Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic
by Benedetto Croce
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[Sidenote] Historical criticism. [Sidenote] Historical scepticism.

Where this is not possible, owing to the delicate and fleeting shades between the real and unreal intuitions, which confuse the one with the other, we must either renounce, for the time at least, the knowledge of what really happened (and this we often do), or we must fall back upon conjecture, verisimilitude, probability. The principle of verisimilitude and of probability dominates in fact all historical criticism. Examination of the sources and of authority is directed toward establishing the most credible evidence. And what is the most credible evidence, save that of the best observers, that is, of those who best remember and (be it understood) have not desired to falsify, nor had interest in falsifying the truth of things? From this it follows that intellectual scepticism finds it easy to deny the certainty of any history, for the certainty of history is never that of science. Historical certainty is composed of memory and of authority, not of analyses and of demonstration. To speak of historical induction or demonstration, is to make a metaphorical use of these expressions, which bear quite a different meaning in history to that which they bear in science. The conviction of the historian is the undemonstrable conviction of the juryman, who has heard the witnesses, listened attentively to the case, and prayed Heaven to inspire him. Sometimes, without doubt, he is mistaken, but the mistakes are in a negligible minority compared with the occasions when he gets hold of the truth. That is why good sense is right against the intellectualists, in believing in history, which is not a "fable agreed upon," but that which the individual and humanity remember of their past. We strive to enlarge and to render as precise as possible this record, which in some places is dim, in others very clear. We cannot do without it, such as it is, and taken as a whole, it is rich in truth. In a spirit of paradox only, can one doubt if there ever were a Greece or a Rome, an Alexander or a Caesar, a feudal Europe overthrown by a series of revolutions, that on the 1st of November 1517 the theses of Luther were seen fixed to the door of the church of Wittenberg, or that the Bastile was taken by the people of Paris on the 14th of July 1789.

"What proof givest thou of all this?" asks the sophist, ironically. Humanity replies "I remember."

[Sidenote] Philosophy as perfect science. The so-called natural sciences, and their limits.

The world of what has happened, of the concrete, of history, is the world that is called real, natural, including in this definition the reality that is called physical, as well as that which is called spiritual and human. All this world is intuition; historical intuition, if it be realistically shown as it is, or imaginary intuition, artistic in the strict sense, if shown under the aspect of the possible, that is to say, of the imaginable.

Science, true science, which is not intuition but concept, not individuality but universality, cannot be anything but a science of the spirit, that is, of what is universal in reality: Philosophy. If natural sciences be spoken of, apart from philosophy, it is necessary to observe that these are not perfect sciences: they are complexes of knowledge, arbitrarily abstracted and fixed. The so-called natural sciences themselves recognize, in fact, that they are surrounded by limitations. These limitations are nothing more than historical and intuitive data. They calculate, measure, establish equalities, regularity, create classes and types, formulate laws, show in their own way how one fact arises out of other facts; but in their progress they are always met with facts which are known intuitively and historically. Even geometry now states that it rests altogether on hypotheses, since space is not three-dimensional or Euclidean, but this assumption is made use of by preference, because it is more convenient. What there is of truth in the natural sciences, is either philosophy or historical fact. What they contain proper to themselves is abstract and arbitrary. When the natural sciences wish to form themselves into perfect sciences, they must issue from their circle and enter the philosophical circle. This they do when they posit concepts which are anything but natural, such as those of the atom without extension in space, of ether or vibrating matter, of vital force, of space beyond the reach of intuition, and the like. These are true and proper philosophical efforts, when they are not mere words void of meaning. The concepts of natural science are, without doubt, most useful; but one cannot obtain from them that system, which belongs only to the spirit.

These historical and intuitive assumptions, which cannot be separated from the natural sciences, furthermore explain, not only how, in the progress of knowledge, that which was once considered to be truth descends gradually to the grade of mythological beliefs and imaginary illusions, but also how, among natural scientists, there are some who term all that serves as basis of argument in their teaching mythical facts, verbal expedients, or conventions. The naturalists and mathematicians who approach the study of the energies of the spirit without preparation, are apt to carry thither these mental habits and to speak, in philosophy, of such and such conventions "as arranged by man." They make conventions of truth and morality, and their supreme convention is the Spirit itself! However, if there are to be conventions, something must exist about which there is no convention to be made, but which is itself the agent of the convention. This is the spiritual activity of man. The limitation of the natural sciences postulates the illimitation of philosophy.

[Sidenote] The phenomenon and the noumenon.

These explications have firmly established that the pure or fundamental forms of knowledge are two: the intuition and the concept—Art, and Science or Philosophy. With these are to be included History, which is, as it were, the product of intuition placed in contact with the concept, that is, of art receiving in itself philosophic distinctions, while remaining concrete and individual. All the other forms (natural sciences and mathematics) are impure, being mingled with extraneous elements of practical origin. The intuition gives the world, the phenomenon; the concept gives the noumenon, the Spirit.



These relations between intuitive or aesthetic knowledge and the other fundamental or derivative forms of knowledge having been definitely established, we are now in a position to reveal the errors of a series of theories which have been, or are, presented, as theories of Aesthetic.

[Sidenote] Critique of verisimilitude and of naturalism.

From the confusion between the exigencies of art in general and the particular exigencies of history has arisen the theory (which has lost ground to-day, but used to dominate in the past) of verisimilitude as the object of art. As is generally the case with erroneous propositions, the intention of those who employed and employ the concept of verisimilitude has no doubt often been much more reasonable than the definition given of the word. By verisimilitude used to be meant the artistic coherence of the representation, that is to say, its completeness and effectiveness. If "verisimilar" be translated by "coherent," a most exact meaning will often be found in the discussions, examples, and judgments of the critics. An improbable personage, an improbable ending to a comedy, are really badly-drawn personages, badly-arranged endings, happenings without artistic motive. It has been said with reason that even fairies and sprites must have verisimilitude, that is to say, be really sprites and fairies, coherent artistic intuitions. Sometimes the word "possible" has been used instead of "verisimilar." As we have already remarked in passing, this word possible is synonymous with that which is imaginable or may be known intuitively. Everything which is really, that is to say, coherently, imagined, is possible. But formerly, and especially by the theoreticians, by verisimilar was understood historical credibility, or that historical truth which is not demonstrable, but conjecturable, not true, but verisimilar. It has been sought to impose a like character upon art. Who does not recall the great part played in literary history by the criticism of the verisimilar? For example, the fault found with the Jerusalem Delivered, based upon the history of the Crusades, or of the Homeric poems, upon that of the verisimilitude of the costume of the emperors and kings?

At other times has been imposed upon art the duty of the aesthetic reproduction of historical reality. This is another of the erroneous significations assumed by the theory concerning the imitation of nature. Verism and naturalism have since afforded the spectacle of a confusion of the aesthetic fact with the processes of the natural sciences, by aiming at some sort of experimental drama or romance.

[Sidenote] Critique of ideas in art, of theses in art, and of the typical.

The confusions between the methods of art and those of the philosophical sciences have been far more frequent. Thus it has often been held to be within the competence of art to develop concepts, to unite the intelligible with the sensible, to represent ideas or universals, putting art in the place of science, that is, confusing the artistic function in general with the particular case in which it becomes aesthetico-logical.

The theory of art as supporting theses can be reduced to the same error, as can be the theory of art considered as individual representation, exemplifying scientific laws. The example, in so far as it is an example, stands for the thing exemplified, and is thus an exposition of the universal, that is to say, a form of science, more or less popular or vulgarized.

The same may be said of the aesthetic theory of the typical, when by type is understood, as it frequently is, just the abstraction or the concept, and it is affirmed that art should make the species shine in the individual. If by typical be here understood the individual, here, too, we have a merely verbal variation. To typify would signify, in this case, to characterize; that is, to determine and to represent the individual. Don Quixote is a type; but of whom is he a type, if not of all Don Quixotes? A type, that is to say, of himself. Certainly he is not a type of abstract concepts, such as the loss of the sense of reality, or of the love of glory. An infinite number of personages can be thought of under these concepts, who are not Don Quixote. In other words, we find our own impressions fully determined and verified in the expression of a poet (for example in a poetical personage). We call that expression typical, which we might call simply aesthetic. Poetical or artistic universals have been spoken of in like manner, in order to show that the artistic product is altogether spiritual and ideal in itself.

[Sidenote] Critique of the symbol and of the allegory.

