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We speak of good taste and bad taste; are all criticisms which turn upon this distinction to be considered absurd? have these everyday expressions no meaning? Home ends by asserting a common standard of taste, deduced from the necessity of a common life for mankind or, as he says, from a final cause"; for without uniformity of taste, who would trouble to produce works of art, build elegant and costly edifices, or lay out beautiful gardens and so forth? He does not fail to draw attention to a second final cause; that of the advisability of attracting citizens to public shows and uniting those whom class-differences and diversity of occupation tend to keep apart. But how shall a standard of taste be established? This is a new perplexity, which one cannot think to be escaped by observing that, as in framing moral rules we seek the counsel of the most honourable of educated men, not of savages; so to determine the standard of taste we should have recourse to the few who are not worn out by degrading bodily labour, not corrupted in taste, and not rendered effeminate by pleasure, who have received the gift of good taste from nature, and have brought it to perfection by the education and practice of a lifetime: if, notwithstanding, controversies arise, then reference must be made to the principles of Criticism as set forth by Home himself in his own book.1 Similar contradictions and vicious circles reappear in David Hume's Essay on Taste, where Hume tries in vain to define the distinctive characteristics of the man of taste whose judgement must be law, and, while asserting the uniformity of the general principles of taste as founded in human nature, and warning the reader against giving undue weight to individual perversions and ignorances, at the same time asserts that divergences in taste may be irreconcilable, insuperable, and yet blameless.2
But a criticism of æsthetic relativism cannot be based upon the opposite doctrine which, by its affirmation of
1 Elem. of Criticism, iii. ch. 25.
2 Essays, Moral, Political and Literary (London ed., 1862), ch. 23: On the Standard of Taste.
absoluteness, resolves taste into concepts and logical inferences. The eighteenth century offers examples of this mistake in Muratori, one of the first to maintain the existence of a rule of taste and a universal beauty whose rules are furnished by Poetics; 1 in André, who said that "the beauty in a work of art is not that which pleases at the first glance of fancy through certain individual dispositions of the mental faculties or bodily organs, but that which has a right to please the reason and reflexion by its own inherent excellence or rightness and, if the expression be allowed, by its intrinsic agreeableness "; 2 in Voltaire, who recognized a "universal taste" which was "intellectual"; and in very many others. This intellectualistic error, no less than the sensationalistic, was attacked by Kant; but even Kant, by making beauty consist in a symbolism of morality, failed to grasp the concept of an imaginative absoluteness of taste." Succeeding generations of philosophers met the difficulty by passing it over in silence.
Nevertheless, this criterion of an imaginative absoluteness, the idea that in order to judge works of art one must place oneself at the artist's point of view at the moment of production, and that to judge is to reproduce, gathered weight little by little from the beginning of the eighteenth century, when its first appearance is seen in the work of the Italian Francesco Montani already quoted (1705), and by the English poet Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism. ("A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ." 5) A few years later Antonio Conti recognized part of the truth in the règle du premier aspect advised by Terrasson as a test for judging poetry, while noting it to be more applicable to modern than to ancient works: “quand on n'a pas l'esprit prévenu, et que d'ailleurs on l'a assez pénétrant, on peut voir tout d'un coup si un poète a bien imité son objet; car, comme on connaît l'original, c'est-à-dire les hommes et les
1 Perfetta poesia, bk. v. ch. 5.
3 Essai sur le goût, cit.
2 Essai sur le beau, disc. 3. 4 See above, pp. 280-282.
Essay on Criticism, 1711, part ii. ll. 233-234.
mœurs de son siècle, on peut aisément lui confronter la copie, c'est-à-dire la poésie qui les imite." In judging ancient writers something more is necessary : règle du premier aspect n'est presque d'aucun usage dans l'examen de l'ancienne poésie, dont on ne peut pas juger qu'après avoir longtemps réfléchi sur la religion des anciens, sur leurs lois, leurs mœurs, sur leurs manières de combattre et d'haranguer, etc. Les beautés d'un poème, indépendantes de toutes ces circonstances individuelles, sont très rares, et les grands peintres les ont toujours évitées avec soin, car ils voulaient peindre la nature et non pas leurs idées ;"1 the necessary criterion, therefore, is to be found in history. The end of the same century saw the concept of congenial reproduction sufficiently defined by Heydenreich: “A philosophical critic of art must himself be possessed of genius for art; reason exacts this qualification and grants no dispensation, just as she will refuse to appoint a blind man as judge of colours. The critic must not pretend to be able to feel the attraction of beauty by means of syllogisms (Vernunftschlüsse); beauty must manifest itself to feeling with irresistible self-evidence and, attracted by its fascination, reason must find no time to linger over the why and wherefore; the effect, with its delightful and unexpected possession and domination of the whole being, should suffocate at birth any inquiry into origins or causes. But this state of fanatical admiration cannot last long; reason must inevitably recover consciousness of itself and direct its attention upon the state in which it was during the enjoyment of beauty and upon its present memories of that state. 2 This was the wholesomely impressionistic theory which prevailed among the Romanticists and was accepted even by De Sanctis.3 Still there was even then no definite theory of criticism, which demanded as its condition of existence a precise concept of art and of the relations of the work of art with its historical antecedents.4 The very possibility of
