W. (Wilhelm) Windelband.

An introduction to philosophy online

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sensuous. Hence, though in the aesthetic life there
must be question of the play of feelings and moods, yet


this theory is voluntaristic on its psychological side, and
it is foreshadowed to some extent in Schopenhauer's
aesthetics of music, which purports to have explained
music as the pure perception of the life of the will and
therefore as the genuinely metaphysical art. Even
this attempt, however, leads to the opposition of the
sensuous and suprasensuous elements in man's nature ;
as it was for Kant the basis of the antithesis of sense
and intelligence, the harmony of which is the beautiful
and the clash of which is the sublime. Both these theories
rest upon the strain between the two natures in man.
The aesthetic relation presupposes a being that reaches
from sensuous existence up to a transcendent world of
reason. In the case of Kant, however, the suprasensuous
is essentially the moral ; as it is the same in this latest
attempt at a philosophy of art. It ends, as did Kant's
theory, in the conception of the beautiful as a symbol
of the good, and finds therein the guarantee of a super-
individual universal validity in the play of feelings and

In this reduction of the aesthetic to the ethical the
sublime is conceived as a special type of aesthetic
relation, not subordinate to, but co-ordinate with, the
beautiful. Psychologically the way was prepared by
Edmund Burke, and Kant followed on the lines of the
Critical method. If the sublime is explained by the
triumph of the ethical-suprasensuous in man's being
over his sensuous nature, it seems no longer to be a
purely aesthetic relation, but an ethical-aesthetic com-
bination ; or it is at least one of the most important
types of dependent beauty. For if this is to depend,
as Kant thinks, upon the presentation of an " idea,"
we have in the sublime the highest of ideas, the
moral law.

We find a moralising tendency also in the chief pupil
of Kant in this field, Schiller. In his K alii ashrie fen he
sought an objective standard of beauty, and tried to
raise it above all that is specifically human ; whereas
at other times he proclaimed that, if not beauty in general,
at least art was the characteristic property of man as


contrasted with higher as well as lower beings. In his
objective theory, however, he again took the Kantian
dualism of freedom and appearance as his starting-point
The autonomy or self-orientation which constitutes the
essence of the moral super-world is never found as real
in the appearance ; but there arises a semblance of
" freedom in the appearance " whenever the sensuous
shape presents itself to us as so complete and self-con-
tained that it seems to need nothing further for its reality
So it is with the aesthetic object ; it is determined in itself,'
and it looks as if all its categorical relations to its environ-
ment were broken off. Hence Schopenhauer also, for
whom, as is well known, causality was the only category
of importance, characterised the aesthetic life as observa-
tion free from causality, and found the difference between
art and science in the fact that science was observation
from the point of view of causality. Self-sufficiency
is the essential feature of the beautiful. Here the idea
of an analogy to ethical self-determination departs from
Schiller's formula of freedom in the appearance. The
aesthetic autonomy is no longer voluntarist or moral ;
it is rather intellectual. This self-sufficiency, however,
is not real as such ; it is enjoyed in the appearance, and
thus we have again an emphasis of the unreality of the
aesthetic object. In the art-product the detachment
from the rest of reality is particularly instructive ; in
natural beauty the detachment is not real, but exis
merely for the " beautiful semblance."

This element of unreality has become very prominent
in the modern theory of illusion. It is quoted most
profitably for the explanation of the enjoyment of artistic
beauty, particularly in regard to the plastic arts and the
drama. Here, in fact, a conscious self-deception and a
vacillation between deception and the consciousness of
deception play a great part ; and it must be particularly
noted that in all these cases the coarse as well as the
refined imitation which gives a substitute for reality
rather enfeebles or destroys than enhances the aesthetic
effect. " Art shall never attain to reality": that applies
particularly to certain excesses of the modern theatrical