Continuing to correct these errors, or to make clear equivoques, we will note that the symbol has sometimes been given as essence of art. Now, if the symbol be given as inseparable from the artistic intuition, it is the synonym of the intuition itself, which always has an ideal character. There is no double-bottom to art, but one only; in art all is symbolical, because all is ideal. But if the symbol be looked upon as separable—if on the one side can be expressed the symbol, and on the other the thing symbolized, we fall back again into the intellectualist error: that pretended symbol is the exposition of an abstract concept, it is an allegory, it is science, or art that apes science. But we must be just toward the allegorical also. In some cases, it is altogether harmless. Given the Gerusalemme liberata, the allegory was imagined afterwards; given the Adone of Marino, the poet of the lascivious insinuated afterwards that it was written to show how "immoderate indulgence ends in pain"; given a statue of a beautiful woman, the sculptor can write on a card that the statue represents Clemency or Goodness. This allegory linked to a finished work post festum does not change the work of art. What is it, then? It is an expression externally added to another expression. A little page of prose is added to the Gerusalemme, expressing another thought of the poet; a verse or a strophe is added to the Adone, expressing what the poet would like to make a part of his public swallow; while to the statue nothing more than the single word is added: Clemency or Goodness.

[Sidenote] Critique of the theory of artistic and literary classes.

But the greatest triumph of the intellectualist error lies in the theory of artistic and literary classes, which still has vogue in literary treatises, and disturbs the critics and the historians of art. Let us observe its genesis.

The human mind can pass from the aesthetic to the logical, just because the former is a first step, in respect to the latter. It can destroy the expressions, that is, the thought of the individual with the thought of the universal. It can reduce expressive facts to logical relations. We have already shown that this operation in its turn becomes concrete in an expression, but this does not mean that the first expressions have not been destroyed. They have yielded their place to the new aesthetico-logical expressions. When we are on the second step, we have left the first.

He who enters a picture-gallery, or who reads a series of poems, may, after he has looked and read, go further: he may seek out the relations of the things there expressed. Thus those pictures and compositions, each of which is an individual inexpressible by logic, are resolved into universals and abstractions, such as costumes, landscapes, portraits, domestic life, battles, animals, flowers, fruit, seascapes, lakes, deserts, tragic, comic, piteous, cruel, lyrical, epic, dramatic, knightly, idyllic facts, and the like. They are often also resolved into merely quantitative categories, such as little picture, picture, statuette, group, madrigal, song, sonnet, garland of sonnets, poetry, poem, story, romance, and the like.

When we think the concept domestic life, or knighthood, or idyll, or cruelty, or any other quantitative concept, the individual expressive fact from which we started is abandoned. From aesthetes that we were, we have been changed into logicians; from contemplators of expression, into reasoners. Certainly no objection can be made to such a process. In what other way could science be born, which, if aesthetic expressions be assumed in it, yet has for function to go beyond them? The logical or scientific form, as such, excludes the aesthetic form. He who begins to think scientifically has already ceased to contemplate aesthetically; although his thought will assume of necessity in its turn an aesthetic form, as has already been said, and as it would be superfluous to repeat.

The error begins when we try to deduce the expression from the concept, and to find in the thing substituting the laws of the thing substituted; when the difference between the second and the first step has not been observed, and when, in consequence, we declare that we are standing on the first step, when we are really standing on the second. This error is known as the theory of artistic and literary classes.

What is the aesthetic form of domestic life, of knighthood, of the idyll, of cruelty, and so forth? How should these contents be represented? Such is the absurd problem implied in the theory of artistic and literary classes. It is in this that consists all search after laws or rules of styles. Domestic life, knighthood, idyll, cruelty, and the like, are not impressions, but concepts. They are not contents, but logico-aesthetic forms. You cannot express the form, for it is already itself expression. And what are the words cruelty, idyll, knighthood, domestic life, and so on, but the expression of those concepts?

Even the most refined of these distinctions, those that have the most philosophic appearance, do not resist criticism; as, for instance, when works of art are divided into the subjective and the objective styles, into lyric and epic, into works of feeling and works of design. It is impossible to separate in aesthetic analysis, the subjective from the objective side, the lyric from the epic, the image of feeling from that of things.

[Sidenote] Errors derived from this theory appearing in judgments on art.

From the theory of the artistic and literary classes derive those erroneous modes of judgment and of criticism, thanks to which, instead of asking before a work of art if it be expressive, and what it expresses, whether it speak or stammer, or be silent altogether, it is asked if it be obedient to the laws of the epic poem, or to those of tragedy, to those of historical portraiture, or to those of landscape painting. Artists, however, while making a verbal pretence of agreeing, or yielding a feigned obedience to them, have really always disregarded these laws of styles. Every true work of art has violated some established class and upset the ideas of the critics, who have thus been obliged to enlarge the number of classes, until finally even this enlargement has proved too narrow, owing to the appearance of new works of art, which are naturally followed by new scandals, new upsettings, and-new enlargements.

From the same theory come the prejudices, owing to which at one time (and is it really passed?) people used to lament that Italy had no tragedy (until a poet arose who gave to Italy that wreath which was the only thing wanting to her glorious hair), nor France the epic poem (until the Henriade, which slaked the thirsty throats of the critics). Eulogies accorded to the inventors of new styles are connected with these prejudices, so much so, that in the seventeenth century the invention of the mock-heroic poem seemed an important event, and the honour of it was disputed, as though it were the discovery of America. But the works adorned with this name (the Secchia rapita and the Scherno degli Dei) were still-born, because their authors (a slight draw-back) had nothing new or original to say. Mediocrities racked their brains to invent, artificially, new styles. The piscatorial eclogue was added to the pastoral, and then, finally, the military eclogue. The Aminta was bathed and became the Alceo. Finally, there have been historians of art and literature, so much fascinated with these ideas of classes, that they claimed to write the history, not of single and effective literary and artistic works, but of their classes, those empty phantoms. They have claimed to portray, not the evolution of the artistic spirit, but the evolution of classes.

The philosophical condemnation of artistic and literary classes is found in the formulation and demonstration of what artistic activity has ever sought and good taste ever recognized. What is to be done if good taste and the real fact, put into formulas, sometimes assume the air of paradoxes?

[Sidenote] Empirical sense of the divisions of classes.

Now if we talk of tragedies, comedies, dramas, romances, pictures of everyday life, battle-pieces, landscapes, seascapes, poems, versicles, lyrics, and the like, if it be only with a view to be understood, and to draw attention in general and approximatively to certain groups of works, to which, for one reason or another, it is desired to draw attention, in that case, no scientific error has been committed. We employ vocables and phrases; we do not establish laws and definitions. The mistake arises when the weight of a scientific definition is given to a word, when we ingenuously let ourselves be caught in the meshes of that phraseology. Pray permit me a comparison. It is necessary to arrange the books in a library in one way or another. This used generally to be done by means of a rough classification by subjects (among which the categories of miscellaneous and eccentric were not wanting); they are now generally arranged by sizes or by publishers. Who can deny the necessity and the utility of these groupings? But what should we say if some one began seriously to seek out the literary laws of miscellanies and of eccentricities from the Aldine or Bodonian collection, from size A or size B, that is to say, from these altogether arbitrary groupings whose sole object has been their practical use? Well, whoever should undertake an enterprise such as this, would be doing neither more nor less than those who seek out the aesthetic laws of literary and artistic classes.



The better to confirm these criticisms, it will be opportune to cast a rapid glance over analogous and opposite errors, born of ignorance as to the true nature of art, and of its relation to history and to science. These errors have injured alike the theory of history and of science, of Historic (or Historiology) and of Logic.

[Sidenote] Critique of the philosophy of history.

