Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and events line by line, scene by scene; and, in the same way, he paints men in their very bodies, actually as they speak and move.” Later we distinguish epic from what we call history; because the former “not only describes what has happened but describes the event in its entirety, showing how it occurred in the only possible way, having regard to surrounding circumstance of body and spirit”: this is the reason of the more philosophical character of poetry. As for pleasure, no doubt we do find poetry pleasant; but the idea that the poet's motive is merely to excite pleasure cannot be condemned too strongly. “Homer's gods were as essential and indispensable to the poet's world as the forces of motion are to the world of matter. Without the deliberations and activities of Olympus, none of the necessary events which happen on this earth could take place. Homer's magic island in the western sea belongs to the map of his hero's wanderings by the same necessity which placed it on the map of the world : it was necessary to the plan of his poem. It is the same with the severe Dante and his circles of Hell and Heaven.” Art is formative: she disciplines,

orders and governs the imagination and every faculty

of man : not only did she generate history, “but, earlier yet, she created gods and heroes and purified the uncouth imaginations and fables of peoples with their Titans, monsters and Gorgons, reducing to limit and law the riotous imagination of ignorant men which knows no bounds or rule.” " Notwithstanding these intuitions, so like those of Vico early in the same century, Herder as a philosopher is inferior to his Italian predecessor, and in point of fact does not rise superior to Baumgarten. By application of Leibniz' law of continuity, he too arrived at the opinion that the pleasing, the true, the beautiful and the good are degrees of one single activity. For instance, sensible pleasure “is a participation in the true and the good, so far as the senses may comprehend them ; the feeling of pleasure and pain is no other than the feeling of the true

* Kaligone, 1800, in Werke, ed. cit., xii. pp. 145-150.

and the good, that is to say, the consciousness that the aim of our organism, the conservation of our well-being and the avoidance of our hurt, has been attained.” " Fine arts and letters are all instructive (bildend): hence the terms humaniora, the Greek caxów, the Latin pulchrum, the gentle arts of days of chivalry, les belles lettres et les beaux arts of the French. A group of them (gymnastic, dance, etc.) educates the body; a second group (painting, plastic, music) educates the nobler senses of man, the eye, the ear, the hand and tongue; a third (poetry) touches the intellect, the imagination and the reason: a fourth group governs human tendencies and inclinations.” Herder disapproved of the facile theorists of art who began straight away with a definition of beauty, a complex and involved concept. He held that the theory of fine arts should be subdivided into three theories, each to be built up from the foundations, the theory of sight, of hearing and of touch, that is to say of painting, music and sculpture, i.e. into aesthetical Optics, aesthetical Acoustics and aesthetical Physiology. “Fairly well elaborated in the psychological and subjective aspects, AEsthetic is sadly undeveloped in all that belongs to the object and to the sensation of beauty, without which there can never be a fertile theory of the Beautiful capable of influencing all the arts.” “ Taste is not “a fundamental faculty of the soul but a habitual application of our judgement (intellectual judgement) to objects of beauty"; an acquired facility of the intellect (of which Herder outlines the genesis).” The poet is poet not only in his imagination but in his intellect. In 1782 he writes: “The barbarous name Æsthetic of recent invention indicates nothing beyond a section of Logic : that which we call taste is neither more nor less than a quick and rapid judgement which does not exclude truth and profundity, but rather presupposes and promotes them. All didactic poetry is nothing more than philo-T sophy rendered sensible : the fable as exposition of

* Kaligone, pp. 34-55. * Ibid. pp. 308-317. * Kritische Wälder, loc. cit. iv. pp. 47-127. * Op. cit. pp. 27-36.

Philosophy of language.

general doctrine is truth in act, in activity. . . . When
expounded and applied to human affairs, Philosophy is
not only a fine art in herself (schöne Wissenschaft), but
the mother of Beauty: it is only through her that
Rhetoric and Poetry can ever be educational, useful, or
in the truest sense pleasant.” "
Herder and Hamann deserve our gratitude for having
brought a current of fresh air into the study of the
philosophy of language. The lead given by the Port-
Royal authors had been followed since the beginning of
the century by many writers of logical or general
grammars. According to the French Encyclopaedia, “La
grammaire générale est la science raisonnée des principes
immuables et généraux de la parole prononcée ou ècrite
dans toutes les langues,” ” and d'Alembert spoke of
grammarians of invention and grammarians of memory,
assigning to the former the duty of studying the meta-
physics of grammar.” General grammars had been
written by Du Marsais, De Beauzée, and Condillac in
France ; Harris in England; and many others.” But
what was the relation between general grammar and
particular grammars 2 If logic be one, how comes it
that languages are many ? Is the variety of tongues
but a deviation on their part from one single model ?
And, if there be no such deviation or error, what is the
explanation of the fact 2 What is language, and how
was it born ? If language be external to thought, how

