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Philosophy 

철학 - 지혜의 탐구

Aesthetics

미학

 

Aesthetics

1 Introduction

Aesthetics (or esthetics) may be vaguely defined as the philosophical study of beauty and taste. To define its subject matter more precisely is, however, immensely difficult. Indeed, it could be said that self-definition has been the major task of modern aesthetics. We are acquainted with an interesting and puzzling realm of experience: the realm of the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, and the elegant; of taste, criticism, and fine art; and of contemplation, sensuous enjoyment, and charm. In all these phenomena we believe that similar principles are operative and that similar interests are engaged. If we are mistaken in this impression, we will have to dismiss such ideas as beauty and taste as having only peripheral philosophical interest. Alternatively, if our impression is correct and philosophy corroborates it, we will have discovered the basis for a philosophical aesthetics.

This article seeks to clarify the nature of modern aesthetics and to delineate its underlying principles and concerns. Although the article focusses on Western aesthetic thought and its development, it surveys some of the seminal features of Marxist and Eastern aesthetics.

 

2 THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF AESTHETICS

Aesthetics is broader in scope than the philosophy of art, which comprises one of its branches. It deals not only with the nature and value of the arts but also with those responses to natural objects that find expression in the language of the beautiful and the ugly. A problem is encountered at the outset, however, for terms such as beautiful and ugly seem too vague in their application and too subjective in their meaning to divide the world successfully into those things that do, and those that do not, exemplify them. Almost anything might be seen as beautiful by someone or from some point of view; and different people apply the word to quite disparate objects for reasons that often seem to have little or nothing in common. It may be that there is some single underlying belief that motivates all of their judgments. It may also be, however, that the term beautiful has no sense except as the expression of an attitude, which is in turn attached by different people to quite different states of affairs. (see also  beauty)

Moreover, in spite of the emphasis laid by philosophers on the terms beautiful and ugly, it is far from evident that they are the most important or most useful either in the discussion and criticism of art or in the description of that which appeals to us in nature. To convey what is significant in a poem we might use such terms as ironical, moving, expressive, balanced, and harmonious. Likewise, in describing a favourite stretch of countryside, we may find more use for peaceful, soft, atmospheric, harsh, and evocative, than for beautiful. The least that should be said is that beautiful belongs to a class of terms from which it has been chosen as much for convenience' sake as for any sense that it captures what is distinctive of the class.

At the same time, there seems to be no clear way of delimiting the class in question--not at least in advance of theory. Aesthetics must therefore cast its net more widely than the study either of beauty or of other aesthetic concepts if it is to discover the principles whereby it is to be defined. We are at once returned, therefore, to the vexing question of our subject matter: What should a philosopher study in order to understand such ideas as beauty and taste?

 

2.1 Three approaches to aesthetics.

Three broad approaches have been proposed in answer to that question, each intuitively reasonable:

1. The study of the aesthetic concepts, or, more specifically, the analysis of the "language of criticism," in which particular judgments are singled out and their logic and justification displayed. In his famous treatise On the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Edmund Burke attempted to draw a distinction between two aesthetic concepts, and, by studying the qualities that they denoted, to analyze the separate human attitudes that are directed toward them. Burke's distinction between the sublime and the beautiful was extremely influential, reflecting as it did the prevailing style of contemporary criticism. In more recent times, philosophers have tended to concentrate on the concepts of modern literary theory--namely, those such as representation, expression, form, style, and sentimentality. The study invariably has a dual purpose: to show how (if at all) these descriptions might be justified, and to show what is distinctive in the human experiences that are expressed in them.

2. A philosophical study of certain states of mind--responses, attitudes, emotions--that are held to be involved in aesthetic experience. Thus, in the seminal work of modern aesthetics Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790; The Critique of Judgment), Immanuel Kant located the distinctive features of the aesthetic in the faculty of "judgment," whereby we take up a certain stance toward objects, separating them from our scientific interests and our practical concerns. The key to the aesthetic realm lies therefore in a certain "disinterested" attitude, which we may assume toward any object and which can be expressed in many contrasting ways. (see also  psychology, cognition , perception)

More recently, philosophers--distrustful of Kant's theory of the faculties--have tried to express the notions of an "aesthetic attitude" and "aesthetic experience" in other ways, relying upon developments in philosophical psychology that owe much to G.W.F. Hegel, the Phenomenologists, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (more precisely, the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations [1953]). In considering these theories (some of which are discussed below) a crucial distinction must be borne in mind: that between philosophy of mind and empirical psychology. Philosophy is not a science, because it does not investigate the causes of phenomena. It is an a priori or conceptual investigation, the underlying concern of which is to identify rather than to explain. In effect, the aim of the philosopher is to give the broadest possible description of the things themselves, so as to show how we must understand them and how we ought to value them. The two most prominent current philosophical methods--Phenomenology and conceptual analysis--tend to regard this aim as distinct from, and (at least in part) prior to, the aim of science. For how can we begin to explain what we have yet to identify? While there have been empirical studies of aesthetic experience (exercises in the psychology of beauty), these form no part of aesthetics as considered in this article. Indeed, the remarkable paucity of their conclusions may reasonably be attributed to their attempt to provide a theory of phenomena that have yet to be properly defined.

3. The philosophical study of the aesthetic object. This approach reflects the view that the problems of aesthetics exist primarily because the world contains a special class of objects toward which we react selectively and which we describe in aesthetic terms. In effect, the existence of such objects constitutes the prime phenomenon; aesthetic experience should thus be described according to them and the meaning of aesthetic concepts be determined by them. The usual class singled out as prime aesthetic objects is that comprising works of art. All other aesthetic objects (landscapes, faces, objets trouvés, and the like) tend to be included in this class only because, and to the extent that, they can be seen as art (or so it is claimed).

If we adopt such an approach, then there ceases to be a real distinction between aesthetics and the philosophy of art; and aesthetic concepts and aesthetic experience deserve their names through being, respectively, the concepts required in understanding works of art and the experience provoked by confronting them. Thus Hegel, perhaps the major philosophical influence on modern aesthetics, considered the main task of aesthetics to reside in the study of the various forms of art and of the spiritual content peculiar to each. Much of recent aesthetics has been similarly focussed on artistic problems, and it could be said that it is now orthodox to consider aesthetics entirely through the study of art.

The third approach to aesthetics does not require this concentration upon art. Even someone who considered art to be no more than one manifestation of aesthetic value--perhaps even a comparatively insignificant manifestation--may believe that the first concern of aesthetics is to study the objects of aesthetic experience and description and to find in them the true distinguishing features of the aesthetic realm. Unless we restrict the domain of aesthetic objects, however, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain that they have anything significant in common beyond the fact of inspiring a similar interest. This means that we should be compelled to adopt the second approach to aesthetics after all. And there seems no more plausible way of restricting the domain of aesthetic objects than through the concept of art.

The three approaches may lead to incompatible results. Alternatively, they may be in harmony. Once again, it can only be at the end point of our philosophy that we shall be able to decide. Initially, it must be assumed that the three approaches may differ substantially, or merely in emphasis, and thus that each question in aesthetics has a tripartite form.

 

2.2 The aesthetic recipient.

Whichever approach we take, however, there is an all-important question upon the answer to which the course of aesthetics depends: the question of the recipient. Only beings of a certain kind have aesthetic interests and aesthetic experience, produce and appreciate art, employ such concepts as those of beauty, expression, and form. What is it that gives these beings access to this realm? The question is at least as old as Plato but received its most important modern exposition in the philosophy of Kant, who argued, first, that it is only rational beings who can exercise judgment--the faculty of aesthetic interest--and, second, that until exercised in aesthetic judgment rationality is incomplete. It is worth pausing to examine these two claims. (see also  thought)

Rational beings are those, like us, whose thought and conduct are guided by reason; who deliberate about what to believe and what to do; and who affect each other's beliefs and actions through argument and persuasion. Kant argued that reason has both a theoretical and a practical employment, and that a rational being finds both his conduct and his thought inspired and limited by reason. The guiding law of rational conduct is that of morality, enshrined in the categorical imperative, which enjoins us to act only on that maxim which we can at the same time will as a universal law.

By virtue of practical reason, the rational being sees himself and others of his kind as subject to an order that is not that of nature: he lives responsive to the law of reason and sees himself as a potential member of a "kingdom of ends" wherein the demands of reason are satisfied. Moreover, he looks on every rational being--himself included--as made sacrosanct by reason and by the morality that stems from it. The rational being, he recognizes, must be treated always as an end in himself, as something of intrinsic value, and never as a mere object to be disposed of according to purposes that are not its own.

The capacity to see things as intrinsically valuable, irreplaceable, or ends in themselves is one of the important gifts of reason. But it is not exercised only practically or only in our dealings with other reasoning beings. It may also be exercised contemplatively toward nature as a whole. In this case, practical considerations are held in abeyance, and we stand back from nature and look on it with a disinterested concern. Such an attitude is not only peculiar to rational beings but also necessary to them. Without it, they have only an impoverished grasp of their own significance and of their relation to the world in which they are situated through their thoughts and actions. This disinterested contemplation and the experiences that arise from it acquaint us, according to Kant, with the ultimate harmony that exists between the world and our faculties. They therefore provide the ultimate guarantee, both of practical reasoning and of the understanding, by intimating to us directly that the world answers to our purposes and corresponds to our beliefs.

Disinterested contemplation forms, for Kant, the core of aesthetic experience and the ultimate ground of the judgment of beauty. He thus concludes (1) that only rational beings have aesthetic experience; (2) that every rational being needs aesthetic experience and is significantly incomplete without it; and (3) that aesthetic experience stands in fundamental proximity to moral judgment and is integral to our nature as moral beings.

Modern philosophers have sometimes followed Kant, sometimes ignored him. Rarely, however, have they set out to show that aesthetic experience is more widely distributed than the human race. For what could it mean to say of a cow, for example, that in staring at a landscape it is moved by the sentiment of beauty? What in a cow's behaviour or mental composition could manifest such a feeling? While a cow may be uninterested, it cannot surely be disinterested, in the manner of a rational being for whom disinterest is the most passionate form of interest. It is in pondering such considerations that one comes to realize just how deeply embedded in human nature is the aesthetic impulse, and how impossible it is to separate this impulse from the complex mental life that distinguishes human beings from beasts. This condition must be borne in mind by any philosopher seeking to confront the all-important question of the relation between the aesthetic and the moral.

