AESTHETIC AS SCIENCE OF EXPRESSION
AND GENERAL LINGUISTIC
TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN OF BENEDETTO CROCE
DOUGLAS AINSLIE B.A. (OXON.)
THE AESTHETIC IS DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR TO THE MEMORY OF HIS PARENTS PASQUALE AND LUISA SIPARI AND OF HIS SISTER MARIA
I give here a close translation of the complete Theory of Aesthetic, and in the Historical Summary, with the consent of the author, an abbreviation of the historical portion of the original work.
I INTUITION AND EXPRESSION
Intuitive knowledge—Its independence in respect to the intellect— Intuition and perception—Intuition and the concepts of space and time—Intuition and sensation—Intuition and association—Intuition and representation—Intuition and expression—Illusions as to their difference—Identity of intuition and expression.
II INTUITION AND ART
Corollaries and explanations—Identity of art and of intuitive knowledge— No specific difference—No difference of intensity—Difference extensive and empirical—Artistic genius—Content and form in Aesthetic—Critique of the imitation of nature and of the artistic illusion—Critique of art conceived as a sentimental, not a theoretic fact—The origin of Aesthetic, and sentiment—Critique of the theory of Aesthetic senses—Unity and indivisibility of the work of art—Art as deliverer.
III ART AND PHILOSOPHY
Indissolubility of intellective and of intuitive knowledge—Critique of the negations of this thesis—Art and science—Content and form: another meaning. Prose and poetry—The relation of first and second degree—Inexistence of other cognoscitive forms—Historicity—Identity and difference in respect of art—Historical criticism—Historical scepticism—Philosophy as perfect science. The so-called natural sciences, and their limits—The phenomenon and the noumenon.
IV HISTORICISM AND INTELLECTUALISM IN AESTHETIC
Critique of the verisimilar and of naturalism—Critique of ideas in art, of art as thesis, and of the typical—Critique of the symbol and of the allegory—Critique of the theory of artistic and literary categories—Errors derived from this theory in judgments on art— Empirical meaning of the divisions of the categories.
V ANALOGOUS ERRORS IN HISTORY AND IN LOGIC
Critique of the philosophy of History—Aesthetic invasions of Logic— Logic in its essence—Distinction between logical and non-logical judgments—The syllogism—False Logic and true Aesthetic—Logic reformed.
VI THEORETIC AND PRACTICAL ACTIVITY
The will—The will as ulterior grade in respect of knowledge—Objections and explanations—Critique of practical judgments or judgments of value—Exclusion of the practical from the aesthetic—Critique of the theory of the end of art and of the choice of content—Practical innocence of art—Independence of art—Critique of the saying: the style is the man—Critique of the concept of sincerity in art.
VII ANALOGY BETWEEN THE THEORETIC AND THE PRACTICAL
The two forms of practical activity—The economically useful— Distinction between the useful and the technical—Distinction between the useful and the egoistic—Economic and moral volition—Pure economicity—The economic side of morality—The merely economical and the error of the morally indifferent—Critique of utilitarianism and the reform of Ethic and of Economic—Phenomenon and noumenon in practical activity.
VIII EXCLUSION OF OTHER SPIRITUAL FORMS
The system of the spirit—The forms of genius—Inexistence of a fifth form of activity—Law; sociality—Religiosity—Metaphysic—Mental imagination and the intuitive intellect—Mystical Aesthetic—Mortality and immortality of art.
IX INDIVISIBILITY OF EXPRESSION INTO MODES OR GRADES AND CRITIQUE OF RHETORIC
The characteristics of art—Inexistence of modes of expression— Impossibility of translations—Critique of rhetorical categories— Empirical meaning of rhetorical categories—Their use as synonyms of the aesthetic fact—Their use as indicating various aesthetic imperfections—Their use as transcending the aesthetic fact, and in the service of science—Rhetoric in schools—Similarities of expressions—Relative possibility of translations.
X AESTHETIC SENTIMENTS AND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE UGLY
Various meanings of the word sentiment—Sentiment as activity— Identification of sentiment with economic activity—Critique of hedonism—Sentiment as concomitant of every form of activity—Meaning of certain ordinary distinctions of sentiments—Value and disvalue: the contraries and their union—The beautiful as the value of expression, or expression without adjunct—The ugly and the elements of beauty that constitute it—Illusion that there exist expressions neither beautiful nor ugly—Proper aesthetic sentiments and concomitant and accidental sentiments—Critique of apparent sentiments.
XI CRITIQUE OF AESTHETIC HEDONISM
Critique of the beautiful as what pleases the superior senses—Critique of the theory of play—Critique of the theory of sexuality and of the triumph—Critique of the Aesthetic of the sympathetic—Meaning in it of content and of form—Aesthetic hedonism and moralism—The rigoristic negation, and the pedagogic negation of art—Critique of pure beauty.
XII THE AESTHETIC OF THE SYMPATHETIC AND PSEUDO-AESTHETIC CONCEPTS
Pseudo-aesthetic concepts, and the Aesthetic of the sympathetic— Critique of the theory of the ugly in art and of its surmounting— Pseudo-aesthetic concepts appertain to Psychology—Impossibility of rigorous definitions of these—Examples: definitions of the sublime, of the comic, of the humorous—Relation between those concepts and aesthetic concepts.
XIII THE SO-CALLED PHYSICALLY BEAUTIFUL IN NATURE AND IN ART
Aesthetic activity and physical concepts—Expression in the aesthetic sense, and expression in the naturalistic sense—Intuitions and memory—The production of aids to memory—The physically beautiful— Content and form: another meaning—Natural beauty and artificial beauty—Mixed beauty—Writings—The beautiful that is free and that which is not free—Critique of the beautiful that is not free— Stimulants of production.
XIV ERRORS ARISING FROM THE CONFUSION BETWEEN PHYSIC AND AESTHETIC
Critique of aesthetic associationism—Critique of aesthetic physic— Critique of the theory of the beauty of the human body—Critique of the beauty of geometrical figures—Critique of another aspect of the imitation of nature—Critique of the theory of the elementary forms of the beautiful—Critique of the search for the objective conditions of the beautiful—The astrology of Aesthetic.
XV THE ACTIVITY OF EXTERNALIZATION. TECHNIQUE AND THE THEORY OF THE ARTS
The practical activity of externalization—The technique of externalization—Technical theories of single arts—Critique of the classifications of the arts—Relation of the activity of externalization with utility and morality.
XVI TASTE AND THE REPRODUCTION OF ART
Aesthetic judgment. Its identity with aesthetic reproduction— Impossibility of divergences—Identity of taste and genius—Analogy with the other activities—Critique of absolutism (intellectualism) and of aesthetic relativism—Critique of relative relativism—Objections founded on the variation of the stimulus and of the psychic disposition— Critique of the distinction of signs as natural and conventional—The surmounting of variety—Restorations and historical interpretation.
XVII THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE AND OF ART
Historical criticism in literature and art. Its importance—Artistic and literary history. Its distinction from historical criticism and from the aesthetic judgment—The method of artistic and literary history—Critique of the problem of the origin of art—The criterion of progress and history—Inexistence of a single line of progress in artistic and literary history—Errors in respect of this law—Other meanings of the word "progress" in relation to Aesthetic.
XVIII CONCLUSION: IDENTITY OF LINGUISTIC AND AESTHETIC
Summary of the inquiry—Identity of Linguistic with Aesthetic— Aesthetic formulation of linguistic problems. Nature of language— Origin of language and its development—Relation between Grammatic and Logic—Grammatical categories or parts of speech—Individuality of speech and the classification of languages—Impossibility of a normative Grammatic—Didactic organisms—Elementary linguistic elements, or roots—The aesthetic judgment and the model language— Conclusion.
Aesthetic ideas in Graeco-Roman antiquity—In the Middle Age and at the Renaissance—Fermentation of thought in the seventeenth century—Aesthetic ideas in Cartesianism, Leibnitzianism, and in the "Aesthetic" of Baumgarten—G.B. Vico—Aesthetic doctrines in the eighteenth century—Emmanuel Kant—The Aesthetic of Idealism with Schiller and Hegel—Schopenhauer and Herbart—Friedrich Schleiermacher—The philosophy of language with Humboldt and Steinthal—Aesthetic in France, England, and Italy during the first half of the nineteenth century—Francesco de Sanctis—The Aesthetic of the epigoni—Positivism and aesthetic naturalism—Aesthetic psychologism and other recent tendencies—Glance at the history of certain particular doctrines—Conclusion.
Translation of the lecture on Pure Intuition and the lyrical nature of art, delivered by Benedetto Croce before the International Congress of Philosophy at Heidelberg.
There are always Americas to be discovered: the most interesting in Europe.
I can lay no claim to having discovered an America, but I do claim to have discovered a Columbus. His name is Benedetto Croce, and he dwells on the shores of the Mediterranean, at Naples, city of the antique Parthenope.
