Mo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint Louis.

Congress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 online

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can arouse in a special manner the sense of beauty, and can bring to
us a form of aesthetic delight which no other art can as well give.

Poetry has long been written which is not to be sung; and it has
gained much in freedom of development in that fact.

Music in our modern times is composed by the greatest masters
for its own intrinsic worth, and not as of old as a mere accompani-



430 ESTHETICS

ment of the spoken word of the poet; the existence of the works
of Bach, to mention no others, tells of the value of this differentiation.

And here I think we may apply with justice the principle of criticism
above presented. The poet and the musician each do their best work,
other things being equal, when they emphasize the forms of beauty
which their several arts alone can give. We have here in my view
a rational ground for the repulsion many of us feel for the so-called
"programme music" of our day.

Music and literature of the highest types nowadaj^s present
sources of beauty of very diverse character, and any effort to make
one subsidiary to the other is likely to lessen the aesthetic worth of
each, and of the combination.

Here again I may say that I have no objection to raise to a recom-
bination of the arts of hearing, provided a fuller sense of beauty
can thereby be reached. But this recombination becomes year by
3^ear more difficult as the several arts become more clearly differen-
tiated, and must in my view soon reach its limit.

The opera of to-day attempts such a recombination, but does so
either to the detriment of the musical or of the literary constituent ;
that is clear when we consider the musical ineptitude of such operas
as deal with a finely developed drama, and the literary crudeness of
the plot-interest in Wagner's very best works. Such a consideration
makes very clear to us how much each of the great divisions of the
arts of hearing has gained by their differentiation, and by their inde-
pendent development.

Here as with the arts of sight we may, in my view, hope for
better aesthetic results from the development of each of the differ-
entiated arts in conjunction; rather from the persistent attempt to
recombine them, with the almost certain result that the aesthetic
value of each will be reduced.

h

But aesthetics demands more of philosophy than an account of the
genesis of art, with all the valuable lessons that this involves. It de-
mands, rightly, that it be given a place of honor in any system which
claims to give us a rationalized scheme of the universe of experience.

The sesthetician tells the philosopher that he cannot but ask
himself what significance a3sthetic facts have for his pluralism, or
for his monism. He claims that this question is too often overlooked
entirely or too lightly considered; but that it must be satisfactorily
answered if the system-maker is to find acceptance of his view.
And in the attempt to answer this and kindred questions, the aesthet-
ician is not without hope that no inconsiderable light may be thrown
by the philosopher upon the solution of the problems of aesthetics
itself.



THE RELATIONS OF ESTHETICS 431

Nor are the problems of aesthetics without relation to pure meta-
physic. The existence of aesthetic standards must be considered by
the metaphysician, and these standards, with those of logic and ethics,
must be treated by him as data for the study of ontological
problems.

But beyond this, eesthetics cries out for special aid from the
ontologist. What, he asks, is the significance of our standards of
aesthetic appreciation? What the inner nature of that which we call
the real of beauty? What its relation with the real of goodness
and the real of truth?

From a practical standpoint this last-mentioned question is of
special import at this time. For the world of art has for centuries
been torn asunder by the contention of the aesthetic realists and their
opponents.

That, in its real essence, beauty is truth, and truth beauty, is
a claim which has often been, and is still heard; and it is a claim
which must finally be adjudicated by the metaphysician who deals
with the nature of the real. *

The practical importance of the solution of this problem is brought
home forcibly to those who, like myself, seem to see marked aesthetic
deterioration in the work of those artists who have been led to listen
to the claims of aesthetic realism; who learn to strive for the expres-
sion of truth, thinking thus certainly to gain beauty.

That many great artists have announced themselves as aesthetic
realists shows how powerfully the claims of the doctrine appeal to
them. But one who studies the artistic work of Leonardo, for in-
stance, cannot but believe that he was a great artist notwithstanding
his theoretical belief, and cannot but believe that all others of his
way of thinking, so far as they are artists, are such because in them
genius has overridden their dogmatic thought.