 

2.3 The aesthetic object.

The third approach to aesthetics begins with a class of aesthetic objects and attempts thereafter to show the significance of that class to those who selectively respond to it. The term aesthetic object, however, is ambiguous, and, depending on its interpretation, may suggest two separate programs of philosophical aesthetics. The expression may denote either the "intentional" or the "material" object of aesthetic experience. This distinction, a legacy of the Scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages, has played a major role in recent Phenomenology. It may be briefly characterized as follows: When someone responds to object O, his response depends upon a conception of O that may, in fact, be erroneous. O is then the material object of his response, while his conception defines the intentional object. (The term intentional comes from the Latin intendere, "to aim.") To cite an example: A person is frightened by a white cloth flapping in a darkened hall, taking it for a ghost. Here, the material object of the fear is the cloth, while the intentional object is a ghost. A philosophical discussion of fear may be presented as a discussion of things feared, but if so, the phrase denotes the class of intentional objects of fear and not the (infinitely varied and infinitely disordered) class of material objects. In an important sense, the intentional object is part of a state of mind, whereas the material object always has independent (and objective) existence. If the expression "aesthetic object" is, therefore, taken in its intentional construction, the study of the aesthetic object becomes the study, not of an independently existing class of things, but of the aesthetic experience itself. It is in this sense that the term occurs in the writings of Phenomenologists (e.g., Mikel Dufrenne, La Phénoménologie de l'expérience esthétique [1953; The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience] and Roman Ingarden, Das literarische Kunstwerk [1931; The Literary Work of Art]), whose studies of the aesthetic object exemplify not the third, but the second, of the approaches considered above. (see also  intentionality)

Which of those two approaches should be adopted? We can already see one reason for adopting the approach that puts the aesthetic experience first and examines the aesthetic object primarily as the intentional object of that experience. It is, after all, to experience that we must turn if we are to understand the value of the aesthetic realm--our reason for engaging with it, studying it, and adding to it. Until we understand that value, we will not know why we ought to construct such a concept as the aesthetic, still less why we should erect a whole branch of philosophy devoted to its analysis. (see also  understanding)

A further reason also suggests itself for rejecting the approach to aesthetics that sees it merely as the philosophy of art, because art, and the institutions that sustain it, are mutable and perhaps inessential features of the human condition. While we classify together such separate art forms as poetry, the novel, music, drama, painting, sculpture, and architecture, our disposition to do so is as much the consequence of philosophical theory as its premise. Would other people at other times and in other conditions have countenanced such a classification or seen its point? And if so, would they have been motivated by similar purposes, similar observations, and similar beliefs? We might reasonably be skeptical, for while there have been many attempts to find something in common--if only a "family resemblance"--between the various currently accepted art forms, they have all been both contentious in themselves and of little aesthetic interest. Considered materially (i.e., without reference to the experiences that we direct to them), the arts seem to have little in common except for those properties that are either too uninteresting to deserve philosophical scrutiny (the property, for example, of being artifacts) or else too vast and vague to be independently intelligible.

Consider the theory of Clive Bell (Art, 1914) that art is distinguished by its character as "significant form." Initially attractive, the suggestion crumbles at once before the skeptic. When is form "significant"? The only answer to be extracted from Bell is this: "when it is art." In effect, the theory reduces to a tautology. In any normal understanding of the words, a traffic warden is a significant form, at least to the motorist who sees himself about to receive a ticket. Thus, to explain Bell's meaning, it is necessary to restrict the term significant to the significance (whatever that is) of art.

Moreover, it is of the greatest philosophical importance to attend not only to the resemblances between the art forms but also to their differences. It is true that almost anything can be seen from some point of view as beautiful. At the same time, however, our experience of beauty crucially depends upon a knowledge of the object in which beauty is seen. It is absurd to suppose that I could present you with an object that might be a stone, a sculpture, a box, a fruit, or an animal, and expect you to tell me whether it is beautiful before knowing what it is. In general we may say--in opposition to a certain tradition in aesthetics that finds expression in Kant's theory--that our sense of beauty is always dependent upon a conception of the object in the way that our sense of the beauty of the human figure is dependent upon a conception of that figure. Features that we should regard as beautiful in a horse--developed haunches, curved back, and so on--we should regard as ugly in a man, and those aesthetic judgments would be determined by our conception of what men and horses generally are, how they move, and what they achieve through their movements. In a similar way, features that are beautiful in a sculpture may not be beautiful in a work of architecture, where an idea of function seems to govern our perceptions. In every case, our perception of the beauty of a work of art requires us to be aware of the distinctive character of each art form and to put out of mind, as largely irrelevant to our concerns, the overarching category of art to which all supposedly belong. But if that is so, it is difficult to see how we could cast light upon the realm of aesthetic interest by studying the concept of art. (see also  learning)

Whether or not that concept is a recent invention, it is certainly a recent obsession. Medieval and Renaissance philosophers who approached the problems of beauty and taste--e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, Peter Abelard, and even Leon Battista Alberti--often wrote of beauty without reference to art, taking as their principal example the human face and body. The distinctively modern approach to aesthetics began to take shape during the 18th century, with the writings on art of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Batteux, and Johann Winckelmann and the theories of taste proposed by the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, Lord Kames (Henry Home), and Archibald Alison. This approach materialized not only because of a growing interest in fine art as a uniquely human phenomenon but also because of the awakening of feelings toward nature, which marked the dawn of the Romantic movement. In Kant's aesthetics, indeed, nature has pride of place as offering the only examples of what he calls "free beauty"--i.e., beauty that can be appreciated without the intermediary of any polluting concept. Art, for Kant, was not merely one among many objects of aesthetic interest; it was also fatally flawed in its dependence upon intellectual understanding.

Even without taking that extreme position, it is difficult to accept that the fragile and historically determined concept of art can bear the weight of a full aesthetic theory. Leaving aside the case of natural beauty, we must still recognize the existence of a host of human activities (dress, decoration, manners, ornament) in which taste is of the essence and yet which seems totally removed from the world of fine art. It has been common, following the lead of Batteux, to make a distinction between the fine and the useful arts, and to accommodate the activities just referred to under the latter description; but it is clear that this is no more than a gesture and that the points of similarity between the art of the dressmaker and that of the composer are of significance only because of a similarity in the interests that these arts are meant to satisfy.

 

2.4 The aesthetic experience.

Such considerations point toward the aforementioned approach that begins with the aesthetic experience as the most likely to capture the full range of aesthetic phenomena without begging the important philosophical questions about their nature. Can we then single out a faculty, an attitude, a mode of judgment, or a form of experience that is distinctively aesthetic? And if so, can we attribute to it the significance that would make this philosophical enterprise both important in itself and relevant to the many questions posed by beauty, criticism, and art?

Taking their cue from Kant, many philosophers have defended the idea of an aesthetic attitude as one divorced from practical concerns, a kind of "distancing," or standing back, as it were, from ordinary involvement. The classic statement of this position is Edward Bullough's " 'Psychical Distance' as a Factor in Art and an Aesthetic Principle," an essay published in the British Journal of Psychology in 1912. While there is certainly something of interest to be said along those lines, it cannot be the whole story. Just what kind of distance is envisaged? Is the lover distanced from his beloved? If not, by what right does he call her beautiful? Does distance imply a lack of practical involvement? If such is the case, how can we ever take up an aesthetic attitude to those things that have a purpose for us--things such as a dress, building, or decoration? But if these are not aesthetic, have we not paid a rather high price for our definition of this word--the price of detaching it from the phenomena that it was designed to identify?

Kant's own formulation was more satisfactory. He described the recipient of aesthetic experience not as distanced but as disinterested, meaning that the recipient does not treat the object of enjoyment either as a vehicle for curiosity or as a means to an end. He contemplates the object as it is in itself and "apart from all interest." In a similar spirit, Arthur Schopenhauer argued that a person could regard anything aesthetically so long as he regarded it in independence of his will--that is, irrespective of any use to which he might put it. Regarding it thus, a person could come to see the Idea that the object expressed, and in this knowledge consists aesthetic appreciation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung [1819; The World as Will and Idea]).

Of a piece with such a view is the popular theory of art as a kind of "play" activity, in which creation and appreciation are divorced from the normal urgencies of existence and surrendered to leisure. "With the agreeable, the good, the perfect," wrote Friedrich Schiller, "man is merely in earnest, but with beauty he plays" (Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen [1794-95; Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man]).

Such thoughts have already been encountered. The problem is to give them philosophical precision. They have recurred in modern philosophy in a variety of forms--for example, in the theory that the aesthetic object is always considered for its own sake, or as a unique individual rather than a member of a class. Those particular formulations have caused some philosophers to treat aesthetic objects as though they were endowed with a peculiar metaphysical status (see below The work of art). Alternatively, it is sometimes argued that the aesthetic experience has an intuitive character, as opposed to the conceptual character of scientific thought or the instrumental character of practical understanding.

The simplest way of summarizing this approach to aesthetics is in terms of two fundamental propositions:

1. The aesthetic object is an object of sensory experience and enjoyed as such: it is heard, seen, or (in the limiting case) imagined in sensory form. (see also  sense)

2. The aesthetic object is at the same time contemplated: its appearance is a matter of intrinsic interest and studied not merely as an object of sensory pleasure but also as the repository of significance and value.

The first of these propositions explains the word aesthetic, which was initially used in this connection by the Leibnizian philosopher Alexander Baumgarten in Meditationes Philosophicae de Nonnullis ad Poema Pertinentibus (1735; Reflections on Poetry). Baumgarten borrowed the Greek term for sensory perception (aisthesis) in order to denote a realm of concrete knowledge (the realm, as he saw it, of poetry), in which a content is communicated in sensory form. The second proposition is, in essence, the foundation of taste. It describes the motive of our attempt to discriminate rationally between those objects that are worthy of contemplative attention and those that are not.

Almost all of the aesthetic theories of post-Kantian Idealism depend upon those two propositions and try to explain the peculiarities of aesthetic experience and aesthetic judgment in terms of the synthesis of the sensory and the intellectual that they imply--the synthesis summarized in Hegel's theory of art as "the sensuous embodiment of the Idea." Neither proposition is particularly clear. Throughout the discussions of Kant and his immediate following, the "sensory" is assimilated to the "concrete," the "individual," the "particular," and the "determinate," while the "intellectual" is assimilated to the "abstract," the "universal," the "general," and the "indeterminate"--assimilations that would nowadays be regarded with extreme suspicion. Nevertheless, subsequent theories have repeatedly returned to the idea that aesthetic experience involves a special synthesis of intellectual and sensory components, and that both its peculiarities and its value are to be derived from such a synthesis.

The idea at once gives rise to paradoxes. The most important was noticed by Kant, who called it the antinomy of taste. As an exercise of reason, he argued, aesthetic experience must inevitably tend toward a reasoned choice and therefore must formulate itself as a judgment. Aesthetic judgment, however, seems to be in conflict with itself. It cannot be at the same time aesthetic (an expression of sensory enjoyment) and also a judgment (claiming universal assent). Yet all rational beings, by virtue of their rationality, seem disposed to make these judgments. On the one hand, they feel pleasure in some object, and this pleasure is immediate, not based, according to Kant, in any conceptualization or in any inquiry into cause, purpose, or constitution. On the other hand, they express their pleasure in the form of a judgment, speaking "as if beauty were a quality of the object," and so representing their pleasure as objectively valid. But how can this be so? The pleasure is immediate, based in no reasoning or analysis. So what permits this demand for universal agreement?

However we approach the idea of beauty, we find this paradox emerging. Our ideas, feelings, and judgments are called aesthetic precisely because of their direct relation to sensory enjoyment. Hence, no one can judge the beauty of an object that he has never encountered. Scientific judgments, like practical principles, can be received "second hand." I can, for example, take you as my authority for the truths of physics or for the utility of railways. But I cannot take you as my authority for the merits of Leonardo or Mozart if I have not seen or heard works by either artist. It would seem to follow from this that there can be no rules or principles of aesthetic judgment, since I must feel the pleasure immediately in the perception of the object and cannot be talked into it by any grounds of proof. It is always experience, and never conceptual thought, that gives the right to aesthetic judgment, so that anything that alters the experience of an object alters its aesthetic significance as well. As Kant put it, aesthetic judgment is "free from concepts," and beauty itself is not a concept.

Such a conclusion, however, seems to be inconsistent with the fact that aesthetic judgment is a form of judgment. When I describe something as beautiful, I do not mean merely that it pleases me: I am speaking about it, not about myself, and, if challenged, I try to find reasons for my view. I do not explain my feeling but give grounds for it by pointing to features of its object. Any search for reasons has the "universalizing" character of rationality: I am in effect saying that others, insofar as they are rational, ought to feel exactly the same delight as I feel. Being disinterested, I have put aside my interests, and with them everything that makes my judgment relative to me. But, if that is so, then "the judgment of taste is based on concepts, for otherwise there could be no room even for contention in the matter, or for the claim to the necessary agreement of others."

