The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy
Paul Oskar Kristeller
The Modern System of the Arts:
A Study in the History of Aesthetics
Part II *
Journal of the History of
Ideas, 13 (1 )
Jan. 1952, 17-46.
Dedicated to Professor Hans Tietze on his 70th birthday
IX – Conclusions
During the first half of the eighteenth century the interest of amateurs, writers and philosophers in the visual arts and in music increased. The age produced not only critical writings on these arts composed by and for laymen,167 but also treatises in which the arts were compared with each other and with poetry, and thus finally arrived at the fixation of the modern system of the fine arts. 168 Since this system seems to emerge gradually and after many fluctuations in the writings of authors who were in part of but secondary importance, though influential, it would appear that the notion and system of the fine arts may have grown and crystallized in the conversations and discussions of cultured circles in Paris and in London, and that the formal writings and treatises merely reflect a climate of opinion resulting from such conversations. 169 A further study of letters, diaries and articles in elegant journals may indeed supplement our brief survey, which we must limit to the better known sources.
The treatise on Beauty by J. P. de Crousaz, which first appeared in 1714 and exercised a good deal of influence, is usually considered as the earliest French treatise on aesthetics. 170 It has indeed something to say on the visual arts and on poetry, and devotes a whole section to music. Moreover, it is an important attempt to give a philosophical analysis of beauty as distinct from goodness, thus restating and developing the notions of ancient and Renaissance Platonists. Yet the author has no system of the arts, and applies his notion of beauty without any marked distinction to the mathematical sciences and to the moral virtues and actions as well as to the arts, and
* Part I appeared in the Oct. 1951 issue.
167. Dresdner, 103ff.
Fontaine, Les doctrines d’art. Soreil, i.e. W. Folkierski,
Entre le classicisme et le romantisme: Etude sur l’esthétique et les
i’esthéticiens du XVIIIe siècle (Cracow-Paris, 1925). T. M. Mustoxidi, Histoire de
l’Esthétique francaise, 1700-1900 (
169. “Tel livre qui marque une date n’apporte, a vrai dire, rien de nouveau sur le marché des idées, mais dit tout haut et avec ordre ce que beaucoup de gens pensent en detail et disent tout has, sans s’arrêter a ce qu’ils disent” (Soreil, 146).
Traité du Beau, 2 vols. (
the fluidity of his “aesthetic” thought is shown by the fact that in his second edition he substituted a chapter on the beauty of religion for the one dealing with music. 171
During the following years, the problem of the arts seems to have dominated the discussions of the Académie des Inscriptions, and several of its lectures which were printed somewhat later and exercised a good deal of influence stress the affinity between poetry, the visual arts and music. 172 These discussions no doubt influenced the important work of the Abbé Dubos that appeared first in 1719 and was reprinted many times in the original and in translations far into the second half of the century. 173 Dubos’ merits in the history of aesthetic or artistic thought are generally recognized. It is apparent that he discusses not only the analogies between poetry and painting but also their differences, and that he is not interested in the superiority of one art over the others, as so many previous authors had been. His work is also significant as an early, though not the first, treatment of painting by an amateur writer, and his claim that the educated public rather than the professional artist is the best judge in matters of painting as well as of poetry is quite characteristic. 174 He did not
171 “Le dernier chapître où j’avois entrepris d’établir sur mes principes les fondemens de ce que la musique a de beau… on y en a substitué un autre… C’est celui de la beauté de la religion” (preface of the second edition). On the treatment of music in the first edition, which I have not seen, cf. H. Goldschmidt, 35-37.
172. In a lecture given in 1709, Abbé Fraguier describes poetry and painting as arts that have only pleasure for their end (Histoire de l’Académie Royale des In scriptions et Belles Lettres … I (1736), 75ff.). In a Deffense de la Poësie, presented before 1710, Abbé Massieu distinguishes “ceux [arts] qui tendent a polir l’esprit” (eloquence, poetry, history, grammar); “ceux qui ont pour but un délassement et un plaisir honneste” (painting, sculpture, music, dance); and “ceux qui sont les plus nécessaires a la vie” (agriculture, navigation, architecture) (Mémoires de littérature tires de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions II (1736), 1851.). In a lecture of 1721, Louis Racine links poetry with the other beaux arts (ibid., V (1729), 326). In a lecture of 1719, Fraguier treats painting, music, and poetry as different forms of imitation (ibid., VI (1729), 265ff.). There are many more papers on related subjects.
Réflexons critiques sur la poësie et sur la peinture, 4th ed., 3 vols.
invent the term beaux-arts, nor was he the first to apply it to other than the visual arts, but he certainly popularized the notion that poetry was one of the beaux-arts. 175 He also has a fairly clear notion of the difference between the arts that depend on “genius” or talent and the sciences based on accumulated knowledge, 176 and it has been rightly observed that in this he continues the work of the “Moderns” in the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, especially of Perrault. 177 Significant also is his acquaintance with English authors such as Wotton and Addison. 178 Finally, although the title of his work refers only to poetry and painting, he repeatedly has occasion to speak also of the other visual arts as linked with painting, especially of sculpture and engraving, 179 and he discusses music so frequently 180 that his English translator chose to mention this art in the very title of the book. 181 However, Dubos is as unsystematic in his presentation and arrangement as he is interesting for the variety of his ideas, and he fails to give anywhere a precise list of the arts other than poetry and painting or to separate them consistently from other fields of professions. 182
Voltaire also in his Temple du Goût (1733) seems to link together several of the fine arts, but in an informal and rather elusive fashion which shows that he was unable or unwilling to present a clear
175. I, 4; II, 131.
176. “ Qu’il est des professions oû le succès depend plus du genie quo du secours que l’art peut donner, et d’autres oû le succès depend plus du secours qu’on tire de l’art que du genie. On ne doit pas inferer qu’un siècle surpasse un autre siècle dans les professions du premier genre, parce qu’il le surpasse dans les professions du second genre.” The ancients are supreme in poetry, history and eloquence, but have been surpassed in the sciences such as physics, botany, geography, and astronomy, anatomy, navigation. Among the fields where progress depends “plus du talent d’inventer et du genie naturel de celui qui les exerce que de l’état de perfection oû ces professions se trouvent, lorsque l’homme qui les exerce fournit sa carrière,” Dubos lists painting, poetry, military strategy, music, oratory, and medicine (II, 558ff.).
178. Lombard, L’Abbé Du Bois, 189f. and 212.
179. I, 393; 481. II, 157f.; 177; 195; 224; 226; 228ff.
180. I, 435ff.; 451 (“Les premiers principes de la musique sont done les mêmes que ceux de la poësie et de la peinture. Ainsi que la poësie et la peinture, la musique est une imitation”). The third volume, which deals with the ancient theatre, contains an extensive treatment of music and the dance.
Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting and Music, translated by Thomas
182. Thus he once groups together grammarians, painters, sculptors, poets, historians, orators (II, 235). For another example, see above, note 176.
scheme. 183 More important for the history of our problem is the Essay on Beauty of Père André (1741), which exercised a good deal of influence. 184 His Cartesian background is worth noticing, although it is not enough to ascribe an aesthetics to Descartes. 185 The major sections of the work discuss visible beauty, which includes nature and the visual arts, the beauty of morals, the beauty of the works of the spirit, by which he means poetry and eloquence, and finally the beauty of music. 186 André thus moves much closer to the system of the arts than either Crousaz or Dubos had done, but in his treatise the arts are still combined with morality, and subordinated to the problem of beauty in a broader sense.
decisive step toward a system of the fine arts was taken by the Abbé Batteux in
his famous and influential treatise, Les beaux arts réduits à un même
principe (1746). 187 It is true that many elements of his
system were derived from previous authors, but at the same time it should not be
overlooked that he was the first to set forth a clearcut system of the fine arts
in a treatise devoted exclusively to this subject. This alone may account for his claim to
originality as well as for the enormous influence he exercised both in
183. “Nous trouvâmes un homme entouré de peintres, d’architectes, de sculpteurs, de doreurs, de faux connoisseurs, de fiateurs”(Voltaire, Le temple du gout, ed. E. Carcassonne [Paris, 1938], 66). “On y passe facilement, / De la musique a la peinture, / De la physique au sentiment, / Du tragique au simple agrément, / De la danse a l’architecture” (ibid., 84).
Essai sur le Beau (
186. “Beau visible; beau dans les moeurs; beau dans les pièces de l’esprit; beau musical” (cf. p. 1).
Les beaux arts réduits à un même principe, new ed.
188. Trouchon, i.e. Schenker, i.e. For an English treatise based on Batteux, see below.
principe de l’imitation que le philosophe grec (Aristotle) établit pour les
beaux arts, m’avoit frappé. J’en
avois senti la justesse pour la peinture qui est une poesie muette…” (p. VIII).
“J’allai plus loin: j’essayai
d’appliquer le même principe a la musique et a l’art de geste” (VIII f.). He also quotes
He separates the fine arts which have pleasure for their end from the mechanical arts, and lists the fine arts as follows: music, poetry, painting, sculpture and the dance. 190 He adds a third group which combines pleasure and usefulness and puts eloquence and architecture in this category. In the central part of his treatise, Batteux tries to show that the “imitation of beautiful nature” is the principle common to all the arts, and he concludes with a discussion of the theatre as a combination of all the other arts. The German critics of the later eighteenth century, and their recent historians, criticized Batteux for his theory of imitation and often failed to recognize that he formulated the system of the arts which they took for granted and for which they were merely trying to find different principles. They also overlooked the fact that the much maligned principle of imitation was the only one a classicist critic such as Batteux could use when he wanted to group the fine arts together with even an appearance of ancient authority. For the “imitative” arts were the only authentic ancient precedent for the “fine arts,” and the principle of imitation could be replaced only after the system of the latter had been so firmly established as no longer to need the ancient principle of imitation to link them together. Diderot’s criticism of Batteux has been emphasized too much, for it concerned only the manner in which Batteux defined and applied his principle, but neither the principle itself, nor the system of the arts for which it had been designed.
As a matter of fact, Diderot and the other authors of the Encyclopédie not only followed Batteux’s system of the fine arts, but also furnished the final touch and thus helped to give it a general currency not only in France but also in the other European countries. Montesquieu in his essay on taste written for the Encyclopédie takes the fine arts for granted. 191 Diderot, whose interests included music and the visual arts and who was also acquainted with such English authors as Shaftesbury, Addison and Hutcheson, criticizes Batteux in his Lettre sur les Sourds et Muets (1751), in which he demands a better and more detailed comparison between poetry, painting and music that would take into account the different modes of expression of those arts as they would affect their treatment of even the same subject
190. “Los autres ont pour objet le plaisir… on les appelle les beaux arts par excellence. Tels sont la musique, poésie, la peinture, la sculpture et l’art du geste ou la danse” (p. 6).191. Essai sur le gout (Oeuvres complètes de Montesquieu, ed. E. Laboulaye, VII [Paris, 1879], 116): “La poésie, la peinture, la sculpture, l’architecture, la musique, la danse, les différentes sortes de jeux, enfin les ouvrages de la nature et de l’art peuvent lui [to the soul] donner du plaisir…” Cf. Edwin P. Dargan, The Aesthetic Doctrine of Montesquieu (thes.
matter. 192 In the article on the Arts for the Encyclopédie, Diderot does not discuss the fine arts, but uses the old distinction between the liberal and mechanical arts and stresses the importance of the latter. 193 Yet in his article on beauty, he does discuss the fine arts, mentions Crousaz and Hutcheson and gives qualified approval to both André and Batteux, calling each of these two good works the best in its category and criticizing Batteux merely for his failure to define his concept of “beautiful nature” more clearly and explicitly. 194
Still more interesting is D’Alembert’s famous Discours préliminaire. In his division of knowledge, purportedly based on Francis Bacon, D’Alembert makes a clear distinction between philosophy, which comprises both the natural sciences and such fields as grammar, eloquence, and history, and “those cognitions which consist of imitation,” listing among the latter painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry and music. 195 He criticizes the old distinction between the liberal and mechanical arts, and then subdivides the liberal arts into the fine arts which have pleasure for their end, and the more necessary or useful liberal arts such as grammar, logic and morals. 196 He concludes with
Oeuvres completes de Diderot, ed. J. Assézat, 1 (1875), 343ff. The preface is addressed to Batteux
(Lettre à l’auteur des Beaux-arts réduits a un même principe, 347). Towards the end of his treatise, Diderot
summarizes his criticism as follows: “Mais rassembler les beautés communes de la
poésie, de la peinture et de la musique; en montrer les analogies; expliquer
comment le poète, le peintre et le musicien rendent le même image… c’est ce qui
reste a faire, et ce que je vous conseille d’ajouter à vos Beaux-arts réduits a
un même principe. Ne manquez pas
non plus de mettre a la tête de cet ouvrage un chapitre sur ce que c’est que la
belle nature, car je trouve des gens qui me soutiennent que, faute de l’une de
ces choses, votre traité rests sans fondement; et que, faute de l’autre, Il manque d’application” (385). On Didorot’s aesthetic doctrines, see:
Werner Leo, Diderot als Kunstphilosoph (thes.
Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
194. “Son Essai sur le beau [i.e., of Père André] est le système le plus suivi, le plus étendu et le mieux lié quo je connaisse. J’oserais assurer qu’il est dans son genre ce que le Traité des Beaux-Arts réduits a un seul principe est dans le sein. Ce sont deux bons ouvrages auxquelles il n’a manqué qu’un chapitre pour être excellents… M. l’abbé Batteux rappelle tous les principes des beaux-arts a l’imitation de la belle nature; mais il ne nous apprend point ce quo c’est quo la belle nature” (Diderot, Oeuvres 10 , 17. Encyclopédie 2 , 169ff.). For the same criticism of Batteux, see also the Lettre sur les sourds, above, note 192.