Historical intellectualism has been the cause of the many researches which have been made, especially during the last two centuries, researches which continue to-day, for a philosophy of history, for an ideal history, for a sociology, for a historical psychology, or however may be otherwise entitled or described a science whose object is to extract from history, universal laws and concepts. Of what kind must be these laws, these universals? Historical laws and historical concepts? In that case, an elementary criticism of knowledge suffices to make clear the absurdity of the attempt. When such expressions as a historical law, a historical concept are not simply metaphors colloquially employed, they are true contradictions in terms: the adjective is as unsuitable to the substantive as in the expressions qualitative quantity or pluralistic monism. History means concretion and individuality, law and concept mean abstraction and universality. If, on the other hand, the attempt to draw from history historical laws and concepts be abandoned, and it be merely desired to draw from it laws and concepts, the attempt is certainly not frivolous; but the science thus obtained will be, not a philosophy of history, but rather, according to the case, either philosophy in its various specifications of Ethic, Logic, etc., or empirical science in its infinite divisions and subdivisions. Thus are sought out either those philosophical concepts which are, as has already been observed, at the bottom of every historical construction and separate perception from intuition, historical intuition from pure intuition, history from art; or already formed historical intuitions are collected and reduced to types and classes, which is exactly the method of the natural sciences. Great thinkers have sometimes donned the unsuitable cloak of the philosophy of history, and notwithstanding the covering, they have conquered philosophical truths of the greatest magnitude. The cloak has been dropped, the truth has remained. Modern sociologists are rather to be blamed, not so much for the illusion in which they are involved when they talk of an impossible science of sociology, as for the infecundity which almost always accompanies their illusion. It is but a small evil that Aesthetic should be termed sociological Aesthetic, or Logic, social Logic. The grave evil is that their Aesthetic is an old-fashioned expression of sensualism, their Logic verbal and incoherent. The philosophical movement, to which we have referred, has borne two good fruits in relation to history. First of all has been felt the desire to construct a theory of historiography, that is, to understand the nature and the limits of history, a theory which, in conformity with the analyses made above, cannot obtain satisfaction, save in a general science of intuition, in an Aesthetic, from which Historic would be separated under a special head by means of the intervention of the universals. Furthermore, concrete truths relating to historical events have often been expressed beneath the false and presumptuous cloak of a philosophy of history; canons and empirical advice have been formulated by no means superfluous to students and critics. It does not seem possible to deny this utility to the most recent of philosophies of history, to so-called historical materialism, which has thrown a very vivid light upon many sides of social life, formerly neglected or ill understood.

[Sidenote] Aesthetic invasions into Logic.

The principle of authority, of the ipse dixit, is an invasion of historicity into the domains of science and philosophy which has raged in the schools. This substitutes for introspection and philosophical analyses, this or that evidence, document, or authoritative statement, with which history certainly cannot dispense. But Logic, the science of thought and of intellectual knowledge, has suffered the most grave and destructive disturbances and errors of all, through the imperfect understanding of the aesthetic fact. How, indeed, could it be otherwise, if logical activity come after and contain in itself aesthetic activity? An inexact Aesthetic must of necessity drag after it an inexact Logic.

Whoever opens logical treatises, from the Organum of Aristotle to the moderns, must admit that they all contain a haphazard mixture of verbal facts and facts of thought, of grammatical forms and of conceptual forms, of Aesthetic and of Logic. Not that attempts have been wanting to escape from verbal expression and to seize thought in its effective nature. Aristotelian logic itself did not become mere syllogistic and verbalism, without some stumbling and oscillation. The especially logical problem was often touched upon in the Middle Ages, by the nominalists, realists, and conceptualists, in their disputes. With Galileo and with Bacon, the natural sciences gave an honourable place to induction. Vico combated formalist and mathematical logic in favour of inventive methods. Kant called attention to a priori syntheses. The absolute idealists despised the Aristotelian logic. The followers of Herbart, bound to Aristotle, on the other hand, set in relief those judgments which they called narrative, which are of a character altogether different from other logical judgments. Finally, the linguists insisted upon the irrationality of the word, in relation to the concept. But a conscious, sure, and radical movement of reform can find no base or starting-point, save in the science of Aesthetic.

[Sidenote] Logic in its essence.

In a Logic suitably reformed on this basis, it will be fitting to proclaim before all things this truth, and to draw from it all its consequences: the logical fact, the only logical fact, is the concept, the universal, the spirit that forms, and in so far as it forms, the universal. And if be understood by induction, as has sometimes been understood, the formation of universals, and by deduction the verbal development of these, then it is clear that true Logic can be nothing but inductive Logic. But since by the word "deduction" has been more frequently understood the special processes of mathematics, and by the word "induction" those of the natural sciences, it will be advisable to avoid the one and the other denomination, and to say that true Logic is the Logic of the concept. The Logic of the concept, adopting a method which is at once induction and deduction, will adopt neither the one nor the other exclusively, that is, will adopt the (speculative) method, which is intrinsic to it.

The concept, the universal, is in itself, abstractly considered, inexpressible. No word is proper to it. So true is this, that the logical concept remains always the same, notwithstanding the variation of verbal forms. In respect to the concept, expression is a simple sign or indication. There must be an expression, it cannot fail; but what it is to be, this or that, is determined by the historical and psychological conditions of the individual who is speaking. The quality of the expression is not deducible from the nature of the concept. There does not exist a true (logical) sense of words. He who forms a concept bestows on each occasion their true meaning on the words.

[Sidenote] Distinction between logical and non-logical judgements.

This being established, the only truly logical (that is, aesthetico-logical) propositions, the only rigorously logical judgments, can be nothing but those whose proper and exclusive content is the determination of a concept. These propositions or judgments are the definitions. Science itself is nothing but a complex of definitions, unified in a supreme definition; a system of concepts, or chief concept.

It is therefore necessary to exclude from Logic all those propositions which do not affirm universals. Narrative judgments, not less than those termed non-enunciative by Aristotle, such as the expression of desires, are not properly logical judgments. They are either purely aesthetic propositions or historical propositions. "Peter is passing; it is raining to-day; I am sleepy; I want to read": these and an infinity of propositions of the same kind, are nothing but either a mere enclosing, in words the impression of the fact that Peter is passing, of the falling rain, of my organism inclining to sleep, and of my will directed to reading, or they are existential affirmation concerning those facts. They are expressions of the real or of the unreal, of historical or of pure imagination; they are certainly not definitions of universals.

[Sidenote] Syllogistic.

This exclusion cannot meet with great difficulties. It is already almost an accomplished fact, and the only thing required is to render it explicit, decisive, and coherent. But what is to be done with all that part of human experience which is called syllogistic, consisting of judgments and reasonings which are based on concepts. What is syllogistic? Is it to be looked down upon from above with contempt, as something useless, as has so often been done in the reaction of the humanists against scholasticism, in absolute idealism, in the enthusiastic admiration of our times for the methods of observation and experiment of the natural sciences? Syllogistic, reasoning in forma, is not a discovery of truth; it is the art of exposing, debating, disputing with oneself and others. Proceeding from concepts already formed, from facts already observed and making appeal to the persistence of the true or of thought (such is the meaning of the principle of identity and contradiction), it infers consequences from these data, that is, it represents what has already been discovered. Therefore, if it be an idem per idem from the point of view of invention, it is most efficacious as a teaching and an exposition. To reduce affirmations to the syllogistic scheme is a way of controlling one's own thought and of criticizing that of others. It is easy to laugh at syllogisers, but, if syllogistic has been born and retains its place, it must have good roots of its own. Satire applied to it can concern only its abuses, such as the attempt to prove syllogistically questions of fact, observation, and intuition, or the neglect of profound meditation and unprejudiced investigation of problems, for syllogistic formality. And if so-called mathematical Logic can sometimes aid us in our attempt to remember with ease, to manipulate the results of our own thought, let us welcome this form of the syllogism also, long prophesied by Leibnitz and essayed by many, even in our days.

But precisely because syllogistic is the art of exposing and of debating, its theory cannot hold the first place in a philosophical Logic, usurping that belonging to the doctrine of the concept, which is the central and dominating doctrine, to which is reduced everything logical in syllogistic, without leaving a residuum (relations of concepts, subordination, co-ordination, identification, and so on). Nor must it ever be forgotten that the concept, the (logical) judgment, and the syllogism do not occupy the same position. The first alone is the logical fact, the second and third are the forms in which the first manifests itself. These, in so far as they are forms, cannot be examined save aesthetically (grammatically); in so far as they possess logical content, only by neglecting the forms themselves and passing to the doctrine of the concept.

[Sidenote] False Logic and true Aesthetic.

This shows the truth of the ordinary remark to the effect that he who reasons ill, also speaks and writes ill, that exact logical analysis is the basis of good expression. This truth is a tautology, for to reason well is in fact to express oneself well, because the expression is the intuitive possession of one's own logical thought. The principle of contradiction, itself, is at bottom nothing but the aesthetic principle of coherence. It will be said that starting from erroneous concepts it is possible to write and to speak exceedingly well, as it is also possible to reason well; that some who are dull at research may yet be most limpid writers. That is precisely because to write well depends upon having a clear intuition of one's own thought, even if it be erroneous; that is to say, not of its scientific, but of its aesthetic truth, since it is this truth itself. A philosopher like Schopenhauer can imagine that art is a representation of the Platonic ideas. This doctrine is absolutely false scientifically, yet he may develop this false knowledge in excellent prose, aesthetically most true. But we have already replied to these objections, when we observed that at that precise point where a speaker or a writer enunciates an ill-thought concept, he is at the same time speaking ill and writing ill. He may, however, afterwards recover himself in the many other parts of his thought, which consist of true propositions, not connected with the preceding errors, and lucid expressions may with him follow upon turbid expressions.

