1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Other German Systems of Aesthetics (Herbart, Schopenhauer, von Kirchmann). Incomplete Systems (Winckelmann).

(Part 18)


Other German Systems of Aesthetics (Herbart, Schopenhauer, von Kirschmann). Incomplete Systems (Winckelmann).

There are several other systems of aesthetics which deserve mentioned here, but space does not allow of a full account of them. Of these the most important are the theories of Herbart, Schopenhauer, and von Kirchmann. Herbart’s views are based on his curious psychological conceptions. He ignores any function in the Beautiful as expressive of the idea, and seeks simply to determine the simplest forms or the elementary judgments of beauty. Schopenhauer’s discussions, connecting beauty with his peculiar conception of the universe as volition, are a curious contribution to the subject. As a specimen of his speculations, one may give his definition of tragedy as the representation of the horrible side of life, the scornful dominion of accident, and the inevitable fall of the just and innocent, this containing a significant glimpse into the nature of the world and existence. Von Kirchmann has written a two-volume work on aesthetics, which is interesting as a reaction against the Hegelian method. It professes to be an attempt to base the science on a realistic foundation, and to apply the principles of observation and induction long acted upon in natural science.

The German aesthetic speculations not elaborated into complete systems are too numerous to be fully represented here. Only a few of the most valuable contributions to the theory will be alluded to. Winckelmann’s services to the development of plastic art do not directly concern us. Of his theory of plastic beauty, based exclusively on the principles of Greek sculpture, little requires to be said. He first pointed to the real sources of superiority in antique creations, by emphasizing the distinction between natural and ideal beauty, the aesthetic value of contour as an ideal element, the beauty of expression as the manifestation of an elevated soul, and consisting of a noble simplicity and a quiet grandeur. But by too exclusive an attention to Greek art, and indeed to sculpture, his theory, as an attempt to generalize on art, lacks completeness, making little room for the many-sidedness of art, and narrowing it down to one, though an exalted, ideal.

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