Croce's America cannot be expressed in geographical terms. It is more important than any space of mountain and river, of forest and dale. It belongs to the kingdom of the spirit, and has many provinces. That province which most interests me, I have striven in the following pages to annex to the possessions of the Anglo-Saxon race; an act which cannot be blamed as predatory, since it may be said of philosophy more truly than of love, that "to divide is not to take away."
The Historical Summary will show how many a brave adventurer has navigated the perilous seas of speculation upon Art, how Aristotle's marvellous insight gave him glimpses of its beauty, how Plato threw away its golden fruit, how Baumgarten sounded the depth of its waters, Kant sailed along its coast without landing, and Vico hoisted the Italian flag upon its shore.
But Benedetto Croce has been the first thoroughly to explore it, cutting his way inland through the tangled undergrowth of imperfect thought. He has measured its length and breadth, marked out and described its spiritual features with minute accuracy. The country thus won to philosophy will always bear his name, Estetica di Croce, a new America.
It was at Naples, in the winter of 1907, that I first saw the Philosopher of Aesthetic. Benedetto Croce, although born in the Abruzzi, Province of Aquila (1866), is essentially a Neapolitan, and rarely remains long absent from the city, on the shore of that magical sea, where once Ulysses sailed, and where sometimes yet (near Amalfi) we may hear the Syrens sing their song. But more wonderful than the song of any Syren seems to me the Theory of Aesthetic as the Science of Expression, and that is why I have overcome the obstacles that stood between me and the giving of this theory, which in my belief is the truth, to the English-speaking world.
No one could have been further removed than myself, as I turned over at Naples the pages of La Critica, from any idea that I was nearing the solution of the problem of Art. All my youth it had haunted me. As an undergraduate at Oxford I had caught the exquisite cadence of Walter Pater's speech, as it came from his very lips, or rose like the perfume of some exotic flower from the ribbed pages of the Renaissance.
Seeming to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, he solved it not—only delighted with pure pleasure of poetry and of subtle thought as he led one along the pathways of his Enchanted Garden, where I shall always love to tread.
Oscar Wilde, too, I had often heard at his best, the most brilliant talker of our time, his wit flashing in the spring sunlight of Oxford luncheon-parties as now in his beautiful writings, like the jewelled rapier of Mercutio. But his works, too, will be searched in vain by the seeker after definite aesthetic truth.
With A.C. Swinburne I had sat and watched the lava that yet flowed from those lips that were kissed in youth by all the Muses. Neither from him nor from J.M. Whistler's brilliant aphorisms on art could be gathered anything more than the exquisite pleasure of the moment: the monochronos haedonae. Of the great pedagogues, I had known, but never sat at the feet of Jowett, whom I found far less inspiring than any of the great men above mentioned. Among the dead, I had studied Herbert Spencer and Matthew Arnold, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Guyau: I had conversed with that living Neo-Latin, Anatole France, the modern Rousseau, and had enjoyed the marvellous irony and eloquence of his writings, which, while they delight the society in which he lives, may well be one of the causes that lead to its eventual destruction.
The solution of the problem of Aesthetic is not in the gift of the Muses.
To return to Naples. As I looked over those pages of the bound volumes of La Critica. I soon became aware that I was in the presence of a mind far above the ordinary level of literary criticism. The profound studies of Carducci, of d'Annunzio, and of Pascoli (to name but three), in which those writers passed before me in all their strength and in all their weakness, led me to devote several days to the Critica. At the end of that time I was convinced that I had made a discovery, and wrote to the philosopher, who owns and edits that journal.
In response to his invitation, I made my way, on a sunny day in November, past the little shops of the coral-vendors that surround, like a necklace, the Rione de la Bellezza, and wound zigzag along the over-crowded Toledo. I knew that Signor Croce lived in the old part of the town, but had hardly anticipated so remarkable a change as I experienced on passing beneath the great archway and finding myself in old Naples. This has already been described elsewhere, and I will not here dilate upon this world within a world, having so much of greater interest to tell in a brief space. I will merely say that the costumes here seemed more picturesque, the dark eyes flashed more dangerously than elsewhere, there was a quaint life, an animation about the streets, different from anything I had known before. As I climbed the lofty stone steps of the Palazzo to the floor where dwells the philosopher of Aesthetic I felt as though I had stumbled into the eighteenth century and were calling on Giambattista Vico. After a brief inspection by a young man with the appearance of a secretary, I was told that I was expected, and admitted into a small room opening out of the hall. Thence, after a few moments' waiting, I was led into a much larger room. The walls were lined all round with bookcases, barred and numbered, filled with volumes forming part of the philosopher's great library. I had not long to wait. A door opened behind me on my left, and a rather short, thick-set man advanced to greet me, and pronouncing my name at the same time with a slight foreign accent, asked me to be seated beside him. After the interchange of a few brief formulae of politeness in French, our conversation was carried on in Italian, and I had a better opportunity of studying my host's air and manner. His hands he held clasped before him, but frequently released them, to make those vivid gestures with which Neapolitans frequently clinch their phrase. His most remarkable feature was his eyes, of a greenish grey: extraordinary eyes, not for beauty, but for their fathomless depth, and for the sympathy which one felt welling up in them from the soul beneath. This was especially noticeable as our conversation fell upon the question of Art and upon the many problems bound up with it. I do not know how long that first interview lasted, but it seemed a few minutes only, during which was displayed before me a vast panorama of unknown height and headland, of league upon league of forest, with its bright-winged birds of thought flying from tree to tree down the long avenues into the dim blue vistas of the unknown.
I returned with my brain awhirl, as though I had been in fairyland, and when I looked at the second edition of the Estetica, with his inscription, I was sure of it.
These lines will suffice to show how the translation of the Estetica originated from the acquaintance thus formed, which has developed into friendship. I will now make brief mention of Benedetto Croce's other work, especially in so far as it throws light upon the Aesthetic. For this purpose, besides articles in Italian and German reviews, I have made use of the excellent monograph on the philosopher, by G. Prezzolini.
First, then, it will be well to point out that the Aesthetic forms part of a complete philosophical system, to which the author gives the general title of "Philosophy of the Spirit." The Aesthetic is the first of the three volumes. The second is the Logic, the third the Philosophy of the Practical.
In the Logic, as elsewhere in the system, Croce combats that false conception, by which natural science, in the shape of psychology, makes claim to philosophy, and formal logic to absolute value. The thesis of the pure concept cannot be discussed here. It is connected with the logic of evolution as discovered by Hegel, and is the only logic which contains in itself the interpretation and the continuity of reality. Bergson in his L'Evolution Creatrice deals with logic in a somewhat similar manner. I recently heard him lecture on the distinction between spirit and matter at the College de France, and those who read French and Italian will find that both Croce's Logic and the book above mentioned by the French philosopher will amply repay their labour. The conception of nature as something lying outside the spirit which informs it, as the non-being which aspires to being, underlies all Croce's thought, and we find constant reference to it throughout his philosophical system.
With regard to the third volume, the Philosophy of the Practical, it is impossible here to give more than a hint of its treasures. I merely refer in passing to the treatment of the will, which is posited as a unity inseparable from the volitional act. For Croce there is no difference between action and intention, means and end: they are one thing, inseparable as the intuition-expression of Aesthetic. The Philosophy of the Practical is a logic and science of the will, not a normative science. Just as in Aesthetic the individuality of expression made models and rules impossible, so in practical life the individuality of action removes the possibility of catalogues of virtues, of the exact application of laws, of the existence of practical judgments and judgments of value previous to action.
The reader will probably ask here: But what, then, becomes of morality? The question will be found answered in the Theory of Aesthetic, and I will merely say here that Croce's thesis of the double degree of the practical activity, economic and moral, is one of the greatest contributions to modern thought. Just as it is proved in the Theory of Aesthetic that the concept depends upon the intuition, which is the first degree, the primary and indispensable thing, so it is proved in the Philosophy of the Practical that Morality or Ethic depends upon Economic, which is the first degree of the practical activity. The volitional act is always economic, but true freedom of the will exists and consists in conforming not merely to economic, but to moral conditions, to the human spirit, which is greater than any individual. Here we are face to face with the ethics of Christianity, to which Croce accords all honour.
This Philosophy of the Spirit is symptomatic of the happy reaction of the twentieth century against the crude materialism of the second half of the nineteenth. It is the spirit which gives to the work of art its value, not this or that method of arrangement, this or that tint or cadence, which can always be copied by skilful plagiarists: not so the spirit of the creator. In England we hear too much of (natural) science, which has usurped the very name of Philosophy. The natural sciences are very well in their place, but discoveries such as aviation are of infinitely less importance to the race than the smallest addition to the philosophy of the spirit. Empirical science, with the collusion of positivism, has stolen the cloak of philosophy and must be made to give it back.
Among Croce's other important contributions to thought must be mentioned his definition of History as being aesthetic and differing from Art solely in that history represents the real, art the possible. In connection with this definition and its proof, the philosopher recounts how he used to hold an opposite view. Doing everything thoroughly, he had prepared and written out a long disquisition on this thesis, which was already in type, when suddenly, from the midst of his meditations, the truth flashed upon him. He saw for the first time clearly that history cannot be a science, since, like art, it always deals with the particular. Without a moment's hesitation he hastened to the printers and bade them break up the type.