[Sidenote] Logic reformed.

All enquiries as to the forms of judgments and of syllogisms, on their conversion and on their various relations, which still encumber treatises on Logic, are therefore destined to become less, to be transformed, to be reduced to something else.

The doctrine of the concept and of the organism of the concepts, of definition, of system, of philosophy, and of the various sciences, and the like, will fill the place of these and will constitute the only true and proper Logic.

Those who first had some suspicion of the intimate connexion between Aesthetic and Logic and conceived Aesthetic as a Logic of sensible knowledge, were strangely addicted to applying logical categories to the new knowledge, talking of aesthetic concepts, aesthetic judgments, aesthetic syllogisms, and so on. We are less superstitious as regards the solidity of the traditional Logic of the schools, and better informed as to the nature of Aesthetic. We do not recommend the application of Logic to Aesthetic, but the liberation of Logic from aesthetic forms. These have given rise to non-existent forms or categories of Logic, due to the following of altogether arbitrary and crude distinctions.

Logic thus reformed will always be formal Logic; it will study the true form or activity of thought, the concept, excluding single and particular concepts. The old Logic is ill called formal; it were better to call it verbal or formalistic. Formal Logic will drive out formalistic Logic. To attain this object, it will not be necessary to have recourse, as some have done, to a real or material Logic, which is not a science of thought, but thought itself in the act; not only a Logic, but the complex of Philosophy, in which Logic also is included. The science of thought (Logic) is that of the concept, as that of fancy (Aesthetic) is the science of expression. The well-being of both sciences lies in exactly following in every particular the distinction between the two domains.



The intuitive and intellective forms exhaust, as we have said, all the theoretic form of the spirit. But it is not possible to know them thoroughly, nor to criticize another series of erroneous aesthetic theories, without first establishing clearly their relations with another form of the spirit, which is the practical form.

[Sidenote] The will.

This form or practical activity is the will. We do not employ this word here in the sense of any philosophical system, in which the will is the foundation of the universe, the principle of things and the true reality. Nor do we employ it in the ample sense of other systems, which understand by will the energy of the spirit, the spirit or activity in general, making of every act of the human spirit an act of will. Neither such metaphysical nor such metaphorical meaning is ours. For us, the will is, as generally accepted, that activity of the spirit, which differs from the mere theoretical contemplation of things, and is productive, not of knowledge, but of actions. Action is really action, in so far as it is voluntary. It is not necessary to remark that in the will to do, is included, in the scientific sense, also what is vulgarly called not-doing: the will to resist, to reject, the prometheutic will, is also action.

[Sidenote] The will as an ulterior stage in respect to knowledge.

Man understands things with the theoretical form, with the practical form he changes them; with the one he appropriates the universe, with the other he creates it. But the first form is the basis of the second; and the relation of double degree, which we have already found existing between aesthetic and logical activity, is repeated between these two on a larger scale. Knowledge independent of the will is thinkable; will independent of knowledge is unthinkable. Blind will is not will; true will has eyes.

How can we will, without having before us historical intuitions (perceptions) of objects, and knowledge of (logical) relations, which enlighten us as to the nature of those objects? How can we really will, if we do not know the world which surrounds us, and the manner of changing things by acting upon them?

[Sidenote] Objections and elucidations.

It has been objected that men of action, practical men in the eminent sense, are the least disposed to contemplate and to theorize: their energy is not delayed in contemplation, it rushes at once into will. And conversely, that contemplative men, philosophers, are often very mediocre in practical matters, weak willed, and therefore neglected and thrust aside in the tumult of life. It is easy to see that these distinctions are merely empirical and quantitative. Certainly, the practical man has no need of a philosophical system in order to act, but in the spheres where he does act, he starts from intuitions and concepts which are most clear to him. Otherwise he could not will the most ordinary actions. It would not be possible to will to feed oneself, for instance, without knowledge of the food, and of the link of cause and effect between certain movements and certain organic sensations. Rising gradually to the more complex forms of action, for example to the political, how could we will anything politically good or bad, without knowing the real conditions of society, and consequently the means and expedients to be adopted? When the practical man feels himself in the dark about one or more of these points, or when he is seized with doubt, action either does not begin or stops. It is then that the theoretical moment, which in the rapid succession of human actions is hardly noticed and rapidly forgotten, becomes important and occupies consciousness for a longer time. And if this moment be prolonged, then the practical man may become Hamlet, divided between desire for action and his small amount of theoretical clarity as regards the situation and the means to be employed. And if he develop a taste for contemplation and discovery, and leave willing and acting, to a more or less great extent, to others, there is formed in him the calm disposition of the artist, of the man of science, or of the philosopher, who are sometimes unpractical or altogether blameworthy. These observations are all obvious. Their exactitude cannot be denied. Let us, however, repeat that they are founded on quantitative distinctions and do not disprove, but confirm the fact that an action, however slight it be, cannot really be an action, that is, an action that is willed, unless it be preceded by cognoscitive activity.

[Sidenote] Critique of practical judgments or judgments of value.

Some psychologists, on the other hand, place before practical action an altogether special class of judgments, which they call practical judgments or judgments of value. They say that in order to resolve to perform an action, it is necessary to have judged: "this action is useful, this action is good." And at first sight this seems to have the testimony of consciousness on its side. But he who observes better and analyses with greater subtlety, discovers that such judgments follow instead of preceding the affirmation of the will; they are nothing but the expression of the already exercised volition. A good or useful action is an action that is willed. It will always be impossible to distil from the objective study of things a single drop of usefulness or goodness. We do not desire things because we know them to be good or useful; but we know them to be good and useful, because we desire them. Here too, the rapidity, with which the facts of consciousness follow one another has given rise to an illusion. Practical action is preceded by knowledge, but not by practical knowledge, or better by the practical: to obtain this, it is first necessary to have practical action. The third moment, therefore, of practical judgments, or judgments of value, is altogether imaginary. It does not come between the two moments or degrees of theory and practice. That is why there exist no normative sciences in general, which regulate or command, discover and indicate values to the practical activity; because there is none for any other activity, assuming every science already realized and that activity developed, which it afterwards takes as its object.

[Sidenote] Exclusion of the practical from the aesthetic.

These distinctions established, we must condemn as erroneous every theory which confuses aesthetic with practical activity, or introduces the laws of the second into the first. That science is theory and art practice has been many times affirmed. Those who make this statement, and look upon the aesthetic fact as a practical fact, do not do so capriciously or because they are groping in the void; but because they have their eye on something which is really practical. But the practical which they are looking at is not Aesthetic, nor within Aesthetic; it is outside and beside it; and although they are often found united, they are not necessarily united, that is to say, by the bond of identity of nature.

The aesthetic fact is altogether completed in the expressive elaboration of the impressions. When we have conquered the word within us, conceived definitely and vividly a figure or a statue, or found a musical motive, expression is born and is complete; there is no need for anything else. If after this we should open our mouths and will to open them, to speak, or our throats to sing, and declare in a loud voice and with extended throat what we have completely said or sung to ourselves; or if we should stretch out and will to stretch out our hands to touch the notes of the piano, or to take up the brushes and the chisel, making thus in detail those movements which we have already done rapidly, and doing so in such a way as to leave more or less durable traces; this is all an addition, a fact which obeys quite different laws to the first, and with these laws we have not to occupy ourselves for the moment. Let us, however, here recognize that this second movement is a production of things, a practical fact, or a fact of will. It is customary to distinguish the internal from the external work of art: the terminology seems here to be infelicitous, for the work of art (the aesthetic work) is always internal; and that which is called external is no longer a work of art. Others distinguish between aesthetic fact and artistic fact, meaning by the second the external or practical stage, which may and generally does follow the first. But in this case, it is simply a case of linguistic usage, doubtless permissible, although perhaps not opportune.

[Sidenote] Critique of the theory of the end of art and of the choice of the content.

For the same reasons the search for the end of art is ridiculous, when it is understood of art as art. And since to fix an end is to choose, the theory that the content of art must be selected is another form of the same error. A selection from among impressions and sensations implies that these are already expressions, otherwise, how can a selection be made among what is continuous and indistinct? To choose is to will: to will this and not to will that: and this and that must be before us, they must be expressed. Practice follows, it does not precede theory; expression is free inspiration.

