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J. S. Gushing & Co. Berwick & Smith.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.





ONE of the kindly critics of my book
on Pain, Pleasure, and ^Esthetics has com-
pared the task of its reading with the effort
required in walking over a ploughed field after
a heavy rain ; although in the end, I am
glad to say, he finds the labour healthful, and
looks back upon the effort with pleasure. I
have thought it worth while to try to show
to such readers a way across this ploughed
field which will not involve so much arduous
labour on their part; and I think this pos-
sible because the explorer of a field is often
able to guide others with ease in a path
already trodden and therefore familiar, being
able in places to take a straighter course
than that at first necessary, because it is no
longer needful to search for the path.


In this small volume I do not attempt to
cover the whole subject discussed in my
former work above referred to ; but I do
attempt to sketch out the results which are
of greatest interest and of most practical
value in reference to the study of ^Esthetics.

If this book meet the eye of some scientific
psychologist, I must beg him to remember
that it is written for less critical readers, and
that I have at times, in the interests of clear-
ness, abandoned the strictest accuracy in ver-
bal expression where this accuracy would have
involved too technical a phraseology. I must
beg him to judge me rather by my larger

The reader who is not a psychologist may
find the second chapter tedious ; if so, it may
be passed over without loss of the drift of
the argument so far as it relates to aesthetic
problems; still, I hope he will not pass it
over without a trial.

This book, already under consideration,
was hastened to completion in consequence


of the kind request by the Trustees of Colum-
bia College, New York, that I deliver a course
of lectures upon the subject of ^Esthetics
under their auspices. The reader who hap-
pens to have been present at those lectures,
delivered during November and December,
1894, will notice that the substance of them
is contained in the pages that follow, al-
though the topics are here somewhat differ-
ently arranged and are more fully treated.

NEW YOBK, February, 1895.





The Field of Esthetics.



Pleasure and Pain.



The Art Instinct.



Esthetic Standards.





Negative Principles.



Positive Principles.

INDEX , 199



'ft. The Field of Esthetics.

THE word " Esthetics " is one which is to
be used, in what follows, with a very broad
signification, to refer to the whole realm of
Beauty. Judged etymologically, the word
might seem properly to have a somewhat
narrower meaning than that which we thus
give to it, for it was derived by Baumgarten
from the Greek CUO-^TIKO?, meaning appre-
hended by the senses ; and it was used by him
to describe the Beautiful as a whole, only
because he thought the Beautiful could be
explained in some manner as arising from


the obscure perception of sense impressions
or of the relations between them. Although
his narrow view must be discarded, the word
has become so firmly fixed with the broader
meaning that there is no reason why it should
not be used, as it is employed very generally
to-day, and as we shall here use it, to indi-
cate the whole field of Beauty.

^Esthetics, then, is the science of the
Beautiful; and during the whole of this
study we must not allow ourselves to forget
this broad meaning attached to the word.
It is meant to cover not only Beauty proper,
but also the Sublime and the Ludicrous,
which are states sometimes separated en-
tirely from Beauty, although generally ac-
knowledged to be closely allied to it. As
the mental effects of the Sublime and Ludi-
crous are more evanescent than those pro-
duced by what we call the Beautiful, we shall
naturally find ourselves discussing almost en-
tirely the problems of Beauty proper.

^Esthetics, too, must take account of the


Beautiful in nature as well as in the works
of man ; for the thrill with which each affects
us is the same. This is recognized unwit-
tingly in the habitual emphasis of the imita-
tion of nature in the practical work of the
artists and in the teaching of many philo-
sophical writers from Aristotle's l time to this
day. But there is a tendency, of late espe-
cially, to speak of art and of its beauties
apart from the beauties in nature, a mode
of thought too likely to carry one into dis-
cussions about special skill, or to limit ones
view by an emphasis of some special art
which is held to be higher than another.
The hierarchy of the arts is a matter to be
determined finally by metaphysical condi-
tions, and one with which we need not con-
cern ourselves here. For us, in this our
most general view, separation of the arts is
altogether out of place ; all of them must be

1 M. Bosanquet thinks this emphasis of Imitation is not
properly attributed to Aristotle, as is done by many of his


gathered together without exclusion of any
one, and their effects must be considered in
conjunction with the effects produced by
nature in bringing to us the impression of

The reader then will find me using the
words "^Esthetics" and "Beauty" and " Art"
and "Artist" in the widest possible way. Even
if we ourselves get no aesthetic delight from a
given impression, we must take it for granted
that the impression is aesthetic for others, if
they tell us that the object considered is
beautiful for them, either by speech or in
other mode than speech, viz., by their action
in relation to it. The word "Art" is com-
monly used to cover the whole realm of aes-
thetic endeavour, and I know of no other word
as good as "Artist," that can be used to indi-
cate the aesthetic worker in each and all of
the varied fields in which beauty is of mo-
ment. I shall use the word thus although it
is often employed to refer to painters and
draughtsmen only.