This incident is illustrative of the sincerity and good faith of Benedetto Croce. One knows him to be severe for the faults and weaknesses of others, merciless for his own.
Yet though severe, the editor of La Critica is uncompromisingly just, and would never allow personal dislike or jealousy, or any extrinsic consideration, to stand in the way of fair treatment to the writer concerned. Many superficial English critics might benefit considerably by attention to this quality in one who is in other respects also so immeasurably their superior. A good instance of this impartiality is his critique of Schopenhauer, with whose system he is in complete disagreement, yet affords him full credit for what of truth is contained in his voluminous writings.
Croce's education was largely completed in Germany, and on account of their thoroughness he has always been an upholder of German methods. One of his complaints against the Italian Positivists is that they only read second-rate works in French or at the most "the dilettante booklets published in such profusion by the Anglo-Saxon press." This tendency towards German thought, especially in philosophy, depends upon the fact of the former undoubted supremacy of Germany in that field, but Croce does not for a moment admit the inferiority of the Neo-Latin races, and adds with homely humour in reference to Germany, that we "must not throw away the baby with the bath-water"! Close, arduous study and clear thought are the only key to scientific (philosophical) truth, and Croce never begins an article for a newspaper without the complete collection of the works of the author to be criticized, and his own elaborate notes on the table before him. Schopenhauer said there were three kinds of writers—those who write without thinking, the great majority; those who think while they write, not very numerous; those who write after they have thought, very rare. Croce certainly belongs to the last division, and, as I have said, always feeds his thought upon complete erudition. The bibliography of the works consulted for the Estetica alone, as printed at the end of the Italian edition, extends to many pages and contains references to works in any way dealing with the subject in all the European languages. For instance, Croce has studied Mr. B. Bosanquet's eclectic works on Aesthetic, largely based upon German sources and by no means without value. But he takes exception to Mr. Bosanquet's statement that he has consulted all works of importance on the subject of Aesthetic. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bosanquet reveals his ignorance of the greater part of the contribution to Aesthetic made by the Neo-Latin races, which the reader of this book will recognize as of first-rate importance.
This thoroughness it is which gives such importance to the literary and philosophical criticisms of La Critica. Croce's method is always historical, and his object in approaching any work of art is to classify the spirit of its author, as expressed in that work. There are, he maintains, but two things to be considered in criticizing a book. These are, firstly, what is its peculiarity, in what way is it singular, how is it differentiated from other works? Secondly, what is its degree of purity?—That is, to what extent has its author kept himself free from all considerations alien to the perfection of the work as an expression, as a lyrical intuition? With the answering of these questions Croce is satisfied. He does not care to know if the author keep a motor-car, like Maeterlinck; or prefer to walk on Putney Heath, like Swinburne. This amounts to saying that all works of art must be judged by their own standard. How far has the author succeeded in doing what he intended?
Croce is far above any personal animus, although the same cannot be said of those he criticizes. These, like d'Annunzio, whose limitations he points out—his egoism, his lack of human sympathy—are often very bitter, and accuse the penetrating critic of want of courtesy. This seriousness of purpose runs like a golden thread through all Croce's work. The flimsy superficial remarks on poetry and fiction which too often pass for criticism in England (Scotland is a good deal more thorough) are put to shame by La Critica, the study of which I commend to all readers who read or wish to read Italian. They will find in its back numbers a complete picture of a century of Italian literature, besides a store-house of philosophical criticism. The Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews are our only journals which can be compared to The Critica, and they are less exhaustive on the philosophical side. We should have to add to these Mind and the Hibbert Journal to get even an approximation to the scope of the Italian review.
As regards Croce's general philosophical position, it is important to understand that he is not a Hegelian, in the sense of being a close follower of that philosopher. One of his last works is that in which he deals in a masterly manner with the philosophy of Hegel. The title may be translated, "What is living and what is dead of the philosophy of Hegel." Here he explains to us the Hegelian system more clearly than that wondrous edifice was ever before explained, and we realize at the same time that Croce is quite as independent of Hegel as of Kant, of Vico as of Spinoza. Of course he has made use of the best of Hegel, just as every thinker makes use of his predecessors and is in his turn made use of by those that follow him. But it is incorrect to accuse of Hegelianism the author of an anti-hegelian Aesthetic, of a Logic where Hegel is only half accepted, and of a Philosophy of the Practical, which contains hardly a trace of Hegel. I give an instance. If the great conquest of Hegel be the dialectic of opposites, his great mistake lies in the confusion of opposites with things which are distinct but not opposite. If, says Croce, we take as an example the application of the Hegelian triad that formulates becoming (affirmation, negation and synthesis), we find it applicable for those opposites which are true and false, good and evil, being and not-being, but not applicable to things which are distinct but not opposite, such as art and philosophy, beauty and truth, the useful and the moral. These confusions led Hegel to talk of the death of art, to conceive as possible a Philosophy of History, and to the application of the natural sciences to the absurd task of constructing a Philosophy of Nature. Croce has cleared away these difficulties by shewing that if from the meeting of opposites must arise a superior synthesis, such a synthesis cannot arise from things which are distinct but not opposite, since the former are connected together as superior and inferior, and the inferior can exist without the superior, but not vice versa. Thus we see how philosophy cannot exist without art, while art, occupying the lower place, can and does exist without philosophy. This brief example reveals Croce's independence in dealing with Hegelian problems.
I know of no philosopher more generous than Croce in praise and elucidation of other workers in the same field, past and present. For instance, and apart from Hegel, Kant has to thank him for drawing attention to the marvellous excellence of the Critique of Judgment, generally neglected in favour of the Critiques of Pure Reason and of Practical Judgment; Baumgarten for drawing the attention of the world to his obscure name and for reprinting his Latin thesis in which the word Aesthetic occurs for the first time; and Schleiermacher for the tributes paid to his neglected genius in the History of Aesthetic. La Critica, too, is full of generous appreciation of contemporaries by Croce and by that profound thinker, Gentile.
But it is not only philosophers who have reason to be grateful to Croce for his untiring zeal and diligence. Historians, economists, poets, actors, and writers of fiction have been rescued from their undeserved limbo by this valiant Red Cross knight, and now shine with due brilliance in the circle of their peers. It must also be admitted that a large number of false lights, popular will o' the wisps, have been ruthlessly extinguished with the same breath. For instance, Karl Marx, the socialist theorist and agitator, finds in Croce an exponent of his views, in so far as they are based upon the truth, but where he blunders, his critic immediately reveals the origin and nature of his mistakes. Croce's studies in Economic are chiefly represented by his work, the title of which may be translated "Historical Materialism and Marxist Economic."
To indicate the breadth and variety of Croce's work I will mention the further monograph on the sixteenth century Neapolitan Pulcinella (the original of our Punch), and the personage of the Neapolitan in comedy, a monument of erudition and of acute and of lively dramatic criticism, that would alone have occupied an ordinary man's activity for half a lifetime. One must remember, however, that Croce's average working day is of ten hours. His interest is concentrated on things of the mind, and although he sits on several Royal Commissions, such as those of the Archives of all Italy and of the monument to King Victor Emmanuel, he has taken no university degree, and much dislikes any affectation of academic superiority. He is ready to meet any one on equal terms and try with them to get at the truth on any subject, be it historical, literary, or philosophical. "Truth," he says, "is democratic," and I can testify that the search for it, in his company, is very stimulating. As is well said by Prezzolini, "He has a new word for all."
There can be no doubt of the great value of Croce's work as an educative influence, and if we are to judge of a philosophical system by its action on others, then we must place the Philosophy of the Spirit very high. It may be said with perfect truth that since the death of the poet Carducci there has been no influence in Italy to compare with that of Benedetto Croce.
His dislike of Academies and of all forms of prejudice runs parallel with his breadth and sympathy with all forms of thought. His activity in the present is only equalled by his reverence for the past. Naples he loves with the blind love of the child for its parent, and he has been of notable assistance to such Neapolitan talent as is manifested in the works of Salvatore di Giacomo, whose best poems are written in the dialect of Naples, or rather in a dialect of his own, which Croce had difficulty in persuading the author always to retain. The original jet of inspiration having been in dialect, it is clear that to amend this inspiration at the suggestion of wiseacres at the Cafe would have been to ruin it altogether.
Of the popularity that his system and teaching have already attained we may judge by the fact that the Aesthetic, despite the difficulty of the subject, is already in its third edition in Italy, where, owing to its influence, philosophy sells better than fiction; while the French and Germans, not to mention the Czechs, have long had translations of the earlier editions. His Logic is on the point of appearing in its second edition, and I have no doubt that the Philosophy of the Practical will eventually equal these works in popularity. The importance and value of Italian thought have been too long neglected in Great Britain. Where, as in Benedetto Croce, we get the clarity of vision of the Latin, joined to the thoroughness and erudition of the best German tradition, we have a combination of rare power and effectiveness, which can by no means be neglected.