The true artist, in fact, finds himself big with his theme, he knows not how; he feels the moment of birth drawing near, but he cannot will it or not will it. If he were to wish to act in opposition to his inspiration, to make an arbitrary choice, if, born Anacreon, he were to wish to sing of Atreus and of Alcides, his lyre would warn him of his mistake, echoing only of Venus and of Love, notwithstanding his efforts to the contrary.

[Sidenote] Practical innocence of art.

The theme or content cannot, therefore, be practically or morally charged with epithets of praise or of blame. When critics of art remark that a theme is badly selected, in cases where that observation has a just foundation, it is a question of blaming, not the selection of the theme (which would be absurd), but the manner in which the artist has treated it. The expression has failed, owing to the contradictions which it contains. And when the same critics rebel against the theme or the content as being unworthy of art and blameworthy, in respect to works which they proclaim to be artistically perfect; if these expressions really are perfect, there is nothing to be done but to advise the critics to leave the artists in peace, for they cannot get inspiration, save from what has made an impression upon them. The critics should think rather of how they can effect changes in nature and in society, in order that those impressions may not exist. If ugliness were to vanish from the world, if universal virtue and felicity were established there, perhaps artists would no longer represent perverse or pessimistic sentiments, but sentiments that are calm, innocent, and joyous, like Arcadians of a real Arcady. But so long as ugliness and turpitude exist in nature and impose themselves on the artist, it is not possible to prevent the expression of these things also; and when it has arisen, factum infectum fieri nequit. We speak thus entirely from the aesthetic point of view, and from that of pure aesthetic criticism.

We do not delay to pass here in review the damage which the criticism of choice does to artistic production, with the prejudices which it produces or maintains among the artists themselves, and with the contrast which it occasions between artistic impulse and critical exigencies. It is true that sometimes it seems to do some good also, by assisting the artists to discover themselves, that is, their own impressions and their own inspiration, and to acquire consciousness of the task which is, as it were, imposed upon them by the historical moment in which they live, and by their individual temperament. In these cases, criticism of choice merely recognizes and aids the expressions which are already being formed. It believes itself to be the mother, where, at most, it is only the midwife.

[Sidenote] The independence of art.

The impossibility of choice of content completes the theorem of the independence of art, and is also the only legitimate meaning of the expression: art for art's sake. Art is thus independent of science, as it is of the useful and the moral. Let it not be feared that thus may be justified art that is frivolous or cold, since that which is truly frivolous or cold is so because it has not been raised to expression; or in other words, frivolity and frigidity come always from the form of the aesthetic elaboration, from the lack of a content, not from the material qualities of the content.

[Sidenote] Critique of the saying: the style is the man.

The saying: the style is the man, can also not be completely criticized, save by starting from the distinction between the theoretic and the practical, and from the theoretic character of the aesthetic activity. Man is not simply knowledge and contemplation: he is also will, which contains in it the cognoscitive moment. Now the saying is either altogether void, as when it is understood that the man is the style, in so far as he is style, that is to say, the man, but only in so far as he is an expression of activity; or it is erroneous, when the attempt is made to deduce from what a man has seen and expressed, that which he has done and willed, inferring thereby that there is a necessary link between knowing and willing. Many legends in the biographies of artists have sprung from this erroneous identification, since it seemed impossible that a man who gives expression to generous sentiments should not be a noble and generous man in practical life; or that the dramatist who gives a great many stabs in his plays, should not himself have given a few at least in real life. Vainly do the artists protest: lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba. They are merely taxed in addition with lying and hypocrisy. O you poor women of Verona, how far more subtle you were, when you founded your belief that Dante had really descended to hell, upon his dusky countenance! Yours was at any rate a historical conjecture.

[Sidenote] Critique of the concept of sincerity in art.

Finally, sincerity imposed upon the artist as a duty (this law of ethics which, they say, is also a law of aesthetic) arises from another equivoke. For by sincerity is meant either the moral duty not to deceive one's neighbour; and in that case Is foreign to the artist. For he, in fact, deceives no one, since he gives form to what is already in his mind. He would deceive, only if he were to betray his duty as an artist by a lesser devotion to the intrinsic necessity of his task. If lies and deceit are in his mind, then the form which he gives to these things cannot be deceit or lies, precisely because it is aesthetic. The artist, if he be a charlatan, a liar, or a miscreant, purifies his other self by reflecting it in art. Or by sincerity is meant, fulness and truth of expression, and it is clear that this second sense has nothing to do with the ethical concept. The law, which is at once ethical and aesthetic, reveals itself in this case in a word employed alike by Ethic and Aesthetic.



[Sidenote] The two forms of practical activity.

The twofold grade of the theoretical activity, aesthetic and logical, has an important parallel in the practical activity, which has not yet been placed in due relief. The practical activity is also divided into a first and second degree, the second implying the first. The first practical degree is the simply useful or economical activity; the second the moral activity.

Economy is, as it were, the Aesthetic of practical life; Morality its Logic.

[Sidenote] The economically useful.

If this has not been clearly seen by philosophers; if its suitable place in the system of the mind has not been given to the economic activity, and it has been left to wander in the prolegomena to treatises on political economy, often uncertain and but slightly elaborated, this is due, among other reasons, to the fact that the useful or economic has been confused, now with the concept of technique, now with that of the egoistic.

[Sidenote] Distinction between the useful and the technical.

Technique is certainly not a special activity of the spirit. Technique is knowledge; or better, it is knowledge itself, in general, that takes this name, as we have seen, in so far as it serves as basis for practical action. Knowledge which is not followed, or is presumed to be not easily followed by practical action, is called pure: the same knowledge, if effectively followed by action, is called applied; if it is presumed that it can be easily followed by the same action, it is called technical or applied. This word, then, indicates a situation in which knowledge already is, or easily can be found, not a special form of knowledge. So true is this, that it would be altogether impossible to establish whether a given order of knowledge were, intrinsically, pure or applied. All knowledge, however abstract and philosophical one may imagine it to be, can be a guide to practical acts; a theoretical error in the ultimate principles of morals can be reflected and always is reflected in some way, in practical life. One can only speak roughly and unscientifically of truths that are pure and of others that are applied.

The same knowledge which is called technical, can also be called useful. But the word "useful," in conformity with the criticism of judgments of value made above, is to be understood as used here in a linguistic or metaphorical sense. When we say that water is useful for putting out fire, the word "useful" is used in a non-scientific sense. Water thrown on the fire is the cause of its going out: this is the knowledge that serves for basis to the action, let us say, of firemen. There is a link, not of nature, but of simple succession, between the useful action of the person who extinguishes the conflagration, and this knowledge. The technique of the effects of the water is the theoretical activity which precedes; the action of him who extinguishes the fire is alone useful.

[Sidenote] Distinction between the useful and the egoistic.

Some economists identify utility with egoism, that is to say, with merely economical action or desire, with that which is profitable to the individual, in so far as individual, without regard to and indeed in complete opposition to the moral law. The egoistic is the immoral. In this case Economy would be a very strange science, standing, not beside, but facing Ethic, like the devil facing God, or at least like the advocatus diaboli in the processes of canonization. Such a conception of it is altogether inadmissible: the science of immorality is implied in that of morality, as the science of the false is implied in Logic, the science of the true, and a science of ineffectual expression in Aesthetic, the science of successful expression. If, then, Economy were the scientific treatment of egoism, it would be a chapter of Ethic, or Ethic itself; because every moral determination implies, at the same time, a negation of its contrary.

Further, conscience tells us that to conduct oneself economically is not to conduct oneself egoistically; that even the most morally scrupulous man must conduct himself usefully (economically), if he does not wish to be inconclusive and, therefore, not truly moral. If utility were egoism, how could it be the duty of the altruist to behave like an egoist?

[Sidenote] Economic will and moral will.

If we are not mistaken, the difficulty is solved in a manner perfectly analogous to that in which is solved the problem of the relations between the expression and the concept, between Aesthetic and Logic.

To will economically is to will an end; to will morally is to will the rational end. But whoever wills and acts morally, cannot but will and act usefully (economically). How could he will the rational, unless he willed it also as his particular end?

[Sidenote] Pure economicity.

The reciprocal is not true; as it is not true in aesthetic science that the expressive fact must of necessity be linked with the logical fact. It is possible to will economically without willing morally; and it is possible to conduct oneself with perfect economic coherence, while pursuing an end which is objectively irrational (immoral), or, better, an end which would be so judged in a superior grade of consciousness.

