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INDIVISIBILITY OF EXPRESSION INTO MODES
It is customary to give long catalogues of the characters of The characters
It might, on the other hand, be asked at this point Nm-existmce if there be modes or degrees of expression; if, having °/xZ%^cm distinguished two degrees of activity of the spirit, each of which is subdivided into two other degrees, one of these, the intuitive-expressive, is not in its turn subdivided into two or more intuitive modes, into a first, second or third degree of expression. But this further division is impossible; a classification of intuition-expressions is certainly permissible, but is not philosophical: individual
expressive facts are so many individuals, not one of which is interchangeable with another, save in its common quality of expression. To employ the language of the schools: expression is a species which cannot function in its turn as a genus. Impressions or contents vary; every content differs from every other content, because nothing repeats itself in life; and the irreducible variety of the forms of expression corresponds to the continual variation of the contents, the aesthetic synthesis of impressions.
1mpossibility A corollary of this is the impossibility of translations, of translations. m so f^ 35 they pretend to effect the re-moulding of one expression into another, like a liquid poured from a vase of a certain shape into a vase of another shape. We can elaborate logically what we have already elaborated in aesthetic form only; but we cannot reduce what has already possessed its aesthetic form to another form also aesthetic. Indeed, every translation either diminishes and spoils, or it creates a new expression, by putting the former back into the crucible and mingling it with the personal impressions of the so-called translator. In the former case, the expression always remains one, that of the original, the translation being more or less deficient, that is to say, not properly expression: in the other case, there would certainly be two expressions, but with two different contents. "Faithful ugliness or faithless beauty" is a proverb that well expresses the dilemma with which every translator is faced. Unaesthetic translations, such as those that are word for word, or paraphrastic, are to be looked upon as simple commentaries upon the original.
Criticism of The illegitimate division of expressions into various 'categories^1 grades is known in literature by the name of doctrine of ornament or of rhetorical categories. But similar attempts at distinctions in other artistic groups are not wanting: suffice it to recall the realistic and symbolic forms, so often mentioned in relation to painting and sculpture.
Realistic and symbolic, objective and subjective, classical and romantic, simple and ornate, proper and metaphorical, the fourteen forms of metaphor, the figures of word and sentence, pleonasm, ellipse, inversion, repetition, synonyms and homonyms, these and all other determinations of modes or degrees of expression reveal their philosophical nullity when the attempt is made to develop them in precise definitions, because they either grasp the void or fall into the absurd. A typical example of this is the very common definition of metaphor as of another word used in place of the proper word. Now why give oneself this trouble? Why substitute the improper for the proper word? Why take the worse and longer road when you know the shorter and better road? Perhaps, as is commonly said, because the proper word is in certain cases not so expressive as the so-called improper word or metaphor? But if this be so the metaphor is exactly the proper word in that case, and the so-called "proper" word, if it were used, would be inexpressive and therefore most improper. Similar observations of elementary good sense can be made regarding the other categories, as, for example, the general one of the ornate. Here for instance it may be asked how an ornament can be joined to expression. Externally? In that case it is always separated from the expression. Internally? In that case, either it does not assist the expression and mars it; or it does form part of it and is not an ornament, but a constituent element of the expression, indivisible and indistinguishable in its unity.
It is needless to say how much harm has been done by rhetorical distinctions. Rhetoric has often been declaimed against, but although there has been rebellion against its consequences, its principles have, at the same time, been carefully preserved (perhaps in order to show proof of philosophic consistency). In literature the rhetorical categories have contributed, if not to make dominant, at least to justify theoretically, that particular kind of bad writing which is called fine writing or writing according to rhetoric.
The terms above mentioned would never have gone
Empirical sense of the rhetorical categories.
Use of these categories as synonyms of the tsslhetic fact.
beyond the schools, where we all of us learned them (only we never found an opportunity of using them in strictly aesthetic discussions, or at most of doing so jocosely and with a comic intention), were it not that they can sometimes be employed in one of the following significations: as verbal variants of the aesthetic concept; as indications of the anti-cesthetic, or, finally (and this is their most important use), no longer in the service of art and aesthetic, but of science and logic.
First. Expressions considered directly or positively are not divisible into classes, but some are successful, others half-successful, others failures. There are perfect and imperfect, successful and unsuccessful expressions. The words recorded, and others of the same sort, may therefore sometimes indicate the successful expression, and the various forms of the failures. But they do this in the most inconstant and capricious manner, so much so that the same word serves sometimes to proclaim the perfect, sometimes to condemn the imperfect.
For example, some will say of two pictures—one without inspiration, in which the author has copied natural objects without intelligence; the other inspired, but without close relation to existing objects—that the first is realistic, the second symbolic. Others, on the contrary, utter the word realistic before a picture strongly felt representing a scene of ordinary life, while they apply that of symbolic to another picture that is but a cold allegory. It is evident that in the first case symbolic means artistic and realistic inartistic, while in the second, realistic is synonymous with artistic and symbolic with inartistic. What wonder, then, that some hotly maintain the true art form is the symbolic, and that the realistic is inartistic; others, that the realistic is artistic and the symbolic inartistic? We cannot but grant that both are right, since each uses the' same words in such a different sense.
The great disputes about classicism and romanticism were frequently based upon such equivocations. Sometimes the former was understood as the artistically perfect, and the second as lacking balance and imperfect; at others "classic" meant cold and artificial, "romantic" pure, warm, powerful, truly expressive. Thus it was always possible reasonably to take the side of the classic against the romantic, or of the romantic against the classic.
The same thing happens as regards the word style. Sometimes it is said that every writer must have style. Here style is synonymous with form of expression. At others the form of a code of laws or of a mathematical work is said to be without style. Here the error is again committed of admitting diverse modes of expression, an ornate and a naked form, because, if style is form, the code and the mathematical treatise must also be asserted, strictly speaking, to have each its style. At other times, one hears the critics blaming some one for "having too much style" or for "writing a style." Here it is clear that style signifies, not the form, nor a mode of it, but improper and pretentious expression, a form of the inartistic.
Second. The second not altogether meaningless use Their use to inof these words and distinctions is to be found when we dlc^e'^anous
. . , . . (esthetic
hear in the examination of a literary composition such imperfections. remarks as these: here is a pleonasm, here an ellipse, there a metaphor, here again a synonym or an ambiguity. The meaning is: Here is an error consisting of using a larger number of words than necessary (pleonasm); here, on the other hand, the error arises from too few having been used (ellipse), here from the use of an unsuitable word (metaphor), here of two words which seem to say two different things, but really say the same thing (synonym); here, on the contrary, of one word which seems to express the same thing, whereas it says two different things (ambiguity). This depreciatory and pathological use of the terms is, however, less common than the preceding.
Thirdly and finally, when rhetorical terminology Their use possesses no aesthetic signification similar or analogous J"a^"^ng to those passed in review, and yet one feels that it is astketic, in the not void of meaning and designates something that ssec^e"ceeof