The philosopher feels that he has a great mission, which is nothing less than the leading back of thought to belief in the spirit, deserted by so many for crude empiricism and positivism. His view of philosophy is that it sums up all the higher human activities, including religion, and that in proper hands it is able to solve any problem. But there is no finality about problems: the solution of one leads to the posing of another, and so on. Man is the maker of life, and his spirit ever proceeds from a lower to a higher perfection. Connected with this view of life is Croce's dislike of "Modernism." When once a problem has been correctly solved, it is absurd to return to the same problem. Roman Catholicism cannot march with the times. It can only exist by being conservative—its only Logic is to be illogical. Therefore, Croce is opposed to Loisy and Neo-Catholicism, and supports the Encyclical against Modernism. The Catholic religion, with its great stores of myth and morality, which for many centuries was the best thing in the world, is still there for those who are unable to assimilate other food. Another instance of his dislike for Modernism is his criticism of Pascoli, whose attempts to reveal enigmas in the writings of Dante he looks upon as useless. We do not, he says, read Dante in the twentieth century for his hidden meanings, but for his revealed poetry.
I believe that Croce will one day be recognized as one of the very few great teachers of humanity. At present he is not appreciated at nearly his full value. One rises from a study of his philosophy with a sense of having been all the time as it were in personal touch with the truth, which is very far from the case after the perusal of certain other philosophies.
Croce has been called the philosopher-poet, and if we take philosophy as Novalis understood it, certainly Croce does belong to the poets, though not to the formal category of those who write in verse. Croce is at any rate a born philosopher, and as every trade tends to make its object prosaic, so does every vocation tend to make it poetic. Yet no one has toiled more earnestly than Croce. "Thorough" might well be his motto, and if to-day he is admitted to be a classic without the stiffness one connects with that term, be sure he has well merited the designation. His name stands for the best that Italy has to give the world of serious, stimulating thought. I know nothing to equal it elsewhere.
Secure in his strength, Croce will often introduce a joke or some amusing illustration from contemporary life, in the midst of a most profound and serious argument. This spirit of mirth is a sign of superiority. He who is not sure of himself can spare no energy for the making of mirth. Croce loves to laugh at his enemies and with his friends. So the philosopher of Naples sits by the blue gulf and explains the universe to those who have ears to hear. "One can philosophize anywhere," he says—but he remains significantly at Naples.
Thus I conclude these brief remarks upon the author of the Aesthetic, confident that those who give time and attention to its study will be grateful for having placed in their hands this pearl of great price from the diadem of the antique Parthenope.
THE ATHENAEUM, PALL MALL, May 1909.
 Napoli, Riccardo Ricciardi, 1909.
 The reader will find this critique summarized in the historical portion of this volume.
 La Critica is published every other month by Laterza of Bari.
 This translation is made from the third Italian edition (Bari, 1909), enlarged and corrected by the author. The Theory of Aesthetic first appeared in 1900 in the form of a communication to the Accademia Pontiana of Naples, vol. xxx. The first edition is dated 1902, the second 1904 (Palermo).
INTUITION AND EXPRESSION
[Sidenote] Intuitive knowledge.
Human knowledge has two forms: it is either intuitive knowledge or logical knowledge; knowledge obtained through the imagination or knowledge obtained through the intellect; knowledge of the individual or knowledge of the universal; of individual things or of the relations between them: it is, in fact, productive either of images or of concepts.
In ordinary life, constant appeal is made to intuitive knowledge. It is said to be impossible to give expression to certain truths; that they are not demonstrable by syllogisms; that they must be learnt intuitively. The politician finds fault with the abstract reasoner, who is without a lively knowledge of actual conditions; the pedagogue insists upon the necessity of developing the intuitive faculty in the pupil before everything else; the critic in judging a work of art makes it a point of honour to set aside theory and abstractions, and to judge it by direct intuition; the practical man professes to live rather by intuition than by reason.
But this ample acknowledgment, granted to intuitive knowledge in ordinary life, does not meet with an equal and adequate acknowledgment in the field of theory and of philosophy. There exists a very ancient science of intellective knowledge, admitted by all without discussion, namely, Logic; but a science of intuitive knowledge is timidly and with difficulty admitted by but a few. Logical knowledge has appropriated the lion's share; and if she does not quite slay and devour her companion, yet yields to her with difficulty the humble little place of maidservant or doorkeeper. What, it says, is intuitive knowledge without the light of intellective knowledge? It is a servant without a master; and though a master find a servant useful, the master is a necessity to the servant, since he enables him to gain his livelihood. Intuition is blind; Intellect lends her eyes.
[Sidenote] Its independence in respect to intellective knowledge.
Now, the first point to be firmly fixed in the mind is that intuitive knowledge has no need of a master, nor to lean upon any one; she does not need to borrow the eyes of others, for she has most excellent eyes of her own. Doubtless it is possible to find concepts mingled with intuitions. But in many other intuitions there is no trace of such a mixture, which proves that it is not necessary. The impression of a moonlight scene by a painter; the outline of a country drawn by a cartographer; a musical motive, tender or energetic; the words of a sighing lyric, or those with which we ask, command and lament in ordinary life, may well all be intuitive facts without a shadow of intellective relation. But, think what one may of these instances, and admitting further that one may maintain that the greater part of the intuitions of civilized man are impregnated with concepts, there yet remains to be observed something more important and more conclusive. Those concepts which are found mingled and fused with the intuitions, are no longer concepts, in so far as they are really mingled and fused, for they have lost all independence and autonomy. They have been concepts, but they have now become simple elements of intuition. The philosophical maxims placed in the mouth of a personage of tragedy or of comedy, perform there the function, not of concepts, but of characteristics of such personage; in the same way as the red in a painted figure does not there represent the red colour of the physicists, but is a characteristic element of the portrait. The whole it is that determines the quality of the parts. A work of art may be full of philosophical concepts; it may contain them in greater abundance and they may be there even more profound than in a philosophical dissertation, which in its turn may be rich to overflowing with descriptions and intuitions. But, notwithstanding all these concepts it may contain, the result of the work of art is an intuition; and notwithstanding all those intuitions, the result of the philosophical dissertation is a concept. The Promessi Sposi contains copious ethical observations and distinctions, but it does not for that reason lose in its total effect its character of simple story, of intuition. In like manner the anecdotes and satirical effusions which may be found in the works of a philosopher like Schopenhauer, do not remove from those works their character of intellective treatises. The difference between a scientific work and a work of art, that is, between an intellective fact and an intuitive fact lies in the result, in the diverse effect aimed at by their respective authors. This it is that determines and rules over the several parts of each.
[Sidenote] Intuition and perception.
But to admit the independence of intuition as regards concept does not suffice to give a true and precise idea of intuition. Another error arises among those who recognize this, or who, at any rate, do not make intuition explicitly dependent upon the intellect. This error obscures and confounds the real nature of intuition. By intuition is frequently understood the perception or knowledge of actual reality, the apprehension of something as real.
Certainly perception is intuition: the perception of the room in which I am writing, of the ink-bottle and paper that are before me, of the pen I am using, of the objects that I touch and make use of as instruments of my person, which, if it write, therefore exists;—these are all intuitions. But the image that is now passing through my brain of a me writing in another room, in another town, with different paper, pen and ink, is also an intuition. This means that the distinction between reality and non-reality is extraneous, secondary, to the true nature of intuition. If we assume the existence of a human mind which should have intuitions for the first time, it would seem that it could have intuitions of effective reality only, that is to say, that it could have perceptions of nothing but the real. But if the knowledge of reality be based upon the distinction between real images and unreal images, and if this distinction does not originally exist, these intuitions would in truth not be intuitions either of the real or of the unreal, but pure intuitions. Where all is real, nothing is real. The child, with its difficulty of distinguishing true from false, history from fable, which are all one to childhood, can furnish us with a sort of very vague and only remotely approximate idea of this ingenuous state. Intuition is the indifferentiated unity of the perception of the real and of the simple image of the possible. In our intuitions we do not oppose ourselves to external reality as empirical beings, but we simply objectify our impressions, whatever they be.
[Sidenote] Intuition and the concepts of space and time.
Those, therefore, who look upon intuition as sensation formed and arranged simply according to the categories of space and time, would seem to approximate more nearly to the truth. Space and time (they say) are the forms of intuition; to have intuitions is to place in space and in temporal sequence. Intuitive activity would then consist in this double and concurrent function of spatiality and temporality. But for these two categories must be repeated what was said of intellectual distinctions, found mingled with intuitions. We have intuitions without space and without time: a tint of sky and a tint of sentiment, an Ah! of pain and an effort of will, objectified in consciousness. These are intuitions, which we possess, and with their making, space and time have nothing to do. In some intuitions, spatiality may be found without temporality, in others, this without that; and even where both are found, they are perceived by posterior reflexion: they can be fused with the intuition in like manner with all its other elements: that is, they are in it materialiter and not formaliter, as ingredients and not as essentials. Who, without a similar act of interruptive reflexion, is conscious of temporal sequence while listening to a story or a piece of music? That which intuition reveals in a work of art is not space and time, but character, individual physiognomy. Several attempts may be noted in modern philosophy, which confirm the view here exposed. Space and time, far from being very simple and primitive functions, are shown to be intellectual constructions of great complexity. And further, even in some of those who do not altogether deny to space and time the quality of forming or of categories and functions, one may observe the attempt to unify and to understand them in a different manner from that generally maintained in respect of these categories. Some reduce intuition to the unique category of spatiality, maintaining that time also can only be conceived in terms of space. Others abandon the three dimensions of space as not philosophically necessary, and conceive the function of spatiality as void of every particular spatial determination. But what could such a spatial function be, that should control even time? May it not be a residuum of criticisms and of negations from which arises merely the necessity to posit a generic intuitive activity? And is not this last truly determined, when one unique function is attributed to it, not spatializing nor temporalizing, but characterizing? Or, better, when this is conceived as itself a category or function, which gives knowledge of things in their concretion and individuality?
