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- The Principles Of Aesthetics - 6/50 -


may find the simplest melody a revelation of the Absolute; but even if it were, its beauty would still pertain to it primarily as a revelation of the individual experience which it embodies. Again, by reason of the freedom from the particular conditions out of which it arises acquired by a work of art, its individual meaning easily becomes typical, so that it often serves as a universal under which individuals similar to those represented are subsumed--as when we speak of "a Faust" or "a Hamlet"; nevertheless, the adequate expression of the individual is at once the basis of its beauty and of its extended, universalized significance. It is when works of art are profoundly individual that we generalize their meaning. In art the individual never sinks to the position of a mere specimen or example of a universal law. The intellectualistic theory is partly true of symbolic art, but not wholly, for even there, the individuality of the symbol counts. And yet, as we shall see, there is another meaning of artistic truth, which is legitimate.

Aesthetic value, therefore, is not alone sensuous value or ethical or scientific or philosophical value. A work of art may contain one or all of these values; but they do not constitute its unique value as art. The foregoing attempts to define the value of art fail because they renounce the idea of unique value, substituting goodness, sensuous pleasure, or truth-values found outside of art. But the intrinsic value of art must be unique, for it is the value of a unique activity--the free expression of experience in a form delightful and permanent, mediating communication. And this value we should be able to discover by seeking the difference which supervenes upon experience through expression of this kind.

Apart from expression, experience may be vivid and satisfactory as we feel and think and dream and act; yet it is always in flux, coming and going, shifting and unaware. But through expression it is arrested by being attached to a permanent form, and there can be retained and surveyed. Experience, which is otherwise fluent and chaotic, or when orderly too busy with its ends to know itself, receives through expression the fixed, clear outlines of a thing, and can be contemplated like a thing. Every one has verified the clarifying effect of expression upon ideas, how they thus acquire definiteness and coherence, so that even the mind that thinks them can hold them in review. But this effect upon feeling is no less sure. The unexpressed values of experience are vague strivings embedded in chaotic sensations and images; these expression sorts and organizes by attaching them to definite ordered symbols. Even what is most intimate and fugitive becomes a stable object. When put into patterned words, the subtlest and deepest passions of a poet, which before were felt in a dim and tangled fashion, are brought out into the light of consciousness. In music, the most elusive moods, by being embodied in ordered sounds, remain no longer subterranean, but are objectified and lifted into clearness. In the novel or drama, the writer is able not only to enact his visions of life in the imagination, but, by bodying them forth in external words and acts, to possess them for reflection. In painting, all that is seen and wondered at in nature is seen with more delicacy and discrimination and felt with greater freedom; or the vague fancies which a heated imagination paints upon the background of the mind come out more vivid and better controlled, when put with care upon a canvas.

Even ordinary expression, of course, arrests and clarifies experience, enabling us to commune with ourselves; but since its purpose is usually beyond itself, this result is hasty and partial, limited to what is needful for the practical end in view. In art alone is this value complete. For there, life is intentionally held in the medium of expression, put out into color and line and sound for the clear sight and contemplation of men. The aim is just to create life upon which we may turn back and reflect.

This effect of artistic expression upon experience has usually been called "intuition." Because of its connotation of mysterious knowledge, intuition is not a wholly satisfactory word, yet is probably as good as any for the purpose of denoting what artists and philosophers of art have had in mind and what we have been trying to describe. Other terms might also serve--vision, sympathetic insight (sympathetic, because it includes the value of experience; insight, because it involves possessing experience as a whole and ordered, and as an object for reflection). Intuition is opposed, on the one hand, to crude unreflecting experience that never observes itself as a whole or attains to clearness and self-possession; and, on the other hand, to science, which gives the elements and relations of an experience, the classes to which it belongs, but loses its uniqueness and its values. Science elaborates concepts of things, gives us knowledge about things; art presents us with the experience of things purified for contemplation. Scientific truth is the fidelity of a description to the external objects of experience; artistic truth is sympathetic vision--the organization into clearness of experience itself.

Compare, for illustration, life as we live it from day to day with our delineation of it as we recall it and tell it to an intimate companion; and then compare that with the analysis and classification of it which some psychologist or sociologist might make. Or compare the kind of knowledge of human nature that we get from Shakespeare or Moliere with the sort that we get from the sciences. In the one case, knowledge attends a personal acquaintance with the experience, a bringing of it home, a feeling for its values, a realization of the inner necessity of its elements; in the other, it is a mere set of concepts. Or finally, compare the knowledge of the human figure contained in an anatomist's manual with a painting of it, where we not only see it, but in the imagination touch it and move with it, in short live with it.

