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Analogy - Art Philosophy

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


An argument from analogy is always derived from a few forms that are representative, on the one hand, of a whole series of forms, and are representative, on the other hand, of a certain mental significance that is expressible through forms alone, and is actually expressed through the particular forms thus used.—The Representative Significance of Form, XII.


How now is it with art? Its conceptions have been said to partake of the nature partly of those of religion and partly of those of science. They must, therefore, be partly indefinite and partly definite; and their expression, there-fore, must partake of the nature partly of suggestion and partly of formulation. An indefinite suggestion is imparted through definite formulation according to the method not of logic, but of analogy; and a formulation of that which cannot be definitely communicated, but only indefinitely suggested, cannot be said to be presented, but only rep-resented. These are the reasons for maintaining, as will be done in this chapter, that an artistic conception tends to expression through analogical representation. Idem, XI.

The fact that the conceptions of art, as distinguished from those of religion and of science, cannot communicate significance except through the use of analogically representative forms, involves a limitation, which, like all limitations, is, in one sense, a source of weakness. But, in another sense, it is a source of strength, and a source of this in the exact degree in which its limitations are clearly recognized and no effort is made to overstep them. What but a consciousness of these limitations has caused all our great artists, when desiring to make their presentations of truth accord with the degree of knowledge or the phase of thought of their own period or country, to content themselves, in' place of discussing and explaining conditions, with merely describing their appearances? But notice that it is precisely because they have contented themselves with this, that progress in knowledge and thought, which is constantly rendering obsolete the results presented in science and philosophy, and even systems of religion, does not interfere with the enduring influence of works of art. In these works, certain appearances of material or human nature have been selected for reproduction. Through unique combinations of these, the significance behind them has been brought out more uniquely, yet the inferences which are drawn from them, so far as art is strictly and solely representative, can be drawn with as little arbitrary bias as from nature itself. Art of this character can appeal to the intelligence and the sympathy of all audiences of all periods. Its significance can be perceived and felt wherever men have eyes or ears, for its products continue always to be what they were when first conceived—faithful images of the real life by which humanity is constantly surrounded.—Idem,


Imagination is accustomed to jump the steps of logic. Yet often, as we have found, through subconscious intellection, it reaches exactly the same conclusions as are reached by investigation. How does imagination do this? Through arguing not logically but analogically. The term analogy is derived from two Greek words signifying thereon. The conception underlying the term, therefore, seems to be that a natural appearance, i. e., a form to which the term is applied, has the effect of a word;—that it is a part of that whole of 'attire which is frequently called the "unwritten word." More-over, analogy implies, beyond this, that some one natural appearance or form has been compared with at least one other, which is found to furnish a word thereon, or a word in addition, so that the two or more appearances taken together can be considered as words of the same meaning or significance. It is an argument from an analogy between not two but many—in fact, as many as possible—different appearances, that causes the conception of the unity of nature.—Idem, XII.

A work of art completes our ideal of that which should characterize an image of nature, in the degree only in which it is a word in addition, in the sense of being something that both suggests nature in appearance and, at the same time, exemplifies the laws that operate in nature. We term the work one of creative imagination mainly because, in both form and significance, in the way in which it appeals to both the physical senses and to the whole mind, it seems to be a continuation of the work of creation.—Idem, XII.


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