“Des connaissances qui consistent dans l’imitation” (D’Alembert, Oeuvres
196. “Parmi les arts libéraux qu’ on a réduit a des principes, ceux qui so proposent l’imitation de la nature ont été appelés ‘beaux-arts, parce qu’ils ont prince-[palement l’agrément pour objet. Mais ce n’est pas la seule chose qui les distingue des arts libéraux plus nécessaires ou plus utiles, comme la grammaire, la logique ou la morale” (105)
a main division of knowledge into philosophy, history and the fine arts. 197 This treatment shows still a few signs of fluctuation and of older notions, but it sets forth the modern system of the fine arts in its final form, and at the same time reflects its genesis. The threefold division of knowledge follows Francis Bacon, but significantly d’Alembert speaks of the five fine arts where Bacon had mentioned only poetry. D’Alembert is aware that the new concept of the fine arts is taking the place of the older concept of the liberal arts, which he criticizes, and he tries to compromise by treating the fine arts as a subdivision of the liberal arts, thus leaving a last trace of the liberal arts that was soon to disappear. Finally, he reveals his dependence on Batteux in certain phrases and in the principle of imitation, but against Batteux and the classical tradition he now includes architecture among the imitative arts, thus removing the last irregularity which had separated Batteux’s system from the modern scheme of the fine arts. Thus we may conclude that the Encyclopédie, and especially its famous introduction, codified the system of the fine arts after and beyond Batteux and through its prestige and authority gave it the widest possible currency all over
the middle of the century and after the publication of the Encyclopédie,
speculation on the fine arts in
197. “La peinture, la sculpture, l’architecture, la poésie, la musique et leurs différentes divisions composent la troisième distribution générale, qui naît de l’imagination, et dont les parties sont comprises sous le nom de beaux-arts” (117).
Jacques Lacombe, Dictionnaire portatif des Beaux-Arts ou Abrégé de ce qui
concerne l’architecture, la sculpture, la peinture, la gravure, la poësie et la
musique, avec la definition de ces arts, l’explication des termes et des choses
qui leur appartiennent, new ed. (Paris, 1753; first ed. 1752). The preface refers to “Le goût quo le
public témoigne pour les Beaux-Arts” and to “la nécessité d’un livre qui
renferme les Recherches et les Connoissances d’un amateur” (p. III). Pierre Estève, L’esprit des Beaux
Arts, 2 vols. (
tional expression when it merged several of the older Academies into the Académie des Beaux Arts. 199 Gradually, the further developments of aesthetics in
Having followed the French development through the eighteenth
199. Aucoc, 6-7. The section for literature and the fine arts of the Institut, created in 1795, comprised: grammaire, langues anciennes, poésie, antiquité et monuments, peinture, sculpture, architecture, musique, déclamation.
Eneyclopédie 13 (
201. ibid. 3 (1781), 484ff.
Cousin, Du Vrai, du Beau et du Bien, 29th ed. (Paris, 1904; first ed.,
1836, based on lectures delivered in 1817-18). Cf. P. Janet, Victor Cousin et
son oeuvre (
century, we must discuss the history of artistic thought
204. George Hakewill (An Apologie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God in the Government of the World…, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1635), who compares the ancients and moderns in the arts and sciences (Bury, 89), puts poetry between history and the art military (278ff.), architecture and painting between philosophy and navigation (303ff.), whereas sculpture and music receive no separate treatment in his work.
205. See above, note 110.
The Literary Remains of John Evelyn, ed. W. Upcott
had done, and emphasized like Perrault the fundamental difference between the sciences that had made progress since antiquity, and the arts that had not.208 A translation of one of the French works related to the Querelle, Callière’s History of the War of’ the Ancients and Moderns, was published as late as 1705, and reveals in its very title the growing sense of the affinity of the fine arts. 209 Even before the end of the seventeenth century, Dryden had translated Du Fresnoy’s poem on painting with De Piles’ commentary and had added his famous introduction on the Parallel of Painting and Poetry which popularized the notion in
William Wotton, Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning, 3rd ed.
209. See above, note 163.
A. Du Fresnoy, De arte graphica, tr. J. Dryden
Joshua Reynolds, The Literary Works II (
Jonathan Richardson, The Theory of Painting (first published in 1715), in
his Works (
poetics stressed the affinity between poetry, painting and music. 213
greater importance were the writings of Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, one of the
most influential thinkers of the eighteenth century, not only in
The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward N. Hooker, vol. I
importance is stressed by all historians of aesthetics. See also E. Cassirer, Die platonische
Renaissance in Engiand und die Schule von Cambridge
Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristics, ed. John M. Robertson
216. See Cassirer, i.e., above, note 214.
217. Characteristics II, 128; 138.
218. Characteristics I, 262; II, 136f.
Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury, Second Characters, ed. B. Rand
220. Characteristics I, 101ff.
221. “From music, poetry, rhetoric, down to the simple prose of history, through all the plastic arts of sculpture, statuary, painting, architecture, and the rest; everything muse-like, graceful, and exquisite was rewarded with the highest honours …”,(i.e., ‘by the Greeks). Characteristics II, 242. Cf. ibid., II, 330, where criticism of poetry is compared to the judgment of music or painting. I, 94 (beauty in architecture, music, poetry); II, 129; 252f.
of eloquence but also of history, thus reflecting the Renaissance tradition of the Studia humanitatis. 222 Almost equally influential in
The philosophical implications of Shaftesbury’s doctrine were further developed by a group of Scottish thinkers. Francis Hutcheson, who considered himself Shaftesbury’s pupil, modified his doctrine by distinguishing between the moral sense and the sense of beauty. 224 This distinction, which was adopted by Hume 225 and quoted by Diderot, went a long ways to prepare the separation of ethics and aesthetics, although Hutcheson still assigned the taste of poetry to the moral sense. 226 A later philosopher of the Scottish school, Thomas
222. II, 242. There seems to be a tendency in Shaftesbury to associate not only the beauty of the senses with the visual arts and music, but also the beauty of character and virtue, or moral ‘beauty, with poetry. I, 136 (“moral artist”); 216 (“poetical and moral truth, the beauty of sentiments, the sublime of characters”); II, 318 (“ to morals, and the knowledge of what is called poetic manners and truth”); 3311. (“a sense of that moral truth on which… poetic truth and beauty must naturally depend”). This is not merely a residue of the old moralistic interpretation of poetry, but an attempt to correlate the emerging system of the fine arts with Plato’s ladder of beauty. Cf. the statement of Castelvetro, above, note 92.
Joseph Addison, Works, ed. Tickell, II (
225. D. Hume, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), Appendix I: “Concerning Moral Sentiment.” Cf. A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), Book III, Part I, Section II.
226. L.c., 239 (“We shall find this sense to be the foundation also of the chief pleasures of poetry”). For the root of this idea in Shaftesbury, see above, note 222.
Reid, introduced common sense as a direct criterion of truth, and although he was no doubt influenced by Aristotle’s notion of common sense and the Stoic and modern views on “common notions,” it has been suggested that his common sense was conceived as a counterpart to Hutcheson’s two senses. 227 Thus the psychology of the Scottish school led the way for the doctrine of the three faculties of the soul, which found its final development in Kant and its application in Cousin.
