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- The Psychology of Beauty - 6/36 -


forms, on the whole, one identical doctrine. It is worth while to dwell somewhat on this point, because the traditional view of the relation of the aesthetic of Kant, Schiller, Schelling, and Hegel is otherwise. Kant's starting-point was the discovery of the normative, "over-individual" nature of Beauty, which we have just found to be the secret of the contradictions of empirical aesthetics. Yet he came to it at the bidding of quite other motives.

Kant's aesthetics was meant to serve as the keystone of the arch between sense and reason. The discovery of all that is implicit in the experience of the senses had led him to deny the possibility of knowledge beyond the matter of this experience. Yet the reason has an inevitable tendency to press beyond this limit, to seek all-embracing, absolute unities,--to conceive an unconditioned totality. Thus the reason presents us with the ideas--beyond all possibility of knowledge--of the Soul, the World, and God. In the words of Kant, the Ideas of Reason lead the understanding to the consideration of Nature according to a principle of completeness, although it can never attain to this. Can there be a bridge across this abyss between sense and reason? then asks Kant; which bridge he believes himself to have found in the aesthetic faculty. For on inquiring what is involved in the judgment, "This is beautiful," he discovers that such a judgment is "universal" and "necessary," inasmuch as it implies that every normal spectator must acknowledge its validity, that it is "disinterested" because it rests on the "appearance of the object without demanding its actual existence," and that it is "immediate" or "free," as it acknowledges the object as beautiful without definite purpose, as of adaptation to use. But how does this judgment constitute the desired bond between sense and reason? Simply in that, though applied to an object of the senses, it has yet all the marks of the Idea of Reason,--it is universal, necessary, free, unconditioned; it is judged as if it were perfect, and so fulfills those demands of reason which elsewhere in the world of sense are unsatisfied.

The two important factors, then, of Kant's aesthetics are its reconciliation of sense and reason in beauty, and its reference of the "purposiveness" of beauty to the cognitive faculty.

Schiller has been given the credit of transcending Kant's "subjective" aesthetic through his emphasis on the significance of the beautiful object. It is not bound by a conception to which it must attain, so that it is perceived as if it were free. Nor do we desire the reality of it to use for ourselves or for others; so that we are free in relation to it. It, the object, is thus "the vindication of freedom in the world of phenomena," that world which is otherwise a binding necessity. But it would seem that this had been already taught by Kant himself, and that Schiller has but enlivened the subject by his two illuminating phrases, "aesthetic semblance" and the "play-impulse," to denote the real object of the aesthetic desire and the true nature of that desire; form instead of material existence, and a free attitude instead of serious purpose. Still, his insistence on Beauty as the realization of freedom may be said to have paved the way for Schelling's theory, in which the aesthetic reaches its maximum of importance.

The central thought of the Absolute Idealism of Schelling is the underlying identity of Nature and the Self. In Nature, from matter up to the organism, the objective factor predominates, or, in Schelling's phrase, the conscious self is determined by the unconscious. In morality, science, the subjective factor predominates, or the unconscious is determined by the conscious. But the work of art is a natural appearance and so unconscious, and is yet the product of a conscious activity. It gives, then, the equilibrium of the real and ideal factors,--just that repose of reconciliation or "indifference" which alone can show the Absolute. But-- and this is of immense importance for our theory--in order to explain the identity of subject and object, the Ego must have an intuition, through which, in one and the same appearance, it is in itself at once conscious and unconscious, and this condition is given in the aesthetic experience. The beautiful is thus the solution of the riddle of the universe, for it is the possibility of the explicit consciousness of the unity of Nature and the Self--or the Absolute.

So Beauty is again the pivot on which a system turns. Its place is not essentially different from that which it held in the systems of Kant and Schiller. As the objective possibility for the bridge between sense and reason, as the vindication of freedom in the phenomenal world, and as vindication of the possible unity of the real and the ideal, or nature and self, the world-elements, its philosophical significance is nearly the same.

With Hegel Beauty loses little of its commanding position. The universe is in its nature rational; Thought and Being are one. The world-process is a logical process; and nature and history, in which spirit of the world realizes itself, are but applied logic. The completely fulfilled or expressed Truth is then the concrete world-system; at the same time the life or self of the universe; the Absolute. This Hegel calls the Idea, and he defines Beauty as the expression of the Idea to sense.

