Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

toads, as well as in many insects and especially in those equivocal creatures which express a transition from one class to another, such as the ornithorhyncus, a mixture of bird and beast.” These samples may suffice to show the general trend of Hegel's doctrine of natural beauty; elsewhere he discusses the external beauty of abstract form, regularity, symmetry, harmony, etc., which are precisely the concepts which the formalism of Herbart placed in the heaven of the Ideas of the Beautiful. Schleiermacher, who praised Hegel for his attempt to exclude natural beauty from his AEsthetic, excluded it from his own not verbally but actually, by confining his attention to the artistic perfection of the internal image formed by the energy of the human spirit.” But the so-called Feeling for Nature which came in with Romanticism, and the Cosmos and other descriptive works of Humboldt,” directed attention increasingly to the impressions awakened by natural facts. This led to the compilation of those systematic lists of natural beauties whose impossibility had been proclaimed by Hegel, though he himself had furnished an example of them ; amongst others, Bratranek published an AEsthetic of the Vegetable World.4 The best-known and most widely circulated treatment of the subject was contained in this very work of Vischer's; who following Hegel's example devoted a section of his AEsthetic, as we have seen, to the objective existence of Beauty, i.e. to the Beauty of nature, and entitled it by the perhaps new and certainly characteristic name of AEsthetic Physics (ästhetische Physik). This AEsthetic Physics comprised the beauty of inorganic nature (light, heat, air, water, earth); organic nature, with its four vegetable types and its animals vertebrate and invertebrate ; and beauty of human beings, divided into generic and historic. The generic was subdivided into sections on the beauty of general forms (age, sex, conditions, love, marriage, family); of special forms (races, peoples, culture, political life); and of individual forms (temperament and character). Historical beauty included that of ancient history (Oriental, Greek, Roman), of Mediaeval or Germanic, and of modern times; because, according to Vischer, it was the duty of Æsthetic to cast a glance over universal history before summing up the different degrees of the beautiful according to the varying phases of the struggle for freedom against nature.” As regards the Modifications of Beauty, it should be remembered that the ancient manuals of Poetics, and more frequently those of Rhetoric, contained more or less scientific definitions of psychological states and facts; Aristotle attempted in his Poetics to determine the nature of a tragic action or personality, and sketched a definition of the comic ; in his Rhetoric he writes at considerable length of wit; * sections of the De oratore of Cicero and the Institutions of Quintilian * are devoted to wit and the comic ; the lofty style was the subject of a lost treatise of Caecilius, which anticipated that attributed to Longinus, whose title was translated in modern times as De sublimitate or On the Sublime. Following the example of the ancients, this kind of medley was perpetuated by writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; whole treatises on the comic are incorporated in, for instance, the Argutezza of Matteo Pellegrini (1639) and the Cannocchiale of Tesauro. La Bruyère treated of the sublime * and Boileau by his translation gave a fresh vogue to Longinus: the following century saw Burke inquiring into the origin of our ideas of the beautiful and the sublime, and deriving the former from the instinct for sociability, the latter from that of self-preservation; he also tried to define ugliness, grace, elegance and extraordinary beauty; Home, in his celebrated Elements of Criticism, discussed grandeur, sublimity, the ridiculous,

Schleier-
macher.

Alexander von
Humboldt.

Vischer's
“AEsthetic
Physics.”

* Vorles. iib. Asth. I. pp. 148-18o.
* Op. cit. introd.
* Amsichten der Natur, IoS8; Kosmos, 1845–1858.
* Asthetik d. Pflanzenwelt, Leipzig, 1853.

* Asth. § 341. * Poet. 5. 13-14; Rhet. iii. Io, 18.
* De orat. ii. 54-71 ; Inst. orat. vi. 3. * Caractères, I.

The Theory of
the Modifica-
tions of
Beauty.
From anti-
quity to the
eighteenth
century.

Kant and the post-Kantians.

wit, dignity and grace: Mendelssohn discussed sublimity,
dignity and grace in fine art, and described some of
these facts as due to mixed feelings, in which he was
followed by Lessing” and others: Sulzer welcomed all
these various concepts into his aesthetic encyclopaedia and
collected round them an elaborate bibliography. A
new and curious meaning of the word humour reached
the continent from England at this time. Its original
meaning was simply “temperament,” and sometimes
“spirit,” or “wit” (“belli umori " in Italy; in the
seventeenth century there was in Rome an Academy of
Umoristi). Voltaire introduced it into France and wrote
in 1761, “Les Anglais ont un terme pour signifier cette
plaisanterie, ce vrai comique, cette gaieté, cette urbanité,
ces saillies, qui échappent à un homme sans qu'il s'en doute ;
et ils rendent cette idée par le mot humour . . .”; * in 1767
Lessing distinguishes humour from the German Laune
(caprice, whim),” a distinction maintained by Herder in
1769 in opposition to Riedel who had confused the terms.”
Accustomed to find all these subjects treated in the same
book, philosophers at first theorized about them all
without attempting to link them up together by intro-
ducing an artificial logical connexion. Kant, who had
already in imitation of Burke written in 1764 a disserta-
tion on the beautiful and the sublime, ingenuously re-
marked in the course of his lectures on Logic in 177I
that the beautiful and the aesthetic are not identical,
because “the sublime also belongs to Æsthetic ";" and
in his Critique of Judgment, while treating of the comic
in a mere digression (a magnificent piece of psychological
analysis)" places side by side with and as if on an equality
with the “Analytic of Beauty,” an “Analytic of the
Sublime.” 7 We may note in passing that, before the
publication of the third Critique, Heydenreich arrived at
Hamb. Dramat. Nos. 74-75.
Letter to abbé d’Olivet, August 20, 1761.
* Hamb. Dramat. No. 93; in Werke, ed. cit. xii. pp. 170-171, note.
* Kritische Wälder, in Werke, ed. cit. iv. pp. 182-186.