So much for our broad use of terms. Now
let us take a different standpoint ; let us con-
sider a distinction which seems to me to be
of importance.

There are two ways in which we may
look upon aesthetic problems ; - we may con-
sider, first, the nature of the impression made
upon the observer, and, second, the nature
of the instinct that leads to the production
of the art-work.

In my study of what has bees done in
the past by thoughtful men in this depart-
ment, I find, very frequently, obscurities of
one kind or another which seem to me to
be caused by the failure to distinguish be-
tween these two ways of looking at the sub-
ject that we -have before us.

We have, then, two different standpoints:
first, the " Observer's Standpoint," relating
to the field of Impression, and, second, the
"Artist's Standpoint," which deals with the
Art Instinct. In one sense the " Observer's
Standpoint" is of wider interest than the


"Artist's Standpoint,", because the former
brings us into direct communion with na-
ture, which we have seen furnishes us so
important ,4f part of our aesthetic field^
wMlst the latter, the view which em-
phasizes the impulse to creative work in
art, is bound to nature less directly, but on
the other hand gains in width and impor-
tance in that it cannot be cut away alto-
gether from the " Observer's Standpoint " ;
for the artist must alternately follow his
creative instinct and become the observer and
critic of his own work.

In this chapter we shall take the stand-

yj(_**V "

point of the observer; we shall consider
Beauty as impressing itself upon us, and
we shall ask what are the characteristics
which produce this effective impression.

As soon as man learns to feel the value of
beauty in nature and in art, he is most nat-
urally led to consider the aesthetic failure of
the great mass of objects that surround him.


As naturally does he long to find some means
by which he may infuse this loved beauty
into his surroundings; some principle by the
application of wtyich he may destroy ugliness ;
for how glorious, how noble, it would be, will
he say, could all things that impress us be
beautiful whichever way we turn !

So it happens that we find thinkers from
the earliest times making research for the
principles of beauty. Few persons, indeed,
who have not undertaken the serious study
of Esthetics from a historical standpoint
have any notion of the enormous amount
of human thought of the higher type that
has been given to this subject. And
surely we may look forward with keen-
est anticipation to a renewal of the quest.
For if the pathway of our predecessors be
filled with signs of failure, surely the end
to which we strive is shown to be worthy
of our labour by the large number of impor-
tant thinkers who have turned their atten-
tion to strictly aesthetic problems.


It is most natural for man, when attention
is first given to such a problem as the one we
are to consider, to turn to the objects which
are impressing him, and to seek for some
special characteristic in the objects them-
selves, some objective quality, which shall
account for the special impression gained.

To explain what I mean, let: t suppose
that we had discovered that many beauti-
ful objects were round; and had concluded
that roundness was the element essential to
beauty. This, of course, is not true ; but if
it were true we should have in roundness
what I speak of here as an objective quality ;
we always think of roundness as inhering in
objects ; we project roundness into the outer
world of objective things. To attempt to
identify beauty with some one or more such
objective qualities is, I say, in line with the
most natural movement of thought ; for we
all have an inveterate habit of objectifying
every mental state.

The Greek philosophers had but begun to


see dimly the subjective aspect of things; and
it is not surprising to find that Aristotle
recorded a list of objective qualities, such as
order, symmetry, a certain magnitude, upon
which he made the beautiful dependent. It
is evident, however, upon the most superficial
view, that beauty, in the wider sense in which
we are considering it, cannot be bound within
any such narrow limits. Few other thinkers
have dared to list the qualities of the object
which determined its beauty ; but this is, in
my opinion, not because the method has not
occurred to them, but because they have be-
come so soon convinced of the futility of the
attempt to gain satisfactory result by this

The most persuasive effort in the direction
of objective observation is that made by the
Idealist philosophers, who claim to find in
beautiful objects some fixed Universal or
Absolute which determines its beauty. This
view has held strongly from Plato's time to
our own ; but the great difficulty in the way


of the acceptance of any of the many sug-
gested schemes of Absolute or Universal Es-
thetics is that they one and all fail to account
for those differences of standard which have
led the bewildered man to cry de gustibus non
est disputandum,

If there be a fixed Universal or Absolute
Beauty, we may well ask, How does it happen
that you and I do not both see it in the same
object? Is this due, as Bergmann has sug-
gested, to real differences in the object seen,
which we mistakenly think to be alike for
each of us ? Then surely we .have gained no
fundamental principle.