Other English authors, motivated by critical rather than philosophical interests and probably influenced by French authors, popularized the notion of the affinity between poetry, painting, and music, e.g., Charles Lamotte228 and Hildebrand Jacobs. 229 More philosophical are the essays of James Harris, who continued Shaftesbury and had some influence on German writers. In the first of his three essays, which are written in an elegant dialogue form but heavily annotated with references to classical authors, Harris expounds the concept of art on the basis of Aristotle and with its older comprehensive meaning. In the second essay, he distinguishes between the necessary arts and the arts of elegance, putting under the latter category especially music, painting and poetry, and comparing these three arts with each other according to their relative merits. The third essay deals with happiness as the art of human conduct. 230 About
Thomas Reid, Works, 4th ed. (
Charles Lamotte, An Essay upon Poetry and
Hildebrand Jacobs, Of the Sister Arts; an Essay, in his Works
the same time, the poet Akenside continued the work of Addison;231 and before the middle of the century the important French works of Dubos and Batteux were presented to English readers, the former in a translation, 232 the latter in an anonymous version or summary, entitled The Polite Arts. 233
During the second half of the eighteenth century, English writers continued to discuss the various arts. But they were not so much interested in expounding and developing a system of the fine arts, which they took pretty much for granted, as in discussing general concepts and principles concerning the arts; e.g., Home, Burke, and Gerard; or else the relations between the particular arts; e.g., Daniel Webb or John Brown, to mention only some of the more influential
Mark Akenside, The Pleasures of Imagination, in his Poetical
Works, ed. G. Gilfihlan (
232. See above, note 181.233. The Polite Arts, or, a Dissertation on Poetry, Painting, Musick, Architecture, and Eloquence (
writers. 234 All these English and Scottish writers show a strong preoccupation with psychology, as might be expected from the general trend of English thought in that century. They exercised considerable influence on the continent, especially in
.Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism (New York, 1830; first
ed., 1762). He lists poetry,
painting, sculpture, music, gardening and architecture as “fine arts” (11).
E. Burke, A Philosophical
Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
235. John W. Draper, “Poetry and Music in Eighteenth Century Aesthetics,” Englische Studien 67 (1932-33), 70-85. Herbert M. Schueller, “Literature and Music as Sister Arts…”, Philological Quarterly 26 (1947), 193-205.
H. Parker, The Nature of the Fine Arts (
Discussion of the arts does not seem to have occupied many German writers in the seventeenth century, which was on the whole a period of cultural decline. 237 The poet Opitz showed familiarity with the parallel of poetry and painting, 238 but otherwise the Germans did not take part in the development we are trying to describe before the eighteenth century. During the first part of that century interest in literature and literary criticism began to rise, but did not yet lead to a detailed or comparative treatment of the other arts. However, some of the French and English writers we have, mentioned were widely read and also translated into German during the course of the century, such as Dubos and Batteux, Shaftesbury and Harris. The critical writings of the Swiss authors, Bodmer and Breitinger, focus from the very beginning on the parallel between painting and poetry, and reflect the influence of
For German aesthetics in the eighteenth century, see, besides the general
histories of aesthetics: F. Braitmaier, Geschichte der poetischen Theorie von
den Diskursen der Mater bis auf Lessing, 2 pts. (Frauenfeld, 1888-89). E. Gureker, Histoire des doctrines
littéraires et esthétiques en Allemagne, 2 vols. (Paris, 1883-96). Robert Sominer, Grundzüge einer
Geschichte der deutschen Psychologie und Aesthetik von Wolff-Baumgarten bis
Borinski, Die Kunstlehre der Renaissance in Opitz’ Buch von der deutschen
Die Discourse der Mahlern (1721-22), ed. Th. Vetter (Frauenfeld, 1891).
The analogy between poetry and
painting is stressed in discourse no. 19 (p. 91) and extended to sculpture in
discourse no. 20 (97ff.). The same
analogy is stressed in the later works of Bodmer and Breitinger. See Johann Jacob Bodmer, Critische
Betrachtungen ueber die Poetischen Gemälde der Dichter (Zürich, 1741), 27ff.
Johann Jacob Breitinger, Critische Dichtkunst (Zurich, 1740), 3ff. and
29ff. (where the comparison with painting is extended to history and eloquence).
Cf. R. De Reynold, Histoire
littéraire de la Suisse au XVIIIe siècle, II (Lousanne, 1912): Bodmer et
l’Ecole Suisse. R. Verosta, Der Phantasiebegriff bei den Schweizern
Bodmer und Breitinger (progr.
Johann Christoph Gottsched, Versuch einer Critischen Dichtkunst, 3rd ed.
Elias Schiegel, who is said to have been influenced by the lectures of Fraguier and other authors published in the Memoirs of the Académie des Inscriptions. 241 His brother Johann Adolf Schlegel, who was one of the translators of Batteux, added to his version several original essays in which he criticizes the theory of imitation and also presents a modified system of the fine arts. 242 Yet all these writers were primarily interested in poetics and literary criticism and drew upon the other arts only for occasional analogies.
These critical discussions among poets and literati constitute the general background for the important work of the philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten and of his pupil Georg Friedrich Meier. 243
241. Johann Elias Schiegels Aesthetische und dramaturgische
Schriften, ed. J. von Antoniewicz (
Herrn Abt Batteux… Einschränkung der Schönen Künste auf einen einzigen
Grundsatz, tr. Johann Adolf Schiegel, 3rd ed.
243. Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Aesthetica, ed. B.
Croce (Bari, 1936; first ed., 1750-58). This edition also contains (1-45) his
Meditationes Philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus (1735).
B. Poppe, Alexander Gottlieb
Baumgarten (thes. Münster, Borna-Leipzig, 1907), who publishes from a
Baumgarten is famous for having coined the term aesthetics, but opinions differ as to whether he must be considered the founder of that discipline or what place he occupies in its history and development. The original meaning of the term aesthetics as coined by Baumgarten, which has been well nigh forgotten by now, is the theory of sensuous knowledge, as a counterpart to logic as a theory of intellectual knowledge. 244 The definitions Baumgarten gives of aesthetics show that he is concerned with the arts and with beauty as one of their main attributes, but he still uses the old term liberal arts, and he considers them as forms of knowledge. 245 The question whether Baumgarten really gave a theory of all the fine arts, or merely a poetics and rhetoric with a new name, has been debated but can be answered easily. In his earlier work, in which he first coined the term aesthetics, Baumgarten was exclusively concerned with poetics and rhetoric. 246 In his later, unfinished work, to which he gave the title Aesthetica, Baumgarten states in his introduction that he intends to give a theory of all the arts, 247 and actually makes occasional references to the visual arts and to music. 248 This impression is confirmed by the text of Baumgarten’s lectures published only recently, 249 and
244. “Sint ergo νοητά cognoscenda facultate superiore objectum logices; [HHC – Greek not displayed] sive aestheticae” (Meditationes, ed. Croce, #116, p. 44). The distinction is reminiscent of the one made by Speusippus and related by Sextus Empiricus (Adversus Mathematicos VII, 145: [HHC – Greek not displayed]). Aesthetica, #1 (ed. Croce, p. 55): “Aesthetica theoria liberalium artium, gnoseologia inferior, ars puicre cogitandi… est scientia cognitionis sensitivae.”