In short, the expression aesthetic judgment seems to be a contradiction in terms, denying in the first term precisely that reference to rational considerations that it affirms in the second. This paradox, which we have expressed in Kant's language, is not peculiar to the philosophy of Kant. On the contrary, it is encountered in one form or another by every philosopher or critic who takes aesthetic experience seriously, and who therefore recognizes the tension between the sensory and the intellectual constraints upon it. On the one hand, aesthetic experience is rooted in the immediate sensory enjoyment of its object through an act of perception. On the other, it seems to reach beyond enjoyment toward a meaning that is addressed to our reasoning powers and that seeks judgment from them. Thus criticism, the reasoned justification of aesthetic judgment, is an inevitable upshot of aesthetic experience. Yet, critical reasons can never be merely intellectual; they always contain a reference to the way in which an object is perceived.

 

2.5 Relationship between form and content.

Two related paradoxes also emerge from the same basic conception of the aesthetic experience. The first was given extended consideration by Hegel, who argued, in his Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik (1832; "Lectures on Aesthetics"; Eng. trans., Philosophy of Fine Art), roughly as follows: Our sensuous appreciation of art concentrates upon the given "appearance" -- the "form." It is this that holds our attention and that gives to the work of art its peculiar individuality. Because it addresses itself to our sensory appreciation, the work of art is essentially concrete, to be understood by an act of perception rather than by a process of discursive thought. At the same time, our understanding of the work of art is in part intellectual; we seek in it a conceptual content, which it presents to us in the form of an idea. One purpose of critical interpretation is to expound this idea in discursive form--to give the equivalent of the content of the work of art in another, nonsensuous idiom. But criticism can never succeed in this task, for, by separating the content from the particular form, it abolishes its individuality. The content presented then ceases to be the exact content of that work of art. In losing its individuality, the content loses its aesthetic reality; it thus ceases to be a reason for attending to the particular work of art that first attracted our critical attention. It cannot be this that we saw in the original work and that explained its power over us. For this content, displayed in the discursive idiom of the critical intellect, is no more than a husk, a discarded relic of a meaning that eluded us in the act of seizing it. If the content is to be the true object of aesthetic interest, it must remain wedded to its individuality: it cannot be detached from its "sensuous embodiment" without being detached from itself. Content is, therefore, inseparable from form and form in turn inseparable from content. (It is the form that it is only by virtue of the content that it embodies.) (see also  essence)

Hegel's argument is the archetype of many, all aimed at showing that it is both necessary to distinguish form from content and also impossible to do so. This paradox may be resolved by rejecting either of its premises, but, as with Kant's antinomy, neither premise seems dispensable. To suppose that content and form are inseparable is, in effect, to dismiss both ideas as illusory, since no two works of art can then share either a content or a form--the form being definitive of each work's individuality. In this case, no one could ever justify his interest in a work of art by reference to its meaning. The intensity of aesthetic interest becomes a puzzling, and ultimately inexplicable, feature of our mental life. If, on the other hand, we insist that content and form are separable, we shall never be able to find, through a study of content, the reason for attending to the particular work of art that intrigues us. Every work of art stands proxy for its paraphrase. An impassable gap then opens between aesthetic experience and its ground, and the claim that aesthetic experience is intrinsically valuable is thrown in doubt.

A related paradox is sometimes referred to as the "heresy of paraphrase," the words being those of the U.S. literary critic Cleanth Brooks (The Well Wrought Urn, 1949). The heresy is that of assuming that the meaning of a work of art (particularly of poetry) can be paraphrased. According to Brooks, who here followed an argument of Benedetto Croce, the meaning of a poem consists precisely in what is not translatable. Poetic meaning is bound up with the particular disposition of the words--their sound, rhythm, and arrangement--in short, with the "sensory embodiment" provided by the poem itself. To alter that embodiment is to produce either another poem (and therefore another meaning) or something that is not a work of art at all, and which therefore lacks completely the kind of meaning for which works of art are valued. Hence no poetry is translatable, and no critic can do better than to point to the objective features of the poem that most seem to him to be worthy of attention. Yet, that result too is paradoxical. For what does the critic see in those objective features and how is his recommendation to be supported? Why should we attend to poetry at all if nothing can be said about its virtues save only "look!"? Why look at a poem rather than an advertisement, a mirror, or a blade of grass? Everything becomes equally worthy of attention, since nothing can be said that will justify attention to anything. (see also  literature)

 

2.6 The role of imagination.

Such paradoxes suggest the need for a more extensive theory of the mind than has been so far assumed. We have referred somewhat loosely to the sensory and intellectual components of human experience but have said little about the possible relations and dependencies that exist between them. Perhaps, therefore, the paradoxes result only from our impoverished description of the human mind and are not intrinsic to the subject matter of aesthetic interest.

Many modern philosophers have at this point felt the need to invoke imagination, either as a distinct mental "faculty" (Kant) or as a distinctive mental operation by virtue of which thought and experience may be united. For Empiricist philosophers (such as David Hume, Joseph Addison, Archibald Alison, and Lord Kames), imagination involves a kind of "associative" process, whereby experiences evoke ideas, and so become united with them. For Kant and Hegel, imagination is not associative but constitutive--part of the nature of the experience that expresses it.

Once again it is useful to begin from Kant, who distinguished two uses of the imagination: the first in ordinary thought and perception, the second in aesthetic experience. When I look before me and see a book, my experience, according to Kant, embodies a "synthesis." It contains two elements: the "intuition" presented to the senses and the "concept" ("book"), contributed by the understanding. The two elements are synthesized by an act of the imagination that constitutes them as a single experience--the experience of seeing a book. Here imagination remains bound by the concepts of the understanding, which is to say that how I see the world depends upon my disposition to form determinate beliefs about it--in this case, the belief that there is a book before me. In aesthetic experience, however, imagination is free from concepts and engages in a kind of free play. This free play of the imagination enables me to bring concepts to bear on an experience that is, in itself, free from concepts. Thus there are two separate ways in which the content of experience is provided: one in ordinary perception, the other in aesthetic experience. In both cases the operative factor, in holding thought and sensation together, is the imagination.

Whether such theories can cast light on the mysterious unity between the intellectual and the sensory that we observe in aesthetic experience remains doubtful. The argument for saying that there is a single process of imagination involved in all perception, imagery, and remembering seems to consist only in the premise (undoubtedly true) that in these mental processes thought and experience are often inseparable. But to suppose therefore that there is some one "faculty" involved in forging the connection between them is to fail to take seriously the fact that they are inseparable.

Nevertheless, even if we find this general invocation of imagination, as the "synthesizing force" within perception, vacuous or unilluminating, we may yet feel that the imagination has some special role to play in aesthetic experience and that the reference to imagination has some special value in explaining the precise way in which a content and an experience become "fused" (to use George Santayana's term). Whether or not Kant was right to refer to a free play of imagination in aesthetic experience, there certainly seems to be a peculiarly creative imagination that human beings may exercise and upon which aesthetic experience calls. It is an exercise of creative imagination to see a face in a picture, since that involves seeing in defiance of judgment--seeing what one knows not to be there. It is not in the same sense an imaginative act to see a face in something that one also judges to be a face. This creative capacity is what Jean-Paul Sartre is referring to in L'Imaginaire: Psychologie phénoménologique de l'ima-gination (1940; "The Imaginary: The Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination"; Eng. trans., The Psychology of Imagination) when he describes imagining as "the positing of an object as a nothingness"--as not being. In memory and perception we take our experience "for real." In imagination we contribute a content that has no reality beyond our disposition to "see" it, and it is clear that this added content is frequently summoned by art when, for example, we see the face in a picture or hear the emotion in a piece of music. (see also  Existentialism)

Recent work in aesthetics, to some extent inspired by the seminal writings of Sartre and Wittgenstein, has devoted considerable attention to the study of creative imagination. The hope has been to provide the extra ingredient in aesthetic experience that bridges the gap between the sensory and the intellectual and at the same time shows the relation between aesthetic experience and the experience of everyday life--an enterprise that is in turn of the first importance for any study that seeks to describe the moral significance of beauty.

Consider, for example, the spectator at Shakespeare's King Lear. He sees before him an actor who, by speaking certain lines and making certain gestures, earns his bread. But that is not all that he sees. He also sees a hoary king, cast down by age, pride, and weakness, who rages against the depravity of man. Yet the spectator knows that, in a crucial sense, there is no such king before him. It is intellectual understanding, not psychical distance, that prevents him from stepping onto the stage to offer his assistance. He knows that the scene he enjoys is one that he contributes, albeit under the overwhelming compulsion induced by the actor and his lines. The spectator is being shown something that is outside the normal commerce of theoretical and practical understanding, and he is responding to a scene that bears no spatial, temporal, or causal relation to his own experience. His response is quintessentially aesthetic. For what interest could he have in this scene other than an interest in it for its own sake, for what it is in itself? At the same time, what it is in itself involves what it shows in general. In imaginatively conjuring this scene the spectator draws upon a wealth of experience, which is brought to mind and, as it were, condensed for him into the imaginative perception of the play. (Hence, Aristotle believed poetry is more general than history, since its concreteness is not that of real events, but rather of imaginary episodes constructed so as to typify human destiny in exemplary representations.)

Such an exercise of the imagination clearly has much to tell us about the nature of aesthetic experience. Whether or not it could found a theory of the "missing link" between sensory enjoyment and intellectual understanding, it at least provides a paradigm of the relation between aesthetic experience and the experience of everyday life. The former is an imaginative reconstruction of the latter, which becomes interesting for its own sake precisely because--however realistic--it is not real.

 

2.7 Emotion, response, and enjoyment.

It is natural to suppose that a spectator's response to King Lear is at least in part emotional, and that emotion plays a crucial role both in the enjoyment of art and in establishing the value of art. Moreover, it is not only art that stirs our emotions in the act of aesthetic attention: the same is or may be true of natural beauty whether that of a face or of a landscape. These things hold our attention partly because they address themselves to our feelings and call forth a response which we value both for itself and for the consolation that we may attain through it. Thus we find an important philosophical tradition according to which the distinctive character of aesthetic experience is to be found in distinctively "aesthetic" emotions.

This tradition has ancient origins. Plato banished the poets from his ideal republic partly because of their capacity to arouse futile and destructive emotions, and in his answer to Plato, Aristotle argued that poetry, in particular tragic poetry, was valuable precisely because of its emotional effect. This idea enabled Aristotle to pose one of the most puzzling problems in aesthetics--the problem of tragedy--and to offer a solution. How can I willingly offer myself to witness scenes of terror and destruction? And how can I be said to enjoy the result, set store by it, or accord to it a positive value? Aristotle's answer is brief. He explains that by evoking pity and fear a tragedy also "purges" those emotions, and that is what we enjoy and value: (see also  catharsis, literature)

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.

Aristotle implies that this purgation (katharsis) is not unpleasant to us precisely because the fictional and formalized nature of the action sets it at a distance from us. We can allow ourselves to feel what we normally shun to feel precisely because no one is really threatened (or at least no one real is threatened).

Attractive though that explanation may seem, it immediately encounters a serious philosophical problem. It is a plausible tenet of philosophical psychology that emotions are founded on beliefs: fear on the belief that one is threatened, pity on the belief that someone is miserable, jealousy on the belief that one has a rival, and so forth. In the nature of things, however, these beliefs do not exist in the theatre. Confronted by fiction, I am relieved precisely of the pressure of belief, and it is this condition that permits the Aristotelian katharsis. How, then, can I be said to experience pity and fear when the beliefs requisite to those very emotions are not present? More generally, how can my responses to the fictions presented by works of art share the structure of my everyday emotions, and how can they impart to those emotions a new meaning, force, or resolution?

