philosoph.,

Traiecti cis Viadrum, Impens. Ioannis Christiani Kleyb, 1750 ; 2nd part, 1758. * Med. § 116.

gnoseologia inferior, ars pulcre cogitandi, ars analogi rationis.” Rhetoric and Poetry constitute two special and interdependent disciplines which are entrusted by AEsthetic with the distinction between the various styles in literature and other small differences,” for the laws she herself investigates are diffused throughout all the arts like guiding-stars for these various subsidiary arts (quasi cynosura quaedam specialium) * and must be extracted not from isolated cases only, or from incomplete induction empirically, but from the totality of facts (falsa regula peior est quam nulla).” Nor must AEsthetic be confounded with Psychology, which furnishes its presuppositions only ; an independent science, it gives the norm of sensitive cognition (sensitive quid cognoscendi) and deals with “perfectio cognitionis sensitivae, qua talis,” which is beauty (pulcritudo), just as the opposite, imperfection, is ugliness (deformitas)." From the beauty of sensitive cognition (pulcritudo cognitionis) we must exclude the beauty of objects and matter (pulcritudo obiectorum et materiae) with which it is often confused owing to habits of language, since it is easy to show that ugly things may be thought of in a beautiful manner and beautiful things in an ugly manner (quacum ob receptam rei significationem saepe sed male confunditur ; possunt turpia pulcre cogitare uttalia, et pulcriora turpiter)." Poetical representations are confused or imaginative : distinctness, that is intellect, is not poetical. The greater the determination, the greater the poetry; individuals “omnimode determinata " are highly poetical ; poetical also are images or phantasms as well as all that appertains to the senses.” That which judges sensible or imaginary presentations is taste, or “iudicium sensuum.” These, in brief, are the truths displayed by Baumgarten in his Meditationes and, with many distinctions and examples, in his AEsthetic.” Nearly all German critics" are of opinion that from * Aesth. § 1. * Med. § 117. * Aesth. § 71. * Ibid. § 53. * Med. § 115. * Aesth. § 14. 7 Ibid. § 18. * Med. § 92.

* Ritter, Gesch. d. Philos. (Fr. trans., Hist. de la phil. mod. iii. p. 365); Zimmermann, Gesch. d. Aesth. p. 168; J. Schmidt, L. u. B. p. 48.

Criticism of judgements passed on Baumgarten.

