Aesthetical and Philosophical Essays Part II

Displaying 1 - 18 of 18
Category: Note
The praiseworthy object of pursuing everywhere moral good as the supreme aim, which has already brought forth in art so much mediocrity, has caused also in theory a similar prejudice. To assign to the fine arts a really elevated position, to conciliate for them the favor of the State, the veneration of all men, they are pushed beyond their due domain, and a vocation is imposed upon them contrary to their nature. It is supposed that a great service is awarded to them by substituting for a frivolous aim—that of charming—a moral aim; and their influence upon morality, which is ...
Category: Philosophy
All the properties by which an object can become aesthetic, can be referred to four classes, which, as well according to their objective differences as according to their different relation with the subject, produce on our passive and active faculties pleasures unequal not only in intensity but also in worth; classes which also are of an unequal use for the end of the fine arts: they are the agreeable, the good, the sublime, and the beautiful. Of these four categories, the sublime and the beautiful only belong properly to art. The agreeable is not worthy of art, and the good ...
Category: Philosophy
When the poet opposes nature to art, and the ideal to the real, so that nature and the ideal form the principal object of his pictures, and that the pleasure we take in them is the dominant impression, I call him an elegiac poet. In this kind, as well as in satire, I distinguish two classes. Either nature and the ideal are objects of sadness, when one is represented as lost to man and the other as unattained; or both are objects of joy, being represented to us as reality. In the first case it is elegy in the narrower ...
Category: Philosophy
It remains for me to say a few words about this third kind of sentimental poetry—some few words and no more, for I propose to speak of it at another time with the developments particularly demanded by the theme. This kind of poetry generally presents the idea and description of an innocent and happy humanity. This innocence and bliss seeming remote from the artificial refinements of fashionable society, poets have removed the scene of the idyl from crowds of worldly life to the simple shepherd's cot, and have given it a place in the infancy of humanity before the beginning ...
Category: Philosophy
Whatever pains some modern aesthetics give themselves to establish, contrary to general belief, that the arts of imagination and of feeling have not pleasure for their object, and to defend them against this degrading accusation, this belief will not cease: it reposes upon a solid foundation, and the fine arts would renounce with a bad grace the beneficent mission which has in all times been assigned to them, to accept the new employment to which it is generously proposed to raise them. Without troubling themselves whether they lower themselves in proposing our pleasure as object, they become rather proud of ...
Category: Philosophy
As grace is the expression of a noble soul, so is dignity the expression of elevated feeling. It has been prescribed to man, it is true, to establish between his two natures a unison, to form always an harmonious whole, and to act as in union with his entire humanity. But this beauty of character, this last fruit of human maturity, is but an ideal to which he ought to force his conformity with a constant vigilance, but to which, with all his efforts, he can never attain. He cannot attain to it because his nature is thus made and ...
Category: Philosophy
The Greek fable attributes to the goddess of beauty a wonderful girdle which has the quality of lending grace and of gaining hearts in all who wear it. This same divinity is accompanied by the Graces, or goddesses of grace. From this we see that the Greeks distinguished from beauty grace and the divinities styled the Graces, as they expressed the ideas by proper attributes, separable from the goddess of beauty. All that is graceful is beautiful, for the girdle of love winning attractions is the property of the goddess of Cnidus; but all beauty is not of necessity grace, ...
Category: Philosophy
There are moments in life when nature inspires us with a sort of love and respectful emotion, not because she is pleasing to our senses, or because she satisfies our mind or our taste (it is often the very opposite that happens), but merely because she is nature. This feeling is often elicited when nature is considered in her plants, in her mineral kingdom, in rural districts; also in the case of human nature, in the case of children, and in the manners of country people and of the primitive races. Every man of refined feeling, provided he has a ...
Category: Philosophy
The abuse of the beautiful and the encroachments of imagination, when, having only the casting vote, it seeks to grasp the law-giving sceptre, has done great injury alike in life and in science. It is therefore highly expedient to examine very closely the bounds that have been assigned to the use of beautiful forms. These limits are embodied in the very nature of the beautiful, and we have only to call to mind how taste expresses its influence to be able to determine how far it ought to extend it. The following are the principal operations of taste; to bring ...