Intuition is the effect of artistic appreciation no less than of artistic creation. If the artist's expression of his feelings and ideas results in intuition, our appreciation of his work must have the same value, for appreciation is expression transferred from the artist to the spectator. By means of the colors, lines, words, tones that he makes, the artist determines in us a process of expression similar to his. Out of our own minds we put into the sense-symbols he has woven ideas and feelings which provide the content and meaning he intends. Hence all aesthetic appreciation is self-expression. This is evident in the case of the more lyrical types of art. The lyric poem is appreciated by us as an expression of our own inner life; music as an expression of our own slumberous or subconscious moods. Yet even the more objective types of art, like the novel or the drama, become forms of self-expression, for we have to build up the worlds which they contain in our own imagination and emotion. We have to live ourselves out in them; we can understand them only in terms of our own life.

In the appreciation of the more objective types of art, the personality expressed is not, of course, the actual personality; but rather the self extended and expanded through the imagination. The things which I seem to see and enjoy in the landscape picture I may have never really seen; I may have never really moved through the open plain there, as I seem to move, toward the mountain in the distance. The acts described in the novel or portrayed on the stage I do not really perform; the opinions uttered by the persons I do not hold. And yet, in order to appreciate the picture, it must be _as if_ I really saw the mountain and moved towards it; in order to appreciate the novel or the play, I must make the acts and opinions mine. And this I can do; for, as it is a commonplace to note, each one of us has within him capacities of action and emotion and thought unrealized--the actual self is only one of many that might have been--hundreds of possible lives slumber in our souls. And no matter which of these lives we have chosen for our own, or have had forced upon us by our fate, we always retain a secret longing for all the others that have gone unfulfilled, and an understanding born of longing. Some of these we imagine distinctly--those that we consciously rejected or that a turn of chance might have made ours; but most of them we ourselves have not the power even to dream. Yet these too beckon us from behind, and the artist provides us with their dream. Through art we secure an imaginative realization of interests and latent tendencies to act and think and feel which, because they are contradictory among themselves or at variance with the conditions of our existence, cannot find free play within our experience. That same sort of imaginative enlarged expression of self that we get vicariously by participating in the life of our friends we get also from art.[Footnote: Compare Santayana: _The Sense of Beauty_, p. 186.]

Yet in appreciation, as in creation, expression results in intuition. Appreciation is no mere imagining, transitory and lawless like a daydream. The activity of the imagination is so organized in a permanent and perspicuous form that we not only live it, but possess it as an object. The activities engaged in building up the work of art in my own mind are not the whole of me; judgment remains free to watch and synthesize those that are being crystallized there. In looking at a portrait, for example, the process of interpreting the life represented is ancillary to a total judgment of character. In the novel or drama, no matter with what abandon I put myself into the persons and situations, the expression of them in outward words and acts, and the organization which the artist has imposed upon them, makes of them permanent objects for reflection, not mere modes of feeling and imagining to endure. Self-expression that does not attain to objectivity is incomplete as art. Even music and lyric poetry are something more than mere feeling. In all genuine art, experience takes on permanence and form--a synthesis, a total meaning, supervenes within the flux of impressions and ideas and moods, not excluding, but embracing and controlling them. That is intuition.

The insight into experience which art provides is the more valuable because it is communicable; to possess it alone would be a good, but to share it is better. All values become enhanced when we add to them the joy of fellow feeling. The universality of aesthetic expression carries with it the universality of aesthetic insight. Merely private and unutterable inspirations are not art. Beauty does for life what science does for intelligence; even as the one universalizes thought, so the other universalizes values. In expressing himself, the artist creates a form into which all similar experiences can be poured and out of which they can all be shared. When, for example, we listen to the hymns of the church or read the poems of Horace, the significance of our experience is magnified because we find the feelings of millions there; we are in unison with a vast company living and dead. No thing of beauty is a private possession. All artists feed on one another and into each experience of art has gone the mind-work of the ages.

But there are two types of universality, one by exclusion, the other by inclusion. Communists like Tolstoy demand that art express only those feelings that are already common, the religious and moral; they would exclude all values that have not become those of the race. But this is to diminish the importance of art; for it is art's privilege to make feelings common by providing a medium through which they can be communicated rather than merely to express them after they have become common. Understanding is more valuable when it encompasses the things that tend to separate and distinguish men than when it is limited to the things that unite them. There is nothing so bizarre that art may not express it, provided it be communicable.

The life of the imagination, which is the life of art, is, moreover, the only life that we can have in common. Sharing life can never mean anything else than possessing the life of one another sympathetically. Actually to lead another's life would involve possessing his body, occupying his position, doing his work, and so destroying him. But through the sympathetic imagination we can penetrate his life and leave him in possession. To do this thoroughly is possible, however, only with the life of a very few people, with intimates and friends. With


The Principles Of Aesthetics - 6/50

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