can thought exist if not in language 2 “Siles hommes,”

says Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “ont eu besoin de la parole pour apprendre d penser, ils ont eu bien plus besoin encore de savoir penser pour trouver l'art de la parole ‘’’; appalled at the difficulty, he declares his conviction “de l'impossibilité presque démontrée que les langues aient pu nattre et s'établir par des moyens purement humains.” " Such questions became fashionable ; books on the origin and formation of language were written by de Brosses (1765) and Court de Gébelin (1776) in France, by Monboddo (1774) in England, Süssmilch (1766) and Tiedemann in Germany, and Cesarotti (1785) in Italy, and by others who had some slight acquaintance with Vico, but profited little by it.” None of the above-named writers was able to free himself of the notion that speech was /

* Sophron, 1782, § 4. * Encyclopédie, ad verb.

* Eloge de Du Marsais, 1756 (introd. to CEuvres de Du Marsais, Paris, 1797, vol. i.).

* Du Marsais, Méthode raisonnée, 1722; Traité des tropes, 1730; Traité de grammaire générale (in Encyclopédie); De Beauzée, Grammaire générale pour servir de fondement à l'étude de toutes les langues, 1767; Condillac, Grammaire française, 1755; J. Harris, Hermes, or a Philosophical Enquiry concerning Language and Universal Grammar, 1751.

*

either natural and mechanical, or else a symbol attached

to thought : whereas in fact it was impossible to solve the difficulties under which they were labouring except by dropping the notion of a sign or symbol and attaining the conception of the active and expressive imagination, verbal imagination, language as the expression not of intellect but of intuition. An approach towards this explanation was made by Herder in a brilliant and imaginative thesis in 1770 upon this subject of the origin of language, chosen for discussion by the Berlin Academy. In it he says that language is the reflexion or consciousness (Besonnenheit) of man. “Man shows reflexion when he puts forth freely such force of mind as enables him

to make selection from amongst the crowd of sensations .

by which he is assailed : from the ocean of the senses, so to

speak, to select a single wave and consciously to watch

it. He shows reflexion when, amidst the thronging chaos of images which pass before him as in a dream, he can in a waking moment collect himself and fasten his attention upon a single image, examine it calmly and clearly, and separate it from its neighbours. Once again, man shows reflexion when he is able not merely to grasp vividly and

* Discours sur l'origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, 1754.

* De Brosses, Traité de la formation mêcanique des langues, 1765; Court de Gébelin, Histoire naturelle de la parole, 1776; Monboddo, Origin and Progress of Language, 1774; Süssmilch, Beweis dass der Ursprung der menschlichen Sprache göttlich sei, 1766; Tiedemann, Ursprung der Sprache; Cesarotti, Saggio sulla filosofia delle lingue, 1785 (in Opere, vol. i.); D. Colao Agata, Piano, ovvero ricerche filosofiche sulle lingue, 1774; Soave, Ricerche intorno all" istituzione naturale d' una società e d' una lingua, 1774.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

clearly all the properties of an image, but also to recognize one or more of its distinctive properties.” The language of man “does not depend on the organization of the mouth, for even he who is dumb from birth has, if he reflects, a language; it is not a cry of the senses, since it resides in a reflective creature, not in a breathing machine; it is not an affair of imitation, since imitation of nature is a means, and we are here trying to explain the end : much less is it an arbitrary convention ; a savage in the depths of the forest would have had to create a language for himself even though he never used it. Language is an understanding of the soul with herself, necessary just in so far as man is man.” Here language begins to show itself no longer as purely mechanical or as something derived from arbitrary choice and invention, but as a creative activity and a primary affirmation of the activity of the human mind. Herder's essay may not state such la view unequivocally, but it points forward to such a

[ocr errors]

received the credit he deserves. Hamann, in reviewing his friend's theories, agreed with him in denying the origin of language by invention or arbitrary choice; while dwelling also on the liberty of man, he regarded language as something which man could only have learned by means of a mystical communicatio idiomatum from God.” That, too, was one way of recognizing that the mystery of language is not to be solved except by placing it in the forefront of the problem of the spirit.

\o in a striking way for which its author has not

o * Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache, in a small book Zwei

[ocr errors]
« IndietroContinua »