1 Letter to Maffei, in Prose e poesie, ii. pp. cxx-cxxi.
2 System d. Ästhetik, pref. pp. xxi-xxv.
› Amongst other places Saggi critici, pp. 355-358.
Distinction between taste and genius.
Concept of artistic and literary history.
æsthetic criticism was questioned in the second half of the nineteenth century, when taste was relegated to a place amongst the facts of individual caprice, and a socalled historical criticism was proclaimed the sole scientific criticism and expounded in works of irrelevant learning or buried beneath the preconceptions of positivists and materialists. Those who reacted against such externalism and materialism generally made the mistake of supporting themselves by a kind of intellectualistic dogmatism 1 or an empty æstheticism.2
VI. We have seen that in the seventeenth century, when the words "taste" and "genius" or "wit" were in fashion, the facts they designated were sometimes interchanged amongst themselves and came to be considered as one single fact, while sometimes each was conceived as distinct in itself, genius being the faculty of production, and taste the faculty of judgement, taste being further subdivided into the sterile and the fertile : a terminology adopted by Muratori in Italy and Ulrich König in Germany. Batteux said, "le goût juge des productions du génie"; and Kant speaks of defective works having genius without taste or taste without genius, and of others in which taste alone suffices; now we find him distinguishing the two concepts as the judging and producing faculties, now he speaks of them as a single faculty existing in various degrees. An inherent difference between taste and genius was accepted by later writers on Esthetic and assumed its most rigid form in the hands of Herbart and his followers.
VII. The evolutionary theory of art made its appearance towards the end of the eighteenth century. This was the time when the distinction between classical and romantic art was first made; a classification later augmented by an introductory section on Oriental art, owing to the increase of knowledge concerning the pre-Hellenic 1 E.g. A. Ricardou, La Critique littéraire, Paris, 1896. 2 E.g. A. Conti, Sul fiume del tempo, Naples, 1907.
3 Perf. poesia, bk. v. ch. 5.
4 Untersuchung v. d. guten Geschmack, 1727.
Les Beaux Arts, part ii. ch. 1.
• Krit. d. Urtheilskr. § 48.
world. Towards the end of his life Goethe told his friend Eckermann that the concepts of classical and romantic had been formed by himself and Schiller, for he himself had upheld the objective method in poetry, whilst Schiller, in order to champion the subjective form to which he inclined, had written the essay On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry, in which the word naïve (naiv) expresses the style later called classical and the word sentimental (sentimentalisch) that later called romantic. "The Schlegels,' continues Goethe, "seized upon these ideas and disseminated them, so that to-day everyone uses them and speaks of classical and romantic, things perfectly unknown fifty years ago "1 (Goethe was speaking in 1831). Schiller's essay bears the imprint of Rousseau's influence and is dated 1795-6.2 It contains such statements as this: "Poets are above all things the preservers of nature; and when they cannot be so entirely, and have tried upon themselves the destructive force of arbitrary and artificial forms or have fought against such forms, they stand up to bear witness on her behalf. Poets, therefore, either are nature or, having lost her, seek her. Hence arise two wholly distinct kinds of poetic composition, exhausting between them the whole field of poetry; all poets who are worthy of the name must belong, according to the times and conditions in which they flourish, either to the category of naïve or to that of sentimental poets." Schiller recognized three kinds of sentimental poetry: satirical, elegiac and idyllic; he defined a satirical poet as one "who takes as his object the desertion of nature and the contrast of the real with the ideal." The weak point of this division is the concept of two distinct kinds of poetry, the reduction of the infinite forms in which poetry appears to individuals, to two kinds. If one of these two kinds be taken the perfect and the other as the imperfect kind, the mistake is made of converting imperfection into a kind or species, the negative into a positive.
1 Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe, under date March 21, 1831. 2 Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung, 1795-1796 (in Werke, ed. Goedeke, vol. xii.).