Immagini della pagina


OF all these writers, Winckelmann and Mengs, Home and Hogarth, Lessing and Goethe, none was a philosopher in the true sense of the word : not even those who like Meier laid claim to the title, nor those who had some gifts for philosophy like Herder or Hamann. After Vico, the next European mind of real speculative genius is Immanuel Kant, who now comes before us in his turn. That Kant took up the problem of philosophy where Vico laid it down (not, of course, in a directly historical, but in an ideal, sense) has already been noted by others." How far he made an advance upon his predecessor and how far he failed to reach the same level it is not here our business to inquire ; we must confine ourselves strictly to the consideration of AEsthetic questions. Summarizing the results of such a consideration, we may say at once that though Kant holds an immensely important place in the development of German thought; though the book containing his examination of aesthetic facts is among his most influential works; and though in histories of Æsthetic written from the German point of view, which ignore practically the whole development of European thought from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Kant can pose as the man who discovered the problem of Æsthetic or solved it or brought it within

1. Kant.

Kant and

* B. Spaventa, Prolus. ed introd, alle legioni di filosofia, Naples, 1862 pp. 83-102 ; Scritti filosofici, ed. Gentile, pp. 139-145, 303-307.

sight of solution ; yet in an unprejudiced and complete
history whose aim is to take broad views and to consider
not the popularity of a book or the historical importance
of a nation but the intrinsic value of ideas, the judgement
passed on Kant must be very different. Like Vico in
the serious tenacity with which he reflected upon aesthetic
facts, more fortunate than he in having a much larger
stock of material gathered from preceding discussion and
argument, Kant was at once unlike and less successful
than Vico in that he was unable to attain a doctrine
substantially true, and unable also to give his thoughts
the necessary system and unity.
In fact, what was Kant's idea of art 2 Strange as
our reply may seem to those who recollect the explicit
and insistent war waged by him against the school of
Wolff, and the concept of beauty as a perfection con-
fusedly perceived, we must assert that Kant's idea of
art was fundamentally the same as that of Baumgarten
and the Wolffian school.” In that school his mind had
been trained ; he always had a great respect for
Baumgarten whom in the Critique of Pure Reason he
calls “that excellent analyst "; he chose the text of
Baumgarten for two of his University lectures on Meta-
physics, and that of Meier for his lecture on Logic (Ver-

nunstlehre). Kant, like them, therefore considered Logic

and AEsthetic (or theory of art) as conjoined sciences. They were thus described by him in his Scheme of Lectures in 1765, when he proposed, while expounding the critique of reason, to “throw a glance at that of taste, that is to say, at Æsthetic, since the rules of one apply to the other and each throws light upon the other.” In his University lectures he distinguished aesthetic truth from logical truth in the style of Meier; even citing the example of the beautiful rosy face of a girl which, when seen distinctly, i.e. through a microscope, ceases to be beautiful.” It is aesthetically true (said he) that a man once dead cannot come to life again, although this is * Kritik d. rein. Vernunft (ed. Kirchmann), i. 1, § 1, note.

Identity of the concept of art in Kant and Baumgarten.

* See above, p. 244.