Various answers have been proposed to that question. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, argued that our response to drama is characterized by a "willing suspension of disbelief," and thus involves the very same ingredient of belief that is essential to everyday emotion (Biographia Literaria, 1817). Coleridge's phrase, however, is consciously paradoxical. Belief is characterized precisely by the fact that it lies outside the will: I can command you to imagine something but not to believe it. For this reason, a suspension of disbelief that is achieved "willingly" is at best a highly dubious example of belief. In fact, the description seems to imply, not belief, but rather imagination, thus returning us to our problem of the relation between emotions directed to reality and those directed to merely imaginary scenes.

This is part of a much larger problem--namely, that of the relation between aesthetic and everyday experience. Two extreme positions serve to illustrate this problem. According to one, art and nature appeal primarily to our emotions: they awaken within us feelings of sympathy, or emotional associations, which are both pleasant in themselves and also instructive. We are made familiar with emotional possibilities, and, through this imaginative exercise, our responses to the world become illuminated and refined. This view, which provides an immediate and satisfying theory of the value of aesthetic experience, has been espoused in some form or other by many of the classical British Empiricists (Shaftesbury, Hume, Addison, Lord Kames, Alison, and Burke, to cite only a few). It is also related to the critical theories of writers such as Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, and F.R. Leavis, whose criticism would make little or no sense without the supposition that works of art have the power to correct and corrupt our emotions.

According to the opposite view, aesthetic interest, because it focusses on an object for its own sake, can involve no interest in "affect." To be interested in a work of art for the sake of emotion is to be interested in it as a means and, therefore, not aesthetically. In other words, true aesthetic interest is autonomous, standing outside the current of ordinary human feeling--an attitude of pure contemplation or pure "intuition" that isolates its object from the stream of common events and perceives it in its uniqueness, detached, unexplained, and inexplicable. This position has been taken in modern times by Benedetto Croce and, following him, by R.G. Collingwood, whose resolute defense of the autonomy of aesthetic experience was also associated with a theory of the autonomy of art. Art is not only seen as an end in itself but it is an end in itself, in a profound and significant sense that distinguishes art from all its false substitutes (and, in particular, from craft, which for Collingwood is not an end but merely a means).

Between those two poles, a variety of intermediate positions might be adopted. It is clear, in any case, that many questions have been begged by both sides. The aesthetic of sympathy, as Croce called it, has enormous difficulties in describing the emotions that are awakened in aesthetic experience, particularly the emotions that we are supposed to feel in response to such abstract arts as music. With what am I sympathizing when I listen to a string quartet or a symphony? What emotion do I feel? Moreover, the position encounters all the difficulties already noted in forging a link between the imaginary and the real.

The aesthetic of autonomy, as we may call it, encounters complementary difficulties and, in particular, the difficulty of showing why we should value either aesthetic experience itself or the art that is its characteristic object. Moreover, it assumes that whenever I take an emotional interest in something, I am interested in it for the sake of emotion, a false inference that would imply equally that the lover is interested only in his love or the angry man only in his anger. Collingwood thus dismisses "amusement art," on the spurious ground that to be interested in a work of art for the sake of amusement is to be interested not in the work but only in the amusement that it inspires. That is to say, it is to treat the work as a means to feeling rather than as an end in itself. Such a conclusion is entirely unwarranted. Amusement is, in fact, a species of interest in something for its own sake: I laugh not for the sake of laughter, but for the sake of the joke. While I may be interested in an object for the sake of the emotion that it arouses, the case is peculiar--the case, in fact, of sentimentality, often dismissed by moralists as a spiritual corruption and equally by critics as a corruption of the aims of art.

The difficulties for both views are brought out by a fundamental aesthetic category: that of enjoyment. Whatever the ultimate value of aesthetic experience, we pursue it in the first instance for enjoyment's sake. Aesthetic experience includes, as its central instance, a certain kind of pleasure. But what kind of pleasure? While our emotions and sympathies are sometimes pleasurable, this is by no means their essential feature; they may equally be painful or neutral. How then does the aesthetic of sympathy explain the pleasure that we take, and must take, in the object of aesthetic experience? And how does the aesthetic of autonomy avoid the conclusion that all such pleasure is a violation of its strict requirement that we should be interested in the aesthetic object for its own sake alone? Neither theory seems to be equipped, as it stands, either to describe this pleasure or to show its place in the appreciation of art. (see also  psychology)

 

3 THE WORK OF ART

 

As the above discussion illustrates, it is impossible to advance far into the theory of aesthetic experience without encountering the specific problems posed by the experience of art. Whether or not we think of art as the central or defining example of the aesthetic object, there is no doubt that it provides the most distinctive illustration both of the elusive nature and the importance of aesthetic interest. With the increasing attention paid to art in a corrupted world where little else is commonly held to be spiritually significant, it is not surprising that the philosophy of art has increasingly begun to displace the philosophy of natural beauty from the central position accorded to the latter by the philosophers and critics of the 18th century. Nor is this shift in emphasis to be regretted; for the existence of art as a major human institution reminds us of the need for a theory that will attribute more to aesthetic experience than enjoyment and that will explain the profundity of the impressions that we receive from beauty--impressions that may provide both meaning and solace to those who experience them. It is thus worth reviewing some of the special problems in the philosophy of art that have most influenced contemporary aesthetics.

 

3.1 Understanding art.

The use of the concept of understanding in describing the appreciation of art marks out an interesting distinction between art and natural beauty. A person may understand or fail to understand T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, Michelangelo's "David," or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, but he cannot understand or fail to understand the Highlands of Scotland, even when he finds them beautiful or ugly. Understanding seems to be a prerequisite to the full experience of art, and this has suggested to many critics and philosophers that art is not so much an object of sensory experience as an instrument of knowledge. In particular, art seems to have the power both to represent reality and to express emotion, and some argue that it is through appreciating the properties of representation and expression that we recognize the meaning of art. At least, it might be supposed that, if we speak of understanding art, it is because we think of art as having content, something that must be understood by the appropriate audience.

The most popular approach to this concept of understanding is through a theory of art as a form of symbolism. But what is meant by this? Is such symbolism one thing or many? Is it a matter of evocation or convention, of personal response or linguistic rule? And what does art symbolize--ideas, feelings, objects, or states of affairs?

 

3.2 Representation and expression in art.

Various theories have been proposed in answer to these questions, the most popular being that the forms of art are similar to language and are to be understood as language is understood, in terms of conventions and semantic rules. A few examples of contemporary theories that have described art in this way include Ernst Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms, Susanne K. Langer's theory of presentational symbols, and the works on semiology and semiotics, largely inspired by the writings of Roland Barthes, that have been fashionable in continental Europe. It seems important to review some of the arguments that have been employed both for and against the overall conception of art that such theories share.

In favour of the view, it is undeniable that many works of art are about the world in somewhat the way that language may be about the world. This is evident in the case of literature (which is itself an instance of natural language). It is no less evident in the case of painting. A portrait stands to its sitter in a relation that is not unlike that which obtains between a description and the thing described. Even if the majority of pictures are of, or about, entirely imaginary people, scenes, and episodes, this is no different from the case of literature, in which language is used to describe purely imaginary subjects. This relation between a work of art and its subject, captured in the word "about," is sometimes called representation--a term that owes its currency in aesthetics to Croce and Collingwood, who used it to draw the familiar contrast between representation and expression.

The concept of expression is variously analyzed. Its principal function in modern aesthetics, however, is to describe those aspects and dimensions of artistic meaning that seem not to fall within the bounds of representation, either because they involve no clear reference to an independent subject matter or because the connection between the subject and the artistic form is too close and inextricable to admit description in the terms appropriate to representation. Therefore, it is widely recognized that abstract art forms--music, abstract painting, architecture--may yet contain meaningful utterances, and most frequently philosophers and critics use terms such as expression in order to describe these elusive meanings. Music, in particular, is often said to be an expression of emotion and to gain much of its significance from that. Expression in such a case is unlike representation, according to many philosophers, in that it involves no descriptive component. An expression of grief does not describe grief but rather presents it, as it might be presented by a face or a gesture.

Expression must be distinguished from evocation. To say that a piece of music expresses melancholy is not to say that it evokes (arouses) melancholy. To describe a piece of music as expressive of melancholy is to give a reason for listening to it; to describe it as arousing melancholy is to give a reason for avoiding it. (Music that is utterly blank expresses nothing, but it may arouse melancholy.) Expression, where it exists, is integral to the aesthetic character and merit of whatever possesses it. For similar reasons, expression must not be confused with association, in spite of the reliance on the confusion by many 18th-century Empiricists.

The distinction between representation and expression is one of the most important conceptual devices in contemporary philosophy of art. Croce, who introduced it, sought to dismiss representation as aesthetically irrelevant and to elevate expression into the single, true aesthetic function. The first, he argued, is descriptive, or conceptual, concerned with classifying objects according to their common properties, and so done to satisfy our curiosity. The second, by contrast, is intuitive, concerned with presenting its subject matter (an "intuition") in its immediate concrete reality, so that we see it as it is in itself. In understanding expression, our attitude passes from mere curiosity to that immediate awareness of the concrete particular that is the core of aesthetic experience.

 

3.3 Symbolism in art.

Later philosophers have been content merely to distinguish representation and expression as different modes of artistic meaning, characterized perhaps by different formal or semantic properties. Nelson Goodman of the United States is one such philosopher. His Languages of Art (1968) was the first work of analytical philosophy to produce a distinct and systematic theory of art. Goodman's theory has attracted considerable attention, the more so in that it is an extension of a general philosophical perspective, expounded in works of great rigour and finesse, that embraces the entire realm of logic, metaphysics, and the philosophy of science.

Goodman, like many others, seeks the nature of art in symbolism and the nature of symbolism in a general theory of signs. (This second part of Goodman's aim is what Ferdinand de Saussure called semiology, the general science of signs [Cours de linguistique générale, 1916; Course of General Linguistics]). The theory derives from the uncompromising Nominalism expounded in Goodman's earlier works, a Nominalism developed under the influence of two other U.S. philosophers, Rudolf Carnap and W.V. Quine, but also showing certain affinities with the later philosophy of Wittgenstein. According to Goodman's general theory of signs, the relation between signs and the world can be described, like any relation, in terms of its formal structure, the objects related, and its genealogy. But, apart from that formal and factual analysis, there is nothing to be said. Words are labels that we attach to things, but the attempt to justify that practice merely repeats it: in using words, it presupposes precisely the justification that it aims to provide.

A corollary of this view is that relations of identical logical structure and identical genealogy between relevantly similar terms are really one and the same relation. Thus, if we assume that paintings, like words, are signs, then portraits stand to their subjects in the same relation as proper names to the objects denoted by them. (This is the substance of Goodman's proof that representation is a species of denotation.) We should not worry if that leads us to no new understanding of the relation (e.g., if it leads to no procedure for decoding the painted sign), for Goodman believes the search for such procedure is incoherent. The meaning of a sign is simply given, along with the artistic practice that creates it.

Goodman proceeds to generalize his theory of symbolism, using the word reference to express the relation between word and thing. (We might well characterize this relation as labelling.) Denotation is the special case of reference exemplified by proper names and portraits--a case in which a symbol labels one individual. When a single label picks out many things, then we have not a name but a predicate.

Sometimes the process of labelling goes both ways. A colour sample is a sign for the colour it possesses--say, the colour red. It therefore refers to the label red, which in turn refers back to the sample. In this case, the predicate red and the sample mutually label each other. Goodman calls this relation exemplification, and analyzes expression as a special case of it--namely, the case where the exemplification of a predicate proceeds by metaphor. For example, a piece of music may refer to sadness; it may also be metaphorically sad. In this case, Goodman argues, we may speak of the music as expressing sadness.