This definition would seem to be as to the letter in accord with the general tendency as have already outlined. It might be said that it is but another phrasing of Schelling's thought of the Absolute as presented to the Ego in Beauty. But not so. For Schelling, the aesthetic is a schema or form,--that is, the form of balance, equilibrium, reconciliation of the rational ideal,--not a content. But Hegel's Beauty expresses the Idea by the way of information or association. That this is true any one of his traditional examples makes evident. Correggio's Madonna of the St. Sebastian is found by him inferior to the Sistine Madonna. Why? "In the first picture we have the dearest and loveliest of human relations consecrated by contrast with what is Divine. In the second picture we have the Divine relation itself, showing itself under the limitations of the human."<1> Dutch painting, he tells us, ought not to be despised; "for it is this fresh and wakeful freedom and vitality of mind in apprehension and presentation that forms the highest aspect of these pictures." And a commentator adds, "The spontaneous joy of the perfect life is figured to this lower sphere." His whole treatment of Art as a symbol confirms this view, as do all his criticisms. Art or Beauty shall reveal to our understanding the eternal Ideal.

<1> Kedney's Hegel's _Aesthetics_, 1892, p. 158.

On comparing this with what we have won from Kant, Schiller, and Schelling, the divergence becomes apparent. I have tried to show that there is no essential difference between these three either in their general view of the aesthetic experience, or in the degree of objectivity of their doctrine of Beauty. They do not contradict one another. They merely emphasize now the unity, now the reconciliation of opposites, in the aesthetic experience. The experience of the beautiful constitutes a reconciliation of the warring elements of experience, in a world in which the demands of Reason seem to conflict with the logic of events, and the beautiful object is such that it constitutes the permanent possibility for this reconciliation.

But the attempt to include Hegel within this circle reveals at once the need of further delimitation. The beautiful is to reveal, and to vindicate in revealing, the union of the world-elements, that is, the spirit of the world. On Hegel's own principles, the Idea should be "expressed to sense." Now if this expression is not, after all, directly to sense, but the sense gives merely the occasion for passing over to the thought of the Divine, it would seem that the Beauty is not after all in the work of art, but out of it. The Infinite, or the Idea, or the fusion of real and ideal, must be shown to sense.

Is there any way in which this is conceivable? We cannot completely express to sense Niagara Falls or the Jungfrau, for they are infinitely beyond the possibilities of imitation. Yet the particular contour of the Jungfrau is never mistaken in the smallest picture. In making a model of Niagara we should have to reproduce the relation between body of water, width of stream, and height of fall, and we might succeed in getting the peculiar effect of voluminousness which marks that wonder of Nature. The soaring of a lark is not like the pointing upward of a slender Gothic spire, yet there is a likeness in the attitudes with which we follow them. All these cases have certain form-qualities in common, by virtue of which they resemble each other. Now it is these very form-qualities which Kant is using when he takes the aesthetic judgment as representative of reason in the world of sense because it shows the qualities of the ideas of reason,--that is, unconditional totality or freedom. And we might, indeed, hope to "express the Idea to sense" if we could find for it a form-quality, or subjectively, in the phrase of Kant, a form of reflection.

What is the form of reflection for the Absolute, the Idea? It would appear to be a combination of Unity and Totality-- self-completeness. An object, then, which should be self- complete from all possible points of view, to which could be applied the "form of reflection" for the Absolute, would, therefore, alone truly express it, and so alone fulfill the end of Beauty. The Idea would be there in its form; it would be shown to sense, and so first full expressed.

With this important modification of Hegel's definition of Beauty, which brings it into line with the point of view already won, I believe the way is at last opened from the traditional philosophy of aesthetics to a healthy and concrete psychological theory.

But must every self-complete object give rise to the aesthetic experience? An object is absolutely self-complete only for the perceiving subject; it is so, in other words, only when it produces a self-complete experience for that subject. If reconciliation of the warring elements of the universe is the end of Beauty it must take place not for, but in, the human personality; it must not be understood, but immediately, completely experienced; it should be realized in the subject of the aesthetic experience, the lover of beauty. The beautiful object would be not that which should show in outline form, or remind of, this Unity of the World, but which should create for the subject the moment of self- completeness; which should inform the aesthetic subject with


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