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concepts, and the aesthetic of the sympathetic.



Pseudo-aesthetic THE doctrine of the sympathetic (very often animated and seconded in this by the capricious metaphysical and mystical Esthetic, and by that blind tradition which assumes an intimate connection between things by chance treated of together by the same authors and in the same books), has introduced and rendered familiar in systems of Esthetic, a series of concepts, of which one example suffices to justify our resolute expulsion of them from our own treatise.

Their catalogue is long, not to say interminable: tragic, comic, sublime, pathetic, moving, sad, ridiculous, melancholy, tragi-comic, humoristic, majestic, dignified, serious, grave, imposing, noble, decorous, graceful, attractive, piquant, coquettish, idyllic, elegiac, cheerful, violent, ingenuous, cruel, base, horrible, disgusting, dreadful, nauseating;

the list can be increased at will.

as Critique of the


Since that doctrine took as its special object the sympathetic, it was naturally unable to neglect any of the varieties of this, or any of the combinations or gradations which lead at last from the sympathetic to the antipathetic. And seeing that the sympathetic content was held to be the beautiful and the antipathetic the ugly, the varieties (tragic, comic, sublime, pathetic, etc.) constituted for it the shades and gradations intervening between the beautiful and the ugly. Having enumerated and defined, as well it could, the chief among these varieties, Esthetic of the sympathetic set itself the problem of the place to be assigned to the ugly in art. This problem is without meaning for us, who do not recognize any ugliness save the anti-æsthetic or inexpressive, which can never form part of the æsthetic fact, being, on the contrary, its antithesis. But the question for the doctrine which we are here criticizing was to reconcile in some way the false and defective idea of art from which it started, reduced to the representation of the agreeable, with effective art, which occupies a far wider field.

Hence the artificial attempt to settle

what examples of the ugly (antipathetic) could be admitted in artistic representation, and for what reasons, and in what ways.

theory of the

ugly in art and surmounted.

of the ugly

The answer was: that the ugly is admissible, only when it can be overcome, an unconquerable ugliness, such as the disgusting or the nauseating, being altogether excluded. Further, that the duty of the ugly, when admitted in art, is to contribute towards heightening the effect of the beautiful (sympathetic), by producing a series of contrasts, from which the pleasurable shall issue more efficacious and pleasure-giving. It is, in fact, a common observation that pleasure is more vividly felt when it has been preceded by abstinence or by suffering. Thus the ugly in art was looked upon as the servant of the beautiful, its stimulant and condiment.

That special theory of hedonistic refinement, which used to be pompously called the surmounting of the ugly, falls with the general theory of the sympathetic; and with it the enumeration and the definition of the concepts mentioned above remain completely excluded from Esthetic. For Esthetic does not recognize the sympathetic or the antipathetic in their varieties, but only the spiritual activity of the representation.

Pseudo-aesthetic However, the large space which, as we have to Psychology. said, those concepts have hitherto occupied in

concepts belong

æsthetic treatises makes opportune a rather more

copious explanation of what they are. What

will be their lot? As they are excluded from Esthetic, in what other part of Philosophy will they be received?

Truly, in none. All those concepts are without philosophical value. They are nothing but a series of classes, which can be bent in the most various ways and multiplied at pleasure, to which it is sought to reduce the infinite complications and shadings of the values and disvalues of life. Of those classes, there are some that have an especially positive significance, like the beautiful, the sublime, the majestic, the solemn, the serious, the weighty, the noble, the elevated; others have a significance especially negative, like the ugly, the horrible, the dreadful, the tremendous, the monstrous, the foolish, the extravagant; in others prevails a mixed significance, as is the case with the comic, the tender, the melancholy, the humorous, the tragi-comic. The complications are infinite, because the individuations are infinite; hence it is not possible to construct the concepts, save in the arbitrary and approximate manner of the natural sciences, whose duty it is to make as good a plan as possible of that reality which they cannot exhaust by enumeration, nor understand and surpass speculatively. And since Psychology is the naturalistic discipline, which


Impossibility of rigoristic

of them.

undertakes to construct types and plans of the spiritual processes of man (of which, in fact, it is always accentuating in our day the merely empirical and descriptive character), these concepts do not appertain to Esthetic, nor, in general, to Philosophy. They must simply be handed over to Psychology.

As is the case with all other psychological condefinitions structions, so is it with those concepts: no rigorous definitions are possible; and consequently the one cannot be deduced from the other and they cannot be connected in a system, as has, nevertheless, often been attempted, at great waste of time and without result. But it can be claimed as possible to obtain, apart from philosophical definitions recognised as impossible, empirical definitions, universally acceptable as true. Since there does not exist a unique definition of a given fact, but innumerable definitions can be given of it, according to the cases and the objects for which they are made, so it is clear that if there were only one, and that the true one, this would no longer be an empirical, but a rigorous and philosophical definition. Speaking exactly, every time that one of the terms to which we have referred has been employed, or any other of the innumerable series,

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