The economy and elegance of Goodman's theory are matched by its extreme inscrutability. On the surface it seems to provide direct and intelligible answers to all the major problems of art. What is art? A system of symbols. What is representation? Denotation. What is expression? A kind of reference. What is the value of art? It symbolizes (displays) reality. What is the distinction between art and science? A distinction between symbol systems but not between the matters they display. Yet, at each point we feel at a loss to know what we are learning about art in being told that it is essentially symbolic.

In this respect, Goodman's theory is similar to many semantic theories of art: it proves that expression, for example, describes a symbolic relation only by giving a theory of symbolism that is so general as to include almost every human artifact. It becomes impossible to extract from the result a procedure of interpretation--a way of understanding a work of art in terms of its alleged symbolic function. In particular, we cannot extend to the discussion of art those theories that show how we understand language in terms of its peculiar syntactic and semantic structure, for such theories always seem to rely precisely on what is peculiar to language and what distinguishes language from, say, music, painting, and architecture.

A similar result can be found in an earlier theory upon which Goodman's is to some extent modelled--the one proposed by Langer in her Philosophy in a New Key (1942) and Feeling and Form (1953). She argues that works of art symbolize states of mind ("feelings"), but that the relation is not to be explained in terms of any rule of reference such as operates in language. Works of art are, Langer says, "presentational symbols" whose relation to their objects is purely morphological. The symbol and its object are related by virtue of the fact that they possess the same "logical form." It follows that what the symbol expresses cannot be restated in words; words do not present the "logical form" of individuals but rather that of the properties and relations that characterize them. (Here again is the familiar view that art presents the individuality of its subject matter and is therefore not conceptual or descriptive.) With such a view we can no longer explain why we say that a work of art expresses a feeling and not that the feeling expresses the work; for the relation of expression, explained in these morphological terms, is clearly symmetrical. Moreover, like other semantic theories, Langer's analysis provides no procedure for interpretation, nothing that would give application to the claim that in understanding a work of art we understand it as a symbol.

Notwithstanding these difficulties for semantic theories of art, most philosophers remain convinced that the three categories of representation, expression, and understanding are all-important in making sense of our experience of art. They have become increasingly persuaded, however, with Croce and Collingwood, that the differences between representation and expression are more important than the similarities. In particular, while representation may be secured by semantic rules (as in language itself), there cannot be rules for the production of artistic expression. To think otherwise is to imagine that the difference between a Mozart and a Salieri is merely a difference of skill. Expression occurs in art only where there is expressiveness, and expressiveness is a kind of success to be measured by the response of the audience rather than by the grammar of the work. This response crucially involves understanding, and no theory of expression that is not also a theory of how expression is understood can be persuasive.

 

3.4 Form.

Expression and representation form part of the content of a work of art. Nonetheless, it is not only content that is understood (or misunderstood) by the attentive recipient. There is also form, by which term we may denote all those features of a work of art that compose its unity and individuality as an object of sensory experience. Consider music. In most cases when a listener complains that he does not understand a work of music, he means, not that he has failed to grasp its expressive content, but that the work has failed to cohere for him as a single and satisfying object of experience. He may put the point (somewhat misleadingly) by saying that he has failed to grasp the language or logic of the composition he hears. What matters, however, is that the appreciation of music (as of the other arts) depends upon the perception of certain "unities" and upon feeling the inherent order and reasonableness in a sequence (in this case, a sequence of tones). It is this perception of order that is fundamental to understanding art, whether abstract or representational, and that to many philosophers and critics has seemed more basic than the understanding of content. When Clive Bell wrote of art as "significant form," he really meant to defend the view, first, that form is the essence of art and, second, that form must be understood and therefore understandable (i.e., significant). Other philosophers have espoused one or another version of formalism, according to which the distinguishing feature of art--the one that determines our interest in it--is form. Part answers part, and each feature aims to bear some cogent relation to the whole. It is such facts as these that compel our aesthetic attention. (see also  music theory)

The study of form must involve the study of our perception of form. A considerable amount of work on this subject has been inspired by the theories of the Gestalt psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka, whose semiempirical, semiphilosophical researches into the perception of form and pattern seem to make direct contact with many of the more puzzling features of our experience of art. The influence of the Gestalt psychologists is also apparent in works of visual aesthetics; e.g., Rudolf Arnheim's Art and Visual Perception (1954), which explores the significance of such well-known Gestalt phenomena as the figure-ground relationship and the perception of completed wholes for our understanding of pictures.

Fruitful though this emphasis on the "good Gestalt" has been, it cannot claim to have covered in its entirety the immensely complex subject of artistic form. For one thing, the theories and observations of the Gestalt psychologists, while evidently illuminating when applied to music and painting, can be applied to our experience of literature only artificially and inconclusively. Furthermore, it is impossible either to subsume all formal features of music and literature under the idea of a Gestalt or to demonstrate why, when so subsumed, the emotional effect and aesthetic value of form is made intelligible. Too much of aesthetic importance is left unconsidered by the study of the Gestalt, so that formalist critics and philosophers have begun to look elsewhere for an answer to the questions that concern them. (see also  perception)

One recurring idea is that the operative feature determining our perception of form is "structure," the underlying, concealed formula according to which a work of art is constructed. This idea has had considerable influence in two areas, music theory and literary criticism, the former through the Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker and the latter through the Russian formalists and the structuralist linguists of Prague and Paris. Schenker argued in Harmonielehre (1906-35; Harmony) that musical form can be understood as generated out of musical "cells," units that are expanded, repeated, and built upon in ways that create a web of significant relationships, including a background and a foreground of musical movement. Certain structuralist critics, notably Tzvetan Todorov and Roland Barthes, have tried to perceive the unity of works of literature in terms of a similar development of literary units, often described tendentiously as "codes," but perhaps better understood as themes. These units are successively varied and transposed in ways that make the whole work into a logical derivation from its parts. (see also  leitmotiv)

Against this approach it has been argued that in neither case does structural analysis succeed in making contact with the real source of artistic unity. This unity lies within the aesthetic experience itself and so cannot be understood as a structural feature of the work of art. Once again the temptation has been to enshrine in a body of rules what lies essentially beyond the reach of rules: a unity of experience that cannot be predicted but only achieved. Structuralist aesthetics has therefore come under increasing criticism, not only for its pedantry but also for its failure to make genuine contact with the works of art to which it is applied.

In general, the study of artistic form remains highly controversial and fraught with obstacles that have yet to be overcome. This area of the theory of art remains difficult and inaccessible equally to the critic and the philosopher, both of whom have therefore tended to turn their attention to less intractable problems.

 

3.5 The ontology of art.

One such problem is that of the ontological status of the work of art. Suppose that A has on the desk before him David Copperfield. Is David Copperfield therefore identical with this book that A can touch and see? Certainly not, for another copy lies on B's desk, and a single work of art cannot be identical with two distinct physical things. The obvious conclusion is that David Copperfield, the novel, is identical with no physical thing. It is not a physical object, any more than is a piece of music, which is clearly distinct from all its performances. Perhaps the same is true of paintings. For could not paintings be, in principle at least, exactly reproduced? And does not that possibility show the painting to be distinct from any particular embodiment in this or that area of painted canvas? With a little stretching, the same thought experiment might be extended to architecture, though the conclusion inevitably becomes increasingly controversial.

The problem of the nature of the work of art is by no means new. Such an argument, however, gives it a pronounced contemporary flavour, so that both Phenomenologists and Analytical philosophers have been much exercised by it, often taking as their starting point the clearly untenable theory of Croce. According to Croce, the work of art does not consist in a physical event or object but rather in a mental "intuition," which is grasped by the audience in the act of aesthetic understanding. The unsatisfactory nature of this theory, sometimes called the "ideal" theory of art, becomes apparent as soon as we ask how we would identify the intuition with which any given work of art is supposedly identical. Clearly, we can identify it only in and through a performance, a book, a score, or a canvas. These objects give us the intuition that cannot exist independently of them. (Otherwise we should have to say that the world contains an uncountable number of great works of art whose only defect is that they have never been transcribed.)

Clearly then, the physical embodiment of the work--in sounds, language, scores, or other inscriptions--is more fundamentally a part of it (of its "essence") than the ideal theory represents it to be. What then is the work of art, and what is its relation to the objects in which it is embodied? These questions have been discussed by Richard Wollheim in Art and Its Objects (1968), and again by Goodman in Languages of Art (see above). Wollheim argues that works of art are "types" and their embodiments "tokens." The distinction here derives from the U.S. philosopher and logician C.S. Peirce, who argued that the letter a, for example, is neither identical with any particular token of it (such as the one just written) nor distinct from the class of such tokens. Peirce therefore calls a a type (i.e., a formula for producing tokens). (see also  universal)

Wollheim's theory is open to various objections. For example, works of architecture are not, as things stand, tokens of types but physical objects, and to make them into types by endlessly reproducing them would be to destroy their aesthetic character. To identify an object in terms of a process that destroys its character is not in any evident sense to identify it. The theory, moreover, seems to be unable to distinguish a musical performance containing a wrong note from a performance of a new work of music containing precisely that note as part of its type.

Goodman's theory is more technical and displaces the question of the nature of art in favour of that of the nature of an inscription: Just what is it for a particular set of marks to identify a work of art? Other philosophers have concentrated on the question of identity: What makes this work of art the same as that one? Some argue, for example, that works of art have a distinct criterion of identity, one that reflects the peculiar nature and demands of aesthetic interest. Others dismiss the search for a criterion of identity as both aesthetically insignificant and illusory in itself. Still others, notably the Phenomenologist Roman Ingarden, argue that the work of art exists on several levels, being identical not with physical appearance but with totality of interpretations that secure the various formal and semantic levels that are contained in it.

Questions that so obviously lend themselves to the procedures of modern philosophy have naturally commanded considerable attention. But whether they are aesthetically significant is disputed, and some philosophers go so far as to dismiss all questions of ontology and identity of art as peripheral to the subject matter of aesthetics. The same could not be said, however, of the question of the value of art, which, while less discussed, is evidently of the first importance.

 

3.6 The value of art.

Theories of the value of art are of two kinds, which we may call extrinsic and intrinsic. The first regards art and the appreciation of art as means to some recognized moral good, while the second regards them as valuable not instrumentally but as objects unto themselves. It is characteristic of extrinsic theories to locate the value of art in its effects on the person who appreciates it. Art is held to be a form of education, perhaps an education of the emotions. In this case, it becomes an open question whether there might not be some more effective means to the same result. Alternatively, one may attribute a negative value to art, as Plato did in his Republic, arguing that art has a corrupting or diseducative effect on those exposed to it. (see also  moralism)

The extrinsic approach, adopted in modern times by Leo Tolstoy in Chto takoye iskusstvo? (1896; What Is Art?), has seldom seemed wholly satisfactory. Philosophers have constantly sought for a value in aesthetic experience that is unique to it and that, therefore, could not be obtained from any other source. The extreme version of this intrinsic approach is that associated with Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and the French Symbolists, and summarized in the slogan "art for art's sake." Such thinkers and writers believe that art is not only an end in itself but also a sufficient justification of itself. They also hold that in order to understand art as it should be understood, it is necessary to put aside all interests other than an interest in the work itself.

Between those two extreme views there lies, once again, a host of intermediate positions. We believe, for example, that works of art must be appreciated for their own sake, but that, in the act of appreciation, we gain from them something that is of independent value. Thus a joke is laughed at for its own sake, even though there is an independent value in laughter, which lightens our lives by taking us momentarily outside ourselves. Why should not something similar be said of works of art, many of which aspire to be amusing in just the way that good jokes are? (see also  humour)

The analogy with laughter--which, in some views, is itself a species of aesthetic interest--introduces a concept without which there can be no serious discussion of the value of art: the concept of taste. If I am amused it is for a reason, and this reason lies in the object of my amusement. We thus begin to think in terms of a distinction between good and bad reasons for laughter. Amusement at the wrong things may seem to us to show corruption of mind, cruelty, or bad taste; and when it does so, we speak of the object as not truly amusing, and feel that we have reason on our side.