Is it due to differences of our own develop-
ment, as Lotze held ; so that you, my reader,
see a beauty in an object that I, in my less
developed condition, cannot grasp ? This will
indeed enable us to account for more or less
of beauty, in proportion to our state of devel-
opment ; but not, so far as I can see, for the
fact that what I in my childhood held to be
beautiful, I now find to be positively ugly;

':. r~

- CtfYTM,-*^


nor for the fact that what I call beautiful
in my less developed state, you with your
higher cultivation find to be distinctly bad in
aesthetic quality, the object thus not merely
lacking something of a special characteristic,
but really possessing its opposite.

There is another difficulty about this notion
a fixed Absolute of beauty ; viz., that it
fails to make comprehensible the 'fact which
is well recognized, that some men who are
very sensitive to art in some of its develop-
ments are utterly incapable of appreciating
its glories in other developments of a diverse
kind. The musician perhaps cares little for
paintings; the sculptor perhaps nothing for
music But if beauty were a fixed objective
thing that we were striving to reach, or to
gain a glimpse of, then if the glimpse were
obtained in the direction of the development
of one art, there seems to be no reason why
the capacity to recognize this beauty in con-
nection with other arts should, in any case,
be lacking.


Now there is no objection to the objective
view itself, and we might well adopt it, if it
led us anywhere ; but investigations on this
line have failed us in the past, and there
seems little reason to hope that they will aid
us greatly in the future ; and, in truth, the
beautiful is too egotistic, too clearly beautiful
for me, to be considered as inhering in the
object itself, and I wish now to ask the reader
to turn to the subjective view: to consider
his or her mental experience at the moment
when he or she is impressed by the beauty of
an object.

Of subjective views there are many; theo-
ries dependent upon attempts to analyze the
special state of mind into which we are thrown
as we contemplate a work of art or some beau-
tiful object in nature.

There have been men who have emphasized
the importance of the kind of sensations re-
ceived when we are thus impressed. Of
Baumgarten we have spoken. In our genera-
tion Grant Allen stands as the special expo-



nent of such doctrine There have been men
who have emphasized the strictly emotional
conditions aroused during the impression ; e.g.,
Alison, James Mill, Burke, Guyau. There
have been others without number who have
thought that the intellectual forms- of mental
life arising as the result of the impression,
were all important. Rationalism and for-
malism have developed into mysticism ; which
is itself a form of aesthetic experience, that
leads one to cling blindly to the doctrines
involved even if their ground be shown

to be inadequate.
We cannot stop here to examine these

doctrines\JLn detail. The interested reader
may refer to my fuller work, Pain, Pleas-
ure, and ^Esthetics, for discussion of these
special theories. I think it is there shown
that they all fail in their attempts at limi-
tation ; and it is generally agreed to-day by
the best thinkers that all elements of our
mental life, whether sensational, or emotional,
or intellectual, or of will, are exercised in the

^f t "


state of miricl which, gives us the notion of
the beautiful. This implies that there is
some common subjective quality attachable
to all these mental states which is of the
very essence of aesthetic phenomena

To indicate what I mean, let us suppose
that we had noticed that a certain grade of
intensity of Sensation was always beautiful,
and that we had extended this thought to
Emotion, Intellect, and Will. Then we should
be able to claim that intensity was of the
essence of beauty. Of course this is not
true ; but if it were, we should here have
the essence of beauty placed in a subjective
quality ; for intensity is clearly not in the
object (although its cause may be), but it is
distinctly in us. Now such a quality as we
are in search of I think we have in pleasure,
which is clearly a subjective quality, and one
that is attached to Sensation, to Emotion, to
Intellect, and to Will. To this special char-
acteristic of the aesthetic mental impression
I wish now to draw the reader's particular


Thinkers of varied . authority and of all
schools, from Aristotle down, have acknowl-
edged explicitly or implicitly the connection
between beauty and pleasure. Indeed, we
might consider this a commonplace but for
the- fact that we find doubt in the matter
in the minds of many art workers, and
theoretical opposition on the part of certain
formalistic thinkers who distinctly deny the
importance of the connection : Von Hart-
man, for instance, takes this position. On
the other hand, it is not difficult to find au-
thorities from Epicurus to Hume whose state-
ments may be interpreted as decisive expres-
sions of the view for which I argue; and
there are some few men, the noted Fechner
for example, who distinctly base ^Esthetics
upon the science of pleasure. But at the
very beginning of this consideration, from
the hedonic standpoint, we -are met by the
evident fact that, while all aesthetic phenom-
ena are pleasurable, not all pleasures are
held to be aesthetic. It seems, therefore, that


it will be necessary for us to indicate the
special kinds of pleasures which are aesthetic,
if we are to make pleasure fundamental to
Esthetics ; if we are to treat the science of
the beautiful as a branch of hedonics, the
science of pleasure. The problem before us
then may be stated in the form of this ques-
tion: What are the bounds of the aesthetic
within the hedonic field ?