It is clearly not without significance that the world of values is
by common consent held to be covered by the categories of the True,
the Good, and the Beautiful. This common consent seems surely
to imply that each of the three is independent of the other two,
although all are bound together in one group. And if this is true, then
the claim of the aesthetic realist can surely not be correct.

But this claim will not be overthrown by any reference to such
a generalization as that above mentioned. The claim of the aesthetic
realist is based upon what he feels to be clear evidence founded upon
experience; and he cannot be answered unless we are able to show
him what is the basis for his ready conviction that truth and beauty
are one and identical; and what is the true relation between the
True, the Good, and the Beautiful. And these problems, which are
in our day of vital importance to the artist, the philosopher alone
can answer.



432 ESTHETICS

In my view some aid in the solution of this problem may be gained
from the examination of the meaning of our terms. From this study
I feel convinced that we must hold that when we speak of the True,
and the Good, and the Beautiful, as mutually exclusive as above,
we use the term " true " in a narrow sense. On the other hand, the
True is often used in a broader sense, as equivalent to the Real.

This being so we may say

That the Beautiful is the Real as discovered in the world of im-
pression; the relatively permanent pleasure which gives us the sense
of beauty being the most stable characteristic of those parts of the
field of impression which interest us we may also assent

That the Good is the Real as discovered in the world of expression,
that is, of impulse, which is due to the inhibited capacity for expres-
sion, and the reaction of the self in its efforts to break down the
inhibition. And in the same way we may conclude

That the True (using the term in the narrow sense) is the Real
as discovered in the realm of experience exclusive of impression or
expression.



The Real

or
The True
(in the broad sense
of the term)



a. The Real of Impression — The Beautiful

/3. The Real of Expression — The Good

y. The Real in realms — The True

exclusive of a and fi (in the narrower

sense of the term)



That the Beautiful is part of the Real, that is, is always the
True, using the term true in the broader sense, is not questioned: and
that, in my view, is the theoretical truth recognized by the aesthetic
realists. But in practice the sesthetic realist maintains that the
beautiful is always the true, using the term true in the narrow sense,
and in this, in my view, lies his error.

And if the relation of the beautiful to the true demands the
attention of the philosopher, equally so does the relation of the
beautiful to the good. As I look upon it, all of the true (using the
term as above explained in the narrow sense) and all of the good,
so far as either involve relatively permanent pleasure of impression,
are possible elements of beauty. But, on the other hand, it seems clear
that neither the true (still using the term in the narrower sense) , nor
the good, is necessarily pleasing, but may be unpleasant, and there-
fore either of them may be an element of ugliness, and as such must
lose all possibility of becoming an element in the beautiful.

One further word, in closing, upon the closely allied question as
to the nature of worth-values. There is a worth-value involved
in the Good, and a worth-value involved in the True, and a worth-



THE RELATIONS OF ^ESTHETICS 433

value involved in the Beautiful: and each of these worth- values
in itself seems to be involved with pleasure-getting. Now if this is
the case, then, under the theory I uphold, any worth- value should be
a possible aesthetic element, and this I think it will be granted is
true. But the distinctions between these worth-values are on differ-
ent planes, as it were. In the case of the worth-value of the Good,
we appreciate the worth-pleasure within the realm of the Ileal of
Expression, that is, of impulse. In the case of the worth-value of the
True (in the narrow sense) , we appreciate the worth-pleasure within
the realm of the Real in other fields than that of expression or that
of impression. In the case of the worth-value of the Beautiful, we
appreciate the worth-pleasure within the realm of the Real of Im-
pression; that is, we appreciate, with pleasure, the significance for
life of the existence of relatively permanent pleasure in and for
itself.



THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF CONTEMPORARY

AESTHETICS

BY MAX DESSOIR
{Translated from the German by Miss Ethel D. Puffer, Cambridge, Mass.)