245. Ibid. See also #3 (p. 55) where the usefulness of aesthetics is thus described: “bona principia studiis omnibus artibusque liberalibus subministrare.”
246. In the Meditationes (#117, ed. Croce, p. 44-45), rhetorica generalis and poetica generalis are introduced as the main parts of aesthetica.
247. In #5 (ed. Croce, p. 56) he raises this objection against himself: “eam eandem esse cum rhetorica et poetica,” and answers thus: “latius pate... complectitur has cum allis artibus ac inter se communia.”
248. #4, p. 55 (musicus); #69, p. 76 (musici); #780, p. 461-62 (music, painting); #83, p. 82-83 (music, the dance, painting, where painting is also assigned to one of the Muses.)
249. “Die ganze Geschichte der Maler, Bildhauer, Musikverständigen, Dichter, Redner wird hierher gehören, denn alle diese verschiedenen Teile haben ihre algemeinen Regeln in der Aesthetik” (ed. Poppe, 67). “Er [Aristotle] teilt seine Philosophie, wodurch die menschliche Kenntnis verbessert werden soll, in die Logik, Rhetorik und Poetik, die er zuerst als Wissenschaften vorträgt. Die Einteilung selbst ist unvollkommen. Wenn ich sinnlich schön denken will, warum soll ich bloss in Prosa oder in Versen denken? Wo bleibt der Maler und Musikus?” (69). [“... da die Erklärung auch auf Musik und Malerei gehen muss” (71). “. . . alle Künste, die man schön nennet, werden von der Kenntnis dieser Regein den grössten Nutzen haben” (75). “Die Aesthetik geht viel weiter als die Rhetorik und Poetik” (76). These lectures are also notable for the more frequent references to French, and English authors.]
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by the writings of his pupil Meier. 250 On the other hand, it is quite obvious, and was noted by contemporary critics, that Baumgarten and Meier develop their actual theories only in terms of poetry and eloquence and take nearly all their examples from literature. 251 Baumgarten is the founder of aesthetics in so far as he first conceived a general theory of the arts as a separate philosophical discipline with a distinctive and well-defined place in the system of philosophy. He failed to develop his doctrine with reference to the arts other than poetry and eloquence, or even to propose a systematic list and division of these other arts. In this latter respect, he was preceded and surpassed by the French writers, especially by Batteux and the Encyclopaedists, whereas the latter failed to develop a theory of the arts as part of a philosophical system. It was the result of German thought and criticism during the second half of the eighteenth century that the more concrete French conception of the fine arts was utilized in a philosophical theory of aesthetics for which Baumgarten had formulated the general scope and program.
When Meier tried to answer the critics of his teacher Baumgarten, he stated that Baumgarten and himself had spoken only about literature, since they did not know enough about the other arts. 252 The broadening scope of German aesthetics after Baumgarten, which we must now try to trace, was due not only to the influence of Batteux, of the Encyclopaedists, and of other French and English writers, but also to the increasing interest taken by writers, philosophers, and the lay public in the visual arts and in music. Winckelmann’s studies of
250. ”So lange es Maler, Dichter, Redner, Musickverständige und so weiter gegeben hat, so lange ist Aesthetik ausgeübt worden” (Anfangsgründe, vol. I, #6, p. 10). He then lists as liberal arts and “fine sciences “: “die Redekunst, die Dichtkunst, die Music, die Historie, die Malerkunst und wie sie alle heissen” (#16, p. 27). Cf.p.21; 581, etc.
251. “Wir werden in den Exempeln immer bei der Rede stehen blelben… (Baumgarten, ed. Poppe, #20, p. 82). “Ob nun gleich die Aesthetick auch die Gründe zu den übrigen schönen Künsten enthält, so werde ich doch meine allermeisten Exempel aus den Rednern und Dichtern nehmen” (Meier, Anfangsgründe, pt. 1, #19, p. 31).
252. “Und wenn philosophische Köpfe, welche die Music, Malerkunst, und alle übrige schöne Kflnste ausser der Rede und Dichtkunst, verstehen, die aesthetischen Grundsätze auf dieselben werden anwenden: so wird der einzige Einwurf, der bisher mit Artigkeit und vielem Scheine wider die Aesthetic gemacht worden, gänzlich: wegfallen” (Alexander Gottlieb Baumgartens Leben, 43f.).
classical art are important for the history of our problem for the enthusiasm which he stimulated among his German readers for ancient sculpture and architecture, but not for any opinion he may have expressed on the relation between the visual arts and literature. 253 Lessing’s Laokoon (1766), too, has a notable importance, not only for its particular theories on matters of poetry and of the visual arts, but also for the very attention given to the latter by one of the most brilliant and most respected German writers of the time. 254 Yet the place of the Laokoon in the history of our problem has been misjudged. To say that the Laokoon put an end to the age-old tradition of the parallel between painting and poetry that had its ultimate roots in classical antiquity and found its greatest development in the writers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth century, and thus freed poetry from the emphasis on description, is to give only one side of the picture. It is to forget that the parallel between painting and poetry was one of the most important elements that preceded the formation of the modern system of the fine arts, though it had lost this function as a link between two different arts by the time of Lessing, when the more comprehensive system of the fine arts had been firmly established. In so far as Lessing paid no attention to the broader system of the fine arts, especially to music, his Laokoon constituted a detour or a dead end in terms of the development leading to a comprehensive system of the fine arts. It is significant that the Laokoon was criticized for this very reason by two prominent contemporary critics, and that Lessing in the posthumous notes for the second part of the work gave some consideration to this criticism, though we have no evidence that he actually planned to extend his analysis to music and to a coherent system of the arts. 255
The greatest contributions to the history of our problem in the interval between Baumgarten and Kant came from Mendelssohn, Sulzer, and Herder. Mendelssohn, who was well acquainted with French and English writings on the subject, demanded in a famous article that the fine arts (painting, sculpture, music, the dance, and architecture) and belles lettres (poetry and eloquence) should be re-
253. G. Baumecker, Winckelmann in semen Dresdner Schriften (Berlin, 1933). Henry C. Hatfield, Winckelmann and his German Critics (New York, 1943).
254. Lessings Laokoon, ed. H. Bluemner, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1880). Loakoon, ed. William G. Howard (New York, 1910). Howard, “Ut pictura poesis,” l.c. R. Lee, “Ut pictura poesis,” l.c. Croce, Estetica, l.c., 505ff. K. Leysaht, Dubos et Lessing (thes. Rostock, Greifswald, 1874).