Category: Philosophy
"Man is never obliged to say, I must—must," says the Jew Nathan [Lessing's play, "Nathan the Wise," act i. scene 3.] to the dervish; and this expression is true in a wider sense than man might be tempted to suppose. The will is the specific character of man, and reason itself is only the eternal rule of his will. All nature acts reasonably; all our prerogative is to act reasonably, with consciousness and with will. All other objects obey necessity; man is the being who wills. It is exactly for this reason that there is nothing more inconsistent with the ...
Category: Philosophy
The state of passion in itself, independently of the good or bad influence of its object on our morality, has something in it that charms us. We aspire to transport ourselves into that state, even if it costs us some sacrifices. You will find this instinct at the bottom of all our most habitual pleasures. As to the nature itself of the affection, whether it be one of aversion or desire, agreeable or painful, this is what we take little into consideration. Experience teaches us that painful affections are those which have the most attraction for us, and thus that ...
Category: Philosophy
I call vulgar (common) all that does not speak to the mind, of which all the interest is addressed only to the senses. There are, no doubt, an infinite number of things vulgar in themselves from their material and subject. But as the vulgarity of the material can always be ennobled by the treatment, in respect of art the only question is that relating to the vulgarity in form. A vulgar mind will dishonor the most noble matter by treating it in a common manner. A great and noble mind, on the contrary, will ennoble even a common matter, and ...
Category: Philosophy
The poet is a satirist when he takes as subject the distance at which things are from nature, and the contrast between reality and the ideal: as regards the impression received by the soul, these two subjects blend into the same. In the execution, he may place earnestness and passion, or jests and levity, according as he takes pleasure in the domain of the will or in that of the understanding. In the former case it is avenging and pathetic satire; in the second case it is sportive, humorous, and mirthful satire. Properly speaking, the object of poetry is not ...
Category: Philosophy
I have previously remarked that the poet is nature, or he seeks nature. In the former case, he is a simple poet, in the second case, a sentimental poet. The poetic spirit is immortal, nor can it disappear from humanity; it can only disappear with humanity itself, or with the aptitude to be a man, a human being. And actually, though man by the freedom of his imagination and of his understanding departs from simplicity, from truth, from the necessity of nature, not only a road always remains open to him to return to it, but, moreover, a powerful and ...
Category: Note
To the mass the sublimest and highest is only exaggeration, because sublimity is perceived by reason, and all men have not the same share of it. A vulgar soul is oppressed or overstretched by those sublime ideas, and the crowd sees dreadful disorder where a thinking mind sees the highest order.
Category: Philosophy
The author of the article which appeared in the eleventh number of "The Hours," of 1795, upon "The Danger of Aesthetic Manners," was right to hold as doubtful a morality founded only on a feeling for the beautiful, and which has no other warrant than taste; but it is evident that a strong and pure feeling for the beautiful ought to exercise a salutary influence upon the moral life; and this is the question of which I am about to treat. When I attribute to taste the merit of contributing to moral progress, it is not in the least my ...
Category: Philosophy
The depicting of suffering, in the shape of simple suffering, is never the end of art, but it is of the greatest importance as a means of attaining its end. The highest aim of art is to represent the super-sensuous, and this is effected in particular by tragic art, because it represents by sensible marks the moral man, maintaining himself in a state of passion, independently of the laws of nature. The principle of freedom in man becomes conscious of itself only by the resistance it offers to the violence of the feelings. Now the resistance can only be measured ...
Category: Philosophy
Sulzer has remarked that the stage has arisen from an irresistible longing for the new and extraordinary. Man, oppressed by divided cares, and satiated with sensual pleasure, felt an emptiness or want. Man, neither altogether satisfied with the senses, nor forever capable of thought, wanted a middle state, a bridge between the two states, bringing them into harmony. Beauty and aesthetics supplied that for him. But a good lawgiver is not satisfied with discovering the bent of his people— he turns it to account as an instrument for higher use; and hence he chose the stage, as giving nourishment to ...