Similarly, we regard some works of art as worthy of our attention and others as not. In articulating this judgment, we use all of the diverse and confusing vocabulary of moral appraisal; works of art, like people, are condemned for their sentimentality, coarseness, vulgarity, cruelty, or self-indulgence, and equally praised for their warmth, compassion, nobility, sensitivity, and truthfulness. (The same may apply to the object of natural beauty.) Clearly, if aesthetic interest has a positive value, it is only when motivated by good taste; it is only interest in appropriate objects that can be said to be good for us. All discussion of the value of art tends, therefore, to turn from the outset in the direction of criticism: Can there be genuine critical evaluation of art, a genuine distinction between that which deserves our attention and that which does not? (And, once again, the question may be extended to objects of natural beauty.)

 

4 TASTE, CRITICISM, AND JUDGMENT

All aesthetic experience, whether of art or nature, seems to be informed by and dependent upon an exercise of taste. We choose the object of aesthetic experience, and often do so carefully and deliberately. Moreover, we are judged by our choices, not only of works of art but also of colour schemes, dresses, and garden ornaments, just as we are judged by our manners and our sense of humour. By his taste an individual betrays himself: not merely a small part of himself but the whole. Yet, the relation between taste and morality is by no means straightforward. There seems, in fact, to be a puzzling question as to the precise nature of the relation between aesthetic and moral values, and between the good taste that discerns the first and the good conduct that responds to the second. If there is no relation, the enormous amount of human energy that is invested in art and criticism may begin to seem rather pointless. If the relation is too close, however, the result is an intolerable moral elitism that makes refinement the sole standard of acceptable conduct, as for example, the elitism depicted by Villiers de L'Isle-Adam in Axel, by J.K. Huysmans in À Rebours, and by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray. The aesthete is one who puts aesthetic values above all others and who seeks for a morality that conforms to them. But like his opposite, the philistine, he fails to see that the relation between the aesthetic and the moral is not one of priority; each informs and is informed by the other, without taking precedence and without dictating the choice that belongs within the other's sphere.

Contemporary aesthetics has been less disposed to discuss the idea of taste than that of criticism. But clearly, the two ideas are so closely related that anything said about the one has a direct bearing on the other. In both cases, the approach has been the first of those outlined at the beginning of this article: the approach that starts with a study of the concepts and modes of argument employed in discussing beauty and tries to grasp the distinctive problems of aesthetics through a study of the logical and ideological puzzles that these concepts and arguments arouse.

Philosophers often distinguish between two kinds of critical discussion--the interpretative and the evaluative--and two classes of concepts corresponding to them. In describing an object of natural beauty or a work of art, we may use a host of so-called aesthetic terms, terms that seem to have a particular role when used in this context and that articulate the aesthetic impression which it is the first task of criticism to convey. Among such terms we may notice affective terms--moving, frightening, disturbing; terms denoting emotional qualities--sad, lively, mournful, wistful; terms denoting the expressive or representational content of a work of art, its formal features, and its overall artistic genre--comic, tragic, ironic. Some of these terms can be applied meaningfully only to works of art; others may be applied to the whole of nature in order to articulate an aesthetic experience. The examination of their logic has had an increasingly important role in analytical aesthetics. Frank N. Sibley, for example, has argued that such terms are used in aesthetic judgment in a peculiar way, without conditions (i.e., without a reasoned basis), and in order to describe aesthetic properties that are discernible only by the exercise of taste. This sophisticated reminder of Kant's theory that aesthetic judgment is free from concepts has been criticized as creating too great a gap between the language of criticism and the language of everyday life. But it is of considerable interest in itself in attempting to revive a conception of taste that was highly influential in 18th-century aesthetics. As noted above, taste is, according to this conception, a faculty not of evaluation but of perception.

In aesthetics, however, evaluative judgments are inescapable. Theories avoiding the implication that taste is a form of discrimination, which naturally ranks its objects according to their merit, are peculiarly unsatisfying, not the least because they have so little bearing on the practice of criticism or the reasons that lead us to assign such overwhelming importance to art.

 

4.1 Concepts used in aesthetic evaluation.

What then of the concepts employed in aesthetic evaluation? Burke introduced a famous distinction between two kinds of aesthetic judgment corresponding to two orders of aesthetic experience: the judgment of the beautiful and that of the sublime. The judgment of beauty has its origin in our social feelings, particularly in our feelings toward the other sex, and in our hope for a consolation through love and desire. The judgment of the sublime has its origin in our feelings toward nature, and in our intimation of our ultimate solitude and fragility in a world that is not of our own devising and that remains resistant to our demands. In Burke's words,

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

Burke's distinction emerges as part of a natural philosophy of beauty: an attempt to give the origins of our sentiments rather than to explain the logic of the judgments that convey them. In Kant, the distinction is recast as a distinction between two categories of aesthetic experience and two separate values that attach to it. Sometimes when we sense the harmony between nature and our faculties, we are impressed by the purposiveness and intelligibility of everything that surrounds us. This is the sentiment of beauty. At other times, overcome by the infinite greatness of the world, we renounce the attempt to understand and control it. This is the sentiment of the sublime. In confronting the sublime, the mind is "incited to abandon sensibility"--to reach over to that transcendental view of things that shows to us the immanence of a supersensible realm and our destiny as subjects of a divine order. Thus, from the presentiment of the sublime, Kant extracts the ultimate ground of his faith in a Supreme Being, and this is for him the most important value that aesthetic experience can convey.

The distinction between the sublime and the beautiful is now less frequently made than at the time of Burke and Kant. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that aesthetic judgment exists in many contrasting forms, of both praise and condemnation. A philosopher who sought to account for the idea of beauty without attending to those of the elegant, the refined, the great, the delicate, the intelligent, the profound, and the lovely would be unlikely to provide us with much understanding of the nature and function of criticism. There may be, however, something that these judgments have in common which might be used in order to cast light on all of them. Kant certainly would have thought so, since he argued that all such judgments share the distinctive features of taste revealed in his antinomy. In other words, they are all grounded in an immediate ("subjective") experience, while at the same time being "universal"--i.e., held forth as valid for all rational beings irrespective of their particular interests and desires. Thus, the critic tries to justify his aesthetic judgments, seeking reasons that will persuade others to see what he sees as elegant or beautiful in a similar light.

Could there be a genuine critical procedure devoted to that enterprise of providing objective grounds for subjective preferences? This question is integrally connected to another that we have already discussed: the question of the value of aesthetic experience. If aesthetic experience is valueless, or if it has no more value than attaches to idle enjoyment, then it becomes far less plausible to insist on the existence of objective evaluation than if aesthetic experience has the kind of importance attributed to it by Kant.

Modern considerations of this exceedingly difficult question tend to concentrate on the criticism of art and on the role of the critic of art. What is a critic doing when he discusses a work of art, what does he look for, and with what purpose? It might be said that a critic should first of all study the artist's intention, since this will show the real meaning of his work, the real content that he is trying to communicate. The U.S. critics W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, however, argue that there is a fallacy (the so-called intentional fallacy) involved in this approach. What is to be interpreted is the work of art itself, not the intentions of the artist, which are hidden from us and no subject for our concern. If judgment is to be aesthetic, it must concern itself with the given object, and the meanings that we attribute to the object are those that we see in it, whatever the artist intended.

The existence of an intentional fallacy has been doubted. Some argue, for example, that Wimsatt and Beardsley make too sharp a distinction between an intention and the act that expresses it, assuming the intention to be a kind of private mental episode forever hidden from an observer rather than a revealed order in the work itself. But when a critic refers to the artistic intention, it is not clear whether he means anything more than the general purposiveness of the work of art, which can be interpreted by a critic without supposing there to be some intention beyond that of producing the precise work before him. (Indeed, in Kant's view, there can be purposiveness without purpose, and this phenomenon provides the central object of aesthetic interest whether in aesthetic interest whether in art or in nature.) The dispute here is tortuous and obscure. Nevertheless, the move away from intentionalism, as it is called, has been regarded as imperative by most modern critics, who tend to see the role of criticism in either one of two ways: (1) criticism is devoted to the study and interpretation of the aesthetic object rather than of the artist or the recipient; and (2) criticism is devoted to the articulation of a response to the work of art and to the justification of a particular way of seeing it.

Underlying both these conceptions is the fashionable preoccupation with art as the principal object of critical judgment. Nevertheless, in suggesting that the choice which lies before the critic is between the aesthetic object and the experience that it arouses, the two views ensure that the artist is kept hidden. As a consequence, it is not difficult to adapt them to a wider view of aesthetic judgment and aesthetic experience--to a view that makes room for natural beauty and for the aesthetics of everyday life, as it is manifested in dress, manners, decoration, and the other useful arts.

It might be thought that only the first of the two conceptions can give rise to an objective critical procedure, since it alone requires that criticism focus on an object whose existence and nature is independent of the critic. The most important contemporary defense of an objective criticism, that of the British literary critic F.R. Leavis, has relied heavily on the second idea, however. In a celebrated controversy with his U.S. counterpart, René Wellek, Leavis argued that it is precisely because criticism is devoted to the individual response that it may achieve objectivity. Although there may be objectivity in the scientific explanation of the aesthetic object--i.e., in the classification and description of its typology, structure, and semiotic status--this is not, according to Leavis, the kind of objectivity that matters, for it will never lead to a value judgment and will therefore never amount to an objective criticism. Value judgments arise out of, and are validated by, the direct confrontation in experience between the critical intelligence and the aesthetic object, the first being informed by a moral awareness that provides the only possible ground for objective evaluation. (see also  moralism)

If criticism were confined to the study of nature, it would look very peculiar. It is only because of the development of artistic and decorative traditions that the habit of aesthetic judgment becomes established. Accordingly, contemporary attempts to provide a defense of aesthetic judgment concentrate almost exclusively on the criticism of art, and endeavour to find principles whereby the separate works of art may be ordered according to their merit, or at least characterized in evaluative terms. Leavis' "objective" criticism is expressly confined to the evaluation of literary works taken from a single tradition. The reason for this narrowness can be put paradoxically as follows: Criticism can be objective only when it is based in subjectivity. Criticism is the justification of a response, and such justification requires a frame of reference that both the critic and his reader can readily recognize. The successful communication and justification of a response are possible only by reference to the canon of works accepted within a common culture. The canonical works--what Matthew Arnold called the touchstones of criticism--provide the context of relevant comparisons, without which no amount of detailed analysis could convey the quality of the individual work. Critical reasoning is an attempt to place works of art in relation to one another, so that the perceived greatness of the one will provide the standard of measurement for the other. At the same time, the individual quality of feeling in each work must be elicited and discussed exactly as we might discuss the quality of feeling in everyday life, praising it for its intensity, exactness, and generosity, and criticizing it for its sentimentality, obscurity, or lack of seriousness. All of the moral categories that we apply to human feeling and character we may therefore apply equally to art, and the basis of an objective criticism will be no different from the basis (whatever it might be) for an objective morality. The value of art, on this account, resides partly in the fact that it gives exemplary expression to human feeling and character, and so enables us to measure our own lives and aspirations against their imaginary counterparts.

