1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > St. Augustine on Aesthetics

(Part 11)


St. Augustine on Aesthetics

After Plotinus there is little speculation on aesthetic subjects till we come to modern writers. St. Augustine wrote a treatise on the Beautiful, now lost, in which he appears to have reproduced Platonic ideas under a Christian guise. He taught that unity is the form of all beauty ("omnis porro pulchritudinis forma unitas est"). Infinite goodness, truth, and beauty are the attributes of the Deity, and communicated by him to things. But passing from these fragmentary utterances, we may consider more fully the modern theories, beginning with the German systems, as being the most metaphysical, and having most affinity with ancient speculation. In German literature the two divisions of metaphysical deduction and critical construction of aesthetic principles are very sharply contrasted, and nearly every writer on the subject is easily referred to one or other of the classes. On the one hand, we have the laborious systematic philosophers, as Kant and Hegel; and on the other, men who entered upon aesthetic speculation either as connoisseurs of some special department, as Winckelmann and Lessing, or even as productive artists -- for example, Schiller and Goethe

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