[Sidenote] Intuition and sensation.
Having thus freed intuitive knowledge from any suggestion of intellectualism and from every posterior and external adjunct, we must now make clear and determine its limits from another side and from a different kind of invasion and confusion. On the other side, and before the inferior boundary, is sensation, formless matter, which the spirit can never apprehend in itself, in so far as it is mere matter. This it can only possess with form and in form, but postulates its concept as, precisely, a limit. Matter, in its abstraction, is mechanism, passivity; it is what the spirit of man experiences, but does not produce. Without it no human knowledge and activity is possible; but mere matter produces animality, whatever is brutal and impulsive in man, not the spiritual dominion, which is humanity. How often do we strive to understand clearly what is passing within us? We do catch a glimpse of something, but this does not appear to the mind as objectified and formed. In such moments it is, that we best perceive the profound difference between matter and form. These are not two acts of ours, face to face with one another; but we assault and carry off the one that is outside us, while that within us tends to absorb and make its own that without. Matter, attacked and conquered by form, gives place to concrete form. It is the matter, the content, that differentiates one of our intuitions from another: form is constant: it is spiritual activity, while matter is changeable. Without matter, however, our spiritual activity would not leave its abstraction to become concrete and real, this or that spiritual content, this or that definite intuition.
It is a curious fact, characteristic of our times, that this very form, this very activity of the spirit, which is essentially ourselves, is so easily ignored or denied. Some confound the spiritual activity of man with the metaphorical and mythological activity of so-called nature, which is mechanism and has no resemblance to human activity, save when we imagine, with Aesop, that arbores loquuntur non tantum ferae. Some even affirm that they have never observed in themselves this "miraculous" activity, as though there were no difference, or only one of quantity, between sweating and thinking, feeling cold and the energy of the will. Others, certainly with greater reason, desire to unify activity and mechanism in a more general concept, though admitting that they are specifically distinct. Let us, however, refrain for the moment from examining if such a unification be possible, and in what sense, but admitting that the attempt may be made, it is clear that to unify two concepts in a third implies a difference between the two first. And here it is this difference that is of importance and we set it in relief.
[Sidenote] Intuition and association.
Intuition has often been confounded with simple sensation. But, since this confusion is too shocking to good sense, it has more frequently been attenuated or concealed with a phraseology which seems to wish to confuse and to distinguish them at the same time. Thus, it has been asserted that intuition is sensation, but not so much simple sensation as association of sensations. The equivoque arises precisely from the word "association." Association is understood, either as memory, mnemonic association, conscious recollection, and in that case is evident the absurdity of wishing to join together in memory elements which are not intuified, distinguished, possessed in some way by the spirit and produced by consciousness: or it is understood as association of unconscious elements. In this case we remain in the world of sensation and of nature. Further, if with certain associationists we speak of an association which is neither memory nor flux of sensations, but is a productive association (formative, constructive, distinguishing); then we admit the thing itself and deny only its name. In truth, productive association is no longer association in the sense of the sensualists, but synthesis, that is to say, spiritual activity. Synthesis may be called association; but with the concept of productivity is already posited the distinction between passivity and activity, between sensation and intuition.
[Sidenote] Intuition and representation.
Other psychologists are disposed to distinguish from sensation something which is sensation no longer, but is not yet intellective concept: the representation or image. What is the difference between their representation or image, and our intuitive knowledge? The greatest, and none at all. "Representation," too, is a very equivocal word. If by representation be understood something detached and standing out from the psychic base of the sensations, then representation is intuition. If, on the other hand, it be conceived as a complex sensation, a return is made to simple sensation, which does not change its quality according to its richness or poverty, operating alike in a rudimentary or in a developed organism full of traces of past sensations. Nor is the equivoque remedied by defining representation as a psychic product of secondary order in relation to sensation, which should occupy the first place. What does secondary order mean here? Does it mean a qualitative, a formal difference? If so, we agree: representation is elaboration of sensation, it is intuition. Or does it mean greater complexity and complication, a quantitative, material difference? In that case intuition would be again confused with simple sensation.
[Sidenote] Intuition and expression.
And yet there is a sure method of distinguishing true intuition, true representation, from that which is inferior to it: the spiritual fact from the mechanical, passive, natural fact. Every true intuition or representation is, also, expression. That which does not objectify itself in expression is not intuition or representation, but sensation and naturality. The spirit does not obtain intuitions, otherwise than by making, forming, expressing. He who separates intuition from expression never succeeds in reuniting them.
Intuitive activity possesses intuitions to the extent that it expresses them.—Should this expression seem at first paradoxical, that is chiefly because, as a general rule, a too restricted meaning is given to the word "expression." It is generally thought of as restricted to verbal expression. But there exist also non-verbal expressions, such as those of line, colour, and sound; to all of these must be extended our affirmation. The intuition and expression together of a painter are pictorial; those of a poet are verbal. But be it pictorial, or verbal, or musical, or whatever else it be called, to no intuition can expression be wanting, because it is an inseparable part of intuition. How can we possess a true intuition of a geometrical figure, unless we possess so accurate an image of it as to be able to trace it immediately upon paper or on a slate? How can we have an intuition of the contour of a region, for example, of the island of Sicily, if we are not able to draw it as it is in all its meanderings? Every one can experience the internal illumination which follows upon his success in formulating to himself his impressions and sentiments, but only so far as he is able to formulate them. Sentiments or impressions, then, pass by means of words from the obscure region of the soul into the clarity of the contemplative spirit. In this cognitive process it is impossible to distinguish intuition from expression. The one is produced with the other at the same instant, because they are not two, but one.
[Sidenote] Illusions as to their difference.
The principal reason which makes our theme appear paradoxical as we maintain it, is the illusion or prejudice that we possess a more complete intuition of reality than we really do. One often hears people say that they have in their minds many important thoughts, but that they are not able to express them. In truth, if they really had them, they would have coined them into beautiful, ringing words, and thus expressed them. If these thoughts seem to vanish or to become scarce and poor in the act of expressing them, either they did not exist or they really were scarce and poor. People think that all of us ordinary men imagine and have intuitions of countries, figures and scenes, like painters; of bodies, like sculptors; save that painters and sculptors know how to paint and to sculpture those images, while we possess them only within our souls. They believe that anyone could have imagined a Madonna of Raphael; but that Raphael was Raphael owing to his technical ability in putting the Madonna upon the canvas. Nothing can be more false than this view. The world of which as a rule we have intuitions, is a small thing. It consists of little expressions which gradually become greater and more ample with the increasing spiritual concentration of certain moments. These are the sort of words which we speak within ourselves, the judgments that we tacitly express: "Here is a man, here is a horse, this is heavy, this is hard, this pleases me," etc. It is a medley of light and colour, which could not pictorially attain to any more sincere expression than a haphazard splash of colours, from among which would with difficulty stand out a few special, distinctive traits. This and nothing else is what we possess in our ordinary life; this is the basis of our ordinary action. It is the index of a book. The labels tied to things take the place of the things themselves. This index and labels (which are themselves expressions) suffice for our small needs and small actions. From time to time we pass from the index to the book, from the label to the thing, or from the slight to the greater intuitions, and from these to the greatest and most lofty. This passage is sometimes far from being easy. It has been observed by those who have best studied the psychology of artists, that when, after having given a rapid glance at anyone, they attempt to obtain a true intuition of him, in order, for example, to paint his portrait, then this ordinary vision, that seemed so precise, so lively, reveals itself as little better than nothing. What remains is found to be at the most some superficial trait, which would not even suffice for a caricature. The person to be painted stands before the artist like a world to discover. Michael Angelo said, "one paints, not with one's hands, but with one's brain." Leonardo shocked the prior of the convent delle Grazie by standing for days together opposite the "Last Supper" without touching it with the brush. He remarked of this attitude "that men of the most lofty genius, when they are doing the least work, are then the most active, seeking invention with their minds." The painter is a painter, because he sees what others only feel or catch a glimpse of, but do not see. We think we see a smile, but in reality we have only a vague impression of it, we do not perceive all the characteristic traits from which it results, as the painter perceives them after his internal meditations, which thus enable him to fix them on the canvas. Even in the case of our intimate friend, who is with us every day and at all hours, we do not possess intuitively more than, at the most, certain traits of his physiognomy, which enable us to distinguish him from others. The illusion is less easy as regards musical expression; because it would seem strange to everyone to say that the composer had added or attached notes to the motive, which is already in the mind of him who is not the composer. As if Beethoven's Ninth Symphony were not his own intuition and his own intuition the Ninth Symphony. Thus, just as he who is deceived as to his material wealth is confuted by arithmetic, which states its exact amount, so is he confuted who nourishes delusions as to the wealth of his own thoughts and images. He is brought back to reality, when he is obliged to cross the Bridge of Asses of expression. We say to the former, count; to the latter, speak, here is a pencil, draw, express yourself.
