1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > English Writers on Aesthetics

(Part 25)


English Writers on Aesthetics

In the aesthetic speculations of English writers, we find still less of metaphysical construction and systematization than in those of French thinkers. Indeed, it may be said that there is nothing answering to the German conception of aesthetic in our literature. The inquiries of English and Scotch thinkers have been directed for the most part to very definite and strictly scientific problems, such as the psychological processes in the perception of the Beautiful.

The more moderate metaphysical impulses of our countrymen have never reached beyond the bare assertion of an objective and independent beauty. Hence we find that the German historian regard these special and limited discussions as so many empirical reflections, wholly devoid of the rational element in true philosophy. Schasler speaks of these essays as "empiristic aesthetics," tending in one direction to raw materialism, in the other, by want of method, never lifting itself above the plane of "an aestheticising dilettanteism."

English writers are easily divisible into two groups. – (1.) Those who lean to the conception of a primitive objective beauty, not resolvable into any simpler ingredients of sensation or simple emotion, which is perceived intuitively either by reason or by some special faculty, an internal sense; (2.) Those who, tracing the genesis of beauty to the union of simple impressions, have been chiefly concerned with a psychological discussion of the origin and growth of our aesthetic perceptions and emotions.

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