1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Dialectic of the Hegelians and Aesthetics

(Part 16)


Dialectic of the Hegelians

Several systems of aesthetics, more or less Hegelian in character, can only be referred to in passing.

Weisse defined aesthetics as the science of the idea of beauty, and explained the Beautiful as the entrance of the universal or of the essence into the limited and finite, that is, the cancelling or annulling of truth (die aufgehobene Wahrheit). By thus recongising an internal contradiction in all beauty, he sought to develop, by a curious dialectical process, the ideas of the Ugly, the Sublime, and the Ludicrous. He treats each of these three in immediate contrast to beauty. Ugliness is the immediate existence of beauty. It appears as the negative moment in the sublime, and in the Ludicrous this negativity is again cancelled and resolved into affirmation so as to constitute a return to the Beautiful.

A like attempt to determine the relations of the Ugly, Comic, &c., as moments of the self-revealing ideas was made by several Hegelians. Thus Ruge, in his Abhandlung über das Komische, teaches that sublimity is the aesthetic idea striving to find itself, together with the satisfaction of this striving. If, however, the idea loses itself, sinking away in a kind of swoon we have the Ugly. Finally, when the idea recovers from the swoon, its new birth is attended with a feeling of amusement (Erheiterung), and then we have the effect of the Ludicrous.

Rosenkranz, in his Aesthetik des Hässlichen, conceives the Ugly as the negation of the Beautiful, or as the middle between the Beautiful and the Ludicrous and seeks to trace out its various manifestations in formlessness in nature, incorrectness in artistic representation, and deformity or the disorganization of the Beautiful in caricature.

Schasler, again seems to hold that the Ugly is co-ordinate with the Beautiful, being the motor principal that drives the Beautiful from the unconditioned rest of the Platonic idea, from the sphere of empty abstractness to actuality. This fundamental contradiction reveals itself as the contrast or matter and spirit, rigid motionlessness and motion, and appears in art as the antithesis of the sublime and graceful (das Anmuthige), the latter containing the Naïf, the Pretty, and the Ridiculous.

Finally, Theodor Vischer seeks to settle these subtle relationships in this manner: He supposes the Sublime to be the sundering of the aesthetic idea and its sensuous image (Gebild) from the state of unity constituting the Beautiful, the idea reaching as the infinite over against the finite of the image. The image now resists the sudden rupture, and in asserting itself as a totality in defiance of the idea becomes the Ugly. The Comic, again, is the result of some partial and apparently involuntary recognition of the rights of the idea by the rebellious image. Schasler says, in criticising the views of Vischer, that it is difficult not to be satirical in describing the dialectic artifices to which the idea is here compelled, little suspecting how easily any similar attempt to adjust relations between these ideas, looked at objectively as movements of the supreme idea, may appear equally naïf and funny to a mind not already oppressed with the resisting burden of its own abstractions.

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