We have each of us, as a matter of fact, a little of the poet, of the sculptor, of the musician, of the painter, of the prose writer: but how little, as compared with those who are so called, precisely because of the lofty degree in which they possess the most universal dispositions and energies of human nature! How little does a painter possess of the intuitions of a poet! How little does one painter possess those of another painter! Nevertheless, that little is all our actual patrimony of intuitions or representations. Beyond these are only impressions, sensations, feelings, impulses, emotions, or whatever else one may term what is outside the spirit, not assimilated by man, postulated for the convenience of exposition, but effectively inexistent, if existence be also a spiritual fact.
[Sidenote] Identity of intuition and expression.
We may then add this to the verbal variants descriptive of intuition, noted at the beginning: intuitive knowledge is expressive knowledge, independent and autonomous in respect to intellectual function; indifferent to discriminations, posterior and empirical, to reality and to unreality, to formations and perceptions of space and time, even when posterior: intuition or representation is distinguished as form from what is felt and suffered, from the flux or wave of sensation, or from psychic material; and this form this taking possession of, is expression. To have an intuition is to express. It is nothing else! (nothing more, but nothing less) than to express.
INTUITION AND ART
[Sidenote] Corollaries and explanations.
Before proceeding further, it seems opportune to draw certain consequences from what has been established and to add some explanation.
[Sidenote] Identity of art and intuitive knowledge.
We have frankly identified intuitive or expressive knowledge with the aesthetic or artistic fact, taking works of art as examples of intuitive knowledge and attributing to them the characteristics of intuition, and vice versa. But our identification is combated by the view, held even by many philosophers, who consider art to be an intuition of an altogether special sort. "Let us admit" (they say) "that art is intuition; but intuition is not always art: artistic intuition is of a distinct species differing from intuition in general by something more."
[Sidenote] No specific difference.
But no one has ever been able to indicate of what this something more consists. It has sometimes been thought that art is not a simple intuition, but an intuition of an intuition, in the same way as the concept of science has been defined, not as the ordinary concept, but as the concept of a concept. Thus man should attain to art, by objectifying, not his sensations, as happens with ordinary intuition, but intuition itself. But this process of raising to a second power does not exist; and the comparison of it with the ordinary and scientific concept does not imply what is wished, for the good reason that it is not true that the scientific concept is the concept of a concept. If this comparison imply anything, it implies just the opposite. The ordinary concept, if it be really a concept and not a simple representation, is a perfect concept, however poor and limited. Science substitutes concepts for representations; it adds and substitutes other concepts larger and more comprehensive for those that are poor and limited. It is ever discovering new relations. But its method does not differ from that by which is formed the smallest universal in the brain of the humblest of men. What is generally called art, by antonomasia, collects intuitions that are wider and more complex than those which we generally experience, but these intuitions are always of sensations and impressions.
Art is the expression of impressions, not the expression of expressions.
[Sidenote] No difference of intensity.
For the same reason, it cannot be admitted that intuition, which is generally called artistic, differs from ordinary intuition as to intensity. This would be the case if it were to operate differently on the same matter. But since artistic function is more widely distributed in different fields, but yet does not differ in method from ordinary intuition, the difference between the one and the other is not intensive but extensive. The intuition of the simplest popular love-song, which says the same thing, or very nearly, as a declaration of love such as issues at every moment from the lips of thousands of ordinary men, may be intensively perfect in its poor simplicity, although it be extensively so much more limited than the complex intuition of a love-song by Leopardi.
[Sidenote] The difference is extensive and empirical.
The whole difference, then, is quantitative, and as such, indifferent to philosophy, scientia qualitatum. Certain men have a greater aptitude, a more frequent inclination fully to express certain complex states of the soul. These men are known in ordinary language as artists. Some very complicated and difficult expressions are more rarely achieved and these are called works of art. The limits of the expressions and intuitions that are called art, as opposed to those that are vulgarly called not-art, are empirical and impossible to define. If an epigram be art, why not a single word? If a story; why not the occasional note of the journalist? If a landscape, why not a topographical sketch? The teacher of philosophy in Moliere's comedy was right: "whenever we speak we create prose." But there will always be scholars like Monsieur Jourdain, astonished at having created prose for forty years without knowing it, and who will have difficulty in persuading themselves that when they call their servant John to bring their slippers, they have spoken nothing less than—prose.
We must hold firmly to our identification, because among the principal reasons which have prevented Aesthetic, the science of art, from revealing the true nature of art, its real roots in human nature, has been its separation from the general spiritual life, the having made of it a sort of special function or aristocratic circle. No one is astonished when he learns from physiology that every cellule is an organism and every organism a cellule or synthesis of cellules. No one is astonished at finding in a lofty mountain the same chemical elements that compose a small stone or fragment. There is not one physiology of small animals and one of large animals; nor is there a special chemical theory of stones as distinct from mountains. In the same way, there is not a science of lesser intuition distinct from a science of greater intuition, nor one of ordinary intuition distinct from artistic intuition. There is but one Aesthetic, the science of intuitive or expressive knowledge, which is the aesthetic or artistic fact. And this Aesthetic is the true analogy of Logic. Logic includes, as facts of the same nature, the formation of the smallest and most ordinary concept and the most complicated scientific and philosophical system.
[Sidenote] Artistic genius.
Nor can we admit that the word genius or artistic genius, as distinct from the non-genius of the ordinary man, possesses more than a quantitative signification. Great artists are said to reveal us to ourselves. But how could this be possible, unless there be identity of nature between their imagination and ours, and unless the difference be only one of quantity? It were well to change poeta nascitur into homo nascitur poeta: some men are born great poets, some small. The cult and superstition of the genius has arisen from this quantitative difference having been taken as a difference of quality. It has been forgotten that genius is not something that has fallen from heaven, but humanity itself. The man of genius, who poses or is represented as distant from humanity, finds his punishment in becoming or appearing somewhat ridiculous. Examples of this are the genius of the romantic period and the superman of our time.
But it is well to note here, that those who claim unconsciousness as the chief quality of an artistic genius, hurl him from an eminence far above humanity to a position far below it. Intuitive or artistic genius, like every form of human activity, is always conscious; otherwise it would be blind mechanism. The only thing that may be wanting to the artistic genius is the reflective consciousness, the superadded consciousness of the historian or critic, which is not essential to artistic genius.
[Sidenote] Content and form in Aesthetic.
The relation between matter and form, or between content and form, as it is generally called, is one of the most disputed questions in Aesthetic. Does the aesthetic fact consist of content alone, or of form alone, or of both together? This question has taken on various meanings, which we shall mention, each in its place. But when these words are taken as signifying what we have above defined, and matter is understood as emotivity not aesthetically elaborated, that is to say, impressions, and form elaboration, intellectual activity and expression, then our meaning cannot be doubtful. We must, therefore, reject the thesis that makes the aesthetic fact to consist of the content alone (that is, of the simple impressions), in like manner with that other thesis, which makes it to consist of a junction between form and content, that is, of impressions plus expressions. In the aesthetic fact, the aesthetic activity is not added to the fact of the impressions, but these latter are formed and elaborated by it. The impressions reappear as it were in expression, like water put into a filter, which reappears the same and yet different on the other side. The aesthetic fact, therefore, is form, and nothing but form.
From this it results, not that the content is something superfluous (it is, on the contrary, the necessary point of departure for the expressive fact); but that there is no passage between the quality of the content and that of the form. It has sometimes been thought that the content, in order to be aesthetic, that is to say, transformable into form, should possess some determinate or determinable quality. But were that so, then form and content, expression and impression, would be the same thing. It is true that the content is that which is convertible into form, but it has no determinable qualities until this transformation takes place. We know nothing of its nature. It does not become aesthetic content at once, but only when it has been effectively transformed. Aesthetic content has also been defined as what is interesting. That is not an untrue statement; it is merely void of meaning. What, then, is interesting? Expressive activity? Certainly the expressive activity would not have raised the content to the dignity of form, had it not been interested. The fact of its having been interested is precisely the fact of its raising the content to the dignity of form. But the word "interesting" has also been employed in another not illegitimate sense, which we shall explain further on.
[Sidenote] Critique of the imitation of nature and of the artistic illusion.
