1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel on Aesthetics

(Part 15)


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

Passing over Solger, whose aesthetic doctrine is little more than a revival of Platonism, we come to Hegel. His system of philosophy falls into three parts, all based on the self-movement of the idea or absolute:-- (1.) The logic discussing the pure universal notions which are the logical evolution of the absolute, as pure thought; (2.) Philosophy of nature -- the disruption of thought, the idea, into the particular and external; (3.) Philosophy of the spirit -- the return of thought or the absolute from this self-alienation to itself in self-cognisant thought.

Just as the absolute, so has spirit a series of three grades to traverse -- (a.) Subjective spirit or intelligence, relating itself to the rational object as something given; (b.) Objective spirit or will, which converts the subjectivised theoretical matter (truth) into objectivity; (c.) Absolute spirit, which is the return of the spirit from objectivity to the ideality of cognition, to the perception of the absolute idea.

This again has three stages -- (1.) Art, in which the absolute is immediately present to sensuous perception; (2.) Religion, which embodies certainty of the idea as above all immediate reality; and (3.) Philosophy, the unity of these. According to this conception, the beautiful is defined as the shining of the idea through a sensuous medium (as colour or tone). It is said to have its life in shining or appearance (Schein), and so differs from the true, which is not real sensuous existence, but the universal idea contained in it for thought. He defines the form of the Beautiful as unity of the manifold. The notion (Begriff) gives necessity in mutual dependence of parts (unity), while the reality demands the appearance or semblance (Schein) of liberty in the parts.

He discusses very fully the beauty of nature as immediate unity of notion and reality, and lays great emphasis on the beauty of organic life.

But it is in art that, like Schelling, he finds the highest revelation of the Beautiful. Art makes up the deficiencies of natural beauty by bringing the idea into clearer light, by showing the external in its life and spiritual animation. The various forms of art depend on the various combinations of matter and form. On Oriental or symbolical art matter is predominant, and the thought is struggling through with pain so as to reveal the ideal. In the classical form the ideal has attained an adequate existence, form and matter being absolutely commensurate. Lastly, in the romantic form, the matter is reduced to a mere show, and the ideal is supreme.

Hegel classifies the individual arts according to this same principle of the relative supremacy of form and matter -- (1.) The beginning of art is architecture, in which as a symbolic art the sensuous material is in excess. (2.) Sculpture is less subjected to matter, and, as representing the living body, is a step towards a higher ideality. (3.) Paintings, which is the romantic art kat' exosken, expresses the full life of the soul. By the elimination of the third dimension of space, and the employment of a coloured plane, painting rids itself of the coarse material substance of sculpture, and produces only a semblance of materiality. (4.) In music, which employs pure tone, all the elements of space are suppressed, and hence its content is the inner emotional nature (Gemüth). Music is the most subjective of the arts. (5.) Poetry has the privilege of universal expression. It contains all the other arts in itself, namely, the plastic art in the epos, music in the ode, and the unity of both in the drama.

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