world. There are therefore fields in which illusion is
of the very essence of aesthetic enjoyment and can never
be entirely excluded. But it is very questionable if
this feature is indispensable to all beauty, or even for
all art. In architecture, for instance, illusion seems to
have hardly any significance ; and when we admire
a fine tree or a noble cliff in nature, there is no question
whatever of vacillation between deception and the con-
sciousness of deception. For beauty in general the only
consequence of the independence of reality of the object
is that it arises, not so much in direct perception as in
the imagination, as by the latter it is freed from all the
associations which it would otherwise have for our know-
ledge and will. In this detachment the aesthetic object is,
in fact, something new, something not real as such alone.
It is just the same as with the object of scientific know -
ledge, the elements of which belong to reality, as we saw,
though in its selection and new construction it must be"
taken as something independent. The only difference^
between the noetic and the aesthetic object is that what
in the former is done by conceptions is done in the latter \
by the imagination. The reasons for this detachment 1
of the aesthetic object from the great mass of experiences ]
are often given by the elements of personal presentation.
If they are to have general validity — if the aesthetic object
is to become an independent value — that which detaches \
the object from all others must be determined by the
nature of the matter. Here again the transcendental
element of necessity and universal validity is given only
in conformity to reality. The process of the aesthetic
construction and enjoyment passes from the casual
phenomenon to the true nature of the object and endeav-
ours to grasp this with luminous clearness. If this
sounds like an intellectualist version, as if aesthetic con-
templation were in the long run an act of knowledge,
we must remember that in this we merely indicate a condi-
tion of the universal validity of the aesthetic object ;
and this can be reconciled with the fact that the aesthetic
state itself is based upon a play of feelings and moods
which may arise in connection with such contemplation.


And in the second place we must emphasise the -fact t - \.
that the penetration into the nature of things which is
achieved in the aesthetic contemplation is never a con-
ceptual vision, but always an intuitive experience.

If, however, we seek the decisive mark of the beatfti-
ful in a vision of the essence of things, we pass beycmd
experience into the realm of the metaphysical. There
is already a tendency of this sort, to some extent, in
Schiller's formula. Freedom is in the Kantist sense the
suprasensuous, and the beautiful is the appearance of
the suprasensuous in the sensuous. That was implied in
the metaphysical theory of the beautiful which modejfj
philosophy has borrowed from antiquity. It was merely.,
indicated by Plato, and developed with great energy by*
Plotinus : the beautiful is the sensuous appearance of
the idea. This translucence of the suprasensuous in the
sensible object was so strongly held by the Neo-Platonists
of the Renaissance and by Shaftesbury that it persisted,
enriched by the Kantist critique, in German idealists
such as Schelling, Hegel, Solger, Weisse, Vischer, etc. We
find this metaphysical aesthetics in its most characteristic
form in Schelling, for whom art thus becomes the organon \
of philosophy. Science, he shows, in its ceaseless progress
seeks the idea in the appearance without ever attaining
to it ; the moral life in its similar ceaseless advance forms
the idea in the appearance without ever bringing it to full
realisation. It is only in the vision of the beautiful
that the idea is entirely present in its sensory appear-
ance. Here the infinite has passed whoUy into the finite,
and the finite is whoUy filled with the infinite. Thus
every work of art exhibits what is otherwise given only
in the totality of the real : namely, the realisation of the [
infinite idea in finite appearances. Hence for ScheUing
the universe is God's work of art, the incorporation of his
idea in the sensory appearance ; and beauty in nature
is the art fashioned by God. And if the fact is empha-
sised that in all man's creations the infinite idea must
struggle with the inadequacy of the sensory finite in
which it has to manifest itself, this is the basis of Solger's
theory of tragic and romantic irony. In all these specula-


tions, especially in Schelling and Hegel, the metaphysical
theory of the beautiful was directed to art, particularly
to poetry as the art in which the manifestation of the
idea can be most visibly accomplished. In these circum-
stances, however, aesthetic enjoyment can only be under-
stood by an analogy with artistic constructions : the
origin of the aesthetic object in the imagination of the man
who enjoys it must proceed in the same way as the creation
of a work of art. When, in order to enjoy a landscape, we
look for a point from which it is best seen, we compose
lines and colours just as the artist does in painting a
picture of the landscape. There is the same selection,
the same new-forming synthesis, in both cases. We can
only enjoy the beautiful as such in so far as there is some-
thing of the artist in us.