* Schlapp, op. cit. p. 55. * Kr. d. Urth., Anmerkung, § 54. 7 Op. cit. bk. ii. §§ 23-29.

[ocr errors]

the same doctrine of the sublime which is contained in Kant's book.” Did Kant ever think of uniting the beautiful and the sublime and deducing them from a single concept 2 Apparently not. By his declaration that the principle of beauty must be sought outside ourselves, and that of the sublime within us, he tacitly assumes that the two objects are wholly disparate. In 1805 Ast, a follower of Schelling, declared the necessity of overComing what he called the Kantian dualism of the beautiful and the sublime : * others reproached Kant with having treated the comic by the psychological, not the metaphysical, method. Schiller wrote a series of dissertations on the tragic, the sentimental, the ingenuous, the sublime, the pathetic, the trivial, the low, the dignified and the graceful, and their varieties, the fascinating, the majestic, the grave, and the solemn. Another artist, Jean Paul Richter, discoursed at great length on wit and humour, described by him as the romantic comic, or the sublime reversed (umgekehrte Erhabene).” Herbart, in virtue of his formalistic principle, asserts that all these concepts are irrelevant to AEsthetic ; he attributes them to the work of art, not to pure beauty; * Schleiermacher comes to the same conclusion, but for much better reasons, as a result of his sane conception of art. Amongst other things he observes: “It is usual to describe the beautiful and the sublime as two kinds of artistic perfection ; and so accustomed have we grown to the union of these two concepts that we must make an effort to convince ourselves how very far they are from being co-ordinate or from together exhausting the concept of artistic perfection "; he regrets that even the best aestheticians should give rhetorical descriptions of them instead of demonstrating them. “The thing,” says he, “is not right and just " (hat keine Richtigkeit), and he proceeds to exclude the whole subject from his AEsthetic," as he had done previously in the case of natural beauty. Other philosophers, however, clung persistently to their search for a connexion between these various concepts, and called in dialectic to help them. The habit of applying dialectic to empirical concepts affected everybody at that time ; even the great enemy of dialectic, Herbart, showed the cloven hoof, when in order to explain the union of different aesthetic ideas in the beautiful he appealed to the formula “they lose regularity in order to regain it.” Schelling asserted that the sublime is the infinite in the finite, and the beautiful the finite in the infinite, adding that the absolutely sublime includes the beautiful, and the beautiful the sublime ; * and Ast, whom we have mentioned already, spoke of a masculine, positive element, which is the sublime, and a feminine, negative element which is the graceful and pleasing: between which there is a contrast and a struggle. These exercises in dialectical system-building developed and increased till about the middle of the nineteenth century they assumed two distinct forms whose history must here be shortly outlined. The first form may be called the Overcoming of the Ugly. This theory conceives the comic, the sublime, the tragic, the humorous, and so forth, as so many engagements in the war between the Ugly and the Beautiful, wherein the latter was invariably victorious, and arose by means of this war to more and more lofty and complex manifestations. The second form of the theory may be described as the Passage from Abstract to Concrete ; it held that Beauty cannot emerge from the abstract, cannot become this or that concrete beauty, except by particularizing itself in the comic, tragic, sublime, humorous, or some other modification. The first form was already well developed in Solgel, an adherent of the romantic theory of Irony: but historically it presupposes the aesthetic theory of the Ugly, first sketched by Friedrich Schlegel in 1797. We have

* System d. Asth. introd. p. xxxvi m.
* System der Kunstlehre : cf. Hartmann, op. cit. p. 387.
* Vorschule d. Asth. chs. 6-9.

* See above, pp. 309-310. * Vorles. iib. Asth. p. 240 seqq.

Culmination of the development.

Double form of

the theory.
The overcom-
ing of the ugly.
Solger, Weisse
and others.

* Cf. Zimmermann, G. d. Asth. p. 788.
* Philos. d. Kunst, §§ 65-66.

« IndietroContinua »