Examples of the economic, without the moral character, are the Prince of Machiavelli, Caesar Borgia, or the Iago of Shakespeare. Who can help admiring their strength of will, although their activity is only economic, and is opposed to what we hold moral? Who can help admiring the ser Ciappelletto of Boccaccio, who, even on his death-bed, pursues and realizes his ideal of the perfect rascal, making the small and timid little thieves who are present at his burlesque confession exclaim: "What manner of man is this, whose perversity, neither age, nor infirmity, nor the fear of death, which he sees at hand, nor the fear of God, before whose judgment-seat he must stand in a little while, have been able to remove, nor to cause that he should not wish to die as he has lived?"

[Sidenote] The economic side of morality.

The moral man unites with the pertinacity and fearlessness of a Caesar Borgia, of an Iago, or of a ser Ciappelletto, the good will of the saint or of the hero. Or, better, good will would not be will, and consequently not good, if it did not possess, in addition to the side which makes it good, also that which makes it will. Thus a logical thought, which does not succeed in expressing itself, is not thought, but at the most, a confused presentiment of a thought yet to come.

It is not correct, then, to conceive of the amoral man as also the anti-economical man, or to make of morality an element of coherence in the acts of life, and therefore of economicity. Nothing prevents us from conceiving (an hypothesis which is verified at least during certain periods and moments, if not during whole lifetimes) a man altogether without moral conscience. In a man thus organized, what for us is immorality is not so for him, because it is not so felt. The consciousness of the contradiction between what is desired as a rational end and what is pursued egoistically cannot be born in him. This contradiction is anti-economicity. Immoral conduct becomes also anti-economical only in the man who possesses moral conscience. The moral remorse which is the proof of this, is also economical remorse; that is to say, pain at not having known how to will completely and to attain to that moral ideal which was willed at the first moment, but was afterwards perverted by the passions. Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. The video and the probo are here an initial will immediately contradicted and passed over. In the man deprived of moral sense, we must admit a remorse which is merely economic; like that of a thief or of an assassin who should be attacked when on the point of robbing or of assassinating, and should abstain from doing so, not owing to a conversion of his being, but owing to his impressionability and bewilderment, or even owing to a momentary awakening of the moral consciousness. When he has come back to himself, that thief or assassin will regret and be ashamed of his inconsequence; his remorse will not be due to having done wrong, but to not having done it; his remorse is, therefore, economic, not moral, since the latter is excluded by hypothesis. However, a lively moral conscience is generally found among the majority of men, and its total absence is a rare and perhaps non-existent monstrosity. It may, therefore, be admitted, that morality coincides with economicity in the conduct of life.

[Sidenote] The merely economic and the error of the morally indifferent.

There need be no fear lest the parallelism affirmed by us should introduce afresh into the category of the morally indifferent, of that which is in truth action and volition, but is neither moral nor immoral; the category in sum of the licit and of the permissible, which has always been the cause or mirror of ethical corruption, as is the case with Jesuitical morality in which it dominated. It remains quite certain that indifferent moral actions do not exist, because moral activity pervades and must pervade every least volitional movement of man. But this, far from upsetting the parallelism, confirms it. Do there exist intuitions which science and the intellect do not pervade and analyse, resolving them into universal concepts, or changing them into historical affirmations? We have already seen that true science, philosophy, knows no external limits which bar its way, as happens with the so-called natural sciences. Science and morality entirely dominate, the one the aesthetic intuitions, the other the economic volitions of man, although neither of them can appear in the concrete, save in the intuitive form as regards the one, in the economic as regards the other.

[Sidenote] Critique of utilitarianism and the reform of Ethic and of Economic.

This combined identity and difference of the useful and of the moral, of the economic and of the ethic, explains the fortune enjoyed now and formerly by the utilitarian theory of Ethic. It is in fact easy to discover and to show a utilitarian side in every moral action; as it is easy to show an aesthetic side of every logical proposition. The criticism of ethical utilitarianism cannot escape by denying this truth and seeking out absurd and inexistent examples of useless moral actions. It must admit the utilitarian side and explain it as the concrete form of morality, which consists of what is within this form. Utilitarians do not see this within. This is not the place for a more ample development of such ideas. Ethic and Economic cannot but be gainers, as we have said of Logic and Aesthetic, by a more exact determination of the relations that exist between them. Economic science is now rising to the animating concept of the useful, as it strives to pass beyond the mathematical phase, in which it is still entangled; a phase which, when it superseded historicism, was in its turn a progress, destroying a series of arbitrary distinctions and false theories of Economic, implied in the confusion of the theoretical with the historical. With this conception, it will be easy on the one hand to absorb and to verify the semi-philosophical theories of so-called pure economy, and on the other, by the introduction of successive complications and additions, and by passing from the philosophical to the empirical or naturalistic method, to include the particular theories of the political or national economy of the schools.

[Sidenote] Phenomenon and noumenon in practical activity.

As aesthetic intuition knows the phenomenon or nature, and philosophic intuition the noumenon or spirit; so economic activity wills the phenomenon or nature, and moral activity the noumenon or spirit. The spirit which desires itself, its true self, the universal which is in the empirical and finite spirit: that is the formula which perhaps defines the essence of morality with the least impropriety. This will for the true self is absolute liberty.



[Sidenote] The system of the spirit.

In this summary sketch that we have given, of the entire philosophy of the spirit in its fundamental moments, the spirit is conceived as consisting of four moments or grades, disposed in such a way that the theoretical activity is to the practical as is the first theoretical grade to the second theoretical, and the first practical grade to the second practical. The four moments imply one another regressively by their concretion. The concept cannot be without expression, the useful without the one and the other, and morality without the three preceding grades. If the aesthetic fact is alone independent, and the others more or less dependent, then the logical is the least so and the moral will the most. Moral intention operates on given theoretic bases, which cannot be dispensed with, save by that absurd practice, the jesuitical direction of intention. Here people pretend to themselves not to know what at bottom they know perfectly well.

[Sidenote] The forms of genius.

If the forms of human activity are four, four also are the forms of genius. Geniuses in art, in science, in moral will or heroes, have certainly always been recognized. But the genius of pure Economic has met with opposition. It is not altogether without reason that a category of bad geniuses or of geniuses of evil has been created. The practical, merely economic genius, which is not directed to a rational end, cannot but excite an admiration mingled with alarm. It would be a mere question of words, were we to discuss whether the word "genius" should be applied only to creators of aesthetic expression, or also to men of scientific research and of action. To observe, on the other hand, that genius, of whatever kind it be, is always a quantitative conception and an empirical distinction, would be to repeat what has already been explained as regards artistic genius.

[Sidenote] Non-existence of a fifth form of activity. Law; sociality.

A fifth form of spiritual activity does not exist. It would be easy to demonstrate how all the other forms, either do not possess the character of activity, or are verbal variants of the activities already examined, or are complex and derived facts, in which the various activities are mingled, or are filled with special contents and contingent data.

The judicial fact, for example, considered as what is called objective law, is derived both from the economic and from the logical activities. Law is a rule, a formula (whether oral or written matters little here) in which is contained an economic relation willed by an individual or by a collectivity. This economic side at once unites it with and distinguishes it from moral activity. Take another example. Sociology (among the many meanings the word bears in our times) is sometimes conceived as the study of an original element, which is called sociality. Now what is it that distinguishes sociality, or the relations which are developed in a meeting of men, not of subhuman beings, if it be not just the various spiritual activities which exist among the former and which are supposed not to exist, or to exist only in a rudimentary degree, among the latter? Sociality, then, far from being an original, simple, irreducible conception, is very complex and complicated. This could be proved by the impossibility, generally recognized, of enunciating a single sociological law, properly so-called. Those that are improperly called by that name are revealed as either empirical historical observations, or spiritual laws, that is to say judgments, into which are translated the conceptions of the spiritual activities; when they are not simply empty and indeterminate generalizations, like the so-called law of evolution. Sometimes, too, nothing more is understood by sociality than social rule, and so law; and thus sociology is confounded with the science or theory of law itself. Law, sociality, and like terms, are to be dealt with in a mode analogous to that employed by us in the consideration of historicity and technique.

[Sidenote] Religiosity.

It may seem fitting to form a different judgment as to religious activity. But religion is nothing but knowledge, and does not differ from its other forms and subforms. For it is in truth and in turn either the expression of practical and ideal aspirations (religious ideals), or historical narrative (legend), or conceptual science (dogma).

