« IndietroContinua »
the colourless signs and labels of everyday life, and help others (non-artists) to catch a glimpse of what they themselves see, employing for this purpose colours, forms, rhythmic connexions of words, and those rhythms of life and breath even more intimate to man, the sounds and notes of music.
A healthy return to Baumgarten, a revival and correc- Attempts to tion of the old philosopher's theories in the light of later
Baumgarten. discoveries, might perhaps have given Æsthetic some C. Hermann. assistance, after the collapse of the old idealistic metaphysic, towards thinking the concept of art in its universality and discovering its identity with pure and true intuitive knowledge. But Conrad Hermann, who preached the return to Baumgarten 1 in 1876, did bad service to what might have been a good cause. According to him Æsthetic and Logic are normative sciences; but Logic does not contain, as does Æsthetic, “a definite category of external objects exclusively and specifically adequate to the faculty of thought”; and on the other hand “the products and results of scientific thought are not so external and sensibly intuitive as those of artistic invention.” Logic and Æsthetic alike refer not to the empirical thinking and feeling of the soul, but to pure and absolute sensation and thought. Art constructs a representation standing midway between the individual and the universal. Beauty expresses specific perfection, the essential or, so to speak, the rightful (seinsollend) character of things. Form is “the external sensible limit, or mode of appearance of a thing, in opposition to the kernel of the thing itself and to its essential and substantial content." Content and form are both æsthetic, and the æsthetic interest concerns the entirety of the beautiful object. The artistic activity has no special organ such as thought possesses in speech. The æsthetician, like the lexicographer, has the task of compiling a dictionary of tones and colours and of the different meanings which may possibly be attached to them. We can see that Hermann
i Conrad Hermann, Die Asthetik in ihrer Geschichte und als wissenschaftliches System, Leipzig, 1876. 2 Die Asthetik, etc., passim,
accepted side by side the most inconsistent propositions. He welcomes even the æsthetic law of the golden section, and applies it to tragedy ; the longer segment of the line is the tragic hero; the punishment which overtakes him (the entire line) exceeds his crime in the same proportion in which he oversteps the common measure (the shorter segment of the line). It reads almost like a joke.
Without direct reference to Baumgarten, a proposal that Æsthetic be reformed and treated as the “ science of intuitive knowledge " was made in a miserable little work by one Willy Nef (1898), who makes the dumb animals share his intuitive knowledge,” in which he distinguishes a formal side (intuition) and a material side or content (knowledge), and considers the everyday relations between men, their games and their art, as belonging to intuitive
The English historian of Æsthetic, Bosanquet (1892) B. Bosanquet. tried to find a reconciliation between content and form in
unity of expression. “Beauty,” says Bosanquet in the Introduction to his History, " is that which has characteristic and individual expressiveness for sensuous perception or imagination, subject to the conditions of general or abstract expressiveness by the same means.” In another passage he observes : “ The difficulty of real Æsthetic is to show how the combination of decorative forms in characteristic representations, by intensifying the essential character immanent in them from the beginning, subordinates them to a central signification which stands to their complex combination as their abstract signification stands to each one of them taken singly.” 3 But the problem, as propounded in a way suggested by the antithesis between the two schools (contentism and
formalism) of German Æsthetic, is in our opinion insoluble. Æsthetic of
De Sanctis founded no school of æsthetic science expression : in Italy. His thought was quickly misunderstood and present state.
1 Die Asthetik, $ 56.
2 Willy Nef, Die Asthetik als Wissenschaft der anschaulichen Erkenntniss, Leipzig, 1898.
3 A History of Æsthetics, pp. 4-6, 372, 391, 447. 458, 466.
mutilated by those who presumed to correct it, and, in fact, only returned to the outworn rhetorical conception of art as consisting of a little content and a little form. Only within the last ten years has there been a renewal of philosophical studies, arising out of discussions concerning the nature of history 1 and the relation in which it stands to art and science, and nourished by the controversy excited by the publication of De Sanctis' posthumous works. The same problem of the relation between history and science, and their difference or antithesis, reappeared also in Germany, but without being put in its true connexion with the problem of Æsthetic. These inquiries and discussions, and the revival of a Linguistic impregnated by philosophy in the work of Paul and some others, appear to us to offer much more favourable ground for the scientific development of Æsthetic than can be found on the summits of mysticism or the low plains of positivism and sensationalism.