255. Several passages in Lessing’s notes for a continuation of the Laokoon refer to music and the dance and to their connection with poetry (ed. Bluemner, l.c., 397; 434ff.).
duced to some common principle better than imitation,256 and thus was the first among the Germans to formulate a system of the fine arts. Shortly afterwards, in a book review, he criticized Baumgarten and Meier for not having carried out the program of their new science, aesthetics. They wrote as if they had been thinking exclusively in terms of poetry and literature, whereas aesthetic principles should be formulated in such a way as to apply to the visual arts and to music as well. 257 In his annotations to Lessing’s Laokoon, published long after his death, Mendelssohn persistently criticizes Lessing for not giving any consideration to music and to the system of the arts as a whole; 258 we have seen how Lessing, in the fragmentary notes for a continuation of the Laokoon, tried to meet this criticism. Mendelssohn also formulated a doctrine of the three faculties of the soul corresponding to the three basic realms of goodness, truth and beauty, thus continuing the work of the Scottish philosophers. 259 He did not work
256. Moses Mendelssohn, “Betrachtungen über die Quellen und die Verbindungen der schönen Künste und Wissenschaften” (1757), in his Gesammeite Schriften (Jubiläumsausgabe) 1 (Berlin, 1929), 165-90. Cf. G. Kannegiesser, Die Stellung Moses Mendelssohn’s in der Geschichte der Aesthetik (thes. Marburg, 1868). Ludwig Goldstein, Moses Mendelssohn und die deutsche Aesthetik (KSnigsberg, 1904).
257. Review of G. F. Meier’s Auszug aus den Anfangsgründen alter schönen Künste und Wissenschaften (1758), in his Gesammeite Schrif ten, vol. 4, pt. 1, Leipzig, 1844, 313-18. “HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced” (314). Baumgarten and Meier give the impression, “HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced” (316).
258. Laokoon, ed. Bluemner, l.c., 359; 376; 384; 386 (Dichtkunst, Malerey, Baukunst, Musik, Tanzkunst, Farbenkunst, Bildhauerkunst). Mendelssohn, Gesammeite Schriften 2 (1931), 231ff.
259. HHC: extensive German paragraph continued in notes on page 38 not reproduced
out an explicit theory of aesthetics, but under the impact of French and English authors he indicated the direction in which German aesthetics was to develop from Baumgarten to Kant.
What Mendelssohn had merely set forth in a general outline and program, the Swiss thinker Suizer, who was well versed in French literature but spent the greater part of his life in Northern Germany, was able to develop in a more systematic and elaborate fashion. Sulzer began his literary activity with a few short philosophical articles in which his interest for aesthetics was already apparent, and in which he also leaned toward the conception of an aesthetic faculty of the soul separate from the intellectual and moral faculties,260 a conception in whose development Mendelssohn and the philosopher Tetens also took their part. 261 Some years later, he was prompted by the example of Lacombe’s little dictionary of the fine arts to compile a similar
260. Johann Georg Sulzer, Vermischte Philosophische Schriften, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1773-81). In an article of 1751-52, he distinguishes between Sinne, Herz, Embildungskraft and Verstand, relating the second faculty to moral sentiments and the third to the fine arts (vol. 1, pp. 24 and 43; see also vol. 2, p. 113; A. Palme, J. G. Suizers Psychologie und die Anfänge der Dreivermögenslehre, Berlin, 1905). Otherwise, the distinction of the three faculties of the soul does not yet appear clearly or consistently in these early writings, but only in his Allgemeine Theorie der Schönen Künste, 2nd ed., II (Leipzig, 1778), 240, art. Geschmak) “HHC - extensive German paragraphnot reproduced” (cf. Wize, l.c., 24).
261. Johann Nicolas Tetens, Philosophische Versuche ueber die menschliche Natur und ihre Entwickelung, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1777). He distinguishes three faculties: Verstand, Wille, and Empfindsamkeit or Gefühl (I, 619ff.). Cf. J. Lorsch, Die Lehre vom Gefühl bei Johann Nicolas Tetens (then. Giessen, 1906). W. Uebele, Johann Nicolaus Tetens (Berlin, 1911), 113ff. A. Seidel, Tetens’ Einfluss auf die kritische Philosophie Kants (thes. Leipzig, Würzburg, 1932), 17ff.
dictionary in German on a much larger scale. 262 This General Theory of the Fine Arts, which appeared in several editions, has been disparaged on account of its pedantic arrangement, for it is clear, comprehensive and learned, and had a considerable importance in its time. The work covers all the fine arts, not only poetry and eloquence, but also music and the visual arts, and thus represents the first attempt to carry out on a large scale the program formulated by Baumgarten and Mendelssohn. Thanks to its wide diffusion, Sulzer’s work went a long way to acquaint the German public with the idea that all the fine arts are related and connected with each other. Suizer’s influence extended also to France, for when the great Encyclopédie was published in Switzerland in a second edition, many additions were based on his General Theory, including the article on aesthetics and the section on the Fine Arts. 263
In the decades after 1760, the interest in the new field of aesthetics spread rapidly in Germany. Courses on aesthetics were offered at a number of universities after the example set by Baumgarten and Meier, and new tracts and textbooks, partly based on these courses, appeared almost every year. 264 These authors have been listed, but their individual contributions remain to be investigated. The influence of the great Encyclopédie is attested by a curious engraving printed in Weimar in 1769 and attached to a famous copy of the Encyclopédie. 265 It represents the tree of the arts and sciences as
262. Aligemeine Theorie der Schönen Künste, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1777-78; first ed., 1771-74; new ed., 4 vols., 1792-99). For his dependence on Lacombe, see his Vermischte Philosophische Schriften 2, p. 70 (“HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced”). Johannes Leo, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der “Allgemeinen Theorie der Schönen Künste” J. G. Suizers (then. Heidelberg, Berlin, 1906), 31ff. and 57. See also: Ludwig M. Heyrn, Darstellung und Kritik der aesthetischen Ansichten Johann Georg Suizers (thes. Leipzig, 1894). Karl J. Gross, Suizers Allgemeine Theorie der Schönen Künste (thes. Berlin, 1905). 263 See above, note 200-201.
264. Sulzer, Aligemeine Theorie, new ed., I (1792), 47ff. I. Koller, Entwurf zur Geschichte und Literatur der Aesthetik…(Regensburg, 1799). E. Bergmann, Geschichte der Aesthetik und Kunstphilosophie (Leipzig, 1914), 15ff.
265. This copy was exhibited in New York by the Services Culturels de l’Ambassade de France in January, 1951. The engraving has the title: “Essai d’une distribution généalogique des sciences et des arts principaux. Selon l’explication détaillée du Système des connoissances humaines dans le Discours préliminaire des Editeurs de l’encyclopédie, publiée par M. Diderot et M. d’Alembert, à Paris en 1751. Reduit en cette forme pour découvrir la connoissance humaine d’un coup d’oeuil. Par Chrétien Guillaume Roth. A Weimar, 1769.” The section corresponding to imagination contains poetry, painting, engraving, sculpture, music and architecture with their respective subdivisions.
given in the text of D’Alembert’s Discours, putting the visual arts, poetry and music with their subdivisions under the general branch of imagination. Among the minor aesthetic writers of this period, Riedel has attracted some scholarly attention, probably because he was the target of Herder’s criticism. 266 In his treatise on aesthetics, based on university lectures, Riedel gives a full discussion of all the fine arts, and also sets out with a general division of philosophical subjects into the True, the Good and the Beautiful. 267
It is interesting to note the reaction to this aesthetic literature of the leaders of the younger generation, especially of Goethe and of Herder. Goethe in his early years published a review of Sulzer which was quite unfavorable. Noticing the French background of Sulzer’s conception, Goethe ridicules the grouping together of all the arts which are so different from each other in their aims and means of expression, a system which reminds him of the old-fashioned system of the seven liberal arts, and adds that this system may be useful to the amateur but certainly not to the artist. 268 This reaction shows
266. Friedrich Just Riedel, Theorie der schönen Künste und Wissenschaften (Jena, 1767). Kasimir Filip Wize, Friedrich Justus Riedel und seine Aesthetik (thes. Leipzig, Berlin, 1907). Richard Wilhelm, Friedrich Justus Riedel und die Aesthetik der Aufklärung (Heidelberg, 1933).