in opposition to logic and moral truth : it is aesthetically true that the sun plunges into the sea, but it is false logically and objectively. To what degree it is necessary to combine logical truth with aesthetic the learned have never yet been able to decide; not even the greatest aestheticians. In order to become accessible, logical concepts must assume aesthetic forms; a garb to be abandoned only in the rational sciences which seek profundity. AEsthetic certainty is subjective : it is content with authority, i.e. the citation of the opinions of great men. On account of our weakness, for we are strongly attached to the sensible, aesthetic perfection often helps us to render our thoughts distinct. In this, examples and images co-operate ; aesthetic perfection is the vehicle for logical perfection ; taste is the analogue of intellect. There are logical truths which are not aesthetic truths: and on the other hand we must exclude from abstract philosophy exclamations and other sentimental commotions proper to the other truth. Poetry is a harmonious play of thoughts and sensations. Poetry and eloquence differ in this: in the former, thoughts adapt themselves to sensations; in the latter the contrary is the case. In these lectures Kant sometimes taught that poetry is anterior to eloquence because sensations come before thoughts; and he observed (perhaps under Herder's influence) that the poetry of Eastern peoples, lacking concepts, is wanting in unity and taste although rich in imaginative detail. Poetry formed out of the pure play of sensibility is doubtless a possibility, e.g. love-poems: but true poetry disdains such productions, concerned as they are with sensations which every one knows ought to be expelled from our breasts. True poetry must strive to present virtue and intellectual truth in sensible form, as has been done by Pope in his Essay on Man, in which he attempts to vivify poetry by means of reason. On other occasions Kant definitely says that logical perfection is the basis of every other, aesthetic perfection being merely an adornment of the logical ; something of the latter may be omitted in order to appeal to the audience, but it must never be disguised or falsified.” This is Baumgartenism pure and simple ; unless we are prepared to look on these Lectures as representing a pre-critical period of thought, or an exoteric doctrine superseded eventually by Kant's own original esoteric ideas in his Critique of the Judgment (1790). Not to open such a controversy, let us put these Lectures on one side (although they often throw no little light on the signification of Kantian phrases and formulae), and refuse to raise the question what pages of the Critique of the Judgment are derived from Baumgarten and Meier; he who reads the works of these disciples of Wolff and passes immediately to the Critique of Judgment often has the impression that the atmosphere surrounding him is unchanged. But if the Critique of Judgment itself be examined without prejudice it will be seen that Kant always adhered to Baumgarten's conception of art as the sensible and imaginative vesture of an intellectual Concept. According to Kant, art is not pure beauty wholly Art in the detached from the concept, it is adherent beauty, which jo." presupposes and attaches itself to a concept.” This is the

work of genius, the faculty of representing aesthetic ideas. An aesthetic idea is “a representation of the imagination which accompanies a given concept: a representation conjoined with such truthful representation of particulars as to be unable to find for it any expression that may mark a determinate concept, thereby endowing the given concept with something of the ineffable ; a feeling which stimulates the cognitive faculties and reinforcing the tongue, which is simply the letter, with the spirit.” Genius, then, has two constitutive elements, imagination and intellect; it consists in “that happy disposition, which no science can teach or diligence attain, to find ideas for a

* Extract from Kant's lectures of 1764 and later, in O. Schlapp, Kant's Lehre vom Genie, passim, esp. pp. 17, 58, 59, 79, 93, 96, 131-134, I 36-137, 222, 225, 231-232, etc.

* Kritik d. Urtheilskraft (ed. Kirchmann), § 16.

given concept and, also, to select the expression by which the subjective commotion it excites as accompaniment to a concept may be communicated to others.” No concept is adequate to the aesthetic idea, as no representation of the imagination can ever possibly be adequate to the concept. Examples of aesthetic attributes are found in the eagle of Jupiter with the thunderbolt in its claws, and the peacock of the proud Queen of Heaven : “they do not, like logical attributes, represent that which is contained in our concepts of the sublimity or majesty of creation, but something else which gives occasion to the imagination to run riot over a multitude of kindred [representations which make us think more than we can express in a given concept by means of words, and give us an aesthetic idea, which serves to this rational idea instead of a logical representation, precisely with the aim of quickening our feelings by throwing open to them a view over a vast field of kindred representations.” There are a modus logicus and a modus aestheticus of expressing our thoughts: the first consists in following determinate principles: the other in the mere feeling of the unity of the representation.” To imagination, to intellect and to spirit (Geist) we must add taste, the link between imagination and intellect.” Art may therefore represent natural ugliness: artistic beauty “is not a beautiful thing but a beautiful representation of a thing ”: although the representation of ugliness has limits varying with the individual arts (a reminiscence of Lessing and Winckelmann), and an absolute limit at the disgusting and nauseating, which kill representation itself.” In natural things, too, there is adherent beauty which cannot be judged by the aesthetic judgement alone but demands a concept. Nature thus appears as a work of art, though superhuman art: “the teleological judgement is the basis and condition of the aesthetic.” When we say “this is a beautifál woman,” we merely mean that “ nature beautifully represents in the form of this woman her purpose in the construction of the female body”: it is necessary there* Kritik d. Urth. § 49. * Op. cit. § 5o. * Op. cit. § 48.

« IndietroContinua »