These ideas are vague and have been frequently criticized for their moralistic overtones as well as for the seeming narrowness of their application. Even if they apply to the criticism of literature, what do we say about the criticism of music, of architecture, of dress and decor, of natural beauty? In the nonliterary arts much criticism is directed first to form, style, and workmanship, and only secondly to the moral content of the works under consideration. There are exceptions to this rule, and once again the principal exception is English--namely, John Ruskin's profoundly moralized criticism of architecture. Nevertheless, the extreme difficulty experienced in extending the Leavisite procedures of practical criticism (in which the reader's response becomes the principal focus of critical attention) to the nonliterary arts has given sustenance to the view that this "moralized" criticism is really only one kind of criticism and not necessarily the most widely applicable or the most important. If such is the case, it cannot really claim to have discovered a basis for the objective exercise of taste. (see also  cognition )

 

5 THE DEVELOPMENT OF WESTERN AESTHETICS

 

5.1 The contributions of the ancient Greeks.

The two greatest Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, shared a sense of the importance of aesthetics, and both regarded music, poetry, architecture, and drama as fundamental institutions within the body politic. Plato notoriously recommends the banning of poets and painters from his ideal republic and in the course of his argument provides an extended theory of imitation (mimesis), along with spurious reasons for thinking that imitation derogates both from the laws of morality and from the rational cognition of the world. Much of Aristotle's extended and diverse reply to Plato is concerned with rehabilitating imitation as the foundation of moral education (Ethica Nicomachea), as the origin of a necessary katharsis (Poetica), and as the instrument--through music, dance, and poetry--of character formation (Politica).

Plato's more mystical writings, notably the Timaeus, contain hints of another approach to aesthetics, one based on the Pythagorean theory of the cosmos that exerted a decisive influence on the Neoplatonists. Through the writings of St. Augustine, Boethius, and Macrobius, the Pythagorean cosmology and its associated aesthetic of harmony were passed on to the thinkers of the Middle Ages. The Aristotelian theory of imitation and the concern with the expressive and emotionally educative aspect of aesthetic experience were not truly influential until the 17th century. At that time much attention was also paid to another classical work, the Hellenistic treatise on the sublime ascribed to Longinus, which is perhaps the most interesting and extended piece of antique literary criticism to have been passed on to the modern world.

 

5.2 Medieval aesthetics.

St. Thomas Aquinas devoted certain passages of his Summa Theologiae (c. 1266-73) to the study of beauty. To his thinking, man's interest in beauty is of sensuous origin, but it is the prerogative of those senses that are capable of "contemplation"--namely, the eye and the ear. Aquinas defines beauty in Aristotelian terms as that which pleases solely in the contemplation of it and recognizes three prerequisites of beauty: perfection, appropriate proportion, and clarity. Aquinas' position typifies the approach to aesthetics adopted by the Scholastics. More widely diffused among medieval thinkers was the Neoplatonist theory, in which beauty is seen as a kind of divine order conforming to mathematical laws: the laws of number, which are also the laws of harmony. Music, poetry, and architecture all exhibit the same conformity to a cosmic order, and, in experiencing their beauty, we are really experiencing the same order in ourselves and resonating to it as one string to another. This theory, expounded in treatises on music by St. Augustine and Boethius, is consciously invoked by Dante in his Convivio (c. 1304-07; The Banquet). In this piece, generally considered one of the first sustained works of literary criticism in the modern manner, the poet analyzes the four levels of meaning contained in his own poems.

The Neoplatonist emphasis on number and harmony dominated aesthetics during the early Renaissance as well and was reaffirmed by Leon Alberti in his great treatise on architecture, De Re Aedificatoria (1452; Ten Books on Architecture). Alberti also advanced a definition of beauty, which he called concinnitas, taking his terminology from Cicero. Beauty is for Alberti such an order and arrangement of the parts of an object that nothing can be altered except for the worse. This kind of definition can hardly stand alone as a basis for aesthetics, for what does the word worse mean? The obvious answer, "less beautiful," at once reduces the definition to circularity.

 

5.3 The origins of modern aesthetics.

Francis Bacon wrote essays on beauty and deformity, but he confined his remarks to the human figure. René Descartes produced a treatise on music, although it contains little that would be recognized as aesthetics in the modern sense. During the first decades of modern philosophy, aesthetics flourished, not in the works of the great philosophers, but in the writings of such minor figures as Baltasar Gracián, Jean de La Bruyère (who began the study of taste that was to dominate aesthetics for a century), and Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon.

It was not until the end of the 17th century that the distinctive concerns of modern aesthetics were established. At that time, taste, imagination, natural beauty, and imitation came to be recognized as the central topics in aesthetics. In Britain the principal influences were the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury and his disciples Francis Hutcheson and Joseph Addison. Shaftesbury, a follower of the political and educational philosopher John Locke, did more than any of his contemporaries to establish ethics and aesthetics as central areas of philosophical inquiry. As a naturalist, he believed that the fundamental principles of morals and taste could be established by due attention to human nature, our sentiments being so ordered that certain things naturally please us and are naturally conducive to our good (Characteristiks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 1711). Taste is a kind of balanced discernment, whereby a person recognizes that which is congenial to his sentiments and therefore an object of pleasurable contemplation. Following Locke, Shaftesbury laid much emphasis on the association of ideas as a fundamental component in aesthetic experience and the crucial bridge from the sphere of contemplation to the sphere of action. Addison adopted this position in a series of influential essays, "The Pleasures of the Imagination" in The Spectator (1712). He defended the theory that imaginative association is the fundamental component in our experience of art, architecture, and nature, and is the true explanation of their value to us.

Francis Hutcheson was perhaps the first to place the problem of aesthetic judgment among the central questions of epistemology: How can we know that something is beautiful? What guides our judgment and what validates it? His answer was decidedly Empiricist in tone: aesthetic judgments are perceptual and take their authority from a sense that is common to all who make them. In An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), Hutcheson explained: "The origin of our perceptions of beauty and harmony is justly called a 'sense' because it involves no intellectual element, no reflection on principles and causes."

 

5.4 The significance of Baumgarten's work.

Such a statement would have been vigorously repudiated by Hutcheson's contemporary Alexander Baumgarten, who, in his aforementioned Reflections on Poetry, introduced the term aesthetic in its distinctively modern sense. Baumgarten was a pupil of Christian Wolff, the Rationalist philosopher who had created the orthodox philosophy of the German Enlightenment by building the metaphysical ideas of Gott-fried Wilhelm Leibniz into a system. He was thus heir to a tradition that dismissed the senses and the imagination as incapable of providing a genuine cognition of their objects and standing always to be corrected (and replaced) by rational reflection. Baumgarten, however, argued that poetry is surely cognitive: it provides insight into the world of a kind that could be conveyed in no other way. At the same time, poetic insights are perceptual ("aesthetic") and hence imbued with the distinctive character of sensory and imaginative experience. According to Baumgarten, the ideas conveyed by poetry are "clear and confused," as opposed to the "clear and distinct" ideas of reason in the sense that they had been described by Descartes and the 17th-century Rationalists. Baumgarten held that the aesthetic value of a poem resides in the relative preponderance of clarity over confusion. Accordingly, his theory of the value of art was ultimately cognitive.

It was some decades before Baumgarten's coinage became philosophical currency. But there is no doubt that his treatise, for all its pedantry and outmoded philosophical method, deserves its reputation as the founding work of modern aesthetics.

 

5.5 Major concerns of 18th-century aesthetics.

The development of aesthetics between the work of Baumgarten and that of Immanuel Kant, who had been influenced by Baumgarten's writings, was complex and diverse, drawing inspiration from virtually every realm of human inquiry. Yet, throughout this period certain topics repeatedly received focal attention in discussions pertaining to aesthetic questions.

One such topic was the faculty of taste, the analysis of which remained the common point among German, French, and English writers. Taste was seen either as a sense (Hutcheson), as a peculiar kind of emotionally inspired discrimination (Hume), or as a part of refined good manners (Voltaire). In an important essay entitled "Of the Standard of Taste" (in Four Dissertations, 1757), Hume, following Voltaire in the Encyclopédie, raised the question of the basis of aesthetic judgment and argued that "it is natural for us to seek a standard of taste; a rule by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least, a decision afforded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another." But where is this standard of taste to be found? Hume recommends an ideal of the man of taste, whose discriminations are unclouded by an emotional distemper and informed by a "delicacy of imagination . . . requisite to convey a sensibility of . . . finer emotions." For, Hume argues, there is a great resemblance between "mental" and "bodily" taste--between the taste exercised in aesthetic discrimination and that exercised in the appreciation of food and drink, which can equally be deformed by some abnormal condition of the subject. Hume proceeded to lay down various procedures for the education of taste and for the proper conduct of critical judgment. His discussion, notwithstanding its skeptical undercurrent, has proved lastingly influential on the English schools of criticism, as well as on the preferred Anglo-Saxon approach to the questions of aesthetics.

A second major concern of 18th-century writers was the role of imagination. Addison's essays were seminal, but discussion of imagination remained largely confined to the associative theories of Locke and his followers until Hume gave to the imagination a fundamental role in the generation of commonsense beliefs. Kant attempted to describe the imagination as a distinctive faculty, active in the generation of scientific judgment as well as aesthetic pleasure. Between them, Hume and Kant laid the ground for the Romantic writers on art: Johann Gottfried von Herder, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Schelling, and Novalis (pseudonym of Friedrich Leopold, Freiherr von Hardenberg) in Germany, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth in England. For such writers, imagination was to be the distinctive feature both of aesthetic activity and of all true insight into the human condition. Meanwhile, Lord Kames and Archibald Alison had each provided full accounts of the role of association in the formation and justification of critical judgment. Alison, in particular, recognized the inadequacies of the traditional Empiricist approach to imaginative association and provided a theory as to how the feelings aroused by a work of art or a scene of natural beauty may become part of its appearance--qualities of the object as much as of the subject (Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste [1790]).

The concept of imitation, introduced into the discussion of art by Plato and Aristotle, was fundamental to the 18th-century philosophy of art. Imitation is a vague term, frequently used to cover both representation and expression in the modern sense. The thesis that imitation is the common and distinguishing feature of the arts was put forward by James Harris in Three Treatises (1744) and subsequently made famous by Charles Batteux in a book entitled Les Beaux Arts réduits à un même principe (1746; "The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle"). This diffuse and ill-argued work contains the first modern attempt to give a systematic theory of art and aesthetic judgment that will show the unity of the phenomena and their common importance. "The laws of taste," Batteux argued, "have nothing but the imitation of beautiful nature as their object"; from which it follows that the arts, which are addressed to taste, must imitate nature. The distinction between the fine and useful arts (recast by Collingwood as the distinction between art and craft) stems from Batteux.

Still another characteristic of 18th-century aesthetics was the concern with the distinction between the sublime and the beautiful. Burke's famous work, On the Sublime and Beautiful, has already been discussed. Its influence was felt throughout late 18th-century aesthetics. For example, it inspired one of Kant's first publications, an essay on the sublime. Treatises on beauty were common, one of the most famous being The Analysis of Beauty (1753) by the painter William Hogarth, which introduces the theory that beauty is achieved through the "serpentine line."