267. “HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced” (Theorie, 6). Johann Georg Heinrich Feder in his Oratio de sensu interno (1768) quotes Riedel and lists: veritas, pulchritudo (bonitan idealis), honestas (pulchritudo moralis); sensus veri sensusque communis, sensus pulchri sive gustus, sensus iusti et honesti seu conncientiae moralis (Wize, 21-22). On Platner’s unpublished aesthetics of 1777-78, see E. Bergmann, Ernst Platner und die Kunstphilosophie des 18. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1913).
268. J. W. Goethe, review of Sulzer’s Die schönen Künste in ihrem Ursprung (1772). “HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced” (Goethes Werke, Sophien-Ausgabe, 37 (Weimar, 1896), 206ff.).
that the system of the fine arts was something novel and not yet firmly established, and that Goethe, just like Lessing, did not take an active part in developing the notion that was to become generally accepted. Toward the very end of his life, in the Wanderjahre, Goethe shows that he had by then accepted the system of the fine arts, for he assigns a place to each of them in his pedagogical province. 269 Yet his awareness of the older meaning of art is apparent when in a group of aphorisms originally appended to the same work he defines art as knowledge and concludes that poetry, being based on genius, should not be called an art. 270
Herder, on the other hand, took an active part in the development of the system of the fine arts and used the weight of his literary authority to have it generally accepted. In an early but important critical work (Kritische Waelder, 1769), he dedicates the entire first section to a critique of Lessing’s Laokoon. Lessing shows merely, he argues, what poetry is not, by comparing it with painting. In order to see what its essence is, we should compare it with all its sister arts, such as music, the dance, and eloquence. Quoting Aristotle and Harris, Herder stresses the comparison between poetry and music, and concludes that this problem would require another Lessing. 271 In the fourth section, he quotes Mendelssohn as well as the more important English and French authors, and presents his own system of the fine arts, which includes all the essential elements though it differs from previous authors in some detail. 272 Herder’s later contributions
269. Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre, Bk. II, ch. 8 (Sophien-Ausgabe, 25 (1895), 1ff.) where music, poetry and the visual arts are treated as sisters. See also Bk. III, ch. 12 (ibid., 216ff.).
270. “HHC – German paragraph not reproduced” (Aus Makariens Archiv, in Goethe’s Werke, Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand, vol. 23 (Stuttgart-Tubingen, 1829), 277-78. Sophien-Ausgabe, 42, pt. 2 (1907), 200).
271. “HHC – German paragraph not reproduced” (Herders Sämmtliche Werke, ed. B. Suphan, 3 (Berlin, 1878), 133). “Hier (on the distinction of poetry and music) wunsche ich der Dichtkunst noch einen Lessing” (161). David Bloch, Herders als Aesthetiker (then. Würzburg, Berlin, 1896). Guenther Jacoby, Herders und Kants Aesthetik (Leipzig, 1907). Kurt May, Lessings und Herders kunsttheoretische Gedanken in ihrem Zusammenhang (Berlin, 1923). Emilie Lutz, Herders Annchauungen vom Wesen des Dichters und der Dichtkunst in der ersten Hdlfte seines Schaff ens (then. Erlangen, 1925). Wolfgang Nufer, Herders Ideen zur Verbindung von Poesie, Musik und Tans (Berlin, 1929).
272. Sämmtliche Werke, ed. Suphan, 4 (1878), 3ff. Malcolm H. Dewey, Herder’s Relation to the Aesthetic Theory of his Time (then. Chicago, 1920).
to aesthetics are beyond the scope of this paper.
I should like to conclude this survey with Kant, since he was the first major philosopher who included aesthetics and the philosophical theory of the arts as an integral part of his system. Kant’s interest in aesthetic problems appears already in his early writing on the beautiful and sublime, which was influenced in its general conception by Burke. 273 He also had occasion to discuss aesthetic problems in several of his courses. Notes based on these courses extant in manuscript have not been published, but have been utilized by a student of Kant’s aesthetics. It appears that Kant cited in these lectures many authors he does not mention in his published works, and that he was thoroughly familiar with most of the French, English and German writers on aesthetics. 274 At the time when he published the Critique of Pure Reason, he still used the term aesthetics in a sense different from the common one, and explains in an interesting footnote, that he does not follow Baumgarten’s terminology since he does not believe in the possibility of a philosophical theory of the arts. 275 In the following years, however, he changed his view, and in his Critique of Judgment, which constitutes the third and concluding part of his philosophical system, the larger of its two major divisions is dedicated to aesthetics, whereas the other section deals with teleology. The system of the three Critiques as presented in this last volume is based on a threefold division of the faculties of the mind, which adds the faculty of judgment, aesthetic and teleological, to pure and practical reason. Aesthetics, as the philosophical theory of beauty and the arts, acquires equal standing with the theory of truth (metaphysics or epistemology) and the theory of goodness (ethics). 276
273. Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen (1764), in Immanuel Kants Werke, ed. E. Cassirer, 2 (Berlin, 1922), 243-300.
274. O. Schlapp, Kants Lehre vom Genie und die Entstehung der Kritik der Urteilskraft (Gottingen, 1901).
275. “HHC – extensive German paragraph not reproduced” He then states that he will use the term aesthetics for the critical analysis of perception (Kritik der Reinen Vernunft, Transszendentale Aesthetik #1, ed. Cannirer, 3 (1923), 56f.).
276. Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790). Juergen Bona Meyer, Kant’s Psychologie (Berlin, 1870). Carl Theodor Michaelis, Zur Entstehung von Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft (progr. Berlin, 1892). A. Apitzsch, Die psychologischen Voraussetzungen der Erkenntniskritik Kants (then. Halle, 1897). A. Bäurnker, Kants Kritik [der Urteilskraft (Halle, 1923). W. Bröcker, Kants Kritik der aesthetischen Urteilskraft (thes. Marburg, 1928). H. W. Cassirer, A Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Judgment (London, 1938), 97ff.]
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In the tradition of systematic philosophy this was an important innovation, for neither Descartes nor Spinoza nor Leibniz nor any of their ancient or medieval predecessors had found a separate or independent place in their system for the theory of the arts and of beauty, though they had expressed occasional opinions on these subjects. If Kant took this decisive step after some hesitation, he was obviously influenced by the example of Baumgarten and by the rich French, English, and German literature on the arts his century had produced, with which he was well acquainted. In his critique of aesthetic judgment, Kant discusses also the concepts of the sublime and of natural beauty, but his major emphasis is on beauty in the arts, and he discusses many concepts and principles common to all the arts. In section 51 he also gives a division of the fine arts: speaking arts (poetry, eloquence); plastic arts (sculpture, architecture, painting, and gardening); arts of the beautiful play of sentiments (music, and the art of color). 277 This scheme contains a few ephemeral details that were not retained by Kant’s successors. 278 However, since Kant aesthetics has occupied a permanent place among the major philosophical disciplines, and the core of the system of the fine arts fixed in the eighteenth century has been generally accepted as a matter of course by most later writers on the subject, except for variations of detail or of explanation.