[Max Dessoir, Professor of Philosophy, University of Berhn, since 1897. b.
1867, Berhn, Germany. Ph.D. Berhn, 1889; M.D. Wurzburg, 1892. Pri-
vat-docent. University of Berhn, 1892-97. Member German Psychological
Society, Society for Psychical Research, London. Author of The Double Ego;
History of theNew German Psychology ; Philosophical Reader; Msihetiku. All-
gemeine Kunstwissenschaft ; and many other works and papers on philosophy.]



In the development which our science has undergone, from its
inception up to the present day, one thought has held a central
place, — that aesthetic enjoyment and production, beauty and art,
are inseparably allied. The subject-matter of this science is held to
be, though varied, of a unitary character. Art is considered as the
representation of the beautiful, which comes to pass out of an aes-
thetic state or condition, and is experienced in a similar attitude; the
science which deals with these two psychical states, with the beau-
tiful and its modifications, and with art in its varieties, is, inasmuch
as it constitutes a unity, designated by the single name of aesthetics.

The critical thought of the present day is, however, beginning to
question whether the beautiful, the aesthetic, and art stand to one
another in a relation that can be termed almost an identity. The
undivided sway of the beautiful has already been assailed. Since
art includes the tragic and the comic, the graceful and the sublime,
and even the ugly, and since aesthetic pleasure can attach itself to
all these categories, it is clear that by "the beautiful" something
narrower must be meant than the artistically and aesthetically
valuable. Yet beauty might still constitute the end and aim and
central point of art, and it might be that the other categories but
denote the way to beauty — beauty in a state of becoming, as it
were.

But even this view, which sees in beauty the real content of art,
and the central object of aesthetic experiences, is open to serious
question. It is confronted with the fact, above all, that the beauty
enjoyed in life and that enjoyed in art are not the same. The artist's
copy of the beauty of nature takes on a quite new character. Solid
objects in space become in painting fiat pictures, the existent is in
poetry transformed into matter of speech; and in every realm is a



THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF ESTHETICS 435

like metamorphosis. The subjective impression might indeed be sup-
posed to remain the same, in spite of objective differentiations. But
even that is not the case. Living human beauty — an acknowledged
passport for its possessor — speaks to all our senses; it often stirs
sex-feeling in however delicate and scarce conscious a way; it
involuntarily influences our actions. On the other hand, there hangs
about the marble statue of a naked human being an atmosphere
of coolness in which we do not consider whether we are looking
upon man or woman: even the most beauteous body is enjoyed as
sexless shape, like the beauty of a landscape or a melody. To
the aesthetic impression of the forest belongs its aromatic fragrance,
to the impression of tropical vegetation its glowing heat, while
from the enjoyment of art the sensations of the lower senses are
barred. In return for what is lost, as it were, art-enjoyment involves
pleasure in the personality of the artist, and in his power to over-
come difficulties, and in the same way many other elements of pleas-
ure, which are never produced by natural beauty. Accordingly,
what we call beautiful in art must be distinguished from what goes
by that name in life, both as regards the object and the subjective
impression.

Another point, too, appears from our examples. Assuming that
we may call the pure, pleasurable contemplation of actual things
and events aesthetic, — and what reason against it could be adduced
from common usage ? — it is thus clear that the circle of the aesthetic
is wider than the field of art. Our admiring and adoring self-abandon-
ment to nature-beauties bears all the marks of the aesthetic attitude,
and needs for all that no connection with art. Further: in all in-
tellectual and social spheres a part of the productive energy expresses
itself in aesthetic forms; these products, which are not works of art,
are yet aesthetically enjoyed. As numberless facts of daily experience
show us that taste can develop and become effective independently
of art, we must then concede to the sphere of the aesthetic a wider
circumference than that of art.

This is not to maintain that the circle of art is a narrow section of
a large field. On the contrary, the aesthetic principle does not by
any means exhaust the content and purpose of that realm of human
production which taken together we call "art." Every true work of
art is extraordinarily complex in its motives and its effects; it arises
not alone from the free play of aesthetic impulse, and aims at more
than pure beauty — at more than aesthetic pleasure. The desires
and energies in which art is grounded are in no way fulfilled by
the serene satisfaction which is the traditional criterion of the aes-
thetic impression, as of the aesthetic object. In reality the arts
have a function in intellectual and social life, through which they are
closely bound up with all our knowing and willing.



