Immagini della pagina

The independ ence of art.

advise the critics to leave the artists in peace, for they can only derive inspiration from what has moved their soul. They should rather direct their attention towards effecting changes in surrounding nature and society, that such impressions and states of soul should not recur. If ugliness were to vanish from the world, if universal virtue and felicity were established there, perhaps artists would no longer represent perverse or pessimistic feelings, but calm, innocent and joyous feelings, Arcadians of a real Arcady. But so long as ugliness and turpitude exist in nature and impose themselves upon the artist, to prevent the expression of these things also is impossible; and when it has arisen, factum infectum fieri nequit. We speak thus entirely from the æsthetic point of view, and of pure criticism of art.

We are not concerned to estimate the damage which the criticism of "choice" does to artistic production, with the prejudices which it produces or maintains among the artists themselves, and with the conflict to which it gives rise between artistic impulse and critical demands. It is true that sometimes it seems also to do some good, by aiding artists to discover themselves, that is, their own impressions and their own inspiration, and to acquire consciousness of the task which is, as it were, imposed upon them by the historical moment in which they live, and by their individual temperament. In these cases, criticism of "choice," while believing that it generates, merely recognizes and aids the expressions which are already being formed. It believes itself to be the mother, where, at most, it is only the midwife.

The impossibility of choice of content completes the theorem of the independence of art, and is also the only legitimate meaning of the expression: art for art's sake. Art is independent both of science and of the useful and the moral. There should be no fear lest frivolous or cold art should thus be justified, since what is truly frivolous or cold is so because it has not been raised to expression; or in other words, frivolity and frigidity come always from the form of the æsthetic treatment, from failure to

grasp a content, not from the material qualities of the content itself.

style is the man.

The saying the style is the man, can also not be com- Criticism of the pletely criticized, save by starting from the distinction saying: the between the theoretic and the practical, and from the theoretic character of the æsthetic activity. Man is not simply knowledge and contemplation: he is will, which contains the cognitive moment in itself. Hence the saying is either altogether void, as when it is taken to mean that the style is the man qua style—is the man, that is, but only so far as he is expressive activity; or it is erroneous, as when the attempt is made to deduce what a man has done and willed from what he has seen and expressed, thereby asserting that there is a logical connexion between knowing and willing. Many legends in the biographies of artists have sprung from this erroneous identification, since it seemed impossible that a man who gives expression to generous feelings should not be a noble and generous man in practical life; or that the dramatist whose plays are full of stabbing, should not himself have done a little stabbing in real life. Artists protest vainly: "Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba." They are merely taxed in addition with lying and hypocrisy. How far more prudent you were, poor women of Verona, when you founded your belief that Dante had really descended to hell upon his blackened countenance ! Yours was at any rate a historical conjecture.

Finally, sincerity imposed as a duty upon the artist Criticism of (a law of ethics also said to be a law of æsthetic) rests sincerity in the concept of upon another double meaning. For by sincerity may art. be meant, in the first place, the moral duty not to deceive one's neighbour; and in that case it is foreign to the artist. For indeed he deceives no one, since he gives form to what is already in his soul. He would only deceive if he were to betray his duty as an artist by failing to execute his task in its essential nature. If lies and deceit are in his soul, then the form which he gives to these things cannot be deceit or lies, precisely because it is æsthetic. If the artist be a charlatan, a

liar, or a miscreant, he purifies his other self by reflecting it in art. If by sincerity be meant, in the second place, fulness and truth of expression, it is clear that this second sense has no relation to the ethical concept. The law, called both ethical and æsthetic, reveals itself here as nothing but a word used both by Ethics and Esthetic.





THE double degree of the theoretical activity, æsthetic The two forms and logical, has an important parallel in the practical of the practical activity, which has not yet been placed in due relief. The practical activity is also divided into a first and second degree, the second implying the first. The first practical degree is the simply useful or economical activity; the second the moral activity.

Economy is, as it were, the Esthetic of practical life; Morality its Logic.

If this has not been clearly seen by philosophers; The economicif the correct place in the system of the spirit has not ally useful. been given to the economic activity, if it has been left to wander about in the prolegomena to treatises on political economy, often vague and but little developed, this is due, among other reasons, to the fact that the useful or economic has been confused, sometimes with the concept of the technical, sometimes with that of the egoistical.

useful and the

Technique is certainly not a special activity of the Distinction spirit. Technique is knowledge; or rather, it is know- between the ledge itself in general which takes this name when it serves technical. as basis, as we have seen it does, for practical action. Knowledge which is not followed, or is supposed not to be easily followed by practical action, is called “pure”: the same knowledge, if effectively followed by action, is called "applied"; if it is supposed that it can be easily followed by a particular action, it is called " applicable

Distinction of

the useful from the egoistic.


technical." This word, then, indicates a situation in which knowledge is, or may easily be, not a special form of knowledge. So true is this, that it would be altogether impossible to establish whether a given order of knowledge were, intrinsically, pure or applied. All knowledge, however abstract and philosophical it may be believed to be, may be a guide to practical acts; a theoretical error in the ultimate principles of morality may be reflected and always in some way is reflected in practical life. One can only speak roughly and unscientifically of certain truths as pure and of others as applied.


The same knowledge that is called technical may also be called useful. But the word “useful,” in conformity with the criticism of judgements of value made above, is to be understood as used here in a verbal or metaphorical When we say that water is useful for putting out fire, the word "useful" is used in a non-scientific sense. Water thrown on the fire is the cause of its going out: this is the knowledge that serves for basis to the action, let us say, of firemen. There is a link, not of nature, but of simple succession, between the useful action of the person who extinguishes the conflagration and that knowledge. The technique of the effects of the water is the theoretical activity which precedes; the only useful thing is the action of the man who extinguishes the fire.

Some economists identify utility, that is to say, merely economic action or will, with the egoistic, that is to say, with what is profitable to the individual, in so far as individual, without regard to and indeed in complete opposition to the moral law. The egoistic is the immoral. In this case Economics would be a very strange science, standing not beside but opposite Ethics, like the devil facing God, or at least like the advocatus diaboli in the processes of canonization. Such a conception is altogether inadmissible the science of immorality is implied in that of morality, as the science of the false is implied in Logic, science of the true, and a science of unsuccessful expression in Esthetic, science of successful expression. If, then, Economics were the scientific treatment of egoism, it

« IndietroContinua »