We must, however, avoid making too much
of the separation of which we have just been
speaking : the distinctions, indeed, are too
easily emphasized, and the connections too
often lost sight of by theoretical writers.
But if one examine the literary work of art
critics, and the more or less philosophic and
scientific writings that deal with the facts
of Esthetics rather than its theory, one will
find little more than descriptions of pleasure-
getting coupled with attempts to arrange
this pleasure-getting in a logical way. If,
on the other hand, one examine the writings
of those who have studied most closely the


psychology of pleasure, he will find aesthetic,
phenomena treated altogether as the best
recognized data of the science of pleasure,
exactly as the simplest sense-pleasures are
used. Evidently then it is the connection
between the two sets of phenomena that we
must ever bear in mind throughout what
follows. A suggestive argument in favour of
this connection is "found if we consider any
average complex aesthetic object, which, if
we notice its characteristics with care, we
find to be very wide in its effects upon us,
and yet embodying certain special elements
that appear emphatically pleasant. If now
we eliminate in thought the pleasurable
elements one by one, we find that while in
the main the object does not change its mass,
its aesthetic quality gradually disappears.
We may acknowledge still that the object
has a right to be named aesthetic, because of
the opinions of others and because of our
own judgments in the past ; but for our-
selves, at the time, it has lost all that makes


it worthy of being called by so honourable
a name. We are all familiar with the fact
that an object which but a moment ago was
aesthetic for us, may become unsesthetic by
the degradation into indifference or positive
painfulness of the special elements which
were giving us pleasure. The suggestion of
a painful association with some essential
element in an art complex will for all time
reduce for us the aesthetic value of the whole
form. I One special mountain of great natural
charm has lost for me all of its impressive-
ness, because a light-hearted companion once
compared its autumn colouring with that of
"corned-beef hash." It is by a similar proc-
ess that the average art critic makes and
unmakes aesthetic objects for the masses :
degrading one object of real merit by ridi-
cule, always thereafter to be associated with
it ; giving a fallacious value to another by
the unmerited praise lavished upon it.

It thus appears- very clear, I think, that
the state of aesthetic impression is most
closely bound to the state of pleasure.


But if the connection be so intimate, and
the aesthetic be no more than a part of the
pleasure-field, one would say on the spur of
the moment that it should be no difficult ^ oJU/Mi
task, in some rough way, to mark off that
pa*fc> of thu liuld which is aesthetic from that
which is not. The task, however, is not
nearly so easy as we expect to find it.

In my larger work I have shown that we
cannot separate the aesthetic by the cutting
off of sensational pleasures, a view held by
no less an authority than Kant, but opposed
by other eminently authoritative observers,
e.g., Lotze and Lipps. In fact, there is no at-
tempt whatever to cut off any but the so-
called " lower pleasures," and these, after all,
are judged by ethical, and not by hedonic

Nor can we cut off the emotional nor the
intellectual; nor again the active pleasures,
as Grant Allen would have us do; nor can
we limit the aesthetic to pleasures of a moral
or spiritual type ; nor to those attendant upon


the use of the imagination. Neither will
limitations to immediacy of pleasure effect,
nor to width of pleasurable impression, suffice
us. All of these theories have been advanced
and stoutly defended, but have shown fatal
weaknesses upon close examination.

We are brought, indeed, to see that in aes-
thetic impressions there are no pleasures
whatever that cannot become part and parcel
of the pleasurable aesthetic effect. The ordi-
nary use of language confirms this view, for
notice how freely we use the word "beautiful"
to describe the most commonplace of pleas-
ures. The child calls his sweets beautiful.
The schoolgirl talks of having a "beautiful
time " at an entertainment, and the patholo-
gist speaks of a beautiful preparation of some
cancerous tissue. The Germans use " schon "
in much the same way ; and so it is with the
more varied expressions used by the French-

Now if no pleasure of impression can be
cut away from the rest and held to be non-


aesthetic, then it is apparent that the dis-
tinction between non-aesthetic pleasures and
aesthetic pleasures cannot arise by difference
between pleasures in impression, but must
arise in the process of judging about them ;
in other words, it is only when we come to
ask ourselves whether some special impres-
sion that we call a pleasure is aesthetic or
not, that we find ourselves making the dis-
tinction between the two fields in an act of
judgment. / This is an important distinction
and must not be lost sight of ; we shall refer
to it again. ^ ^

But at this point I wish to refer to
one special emphasis considered in the first
part of this chapter. We there observed
that a very large number of authoritative
thinkers, not to speak of lesser lights, have
looked upon beauty as an objective quality;
as something fixed; an Absolute or Univer-
sal. This they could not have done had they
not in introspection found an appearance of


stability, of fixity, in connection with aesthetic
phenomena ; and the question at once arises,
may not the difference between non-aesthetic
and aesthetic pleasures be determined by the
permanence of those which are called aesthetic.

But this can scarcely be true, for pleas-
ures are notably evanescent, and we all recog-
nize this fact. From childhood to mature

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