It can therefore be maintained with equal truth, both that religion is destroyed by the progress of human knowledge, and that it is always present there. Their religion was the whole patrimony of knowledge of primitive peoples: our patrimony of knowledge is our religion. The content has been changed, bettered, refined, and it will change and become better and more refined in the future also; but its function is always the same. We do not know what use could be made of religion by those who wish to preserve it side by side with the theoretic activity of man, with his art, with his criticism, and with his philosophy. It is impossible to preserve an imperfect and inferior kind of knowledge, like religion, side by side with what has surpassed and disproved it. Catholicism, which is always coherent, will not tolerate a Science, a History, an Ethic, in contradiction to its views and doctrines. The rationalists are less coherent. They are disposed to allow a little space in their souls for a religion which is in contradiction with their whole theoretic world.

These affectations and religious susceptibilities of the rationalists of our times have their origin in the superstitious cult of the natural sciences. These, as we know and as is confessed by the mouth of their chief adepts, are all surrounded by limits. Science having been wrongly identified with the so-called natural sciences, it could be foreseen that the remainder would be asked of religion; that remainder with which the human spirit cannot dispense. We are therefore indebted to materialism, to positivism, to naturalism for this unhealthy and often disingenuous reflowering of religious exaltation. Such things are the business of the hospital, when they are not the business of the politician.

[Sidenote] Metaphysic.

Philosophy withdraws from religion all reason for existing, because it substitutes itself for religion. As the science of the spirit, it looks upon religion as a phenomenon, a transitory historical fact, a psychic condition that can be surpassed. Philosophy shares the domain of knowledge with the natural disciplines, with history and with art. It leaves to the first, narration, measurement and classification; to the second, the chronicling of what has individually happened; to the third, the individually possible. There is nothing left to share with religion. For the same reason, philosophy, as the science of the spirit, cannot be philosophy of the intuitive datum; nor, as has been seen, Philosophy of History, nor Philosophy of Nature; and therefore there cannot be a philosophic science of what is not form and universal, but material and particular. This amounts to affirming the impossibility of metaphysic.

The Method or Logic of history followed the Philosophy of history; a gnoseology of the conceptions which are employed in the natural sciences succeeded natural philosophy. What philosophy can study of the one is its mode of construction (intuition, perception, document, probability, etc.); of the others she can study the forms of the conceptions which appear in them (space, time, motion, number, types, classes, etc.). Philosophy, which should become metaphysical in the sense above described, would, on the other hand, claim to compete with narrative history, and with the natural sciences, which in their field are alone legitimate and effective. Such a competition becomes in fact a labour spoiling labour. We are antimetaphysical in this sense, while yet declaring ourselves ultrametaphysical, if by that word it be desired to claim and to affirm the function of philosophy as the autoconsciousness of the spirit, as opposed to the merely empirical and classificatory function of the natural sciences.

[Sidenote] Mental imagination and the intuitive intellect.

In order to maintain itself side by side with the sciences of the spirit, metaphysic has been obliged to assert the existence of a specific spiritual activity, of which it would be the product. This activity, which in antiquity was called mental or superior imagination, and in modern times more often intuitive intellect or intellectual intuition, would unite in an altogether special form the characters of imagination and of intellect. It would provide the method of passing, by deduction or dialectically, from the infinite to the finite, from form to matter, from the concept to the intuition, from science to history, operating by a method which should be at once unity and compenetration of the universal and the particular, of the abstract and the concrete, of intuition and of intellect. A faculty marvellous indeed and delightful to possess; but we, who do not possess it, have no means of proving its existence.

[Sidenote] Mystical aesthetic.

Intellectual intuition has sometimes been considered as the true aesthetic activity. At others a not less marvellous aesthetic activity has been placed beside, below, or above it, a faculty altogether different from simple intuition. The glories of this faculty have been sung, and to it have been attributed the fact of art, or at the least certain groups of artistic production, arbitrarily chosen. Art, religion, and philosophy have seemed in turn one only, or three distinct faculties of the spirit, now one, now another of these being superior in the dignity assigned to each.

It is impossible to enumerate all the various attitudes assumed by this conception of Aesthetic, which we will call mystical. We are here in the kingdom, not of the science of imagination, but of imagination itself, which creates its world with the varying elements of the impressions and of the feelings. Let it suffice to mention that this mysterious faculty has been conceived, now as practical, now as a mean between the theoretic and the practical, at others again as a theoretic grade together with philosophy and religion.

[Sidenote] Mortality and immortality of art.

The immortality of art has sometimes been deduced from this last conception as belonging with its sisters to the sphere of absolute spirit. At other times, on the other hand, when religion has been looked upon as mortal and as dissolved in philosophy, then the mortality, even the actual death, or at least the agony of art has been proclaimed. These questions have no meaning for us, because, seeing that the function of art is a necessary grade of the spirit, to ask if art can be eliminated is the same thing as asking if sensation or intelligence can be eliminated. But metaphysic, in the above sense, since it transplants itself to an arbitrary world, is not to be criticized in detail, any more than one can criticize the botany of the garden of Alcina or the navigation of the voyage of Astolfo. Criticism can only be made by refusing to join the game; that is to say, by rejecting the very possibility of metaphysic, always in the sense above indicated.

As we do not admit intellectual intuition in philosophy, we can also not admit its shadow or equivalent, aesthetic intellectual intuition, or any other mode by which this imaginary function may be called and represented. We repeat again that we do not know of a fifth grade beyond the four grades of spirit which consciousness reveals to us.



[Sidenote] The characteristics of art.

It is customary to give long enumerations of the characteristics of art. Having reached this point of the treatise, having studied the artistic function as spiritual activity, as theoretic activity, and as special theoretic activity (intuitive), we are able to discern that those various and copious descriptions mean, when they mean anything at all, nothing but a repetition of what may be called the qualities of the aesthetic function, generic, specific, and characteristic. To the first of these are referred, as we have already observed, the characters, or better, the verbal variants of unity, and of unity in variety, those also of simplicity, of originality, and so on; to the second of these, the characteristics of truth, of sincerity, and the like; to the third, the characteristics of life, of vivacity, of animation, of concretion, of individuality, of characteristicality. The words may vary yet more, but they will not contribute anything scientifically new. The results which we have shown have altogether exhausted the analysis of expression as such.

[Sidenote] Inexistence of modes of expression.

But at this point, the question as to whether there be various modes or grades of expression is still perfectly legitimate. We have distinguished two grades of activity, each of which is subdivided into two other grades, and there is certainly, so far, no visible logical reason why there should not exist two or more modes of the aesthetic, that is of expression.—The only objection is that these modes do not exist.

For the present at least, it is a question of simple internal observation and of self consciousness. One may scrutinize aesthetic facts as much as one will: no formal differences will ever be found among them, nor will the aesthetic fact be divisible into a first and a second degree.

This signifies that a philosophical classification of expressions is not possible. Single expressive facts are so many individuals, of which the one cannot be compared with the other, save generically, in so far as each is expression. To use the language of the schools, expression is a species which cannot in its turn perform the functions of genus. Impressions, that is to say contents, vary; every content differs from every other content, because nothing in life repeats itself; and the continuous variation of contents follows the irreducible variety of expressive facts, the aesthetic syntheses of the impressions.

[Sidenote] Impossibility of translations.

A corollary of this is the impossibility of translations, in so far as they pretend to effect the transference of one expression into another, like a liquid poured from a vase of a certain shape into a vase of another shape. We can elaborate logically what we have already elaborated in aesthetic form only; but we cannot reduce that which has already possessed its aesthetic form to another form also aesthetic. In truth, every translation either diminishes and spoils; or it creates a new expression, by putting the former back into the crucible and mixing it with other impressions belonging to the pretended translator. In the former case, the expression always remains one, that of the original, the translation being more or less deficient, that is to say, not properly expression: in the other case, there would certainly be two expressions, but with two different contents. "Ugly faithful ones or faithless beauties" is a proverb that well expresses the dilemma with which every translator is faced. In aesthetic translations, such as those which are word for word or interlinear, or paraphrastic translations, are to be looked upon as simple commentaries on the original.

[Sidenote] Critique of rhetorical categories.

The division of expressions into various classes is known in literature by the name of theory of ornament or of rhetorical categories. But similar attempts at classification in the other forms of art are not wanting: suffice it to mention the realistic and symbolic forms, spoken of in painting and sculpture.