436 ESTHETICS

It is, therefore, the duty of a general science of art to take account
of the broad facts of art in all its relations. ^Esthetics is not capable
of this task, if it is to have a determined, self-complete, and clearly
bounded content. We may no longer obliterate the differences
between the two disciplines, but must rather so sharply separate
them by ever finer distinctions that the really existent connections
become clear. The first step thereto has been taken by Hugo Spitzer.
The relation of earlier to current views is comparable to that between
materialism and positivism. While materialism ventured on a pretty
crude resolution of the spiritual into the corporeal, positivism set
up a hierarchy of forces of nature, whose order was determined
by the relation of dependence. Thus mechanical forces, physico-
chemical processes, the biological and the social-historical groups
of facts, are not traced back each to the preceding by an inner con-
nection, but are so linked that the higher orders appear as dependent
on the lower. In the same way is it now sought to link art methodo-
logically with the aesthetic. Perhaps even more closely, indeed, since
already aesthetics and the science of art often play into each other's
hands, like the tunnel- workers who pierce a mountain from opposite
points, to meet at its centre.

Often it so happens, but not invariably. In many cases research is
carried to an end, quite irrespectively of what is going on in other
quarters. The field is too great, and the interests are too various.
Artists recount their experiences in the process of creation, con-
noisseurs enlighten us as to the technique of the special arts; socio-
logists investigate the social function, ethnologists the origin, of art;
psychologists explore the aesthetic impression, partly by experiment,
partly through conceptual analysis; philosophers expound aesthetic
methods and principles; the historians of literature, music, and
pictorial art have collected a vast deal of material — and the sum
total of these scientific inquiries constitutes the most substantial
though not the greatest part of the published discussions, which,
written from every possible point of view, abound in newspapers and
magazines. " There is left, then, for the serious student, naught but
to resolve to fix a central point somewhere, and thence to find out
a way to deal with all the rest as outlying territory " (Goethe).

Only by the mutual setting of bounds can a united effect be pos-
sible from the busy whirl of efforts. Contradictory and heterogeneous
facts are still very numerous. He who should undertake to construct
thereof a clear intelligible unity of concepts, would destroy the
energy which now proves itself in the encounters, crossing of swords,
and lively controversies of scholars, and would mutilate the fullness
of experience which now expresses itself in the manifold special
researches. System and method signify for us: to be free from one
system and one method.



THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF .ESTHETICS 437

II

If we are to consider how we answer to-day the questions put for
scientific consideration as to the facts of aesthetic life and of art, first
of all we must examine the now prevailing theories of aesthetics.
They fall in general into aesthetic objectivism and subjectivism.
By the first collective name we denote the aggregate of all theories
which find the characteristic of their field of inquiry essentially in
the quality and conformation of the object, not in the attitude of
the enjoying subject. This quality of the aesthetically valuable is
most eaisily characterized by setting it off against reality. Of such
theories, which explain "the beautiful" and art from their relation
to what is given in nature, naturalism stands for the identity of real-
ity and art, while the various types of idealism set forth art as more
than reality, and vice versa, formalism, illusionism, sensualism make
it less than reality.

Inasmuch as naturalism is still defended only by a handful of
artists who write, it would appear almost superfluous to consider it.
But the refutations of it which are still appearing indicate that it
must have some life. And in fact it still exists, partly as a present-
day phenomenon in literature and art, partly as the permanent
conviction of many artists. The* naturalistic style testifies to revolt
against forms and notions which are dying out; it therefore only
attains a pure aesthetic interest through the theoretic ground which
is furnished to it. And this rests above all on the testimony of the
artists, who are never weary of assuring us that they immediately
reproduce what is given in perception. Some philosophical concep-
tions also play therein a certain role. The adherents of the doctrine
that only the sense-world is real come as a matter of course to the
demand that art shall hold itself strictly to the given. And what
optimist, who explains the real world as the best of all possible
worlds, can, without a logical weakening, admit a play of imagination
different from the reality.