IX - Conclusions
We shall not attempt to discuss the later history of our problem after Kant, but shall rather draw a few general conclusions from the development so far as we have been able to follow it. The grouping together of the visual arts with poetry and music into the system of the fine arts with which we are familiar did not exist in classical antiquity, in the Middle Ages or in the Renaissance. However, the ancients contributed to the modern system the comparison between poetry and painting, and the theory of imitation that established a
277. #51. “Von der Einteilung der schönen Künste” (ed. Cassirer, 5 (1922), 395ff.).
278. The Farbenkunst, mentioned also by Herder and by Mendelssohn in his notes on Lessing’s Laokoon (ed. Bluernner, 386) refers to the color piano invented by Abbé Castel, which was expected to produce a new art of color combinations. Cf. Bluemner, l.c., 596-97. L. Goldstein, Moses Mendelssohn, 92-93. The commentators of the Critique of Judgment (J. H. v. Kirchmann, J. C. Meredith, J. H. Bernard, H. W. Cassirer) fail to explain this detail.
kind of link between painting and sculpture, poetry and music. The Renaissance brought about the emancipation of the three major visual arts from the crafts, it multiplied the comparisons between the various arts, especially between painting and poetry, and it laid the ground for an amateur interest in the different arts that tended to bring them together from the point of view of the reader, spectator and listener rather than of the artist. The seventeenth century witnessed the emancipation of the natural sciences and thus prepared the way for a clearer separation between the arts and the sciences. Only the early eighteenth century, especially in England and France, produced elaborate treatises written by and for amateurs in which the various fine arts were grouped together, compared with each other and combined in a systematic scheme based on common principles. The second half of the century, especially in Germany, took the additional step of incorporating the comparative and theoretical treatment of the fine arts as a separate discipline into the system of philosophy. The modern system of the fine arts is thus pre-romantic in its origin, although all romantic as well as later aesthetics takes this system as its necessary basis.
It is not easy to indicate the causes for the genesis of the system in the eighteenth century. The rise of painting and of music since the Renaissance, not so much in their actual achievements as in their prestige and appeal, the rise of literary and art criticism, and above all the rise of an amateur public to which art collections and exhibitions, concerts as well as opera and theatre performances were addressed, must be considered as important factors. The fact that the affinity between the various fine arts is more plausible to the amateur, who feels a comparable kind of enjoyment, than to the artist himself, who is concerned with the peculiar aims and techniques of his art, is obvious in itself and is confirmed by Goethe’s reaction. The origin of modern aesthetics in amateur criticism would go a long way to explain why works of art have until recently been analyzed by aestheticians from the point of view of the spectator, reader and listener rather than of the producing artist.
The development we have been trying to understand also provides an interesting object lesson for the historian of philosophy and of ideas in general. We are accustomed to the process by which notions first formulated by great and influential thinkers are gradually diffused among secondary writers and finally become the common property of the general public. Such seems to have been the development of aesthetics from Kant to the present. Its history before Kant is of a very different kind. The basic questions and conceptions under-
lying modern aesthetics seem to have originated quite apart from the traditions of systematic philosophy or from the writings of important original authors. They had their inconspicuous beginnings in secondary authors, now almost forgotten though influential in their own time, and perhaps in the discussions and conversations of educated laymen reflected in their writings. These notions had a tendency to fluctuate and to grow slowly, but only after they had crystallized into a pattern that seemed generally plausible did they find acceptance among the greater authors and the systematic philosophers. Baumgarten’s aesthetics was but a program, and Kant’s aesthetics the philosophical elaboration of a body of ideas that had had almost a century of informal and non-philosophical growth. If the absence of the scheme of the fine arts before the eighteenth century and its fluctuations in that century have escaped the attention of most historians, this merely proves how thoroughly and irresistibly plausible the scheme has become to modern thinkers and writers.
Another observation seems to impose itself as a result of our study. The various arts are certainly as old as human civilization, but the manner in which we are accustomed to group them and to assign them a place in our scheme of life and of culture is comparatively recent. This fact is not as strange as may appear on the surface. In the course of history, the various arts change not only their content and style, but also their relations to each other, and their place in the general system of culture, as do religion, philosophy or science. Our familiar system of the five fine arts not merely originated in the eighteenth century, but it also reflects the particular cultural and social conditions of that time. If we consider other times and places, the status of the various arts, their associations and their subdivisions appear very different. There were important periods in cultural history when the novel, instrumental music, or canvas painting did not exist or have any importance. On the other hand, the sonnet and the epic poem, stained glass and mosaic, fresco painting and book illumination, vase painting and tapestry, bas relief and pottery have all been “major” arts at various times and in a way they no longer are now. Gardening has lost its standing as a fine art since the eighteenth century. On the other hand, the moving picture is a good example of how new techniques may lead to modes of artistic expression for which the aestheticians of the eighteenth and nineteenth century had no place in their systems. The branches of the arts all have their rise and decline, and even their birth and death, and the distinction between “major” arts and their subdivisions is arbitrary and subject to change. There is hardly any ground but critical tradition or philo-
sophical preference for deciding whether engraving is a separate art (as most of the eighteenth-century authors believed) or a subdivision of painting, or whether poetry and prose, dramatic and epic poetry, instrumental and vocal music are separate arts or subdivisions of one major art.
As a result of such changes, both in modern artistic production and in the study of other phases of cultural history, the traditional system of the fine arts begins to show signs of disintegration. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century, painting has moved further away from literature than at any previous time, whereas music has at times moved closer to it, and the crafts have taken great strides to recover their earlier standing as decorative arts. A greater awareness of the different techniques of the various arts has produced dissatisfaction among artists and critics with the conventions of an aesthetic system based on a situation no longer existing, an aesthetics that is trying in vain to hide the fact that its underlying system of the fine arts is hardly more than a postulate and that most of its theories are abstracted from particular arts, usually poetry, and more or less inapplicable to the others. The excesses of aestheticism have led to a healthy reaction which is yet far from universal. The tendency among some, contemporary philosophers to consider Art and the aesthetic realm as a pervasive aspect of human experience rather than as the specific domain of the conventional fine arts also goes a long way to weaken the latter notion in its traditional form. 279 All these ideas are still fluid and ill defined, and it is difficult to see how far they will go in modifying or undermining the traditional status of the fine arts and of aesthetics. In any case, these contemporary changes may help to open our eyes to an understanding of the historical origins and limitations of the modern system of the fine arts. Conversely, such historical understanding might help to free us from certain conventional preconceptions and to clarify our ideas on the present status and future prospects of the arts and of aesthetics.
279. John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York, 1934).