AESTHETIC AS SCIENCE OF EXPRESSION AND GENERAL LINGUISTIC
AESTHETIC AS SCIENCE OF EXPRESSION AND GENERAL LINGUISTIC
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
INDIVISIBILITY OF EXPRESSION INTO MODES OR GRADES AND CRITIQUE OF
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.
AESTHETIC SENTIMENTS AND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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--
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
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
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
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.
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
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