Esthetic idealism, too, is borne on general philosophical premises.
However various these are, in this they all agree, that the world is
not exhausted by appearances, but has an ideal content and import,
which finds in the aesthetic and in the field of art its expression to
sense. Even H. Taine sets to art the task of showing the " dominant
character" of things. The beautiful is therefore something higher
than the chance reality, — the typical as over against the anomalous
natural objects or events. It can then be objectively determined
with reference to its typical and generic quality and in its various
kinds.

Somewhat different ia the case of formalism, which to-day scarcely
anywhere sets up to be a complete system of aesthetics, but points



438 ESTHETICS

the wa}^ for many special investigations. It seeks the aesthetically
effective in the form, that is, in the relation of parts, which has
in principle nothing to do with the content of the object. Every
clearly perceptible unity in manifoldness is pleasing. As this ar-
rangement is independent of the material, the aesthetic represents
only a part of reality.

In contrast thereto, illusionism sets the world of art as a whole over
against the whole of reality. Art, we are taught, presents neither a
new aspect of the given nor hidden truth, nor pure form; it is, on the
contrary, a world of appearance only, and is to be enjoyed without
regard to connections in life or any consequences. While we other-
wise consider objects as to how they serve our interests and as to their
place in the actual connection of all things, in the aesthetic experi-
ence this twofold relation is disregarded. Neither what things do
for us, nor what they do for each other, comes in question. Their
reality disappears, and the beautiful semblance comes to its own.
Konrad Lange has given to this theory — especially in the line of
a subjective side, to be later mentioned — its modern form.

Of the nearly-related sensualism, the connoisseur Fiedler and the
sculptor Hildebrand are the recent exponents; Rutgers Marshall
and certain French scholars also lean that way. It is the arts which
fix the transitory element of the sense-image, hold fast the fleeting,
make immortal the perishable, and lend stability and permanence
to all pleasure that is bound up with perception. What does painting
accomplish? Arisen, as it has, out of the demands of the eye, its
sole task is to gain for the undefined form- and color-impressions
of reality a complete and stable existence. The same thing is true
of the other arts, for their respective sense-impressions.

To sum up: If the transformation of reality is acknowledged as
a fundamental principle of art, it is also to be grdfnted that this takes
place in two directions: — art is something at once more and less
than nature. Inasmuch as art pushes on to the vraie verite, and at
the same time disregards all that is not of the nature of semblance
or image, we take from it ideas whose quality enthralls and stimu-
lates us quite independently of their meaning. Art shows us the
hidden essence of the world and of life and at the same time the
outsides of things created for our pleasure; that is, the objects'
pure psychical value in the field of sense. It involves a lifting above
nature, and at the same time the rounding out and fulfillment of
sense. Through making of the object an image, it frees us from our
surrounding, yet leaves us at rest in it.

We turn now to aesthetic subjectivism. Under this name we com-
prehend the essence of those theories which seek to solve the riddle
of the beautiful by a general characterization of the aesthetic atti-
tude. Many of these are near akin to the objectivistic theories; some,



THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF AESTHETICS 439

however, like the Einfilhlung-theory, take an independent place.
For the former, therefore, a mere indication will suffice. The prin-
ciple of "semblance" or illusion, for instance, takes very easily a
subjectivistic turn. The question then runs: Wherein consists the
peculiarity of the conscious processes which are set up by the
semblance? The answer as given by Meinong and Witasek starts
from the fact that the totality of psychical processes falls into two
divisions. Every process in one division has its counterpart in the
other. To perception corresponds imagination, to judgment assump-
tion, to real emotion ideal emotion, to earnest desire fancied desire.
The aesthetic emotions attached to assumptions, the semblance-emo-
tions, that is, are held to be scarcely distinguished, so far as feeling



Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 48 of 68)