his own conception of Æsthetic as the science of sensitive cognition Baumgarten should have evolved a species of inductive Logic. But he can be cleared of this accusation : a better philosopher, perhaps, than his critics, he held that an inductive Logic must always be intellectual, since it leads to abstractions and the formation of concepts. The relation existing between “cognitio confusa’’ and the poetical and artistic facts which belong to the realm of taste had been shown before his day, by Leibniz : neither he nor Wolff nor any other of their school ever dreamed of transforming a treatment of the “cognitio confusa” or “petites perceptions” into an inductive Logic. On the other hand, as a kind of compensation, these critics attribute to Baumgarten a merit he cannot claim, at least to the extent implied by their praises. According to them, he effected a revolution by converting” Leibniz' differences of degree or quantitative distinctions into a specific difference, and turning confused knowledge into something no longer negative but positive * by attributing a “perfectio’’ to sensitive cognition qua talis ; and by thus destroying the unity of the Leibnitian monad and breaking up the law of continuity, founded the science of AEsthetic. Had he really accomplished such a giant stride, his claim to the title of “father of AEsthetic ’’ would have been placed beyond question. But, in order to win this appellation, Baumgarten ought to have been successful in unravelling all those contradictions in which he was involved no less than Leibniz and all intellectualists. It is not enough to posit a “perfectio’’; even Leibniz did that when he attributed claritas to confused cognition, which, when devoid of clearness, remains obscure, that is to say, imperfect. It was imperative that this perfection “qua talis" should be upheld against the “lex continui,” and kept uncontaminated by any intellectualistic admixture. Otherwise he was bound to fall back into the pathless labyrinth of the “probable" which is and is not false, of the wit which is and is not intellect, of the taste which is and is not intellectual judgement, of the imagination and feeling which are and are not sensibility and material pleasure. And in that case, notwithstanding the new name: notwithstanding (as we freely admit) the greater insistence than that of Leibniz upon the sensible nature of poetry, AEsthetic, as a science, would not have been born. Now Baumgarten overcame none of the obstacles above mentioned. Unprejudiced and continued study of his works forces one to this conclusion. Already in his Meditationes he does not seem able to distinguish clearly between imagination and intellect, confused and distinct cognition. The law of continuity leads him to set up a scale of more and less: amongst cognitions, the obscure are less poetical than the confused ; the distinct are not poetical, but even those of the higher kinds (that is the distinct and intellectual) are to a certain extent poetical in proportion as they are lower in their nature ; compound concepts are more poetical than simple ; those of larger comprehension are “extensive clariores.” . In the AEsthetic Baumgarten expounds his thought more fully and thereby exposes its defects. If the introduction of the book leads one to believe that he sees aesthetic truth to consist in consciousness of the individual, the belief is shattered by the explanations which follow. As a good objectivist he asserts that truth in the metaphysical sense has its counterpart in the soul, namely, subjective truth, logical truth in a wide sense, or aesthetico-logical.” And the complete truth lies not in the genus or species, but in the individual. The genus is true, the species more true, the individual most true.” Formal logical truth is acquired “cum iactura,” by jettisoning much great material perfection : “quid enim est abstractio, si iactura non est?” “ So much being granted, logical truth differs from aesthetic in this: metaphysical or objective truth is presented now to the intellect, when it is logical truth in a narrow sense ; now to the analogy of reason and the lower cognitive faculties, when it is aesthetic ; * a lesser truth in exchange for the greater which man is not always able to attain, thanks to the “malum metaphysicum.” ” Thus moral truths are comprehended in one fashion by a comic poet, in another by a moral philosopher; an eclipse is described in one way by an astronomer and in another by a shepherd speaking to his friends or his sweetheart.” Universals even are accessible, in part at least, to the inferior faculty." Take the case of two philosophers, a dogmatic and a sceptic, arguing, with an aesthete listening to them. If the arguments of either party are so balanced that the hearer cannot determine which is true and which false, this appearance is to him aesthetic truth : if one adversary succeed in overbearing the other so that one argument is shown clearly to be wrong, the error just revealed is likewise aesthetic * falsity. Truths strictly aesthetic are (and this is the decisive point) those which appear neither entirely true nor entirely false : probable truths. “Talia autem de quibus non complete quidem certi sumus, neque tamen falsitatem aliquam in iisdem appercipimus, sunt verisimilia. Est ergo veritas aesthetica, a potiori dicta verisimilitudo, ille veritatis gradus, qui, etiamsi non evectus sit ad completam certitudinem, tamen nihil contineat falsitatis observabilis.”" And especially the immediate sequel: “Cujus habent spectatores auditoresve intra animum quum vident audiumtve, quasdam anticipationes, quod plerumque fit, quod fieri solet, quod in opinione positum est, quod habet ad haec in Se quandam similitudinem, sive id falsum (logice et latissime), sive verum sit (logice et strictissime), quod non sit facile a nostris sensibus abhorrens : hoc illud est elkös et verisimile quod, Aristotele et Cicerone assentiente, sectetur aestheticus.” ” The probable embraces that which is true and certain to the intellect and the senses, that which is certain to the senses but not to the intellect, that which is probable logically and aesthetically, or logically

* Danzel, Gottsched, p. 218 ; Meyer, L. u. B. pp. 35-38, * Schmidt, op. cit. p. 44.

* Med. §§ 19, 20, 23. * Aesth. § 424.
* Op. cit. § 441. * Op. cit. § 560.

Intellectualism
of
Baumgarten.

* Aesth. § 424. * Op. cit. § 557. * Op. cit. §§ 425, 429. * Op. cit. § 443. * Op. cit. § 448. * Op. cit. § 483. 7 Op. cit. § 484.

« IndietroContinua »