Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

or stammer or is altogether silent, they ask if it obey the laws of epic or of tragedy, of historical painting or of landscape. While making a verbal pretence of agreeing, or yielding a feigned obedience, artists have, however, really always disregarded these laws of the kinds. Every true work of art has violated some established kind and upset the ideas of the critics, who have thus been obliged to broaden the kinds, until finally even the broadened kind has proved too narrow, owing to the appearance of new worlcs of art, naturally followed by new scandals, new upsettings and—new broadenings.'

To the same theory are due the prejudices, owing to which at one time (is it really passed ?) people used to lament that Italy had no tragedy (until one arose who bestowed such a wreath, which alone of adornments was wanting to her glorious locks), nor France the epic poem (until the Henriade, which slaked the thirsty throats of the critics). Eulogies accorded to the inventors of new kinds are connected with these prejudices, so much so, that in the seventeenth century the invention of the mockheroic poem seemed an important event, and the honour of it was disputed, as though it were the discovery of America. But the works adorned with this name (the Secchia rapita and the Scherno degli Dei) were still-born, because their authors (a slight drawback) had nothing new or original to say. Mediocrities racked their brains to invent new kinds artificially. The piscatorial eclogue was added to the pastoral, and finally the military eclogue. The Aminta was dipped and became the Alceo. Finally, there have been historians of art and literature, so much fascinated with these ideas of kinds, that they claimed to write the history, not of individual and real literary and artistic works, but of those empty phantoms, their kinds. They have claimed to portray, not the evolution of the artistic spirit, but the evolution of kinds.

The philosophical condemnation of artistic and literary kinds is found in the formulation and demonstration of what artistic activity has always done and good taste always recognized. What are we to do if good taste and the real fact, when reduced to formulas, sometimes assume the air of paradoxes?

Empirical It is not scientifically incorrect to talk of tragedies, "dMsions'of comedies, dramas, romances, pictures of everyday life, kinds. battle-pieces, landscapes, seascapes, poems, versicles, lyrics, and the like, if it be only with a view to be understood, and to draw attention to certain groups of works, in general and approximately, to which, for one reason or another, it is desired to draw attention. To employ words and phrases is not to establish laws and definitions. The mistake only arises when the weight of a scientific definition is given to a word, when we ingenuously let ourselves be caught in the meshes of that phraseology. Pray permit me a comparison. The books in a library must be arranged in one way or another. This used generally to be done by a rough classification of subjects (among which the categories of miscellaneous and eccentric were not wanting); they are now generally arranged by sizes or by publishers. Who can deny the necessity and the utility of such arrangements? But what should we say if some one began seriously to seek out the literary laws of miscellanies and of eccentricities, of the Aldines or Bodonis, of shelf A or shelf B, that is to say, of those altogether arbitrary groupings whose sole object was their practical utility. Yet should any one attempt such an undertaking, he would be doing neither more nor less than those do who seek out the cesthetic laws which must in their belief control literary and artistic kinds.

ANALOGOUS ERRORS IN THE THEORY OF
HISTORY AND IN LOGIC

The better to confirm these criticisms, it will be useful to
cast a rapid glance over analogous and opposite errors,
due to ignorance as to the true nature of art and its rela-
tion to history and to science. These errors have injured
alike the theory of history and that of science, Historic
(or Historiology) and Logic.

Historical intellectualism has opened the way to the Criticism of many attempts, made especially during the last two centuries and continued to-day, to discover a philosophy of history, an ideal history, a sociology, a historical psychology, or whatever else a science may be called, whose object is to extract from history concepts and universal laws. What must these laws, these universals be? Historical laws and historical concepts? In that case, an elementary acquaintance with the theory of knowledge suffices to make clear the absurdity of the attempt. When such expressions as a historical law, a historical concept are not simply metaphors colloquially employed, they are truly contradictory terms: the adjective is as unsuitable to the substantive as in the expressions "qualitative quantity" or "pluralistic monism." History implies concreteness and individuality, law and concept mean abstractness and universality. But if the attempt to extract historical laws and concepts from history be abandoned, and it be merely desired to draw from it laws and concepts, the attempt is certainly not frivolous; but the science thus obtained will be, not a philosophy of

history, but rather, according to circumstances, either philosophy in its various forms of Ethics, Logic, etc., or empirical science with its infinite divisions and subdivisions. The search is in fact either for those philosophical concepts which, as already remarked, are the basis of every historical construction and differentiate perception from intuition, historical intuition from pure intuition, history from art; or already formed historical intuitions are collected and arranged in types and classes, which is exactly the method of the natural sciences. Great thinkers have sometimes donned the ill-fitting cloak of the philosophy of history, and notwithstanding the covering, they have attained philosophical truths of the . greatest magnitude. The cloak discarded, the truth has remained. Modern sociologists are rather to be blamed, not so much for the illusion in which they are involved when they talk of an impossible science of sociology, as for the infecundity which almost always accompanies their illusion. It matters little that .(Esthetic should be called "sociological .^Esthetic," or Logic, "sociological Logic." The grave evil is that such ^Esthetic is an oldfashioned expression of sensationalism, such Logic verbal and incoherent. The philosophical movement to which we have referred has however borne two good fruits in relation to history. First of all, a keener desire has arisen for a theory of history, that is, a theory of the nature and the limits of history, a theory which, in conformity with the analysis made above, cannot obtain satisfaction save in a general 'science of intuition, in an AEsthetic, in which the theory of history would form a special chapter, distinguished by the insertion of universal functions. Furthermore, concrete truths relating to historical events have often been expressed beneath the false and presumptuous cloak of a philosophy of history; rules and warnings have been formulated, empirical no doubt, yet by no means useless to students and critics. It does not seem possible to deny this utility even to the most recent of philosophies of history, known as historical materialism, which has

thrown a very vivid light upon many sides of social life formerly neglected or ill understood.

The principle of authority, of the ipse dixit, is an intrusion by historicity into the domains of science and philosophy which has dominated the schools and substitutes for introspection and philosophical analysis this or that evidence, document, or authoritative statement, with which history certainly cannot dispense. But Logic, the science of thought and of intellectual knowledge, has suffered the most grave and destructive of all disturbances and errors through an imperfect understanding of the aesthetic fact. How could it be otherwise, if logical activity come after and contain in itself aesthetic activity? An inexact .(Esthetic must of necessity drag after it an inexact Logic.

Whoever opens a logical treatise, from the Organon of Aristotle to the modern works on the subject, must agree that all contain a haphazard mixture of verbal facts and facts of thought, of grammatical forms and of conceptual forms, of ^Esthetic and of Logic. Not that attempts have been wanting to escape from verbal expression and to seize thought in its true nature. Aristotelian logic itself did not become mere syllogistic and verbalism without some hesitation and indecision. The problem proper to logic was often touched upon in their disputes by the nominalists, realists and conceptualists of the Middle Ages. With Galileo and with Bacon, the natural sciences gave an honourable place to induction. Vico combated formalist and mathematical logic in favour of inventive methods. Kant called attention to the a priori synthesis. Absolute idealism despised the Aristotelian Logic. The followers of Herbart, though still loyal to Aristotle, emphasized those judgements which they called narrative and which have a character altogether differing from that of other logical judgements. Finally, the linguists insisted upon the irrationality of the word, in relation to the concept. But a conscious, sure and radical movement of reform can find no basis or point of departure, save in the science of ^Esthetic.

« IndietroContinua »