The scientific value to be attached in Aesthetic and in aesthetic criticism to these distinctions of realistic and symbolic, of style and absence of style, of objective and subjective, of classic and romantic, of simple and ornate, of proper and metaphorical, of the fourteen forms of metaphor, of the figures of word and of sentence, and further of pleonasm, of ellipse, of inversion, of repetition, of synonyms and homonyms, and so on; is nil or altogether negative. To none of these terms and distinctions can be given a satisfactory aesthetic definition. Those that have been attempted, when they are not obviously erroneous, are words devoid of sense. A typical example of this is the very common definition of metaphor as of another word used in place of the word itself. Now why give oneself this trouble? Why take the worse and longer road when you know the shorter and better road? Perhaps, as is generally said, because the correct word is in certain cases not so expressive as the so-called incorrect word or metaphor? But in that case the metaphor becomes exactly the right word, and the so-called right word, if it were used, would be but little expressive and therefore most improper. Similar observations of elementary good sense can be made regarding the other categories, as, for example, the generic one of the ornate. One can ask oneself how an ornament can be joined to expression. Externally? In that case it must always remain separate. Internally? In that case, either it does not assist expression and mars it; or it does form part of it and is not ornament, but a constituent element of expression, indistinguishable from the whole.

It is not necessary to dwell upon the harm done by these distinctions. Rhetoric has often been declaimed against, but although there has been rebellion against its consequences, its principles have been carefully preserved, perhaps in order to show proof of philosophic coherence. Rhetoric has contributed, if not to make dominant in literary production, at least to justify theoretically, that particular mode of writing ill which is called fine writing or writing according to rhetoric.

[Sidenote] Empirical sense of the rhetorical categories.

The terms above mentioned would never have gone beyond the schools, where we all of us learned them (certain of never finding the opportunity of using them in strictly aesthetic discussions, or even of doing so jocosely and with a comic intention), save when occasionally employed in one of the following significations: as verbal variants of the aesthetic concept; as indications of the anti-aesthetic, or, finally (and this is their most important use), in a sense which is no longer aesthetic and literary, but merely logical.

[Sidenote] Use of these categories as synonyms of the aesthetic fact.

Expressions are not divisible into classes, but some are successful, others half-successful, others failures. There are perfect and imperfect, complete and deficient expressions. The terms already cited, then, sometimes indicate the successful expression, sometimes the various forms of the failures. But they are employed in the most inconstant and capricious manner, for it often happens that the same word serves, now to proclaim the perfect, now to condemn the imperfect.

An instance of this is found when someone, criticizing two pictures—the one without inspiration, in which the author has copied natural objects without intelligence; the other inspired, but without obvious likeness to existing objects—calls the first realistic, the second symbolic. Others, on the contrary, pronounce the word realistic about a strongly felt picture representing a scene of ordinary life, while they talk of symbolic in reference to another picture representing but a cold allegory. It is evident that in the first case symbolic means artistic, and realistic inartistic, while in the second, realistic is synonymous with artistic and symbolic with inartistic. How, then, can we be astonished when some hotly maintain that the true art form is the symbolic, and that the realistic is inartistic; others, that the realistic is the artistic, and the symbolic the inartistic? We cannot but grant that both are right, since each makes use of the same words in senses so diverse.

The great disputes about the classic and the romantic are frequently based upon such equivokes. Sometimes the former was understood as the artistically perfect, and the second as lacking balance and imperfect; at others, the classic was cold and artificial, the romantic sincere, warm, efficacious, and truly expressive. Thus it was always possible to take the side of the classic against the romantic, or of the romantic against the classic.

The same thing happens as regards the word style. Sometimes it is affirmed that every writer should have style. Here style is synonymous with form or expression. Sometimes the form of a code of laws or of a mathematical work is said to be devoid of style. Here the error of admitting diverse modes of expression is again committed, of admitting an ornate and a naked form of expression, because, since style is form, the code and the mathematical treatise must also, strictly speaking, have each its style. At other times, one hears the critics blaming someone for "having too much style" or for "writing a style." Here it is clear that style signifies, not the form, nor a mode of it, but improper and pretentious expression, which is one form of the inartistic.

[Sidenote] Their use to indicate various aesthetic imperfections.

Passing to the second, not altogether insignificant, use of these words and distinctions, we sometimes find in the examination of a literary composition such remarks as follow: here is a pleonasm, here an ellipse, there a metaphor, here again a synonym or an equivoke. This means that in one place is an error consisting of using a larger number of words than is necessary (pleonasm); that in another the error arises from too few having been used (ellipse), elsewhere from the use of an unsuitable word (metaphor), or from the use of two words which seem to express two different things, where they really express the same thing (synonym); or that, on the contrary, it arises from having employed one which seems to express the same thing where it expresses two different things (equivoke). This pejorative and pathological use of the terms is, however, more uncommon than the preceding.

[Sidenote] Their use in a sense transcending aesthetic, in the service of science.

Finally, when rhetorical terminology possesses no aesthetic signification similar or analogous to those passed in review, and yet one is aware that it is not void of meaning and designates something that deserves to be noted, it is then used in the service of logic and of science. If it be granted that a concept used in a scientific sense by a given writer is expressed with a definite term, it is natural that other words formed by that writer as used to signify the same concept, or incidentally made use of by him, become, in respect to the vocabulary fixed upon by him as true, metaphors, synecdoches, synonyms, elliptic forms, and the like. We, too, in the course of this treatise, have several times made use of, and intend again to make use of such terms, in order to make clear the sense of the words we employ, or may find employed. But this proceeding, which is of value in the disquisitions of scientific and intellectual criticism, has none whatever in aesthetic criticism. For science there exist appropriate words and metaphors. The same concept may be psychologically formed in various circumstances and therefore be expressed with various intuitions. When the scientific terminology of a given writer has been established, and one of these modes has been fixed as correct, then all other uses of it become improper or tropical. But in the aesthetic fact exist only appropriate words. The same intuition can only be expressed in one way, precisely because it is an intuition and not a concept.

[Sidenote] Rhetoric in the schools.

Some, while they admit the aesthetic insufficiency of the rhetorical categories, yet make a reserve as regards their utility and the service they are supposed to render, especially in schools of literature. We confess that we fail to understand how error and confusion can educate the mind to logical clearness, or aid the teaching of a science which they disturb and obscure. Perhaps it may be desired to say that they can aid memory and learning as empirical classes, as was admitted above for literary and artistic styles. But there is another purpose for which the rhetorical categories should certainly continue to be admitted to the schools: to be criticized there. We cannot simply forget the errors of the past, and truth cannot be kept alive, save by making it fight against error. Unless a notion of the rhetorical categories be given, accompanied by a suitable criticism of these, there is a risk of their springing up again. For they are already springing up with certain philologists, disguised as most recent psychological discoveries.

[Sidenote] The resemblances of expressions.

It would seem as though we wished to deny all bond of likeness among themselves between expressions and works of art. The likenesses exist, and owing to them, works of art can be arranged in this or that group. But they are likenesses such as are observed among individuals, and can never be rendered with abstract definitions. That is to say, these likenesses have nothing to do with identification, subordination, co-ordination, and the other relations of concepts. They consist wholly in what is called a family likeness, and are connected with those historical conditions existing at the birth of the various works, or in an affinity of soul between the artists.

[Sidenote] The relative possibility of translations.

It is in these resemblances that lies the relative possibility of translations. This does not consist of the reproduction of the same original expressions (which it would be vain to attempt), but in the measure that expressions are given, more or less nearly resembling those. The translation that passes for good is an approximation which has original value as a work of art and can stand by itself.



Passing on to the study of more complex concepts, where the aesthetic activity is found in conjunction with other orders of facts, and showing the mode of this union or complication, we find ourselves at once face to face with the concept of feeling and with the feelings which are called aesthetic.

[Sidenote] Various significances of the word feeling.

The word "feeling" is one of the richest in meanings. We have already had occasion to meet with it once, among those used to designate the spirit in its passivity, the matter or content of art, and also as synonym of impressions. Once again (and then the meaning was altogether different), we have met with it as designating the non-logical and non-historical character of the aesthetic fact, that is to say pure intuition, a form of truth which defines no concept and states no fact.

[Sidenote] Feeling as activity.

But feeling is not here understood in either of these two senses, nor in the others in which it has nevertheless been used to designate other cognoscitive forms of spirit. Its meaning here is that of a special activity, of non-cognoscitive nature, but possessing its two poles, positive and negative, in pleasure and pain. This activity has always greatly embarrassed philosophers, who have attempted either to deny it as an activity, or to attribute it to nature and to exclude it from spirit. Both solutions bristle with difficulties, and these are of such a kind that the solutions prove themselves finally unacceptable to anyone who examines them with care. For of what could a non-spiritual activity consist, an activity of nature, when we have no other knowledge of activity save as spiritual, and of spirituality save as activity? Nature is, in this case, by definition, the merely passive, inert, mechanical and material. On the other hand, the negation of the character of activity to feeling is energetically disproved by those very poles of pleasure and of pain which appear in it and manifest activity in its concreteness, and, we will say, all aquiver.

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