1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > Attempts to Detemine the Instinctive or Sensational Element in Beauty

(Part 21)


Attempts to Detemine the Instinctive or Sensational Element in Beauty

No account of German aesthetics can be complete without some reference to the attempts recently made by one or two naturalists to determine experimentally the physical conditions and the net sensational element of artistic impression. Of these, the most imposing is the development by Helmholtz of a large part of the laws of musical composition, harmony, tone, modulation, &c., from a simple physical hypothesis as to the complex character of what appear to us as elementary tones.

Another interesting experimental inquiry has been instituted by Fechner into the alleged superiority of "the golden section" as a visible proportions. Zeising, the author of this theory, asserts that the most pleasing division of a line, say in a cross, is the golden section, where the smaller division is to the larger as the latter to the sum. Fechner describes in his contribution Zur experimentalen Aesthelik a series of experiments on a large number of different persons, in which he supposes he eliminated all effects of individual association, and decides in favour of the hypothesis. He, however, assumes that this visible form must please primarily, and does not recognize that any constant association growing up in all minds alike would give precisely the same results.

Finally, allusion may be made to some ingenious but very forced attempts of Unger and others to discover harmonic and melodious relations among the elementary colours.

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