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Aesthetics - Art Philosophy

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


(Recapitulation.) In the volumes following "Art in Theory," the order of thought adopted in that book is reversed. Having begun the discussion of the general subject by observing forms as they have been produced by art, and drawing inferences from them, ending with the final inference that all are necessarily expressive of a certain significance, it seemed natural that the endeavor in subsequent blumes to determine how art should fulfil the requirements indicated in the introductory volume should start with signifance and work outward, showing what different concept it is possible to express in art, and how form. In pursuing this line of thought, the first thing to do, of course, was to examine the connection between significance and form in general. This subject was assigned to the volume of the series entitled "The Representative Significance of Form." The next thing to do was to examine the connection between significance and the possible forms of each of the different arts in particular. This was done in the volume entitled "Poetry as a Representative Art"; also in that part of the volume entitled "Rhythm and Harmony in Poetry and Music" which is devoted to the discussion of "Music as a Representative Art," as well as in the volume entitled "Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture as Representative Arts." Having examined the methods of representing significance through form in general, and in each class of forms in each different art in particular, the next thing to do was to examine form in itself—that is, as something which, though influenced by significance, and in practice always connected with significance, may, nevertheless, for the purposes of analytic study, be considered as existing apart from anything else, and as developing according to laws having to do mainly, if not solely, with that which pertains to the appeal to the senses. Here, in analogy to the course pursued when studying significance, attention was directed first to the sources, methods, and effects of form in general. This was done in the volume entitled "The Genesis of Art-Form." Next, what had been learned with reference to form in general was applied to form as manifested in each of the arts. This was done in the two concluding volumes of the series, " Rhythm and Harmony in Poetry and Music," and "Proportion and Harmony of Line and Color in Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture."—Proportion and Harmony of Line and Color, XXVI.


What is the reason that a man of esthetic culture is the last to come into his home swearing like a cowboy, cocking his hat over the vases on the mantelpiece, or forcing his boots up into their society? Because this sort of manner is not to his taste. Why not? Because, for one reason, he has learned the value of little matters of appearance; and for any man to learn of them in one department is to learn of them in all departments.—Essay on Art and Education.


Aesthetic studies, among which one may include anything that has to do with elocution, poetry, music, drawing, painting, modeling, building, or furnishing, whether we consider their influence upon the artist or upon the patron of art, are needed, in order to connect and complete the results of education as developed through science alone or through religion alone. These studies can do for our minds what science cannot, crowning its work with the halo of imagination and lighting its path to discovery. They can do for us what religion cannot, grounding its conceptions upon accuracy of observation and keeping them true to facts. Art unites the separated intellectual influences of the two other spheres. It can not only hold the mirror up to nature, but it can make all nature a mirror, and hold it up to the heavens. In times of intellectual and spiritual storm and stress, when night is above and waves below and winds behind and breakers ahead, the voice of art can sometimes speak peace to conflicting elements, and bring a great calm; and then, in the blue at our feet, we can see not only a little of the beauty of a little of the surface of the little star in which we live, but something also of the grandeur of all the stars of all the universe.—Idem.

Aesthetics, MEANING OF

The word aesthetics is traceable to a work termed "Aesthetica¬," published in Germany in 1750, by A. G. Baumgarten. The word was derived from the Greek word meaning "fitted to be perceived," and is now used to designate that which is fitted to the requirements of what philosophers term perception; in other words, fitted to accord with the laws, whether of physiology or psychology, which make effects appealing to the mind through the organs of perception—i.e., through the senses—satisfactory, agreeable, and, as we say, beautiful. If such effects need to be "fitted" to be perceived, they, of course, need to be made to differ from the condition in which they are presented in nature. That which causes them to differ from this is art. "Aesthetics is the science of the beautiful as exemplified in art. The latter has to do with the processes through which a sight or a sound may be "fitted to be perceived"; the former, with the effects after it has been put through these processes. One cannot be artistic without being able to design and produce; he may be esthetic, when able merely to appreciate and enjoy the results of design and production. The German term for the science, which some have tried to introduce into English, is aesthetic. But this term, except when employed as an adjective, seems to be out of analogy with English usage. According to it, the singular ending ic, as in logic and music, commonly designates some single department in which the methods of the science produce similar results. The plural ending ics, as in mathematics, physics, mechanics, and ethics, commonly designates a group of various departments, in which similar methods produce greatly varying results. The many different departments both of sight and of sound in which can be applied the principles underlying effects that can be "fitted to be perceived, " seem to render it appropriate and important that in English the science treating of them should be termed aesthetics.—Essentials of "AEsthetics, Preliminary Note.


Of course, in certain respects, these (esthetic) arts may be as useful as any that are termed useful: but the utility in them is always such as produces not a material but a mental result, and even no mental result except indirectly through an effect upon the senses.—Art in Theory, II.


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