§ 19

Art. — Imitation — Entertainment, education, improvement — Play and
the impulse to play — Aimless self-presentation — Genius — The
unconscious-conscious in art.

Art, as we discuss it here, is generally distinguished
as fine art from the other arts which have useful functions.
Here again the essential feature is the absence of pur-
pose. Every artistic activity creates ; but fine art does
not, like the others, create objects for use in daily life.
There are, however, intermediate developments in which
the frontiers disappear : as when we compare ordinary
house-building and architecture, or a political or forensic
speech with an aesthetic oration. Every manual work
of art, in particular, is near these frontiers. Art in respect
of its quality of not being needed is, like science, the off-
spring of leisure. Aristotle finely described this cultural
value of leisure. Free from the pressure of daily needs,
man creates for himself the new world of the beautiful
and true. And precisely on that account the work of
the artist has no value for the needs of daily life ; which
marks off the fine arts in general clearly from all other
artistic activity and its products. It is remarkable that

ART 317

scientific thought seems to have found the essential
feature of creation {to ttoititlkov) in a higher degree in the
useful arts than in the arts of leisure. It could not resist
the impression of inventiveness in face of the technical
production of useful objects, and it regarded fine art
chiefly as imitative art. It is, in fact, astounding that
the Greek theory of art never got beyond this point of
view, and that it never learned to appreciate the creative
element which was just as abundant in the plastic art
of the Greeks as in their poetry and music. It is more
surprising than that Greek philosophy missed the creative
or, as Kant says, spontaneous element in the object of
knowledge, in which it is more difficult to detect. The
peculiar subjection of the mind to what is presented,
which the Greeks show in their theory of knowledge, is
seen also in their conception of art as imitation. It was
with this that Plato forged his weapons against the artists
and formed his depreciatory judgment on art ; it was
supposed to imitate objects which are themselves mere
imitations of higher types, the ideas. What we know
of Aristotle's theory of art, from the surviving fragment
of his Poetics, shows that he also held the theory that art
is imitation. The whole of the critique and theory of
art in modern times followed this path at first, and the
final result of it was the Positivist conception of art for-
mulated by Diderot. This naturalist theory expects of
art, as of science, only a " true " description in harmony
with reality, and it thus obliterates the frontiers between
art and science.

As a matter of fact, imitation is indispensable to fin
art. Even what is called the productive power of imagina-
tion is productive only in the sense of giving new com-
binations, but reproductive in regard to the elements of
the inner and outer life, which as such cannot be created
by the imagination, but must be experienced. To that
extent, therefore, there is imitation in all art. On the
other hand we must not forget that all imitation means
itself a selection and re-combination, and that this is
precisely the essential aesthetic element in it. The material
is imitated, but the aesthetic shaping of it is never mere



imitation. Moreover, imitation is a natural impulse and
is one of the fundamental features of all animal sociality,
as modern mass-psychology has shown ; but the carrying
out of this impulse excites only a feeling of pleasure like
the satisfaction of any other impulse. In that, therefore,
we have not the specifically aesthetic element. Joy in
the capacity for imitation and its purely technical and
often very difficult use means something in which the feel-
ing of pleasure is neither more nor less than in the case
of any other capacity. To paint cherries so well that
the sparrows will peck at them — to carve marble so well
that the spectator will try to take the lace from the lady's
shoulders or feel the velvet of her dress — to compose music
so that one seems to hear the blood drip from the head
which has been cut off — all this may very well be an
object of technical ambition, but it is rather a piece of
art than art.