The proposition that art is imitation of nature has also several meanings. Now truth has been maintained or at least shadowed with these words, now error. More frequently, nothing definite has been thought. One of the legitimate scientific meanings occurs when imitation is understood as representation or intuition of nature, a form of knowledge. And when this meaning has been understood, by placing in greater relief the spiritual character of the process, the other proposition becomes also legitimate: namely, that art is the idealization or idealizing imitation of nature. But if by imitation of nature be understood that art gives mechanical reproductions, more or less perfect duplicates of natural objects, before which the same tumult of impressions caused by natural objects begins over again, then the proposition is evidently false. The painted wax figures that seem to be alive, and before which we stand astonished in the museums where such things are shown, do not give aesthetic intuitions. Illusion and hallucination have nothing to do with the calm domain of artistic intuition. If an artist paint the interior of a wax-work museum, or if an actor give a burlesque portrait of a man-statue on the stage, we again have spiritual labour and artistic intuition. Finally, if photography have anything in it of artistic, it will be to the extent that it transmits the intuition of the photographer, his point of view, the pose and the grouping which he has striven to attain. And if it be not altogether art, that is precisely because the element of nature in it remains more or less insubordinate and ineradicable. Do we ever, indeed, feel complete satisfaction before even the best of photographs? Would not an artist vary and touch up much or little, remove or add something to any of them?
[Sidenote] Critique of art conceived as a sentimental not a theoretical fact. Aesthetic appearance and feeling.
The statements repeated so often, with others similar, that art is not knowledge, that it does not tell the truth, that it does not belong to the world of theory, but to the world of feeling, arise from the failure to realize exactly the theoretic character of the simple intuition. This simple intuition is quite distinct from intellectual knowledge, as it is distinct from the perception of the real. The belief that only the intellective is knowledge, or at the most also the perception of the real, also arises from the failure to grasp the theoretic character of the simple intuition. We have seen that intuition is knowledge, free of concepts and more simple than the so-called perception of the real. Since art is knowledge and form, it does not belong to the world of feeling and of psychic material. The reason why so many aestheticians have so often insisted that art is appearance (Schein), is precisely because they have felt the necessity of distinguishing it from the more complex fact of perception by maintaining its pure intuitivity. For the same reason it has been claimed that art is sentiment. In fact, if the concept as content of art, and historical reality as such, be excluded, there remains no other content than reality apprehended in all its ingenuousness and immediateness in the vital effort, in sentiment, that is to say, pure intuition.
[Sidenote] Critique of theory of aesthetic senses.
The theory of the aesthetic senses has also arisen from the failure to establish, or from having lost to view the character of the expression as distinct from the impression, of the form as distinct from the matter.
As has just been pointed out, this reduces itself to the error of wishing to seek a passage from the quality of the content to that of the form. To ask, in fact, what the aesthetic senses may be, implies asking what sensible impressions may be able to enter into aesthetic expressions, and what must of necessity do so. To this we must at once reply, that all impressions can enter into aesthetic expressions or formations, but that none are bound to do so. Dante raised to the dignity of form not only the "sweet colour of the oriental sapphire" (visual impression), but also tactile or thermic impressions, such as the "thick air" and the "fresh rivulets" which "parch all the more" the throat of the thirsty. The belief that a picture yields only visual impressions is a curious illusion. The bloom of a cheek, the warmth of a youthful body, the sweetness and freshness of a fruit, the cutting of a sharpened blade, are not these, also, impressions that we have from a picture? Maybe they are visual? What would a picture be for a hypothetical man, deprived of all or many of his senses, who should in an instant acquire the sole organ of sight? The picture we are standing opposite and believe we see only with our eyes, would appear to his eyes as little more than the paint-smeared palette of a painter.
Some who hold firmly to the aesthetic character of given groups of impressions (for example, the visual, the auditive), and exclude others, admit, however, that if visual and auditive impressions enter directly into the aesthetic fact, those of the other senses also enter into it, but only as associated. But this distinction is altogether arbitrary. Aesthetic expression is a synthesis, in which it is impossible to distinguish direct and indirect. All impressions are by it placed on a level, in so far as they are aestheticised. He who takes into himself the image of a picture or of a poem does not experience, as it were, a series of impressions as to this image, some of which have a prerogative or precedence over others. And nothing is known of what happens prior to having received it, for the distinctions made after reflexion have nothing to do with art.
The theory of the aesthetic senses has also been presented in another way; that is to say, as the attempt to establish what physiological organs are necessary for the aesthetic fact. The physiological organ or apparatus is nothing but a complex of cellules, thus and thus constituted, thus and thus disposed; that is to say, it is merely physical and natural fact or concept. But expression does not recognize physiological facts. Expression has its point of departure in the impressions, and the physiological path by which these have found their way to the mind is to it altogether indifferent. One way or another amounts to the same thing: it suffices that they are impressions.
It is true that the want of given organs, that is, of given complexes of cells, produces an absence of given impressions (when these are not obtained by another path by a kind of organic compensation). The man born blind cannot express or have the intuition of light. But the impressions are not conditioned solely by the organ, but also by the stimuli which operate upon the organ. Thus, he who has never had the impression of the sea will never be able to express it, in the same way as he who has never had the impression of the great world or of the political conflict will never express the one or the other. This, however, does not establish a dependence of the expressive function on the stimulus or on the organ. It is the repetition of what we know already: expression presupposes impression. Therefore, given expressions imply given impressions. Besides, every impression excludes other impressions during the moment in which it dominates; and so does every expression.
[Sidenote] Unity and indivisibility of the work of art.
Another corollary of the conception of expression as activity is the indivisibility of the work of art. Every expression is a unique expression. Activity is a fusion of the impressions in an organic whole. A desire to express this has always prompted the affirmation that the world of art should have unity, or, what amounts to the same thing, unity in variety. Expression is a synthesis of the various, the multiple, in the one.
The fact that we divide a work of art into parts, as a poem into scenes, episodes, similes, sentences, or a picture into single figures and objects, background, foreground, etc., may seem to be an objection to this affirmation. But such division annihilates the work, as dividing the organism into heart, brain, nerves, muscles and so on, turns the living being into a corpse. It is true that there exist organisms in which the division gives place to more living things, but in such a case, and if we transfer the analogy to the aesthetic fact, we must conclude for a multiplicity of germs of life, that is to say, for a speedy re-elaboration of the single parts into new single expressions.
It will be observed that expression is sometimes based on other expressions. There are simple and there are compound expressions. One must admit some difference between the eureka, with which Archimedes expressed all his joy after his discovery, and the expressive act (indeed all the five acts) of a regular tragedy. Not in the least: expression is always directly based on impressions. He who conceives a tragedy puts into a crucible a great quantity, so to say, of impressions: the expressions themselves, conceived on other occasions, are fused together with the new in a single mass, in the same way as we can cast into a smelting furnace formless pieces of bronze and most precious statuettes. Those most precious statuettes must be melted in the same way as the formless bits of bronze, before there can be a new statue. The old expressions must descend again to the level of impressions, in order to be synthetized in a new single expression.
[Sidenote] Art as the deliverer.
By elaborating his impressions, man frees himself from them. By objectifying them, he removes them from him and makes himself their superior. The liberating and purifying function of art is another aspect and another formula of its character of activity. Activity is the deliverer, just because it drives away passivity.
This also explains why it is customary to attribute to artists alike the maximum of sensibility or passion, and the maximum insensibility or Olympic serenity. Both qualifications agree, for they do not refer to the same object. The sensibility or passion relates to the rich material which the artist absorbs into his psychic organism; the insensibility or serenity to the form with which he subjugates and dominates the tumult of the feelings and of the passions.
ART AND PHILOSOPHY
[Sidenote] Indissolubility of intellective from intuitive knowledge.
The two forms of knowledge, aesthetic and intellectual or conceptual, are indeed diverse, but this does not amount altogether to separation and disjunction, as we find with two forces going each its own way. If we have shown that the aesthetic form is altogether independent of the intellectual and suffices to itself without external support, we have not said that the intellectual can stand without the aesthetic. This reciprocity would not be true.
What is knowledge by concepts? It is knowledge of relations of things, and those things are intuitions. Concepts are not possible without intuitions, just as intuition is itself impossible without the material of impressions. Intuitions are: this river, this lake, this brook, this rain, this glass of water; the concept is: water, not this or that appearance and particular example of water, but water in general, in whatever time or place it be realized; the material of infinite intuitions, but of one single and constant concept.
However, the concept, the universal, if it be no longer intuition in one respect, is in another respect intuition, and cannot fail of being intuition. For the man who thinks has impressions and emotions, in so far as he thinks. His impression and emotion will not be love or hate, but the effort of his thought itself, with the pain and the joy, the love and the hate joined to it. This effort cannot but become intuitive in form, in becoming objective to the mind. To speak, is not to think logically; but to think logically is, at the same time, to speak.
[Sidenote] Critique of the negations of this thesis.
That thought cannot exist without speech, is a truth generally admitted. The negations of this thesis are all founded on equivoques and errors.