1 B. Croce, La storia ridotta sotto il concetto generale dell'arte, 1893 (2nd ed. entitled Il concetto della storia nelle sue relazioni col concetto dell' arte, Rome, 1896); P. R. Trojano, La storia come scienza sociale, vol. i., Naples, 1897 ; G. Gentile, Il concetto della storia (in Crivellucci's Studi storici, 1889); see also F. de Sarlo, Il problema estetico, in Saggi di filosofia, vol. ii., Turin, 1897; and by same author, I dati dell'esperienza psichica, Florence, 1903, concluding chapter.
2 La letteratura italiana nel secolo XIX, edited by B. Croce, Naples, 1896 ; also Scritti vari, ed. Croce, Naples, 1898, 2 vols.
3 H. Rickert, Die Grenzen der naturwissenschaftlichen Begriffsbildung, Freiburg i. B., 1896-1902.
HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF SOME PARTICULAR
Result of the history of Æsthetic.
We have reached the end of our history. Having passed in review the travail and doubt through which the discovery of the æsthetic concept was achieved, the vicissitudes first of neglect, then of revival and rediscovery to which it was exposed, the various oscillations and failures in its exact determination, the resurrection, triumphant and overwhelming, of ancient errors supposed to be dead and buried; we may now conclude, without appearing to assert anything unproven, that of Æsthetic in the proper sense of the word we have seen very little, even including the last two centuries' active research. Exceptional intellects have hit the mark and have supported their views with energy, with logic, and with consciousness of what they were doing. It would no doubt be possible to extract many true affirmations leading to the same point of view from the works of non-philosophical writers, art-critics and artists, from commonly received opinions and proverbial sayings ; such a collection would show that this handful of philosophers does not stand alone, but is surrounded by a throng of supporters and is in perfect agreement with the general mind and universal common sense. But if Schiller was right in saying that the rhythm of philosophy is to diverge from common opinion in order to return with redoubled vigour, it is evident that such divergence is necessary, and constitutes the growth of science, which is science itself. During this tedious process Æsthetic made mistakes which were
at once deviations from the truth and attempts to reach it : such were the hedonism of the sophists and rhetoricians of antiquity and of the sensationalists of the eighteenth and second half of the nineteenth century; the moralistic hedonism of Aristophanes, of the Stoics, of the Roman eclectics, of the mediæval and Renaissance writers; the ascetic and logical hedonism of Plato and the Fathers of the Church, of some mediæval and even some quite modern rigorists; and finally, the æsthetic mysticism which first appeared in Plotinus and reappeared again and again until its last and great triumph in the classical period of German philosophy. In the midst of these variously erroneous tendencies, ploughing the field of thought in every direction, a tenuous golden rivulet seems to flow, formed by the acute empiricism of Aristotle, the forceful penetration of Vico, the analytical work of Schleiermacher, Humboldt, De Sanctis and others who echoed them with weaker voice. This series of thinkers suffices to remind us that æsthetic science no longer remains to be discovered; but at the same time the fact that they are so few and so often despised, ignored or controverted, proves that it is in its infancy. The birth of a science is like that of a living being : History of
science and its later development consists, like every life, in fighting
history of the the difficulties and errors, general and particular, which scientific
criticism of lurk in its path on every side. The forms of error are
particular numerous in the extreme and mingle with each other and errors. with the truth in complications equally numerous : root out one, another appears in its stead; the uprooted ones also reappear, though never in the same shape. Hence the necessity for perpetual scientific criticism and the impossibility of repose or finality in a science and of an end to further discussion. The errors which may be described as general, negations of the concept of art itself, have been touched on from time to time in the course of this History; whence it may be gathered a simple affirmation of the truth has not always been accompanied by any considerable recapture of enemy territory. As to what we have called particular errors, it is clear that