In no case is imitation a value of universal validity
in itself. If therefore art were merely imitation, its value
could not be in itself, but in what it does with the imita-
tion. As a matter of fact, that is the idea of the theories
of imitation. First entertainment is taken as a fitting
occupation of one's leisure ; and for many men this is
still the whole meaning and value of their interest in art.
What people seek and find in the theatre and concert,
in picture-galleries and exhibitions, or in reading novels,
is much more a pleasant way of passing the time than an
enjoyment of art as such. Somewhat higher aims have
been assigned to imitative art in education and moral
improvement. The idea of the Aufkldrung was that art
and the aesthetic life generally should be pressed into the
service of intellectual or moral improvement, and aims
and rules of a pedantic educational nature and a moralising
tendency were to be assigned to it. To this corresponded
the psychological theory of the esthetic hfe generally,
which regarded it as a happy transition from a state of
sensuous impulses to one of rational activity. The enjoy-
ment of the beautiful tames the savagery of the sensual
man. It teaches him to observe without desires, and
thus makes him free for the higher values of truth and

ART 319

morality. It agrees with this that art and the aesthetic
life generally appeal only to the two higher senses, the
senses concerned with things at a distance, vision and
hearing, which remove the stimulation from one's own
body and are far from a sensuous enjoyment of the object-'
In this is correctly indicated the aesthetic distance by
which, in every case, the enjoyment of the beautiful\
shall be removed from its object. In the imitatit/'e \
theories this was considered only a negative and prepara- j
tory element. The positive value of art was supposed
to consist in what it did for morality and knowledge.
It had therefore no intrinsic value.

Schiller, taking his stand on the Critical philosophy and
going beyond these theories, sought the proper value of
the aesthetic in the adjustment of the two natures of man,
and this he found in play. It is true that he meant this
in a sense which seemed to give great prominence to the
anthropological element. Schiller took the sensuous and
the moral impulses to be an original antagonism in man's
nature, as Kant did, and thought that he found in the
impulse to play that which brought about a reconciliation
of our dual nature. Hence art was supposed to be specifi-
cally human, and peculiar to man :

In industry the bees surpass thee,
A worm could feats of skill to thee impart,
Exalted spirits in thy science share —
But thou alone, O man, hast art.

That is based upon the metaphysical assumption that
these exalted spirits are devoid of sense ; that they have ^ \
not the sensory experience of the inner life. It follows < |
that it is in man alone that the great antitheses of reality j ■T)
are combined. \ /

Apart from this, Schiller's theory of the impulse to play \ /
has been entirely confirmed and much developed in modern
biology and psychology. In the play of children, animals, /

and primitive peoples we see the evolutionary preparatory
stage of art. Dancing, singing, and adornment are the
rudiments of it ; and in unconscious co-operation therewith


we have, as important elements in its development, the
erotic play of courtship on the one hand, and on the other
the social forms of play which, especially in the shape of
rhythm, ennoble daily toil and relieve what is otherwise
tedious and joyless. The impulse of play has also been
called the function-impulse, to the satisfaction of which
there is attached a pure pleasure, even when it seems
to have no aim and no serious meaning. In the proper
sense, however, there is no aesthetic significance in play
of this description, and we may ask what must be the
nature of its content to give any aesthetic value to play.
All play is a copy of soniething serious. It imitates a
vital activity which is seriously concerned with real things
and purposes. Hence it is that play so easily turns into
earnest, as one sees in the case of children. As long as
it remains pure play, we are at some distance frojn the
serious life which it imitates, and we thus freely enjoy the
proper content of life^ at a distance. Hence play is higher
according to the value of the life-content which isj^epre-
sented in it, detached from the seriousness of real willing.
iEsthetic play is, therefore, when the deepest and highest
reality of life is copied in it. Hence all art, as aesthetic
production, is self-presentation and self-forming in play.
The inner content expresses itself, where it claims the
seriousness of life, desir6 and conduct, by means of action
and enjoyment. Where there is neither of these things,
the inwardness breaks out in a sensuous shape which gives
pure joy. Hence art is, as Benedetto Croce says, expression
endowed with intuition itself, and life passes into appear-
ance more purely and perfectly in this purposeless ex-
pression than when it develops in serious work and the
restriction of this to the casual and particular by action
and enjoyment. In this sense art is, Guyau says, the
most intensive enhancement of life that we know. Here,
then, is the real meaning of what we found called the
unreality of the aesthetic object : all idealising and style
aim in the long run at giving a pure and perfect expression
of one's own life in the sensory appearance.