The first of the equivoques is implied by those who observe that one can likewise think with geometrical figures, algebraical numbers, ideographic signs, without a single word, even pronounced silently and almost insensibly within one. They also affirm that there are languages in which the word, the phonetic sign, expresses nothing, unless the written sign also be looked at. But when we said "speech," we intended to employ a synecdoche, and that "expression" generically, should be understood, for expression is not only so-called verbal expression, as we have already noted. It may be admitted that certain concepts may be thought without phonetic manifestations. But the very examples adduced to show this also prove that those concepts never exist without expressions.
Others maintain that animals, or certain animals, think or reason without speaking. Now as to how, whether, and what animals think, whether they be rudimentary, half-savage men resisting civilization, rather than physiological machines, as the old spiritualists would have it, are questions that do not concern us here. When the philosopher talks of animal, brutal, impulsive, instinctive nature and the like, he does not base himself on conjectures as to these facts concerning dogs or cats, lions or ants; but upon observations of what is called animal and brutal in man: of the boundary or animal basis of what we feel in ourselves. If individual animals, dogs or cats, lions or ants, possess something of the activity of man, so much the better, or so much the worse for them. This means that as regards them also we must talk, not of their nature as a whole, but of its animal basis, as being perhaps larger and more strong than the animal basis of man. And if we suppose that animals think, and form concepts, what is there in the line of conjecture to justify the admission that they do so without corresponding expressions? The analogy with man, the knowledge of the spirit, human psychology, which is the instrument of all our conjectures as to animal psychology, would oblige us to suppose that if they think in any way, they also have some sort of speech.
It is from human psychology, that is, literary psychology, that comes the other objection, to the effect that the concept can exist without the word, because it is true that we all know books that are well thought and badly written: that is to say, a thought which remains thought beyond the expression, notwithstanding the imperfect expression. But when we talk of books well thought and badly written, we cannot mean other than that in those books are parts, pages, periods or propositions well thought out and well written, and other parts (perhaps the least important) ill thought out and badly written, not truly thought out and therefore not truly expressed. Where Vico's Scienza nuova is really ill written, it is also ill thought out. If we pass from the consideration of big books to a short proposition, the error or the imprecision of this statement will be recognized at once. How could a proposition be clearly thought and confusedly written out?
All that can be admitted is that sometimes we possess thoughts (concepts) in an intuitive form, or in an abbreviated or, better, peculiar expression, sufficient for us, but not sufficient to communicate it with ease to another or other definite individuals. Hence people say inaccurately, that we have the thought without the expression; whereas it should properly be said that we have, indeed, the expression, but in a form that is not easy of social communication. This, however, is a very variable and altogether relative fact. There are always people who catch our thought on the wing, and prefer it in this abbreviated form, and would be displeased with the greater development of it, necessary for other people. In other words, the thought considered abstractly and logically will be the same; but aesthetically we are dealing with two different intuition-expressions, into both of which enter different psychological elements. The same argument suffices to destroy, that is, to interpret correctly, the altogether empirical distinction between an internal and an external language.
[Sidenote] Art and science.
The most lofty manifestations, the summits of intellectual and of intuitive knowledge shining from afar, are called, as we know, Art and Science. Art and Science, then, are different and yet linked together; they meet on one side, which is the aesthetic side. Every scientific work is also a work of art. The aesthetic side may remain little noticed, when our mind is altogether taken up with the effort to understand the thought of the man of science, and to examine its truth. But it is no longer concealed, when we pass from the activity of understanding to that of contemplation, and behold that thought either developed before us, limpid, exact, well-shaped, without superfluous words, without lack of words, with appropriate rhythm and intonation; or confused, broken, embarrassed, tentative. Great thinkers are sometimes termed great writers, while other equally great thinkers remain more or less fragmentary writers, if indeed their fragments are scientifically to be compared with harmonious, coherent, and perfect works.
[Sidenote] Content and form: another meaning. Prose and poetry.
We pardon thinkers and men of science their literary mediocrity. The fragments console us for the failure of the whole, for it is far more easy to recover the well-arranged composition from the fragmentary work of genius than to achieve the discovery of genius. But how can we pardon mediocre expression in pure artists? Mediocribus esse poetis non di, non homines, non concessere columnae. The poet or painter who lacks form, lacks everything, because he lacks himself. Poetical material permeates the Soul of all: the expression alone, that is to say, the form, makes the poet. And here appears the truth of the thesis which denies to art all content, as content being understood just the intellectual concept. In this sense, when we take "content" as equal to "concept" it is most true, not only that art does not consist of content, but also that it has no content.
In the same way the distinction between poetry and prose cannot be justified, save in that of art and science. It was seen in antiquity that such distinction could not be founded on external elements, such as rhythm and metre, or on the freedom or the limitation of the form; that it was, on the contrary, altogether internal. Poetry is the language of sentiment; prose of the intellect; but since the intellect is also sentiment, in its concretion and reality, so all prose has a poetical side.
[Sidenote] The relation of first and second degree.
The relation between intuitive knowledge or expression, and intellectual knowledge or concept, between art and science, poetry and prose, cannot be otherwise defined than by saying that it is one of double degree. The first degree is the expression, the second the concept: the first can exist without the second, but the second cannot exist without the first. There exists poetry without prose, but not prose without poetry. Expression, indeed, is the first affirmation of human activity. Poetry is "the maternal language of the human race"; the first men "were by nature sublime poets." We also admit this in another way, when we observe that the passage from soul to mind, from animal to human activity, is effected by means of language. And this should be said of intuition or expression in general. But to us it appears somewhat inaccurate to define language or expression as an intermediate link between nature and humanity, as though it were a mixture of the one and of the other. Where humanity appears, the rest has already disappeared; the man who expresses himself, certainly emerges from the state of nature, but he really does emerge: he does not stand half within and half without, as the use of the phrase "intermediate link" would imply.
[Sidenote] Inexistence of other forms of knowledge.
The cognitive intellect has no form other than these two. Expression and concept exhaust it completely. The whole speculative life of man is spent in passing from one to the other and back again.
[Sidenote] History. Its identity with and difference from art.
Historicity is incorrectly held to be a third theoretical form. History is not form, but content: as form, it is nothing but intuition or aesthetic fact. History does not seek for laws nor form concepts; it employs neither induction nor deduction; it is directed ad narrandum, non ad demonstrandum; it does not construct universals and abstractions, but posits intuitions. The this, the that, the individuum omni modo determinatum, is its kingdom, as it is the kingdom of art. History, therefore, is included under the universal concept of art.
Faced with this proposition and with the impossibility of conceiving a third mode of knowledge, objections have been brought forward which would lead to the affiliation of history to intellective or scientific knowledge. The greater portion of these objections is dominated by the prejudice that in refusing to history the character of conceptual science, something of its value and dignity has been taken from it. This really arises from a false idea of art, conceived, not as an essential theoretic function, but as an amusement, a superfluity, a frivolity. Without reopening a long debate, which so far as we are concerned, is finally closed, we will mention here one sophism which has been and still is widely repeated. It is intended to show the logical and scientific nature of history. The sophism consists in admitting that historical knowledge has for its object the individual; but not the representation, it is added, so much as the concept of the individual. From this it is argued that history is also a logical or scientific form of knowledge. History, in fact, should elaborate the concept of a personage such as Charlemagne or Napoleon; of an epoch, like the Renaissance or the Reformation; of an event, such as the French Revolution and the Unification of Italy. This it is held to do in the same way as Geometry elaborates the concepts of spatial form, or Aesthetic those of expression. But all this is untrue. History cannot do otherwise than represent Napoleon and Charlemagne, the Renaissance and the Reformation, the French Revolution and the Unification of Italy as individual facts with their individual physiognomy: that is, in the same way as logicians state, that one cannot have a concept of an individual, but only a representation. The so-called concept of the individual is always a universal or general concept, full of details, very rich, if you will, but however rich it be, yet incapable of attaining to that individuality, to which historical knowledge, as aesthetic knowledge, alone attains.
Let us rather show how the content of history comes to be distinguished from that of art. The distinction is secondary. Its origin will be found in what has already been observed as to the ideal character of the intuition or first perception, in which all is real and therefore nothing is real. The mind forms the concepts of external and internal at a later stage, as it does those of what has happened and of what is desired, of object and subject, and the like. Thus it distinguishes historical from non-historical intuition, the real from the unreal, real fancy from pure fancy. Even internal facts, what is desired and imagined, castles in the air, and countries of Cockagne, have their reality. The soul, too, has its history. His illusions form part of the biography of every individual. But the history of an individual soul is history, because in it is always active the distinction between the real and the unreal, even when the real is the illusions themselves. But these distinctive concepts do not appear in history as do scientific concepts, but rather like those that we have seen dissolved and melted in the aesthetic intuitions, although they stand out in history in an altogether new relief. History does not construct the concepts of the real and unreal, but makes use of them. History, in fact, is not the theory of history. Mere conceptual analysis is of no use in realizing whether an event in our lives were real or imaginary. It is necessary to reproduce the intuitions in the mind in the most complete form, as they were at the moment of production, in order to recognize the content. Historicity is distinguished in the concrete from pure imagination only as one intuition is distinguished from another: in the memory.