1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Friedrich Schelling on Aesthetics

Aesthetics
(Part 14)



(III) GERMAN WRITERS ON AESTHETICS (cont.)

Friedrich Schelling


After Kant the next philosopher to discuss the metaphysics of the Beautiful and art is Schelling. He sought to engraft art upon his curious system of transcendental idealism in a manner which can only be faintly indicated here.

In Schelling’s metaphysical system the relation of subject and objects is conceived as identity. Each exists, yet not independently of the other, but identified in a higher, the absolute. They may be conceived as two poles representing different directions, but yet inseparably joined. All knowledge rests on this agreement. Either nature, the object, may be conceived as the prius, and the subject constructed out of it; or the subject may be taken as the prius, and the object constructed from it. These are the two poles of knowledge, and constitute the philosophy of nature and the transcendental philosophy. The latter, like Kant’s philosophy of mind, is based on a threehold conception of the powers of human nature. It consists of -- (1.) Theoretic philosophy, dealing with perception; (2.) Practical philosophy, discussing the will and freedom, and (3.) The philosophy of art.

The aim of the last is thus expressed: The ego must succeed in actually perceiving the concord of subject and object, which is half disguised in perception and volition. This concord is seen within the limits of the ego in artistic perception only. Just as the product of nature is an unconscious product like a conscious one, in its designfulness, so the product of art is a conscious product like an unconscious one. Only in the work of art does intelligence reach a perfect perception of its real self. This is accompanied by a feeling of infinite satisfaction, all mystery being solved. Through the creative activity of the artist the absolute reveals itself in the perfect identity of subject and object. Art is therefore higher than philosophy. Schelling thus sets the beauty of art far above that of nature. As to the form of the beautiful he is very vague, leaning now to a conception of harmony in the totality of the world (Weltall), and now to a Platonic conception of primitive forms (Urbilder) of perfection. He has a very intricate classification of the arts, based on his antithesis of object and subject, reality and ideality.

A curious feature of Schelling’s theory is his application of his one fundamental idea to tragedy. The essence of tragedy is, he thinks, an actual conflict of liberty in the subject with objective necessity, in which both being conquered and conquering, appear at once in the perfect indifference. Antique tragedy he holds, accordingly, to be the most perfect composition of all arts.





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