The capacity to do this is the power of aesthetic pro-
duction, or what we call genius. This idea again has

ART 321

changed a good deal in the course of time. It was defined
ex eveniu when it was said that genius is a model and
standard for posterity and critics. One goes a little deeper
in pointing out that the genius does not create according
to rules, but produces the new and beautiful out of itself ;
and Kant saw deepest of all into the nature of the aesthetic
life, from which he was so remote, when he said that genius
is an intelligence which acts as nature does. In this
much-quoted phrase both the inward necessity and the
undesigning purposiveness of the formative power of the
aesthetic personality are expressed. The inward necessity
means the impulse and force of the undesigning self-
presentation. The impulse and the force : both together
make the genius, but it does not follow that they are
both given together. Rather, there is, perhaps, nothing in
the world more difficult to endure, nothing that is more
disturbing, than the unhappy condition of the half-genius,
in whom the impulse is found without the power to carry
it out. That is a misfortune of the artistic life that even
the greatest experiences at the limits of his productive
power. It is a deep shadow cast from the heights of
human life. These Umits cannot be passed by any toil
and exertion, because the creative power of art is rooted
in the unconscious. That is why the artist is usually
averse from theory and philosophising. It does not
help him ; indeed, it threatens to disturb him. It is
we others who need to understand his nature and activity
and determine its place in the general fabric of civilised
values. And in attempting to do so we stumble against;
the irrational in the creative work of the artist.

Hence Schelling gave a happy turn to Kant's definition
when he defined genius as " the unconscious-conscious."
The artistic activity exhibits a mutual play of conscious
and unconscious processes which can never be rationally
explained. The artist must create because of an impulse
to self-reaUsation of which he is not the master. From
this unconscious depth there emerge into his consciousness
the images of what is to be. How he embodies them,
what particular shape he gives them, is again determined
by something in the unconscious depths. The creation



is accompanied by conscious criticism, but the positive
element of achievement is not a matter of cunning and
calculation ; it comes as a fortunate chance from the
unconscious depths of life. This is what the Greeks
felt when they spoke of some divine madness, the fiavia of
the poet. The affinity of genius to madness refers only
to this mingling of conscious and unconscious functions,
which evades all control of analytic thought ; it by no
means contains the pathological element that has at times,
on the strength of this analogy, been wrongly ascribed
to the nature of the genius. On the contrary, the self-
realising of the genius is, precisely because in it the conscious
reaches into the sub- or super-conscious, the personal into
the super-individual, the human into the metaphysical,
the redemptive power which men have always felt and
prized as the divine in art. This significance, however,
pertains to the genius only in the highest stages of his
creativeness, and the artist himself is, like all his activity,
in the general affairs of Hfe hampered by all the faiUngs
of humanity, from which a transcendent value emerges
only in his most perfect achievements. He must con-
stantly wrest this value from reluctant reality, and he
finds himself oppressed by it in his self-realisation :

The noblest thing that spirit e'er conceived
Is with some foreign stuff adulterate.




Logical, ethical, and aesthetic vahies make up the entire
range, for philosophical inquiry, of the human value-
activity which, as distinct from the amenities and utili-
ties of ordinary life, can lay claim to general recognition
and the necessity of actual unconditionedness. In them
we have traversed the three provinces of the psychic
life — presentation, will, and feeling — and in each of these
provinces we have explained how the valuation of the
empirical mind has a significance that transcends the mind
itself. The normative general consciousness which is thus
indicated is in its empirical form the collective conscious-
ness of any particular historical structure in the human
chronicle : in its ideal form the cultural unity of the whole
race : in its metaphysical significance a rational com-

Online LibraryW. (Wilhelm) WindelbandAn introduction to philosophy → online text (page 28 of 32)