The view that art is expression emerged during the 1700s. Rousseau put forth the theory of the arts as forms of emotional expression in an essay dealing with the origin of languages. This theory, regarded as providing the best possible explanation of the power of music, was widely adopted. Treatises on musical expression proliferated during the late 18th century. One illustrative example of such writings is James Beattie's Essay on Poetry and Music as They Affect the Mind (1776), in which the author rejects the view of music as a representational (imitative) art form and argues that expression is the true source of musical excellence. Another example is provided by Denis Diderot in his didactic novel Le Neveu de Rameau (1761-74; Rameau's Nephew and Other Works). The theory of expression was inherited by the German Romantics, especially by Schelling, Schiller, and Herder. It was, furthermore, developed in a novel direction by the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico in his Scienza nuova (1725-44; New Science). Vico integrated art into a comprehensive theory of the development and decline of civilization. According to him, the cyclical movement of culture is achieved partly by a process of successive expression, through language and art, of the "myths" that give insight into surrounding social conditions. (see also  "New Science of Giambattista Vico, The," )

 

5.6 Kant, Schiller, and Hegel.

As previously noted, Kant's Kritik der Urteilskraft introduced the first full account of aesthetic experience as a distinct exercise of rational mentality. The principal ingredients of Kant's work are the following: the antinomy of taste, the emphasis on the free play of the imagination, the theory of aesthetic experience as both free from concepts and disinterested, the view that the central object of aesthetic interest is not art but nature, and the description of the moral and spiritual significance of aesthetic experience, which opens to us a transcendental point of view of the world of nature and enables us to see the world as purposive, but without purpose. In that perception, observes Kant, lies the deepest intimation of our nature and of our ultimate relation to a "supersensible" realm.

Schiller's Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, inspired by Kant, develops further the theory of the disinterested character of the aesthetic. Schiller argues that through this disinterested quality aesthetic experience becomes the true vehicle of moral and political education, providing man both with the self-identity that is his fulfillment and with the institutions that enable him to flourish: "What is man before beauty cajoles from him a delight in things for their own sake, or the serenity of form tempers the savagery of life? A monotonous round of ends, a constant vacillation of judgment; self-seeking, and yet without a self; lawless, yet without freedom; a slave, and yet to no rule."

Schiller's Briefe exerted a profound influence on Hegel's philosophy in general and on his Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik in particular. In discussions of remarkable range and imaginative power, Hegel introduces the distinctively modern conception of art as a request for self-realization, an evolving discovery of forms that give sensuous embodiment to the spirit by articulating in concrete form its inner tensions and resolutions. For Hegel, the arts are arranged in both historical and intellectual sequence, from architecture (in which Geist ["spirit"] is only half articulate and given purely symbolic expression), through sculpture and painting, to music and thence to poetry, which is the true art of the Romantics. Finally, all art is destined to be superseded by philosophy, in which the spirit achieves final articulation as Idea. The stages of art were identified by Hegel with various stages of historical development. In each art form a particular Zeitgeist (i.e., spirit of the time) finds expression, and the necessary transition from one art form to its successor is part of a larger historical transformation in which all civilization is engaged.

The incidental discussions of Hegel's Vorlesungen introduce most of the themes of contemporary philosophy of art, though in the peculiar language of Hegelian Idealism. Nineteenth-century Idealist aesthetics can reasonably be described as a series of footnotes to Hegel, who was, however, less original than he pretended. Many of the individual thoughts and theories in his lectures on aesthetics were taken from the contemporary literature of German Romanticism (in particular, the writings of Herder, Jean Paul [pseudonym of Johann Paul Friedrich Richter] and Novalis) and from the works of German critics and art historians (notably G.E. Lessing and Johann Winckelmann) who had forged the link between modern conceptions of art and the art of antiquity. The influence of Hegel was, therefore, the influence of German Romanticism as a whole, and it is not surprising that the few who escaped it lost their audience in doing so. (see also  Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich)

 

5.7 Post-Hegelian aesthetics.

Little of 19th-century aesthetics after Hegel has proved of lasting interest. Perhaps the most important exception is the controversial literature surrounding Richard Wagner, particularly the attack on the expressive theory of music launched by Wagner's critic Eduard Hanslick in his Vom musikalisch-Schönen (1854; On the Beautiful in Music). With this work modern musical aesthetics was born, and all the assumptions made by Batteux and Hegel concerning the unity (or unity in diversity) of the arts were thrown in doubt.

The most impressive work on aesthetics of the late 1800s was George Santayana's The Sense of Beauty (1896), which shows a welcome move away from the 19th-century obsession with art toward more fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind. Santayana argues against Kant's theory of the disinterested and universal quality of aesthetic interest, and defends the view that pleasure is the central aesthetic category, beauty being "pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing." All human functions and experiences may contribute to the sense of beauty, which has two broad categories of object: form and expression. In his theory of expression Santayana again takes up the problem raised by the theory of the association of ideas, and argues that in aesthetic pleasure the associative process achieves a kind of fusion between the response aroused and the object which arouses it, and that this is the fundamental experience of expression.

 

5.8 Expressionism.

After Kant and Hegel, the most important influence on modern aesthetics has been Croce. His oft-cited Estetica come scienza dell' espressione e linguistica generale (1902; Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistics, or Aesthetic) presents, in a rather novel idiom, some of the important insights underlying the theories of his predecessors. In this work, Croce distinguishes concept from intuition: the latter is a kind of acquaintance with the individuality of an object, while the former is an instrument of classification. Art is to be understood first as expression and second as intuition. The distinction between representation and expression is ultimately identical with that between concept and intuition. The peculiarities of aesthetic interest are really peculiarities of intuition: this is what explains the problem of form and content, and what gives the meaning of the idea that the object of aesthetic interest is interesting for its own sake and not as a means to an end.

Croce conceived his expressionism as providing the philosophical justification for the artistic revolutions of the 19th century and, in particular, for the Impressionist style of painting, in which representation gives way to the attempt to convey experience directly onto the canvas. His extreme view of the autonomy of art led him to dismiss all attempts to describe art as a form of representation or to establish direct connections between the content of art and the content of scientific theories. Croce's disciple R.G. Collingwood (Principles of Art, 1938) was similarly dismissive of representation and similarly concerned with presenting a theory of art that would justify the revolutionary practice of his contemporaries (in this case, the post-Symbolist poetry of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land ). As pointed out earlier, Collingwood distinguishes craft, which is a means to an end, from art, which is an end in itself. But since art is also, for Collingwood, expression, expression too must be an end in itself. It cannot be construed as the giving of form to independently identifiable states of mind. The feeling must reside in the form itself and be obtainable exclusively in that form. If it were otherwise, art would be simply another kind of craft--the craft of giving expression to preexisting and independently identifiable states of mind. Therefore, like Croce, Collingwood opposes expression in art to description: expression gives us the particularity and not the generality of states of mind.

Collingwood sets his aesthetics within the context of a theory of the imagination, in which he shows the influence of the British Empiricists as well as of the Idealist metaphysicians who had influenced Croce. A similar attempt to unite the theory of art with a philosophy of the imagination had been made by the French philosopher Alain in his Système des beaux-arts (1920, revised 1926; "System of the Fine Arts"), a work that is distinguished by its detailed attention to dress, fashion, manners, and the useful arts, and by its idea of the artist as artisan d'abord. Along with John Dewey's Art As Experience (1934), in which aesthetic experience is presented as integral to the organic completion of human nature, these works provide the culminating expression of a now defunct view of the subject as central to the understanding not of art alone but of the human condition as well.

 

6 MARXIST AESTHETICS

Many attempts have been made to develop a specifically Marxist aesthetics, one that would incorporate the Marxian theory of history and class consciousness and the critique of bourgeois ideology, so as to generate principles of analysis and evaluation and show the place of art in the theory and practice of revolution. William Morris in En-gland and Georgy V. Plekhanov in Russia both attempted to unite Marx's social criticism with a conception of the nature of artistic labour. Plekhanov's Iskusstvo i obshchestvennaya zhizn (1912; Art and Social Life) is a kind of synthesis of early Marxist thought and attempts to recast the practices of art and criticism in a revolutionary mold. The ideology of "art for art's sake," Plekhanov argues, develops only in conditions of social decline when artist and recipient are in "hopeless disaccord with the social environment in which they live." Drawing on Kant and Schiller, Plekhanov presents a theory of the origins of art in play; play, however, must not be understood in isolation. It is indissolubly linked to labour, of which it is the complementary opposite. An art of play will be the "free" art of the revolution, of mankind returned to social harmony, but only because play and labour will then be reunited and transcended. In place of their opposition will be a harmonious whole in which art is continuous with labour. (see also  Marxism, Marxism)

The aesthetic theories of the Russian Revolution owe something to Plekhanov; something to the school of Formalist criticism, typified by the proto-Structuralist M. Bakhtin; and something to the anti-aesthetic propaganda of the Russian Constructivists, who believed in an art expressive of man's dominion over raw materials--an art that would be destructive of all existing patterns of subordination. The official approach of the Soviets to art , however, was typified, first, by the persecution of all those who expressed adherence to those theories, and, second, by the adoption under Stalin of Socialist Realism (the view that art is dedicated to the "realistic" representation of proletarian values and proletarian life) as the sole legitimate basis for artistic practice. (see also  Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, )

Subsequent Marxist thinking about art was largely influenced by two major central European thinkers: Walter Benjamin and György Lukács. Both were exponents of Marxist humanism who saw the important contribution of Marxian theory to aesthetics in the analysis of the condition of labour and in the critique of the alienated and "reified" consciousness of man under capitalism. Benjamin's collection of essays Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (1936; The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) attempts to describe the changed experience of art in the modern world and sees the rise of Fascism and mass society as the culmination of a process of debasement, whereby art ceases to be a means of instruction and becomes instead a mere gratification, a matter of taste alone. "Communism responds by politicizing art"--that is, by making art into the instrument by which the false consciousness of the mass man is to be overthrown.

Lukács developed a multifaceted approach to literary criticism in which the historical condition of society and the reality of class consciousness are singled out as the ideological agenda of works of literature and the major source of their appeal. This position is set forth in such works as Die Theorie des Romans (1920; The Theory of the Novel ). Neither Lukács nor Benjamin produced a coherent aesthetics as defined in this article, although each was immensely influential on the practice of modern literary criticism whether Marxist or not in its ultimate inspiration. (Ro.Sc.)

 

7 EASTERN AESTHETICS

 

7.1 India.

The disparagement of the sensory realm as mere illusion ("the veil of Maya"), characteristic of much Indian religion, went hand in hand with a philosophy of embodiment (karma), which gave a distinctive role to art both as an instrument of worship and as an earthly delight. The legends of the great god Krishna abound in exaggerated fantasies of erotic and physical power; the art of the temples testifies to a sensuality that belies the mystical gestures of renunciation which form the commonplaces of Hindu morality. In providing theories of such art and of the natural beauty that it celebrates, Indian philosophers have relied heavily on the concept of aesthetic flavour, or rasa, a kind of contemplative abstraction in which the inwardness of human feelings irradiates the surrounding world of embodied forms. (see also  Hinduism)

The theory of rasa is attributed to Bharata, a sage-priest who may have lived about AD 500. It was developed by the rhetorician and philosopher Abhinavagupta (c. AD 1000), who applied it to all varieties of theatre and poetry. The principal human feelings, according to Bharata, are delight, laughter, sorrow, anger, fear, disgust, heroism, and astonishment, all of which may be recast in contemplative form as the various rasas: erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, terrible, odious, marvellous, and quietistic. These rasas comprise the components of aesthetic experience. The power to taste rasa is a reward for merit in some previous existence.

 

7.2 China.

Confucius (551-479 BC) emphasized the role of aesthetic enjoyment in moral and political education, and, like his near contemporary Plato, was suspicious of the power of art to awaken frenzied and distracted feelings. Music must be stately and dignified, contributing to the inner harmony that is the foundation of good behaviour, and all art is at its noblest when incorporated into the rituals and traditions that enforce the stability and order of social life. (see also  Chinese art, Confucius, Chinese literature, Chinese philosophy)

Lao-tzu, the legendary founder of Taoism, was even more puritanical. He condemned all art as a blinding of the eye, a deafening of the ear, and a cloying of the palate. Later Taoists were more lenient, however, encouraging a freer, more intuitive approach both to works of art and to nature. The philosophy of beauty presented in their works and in the writings of the Ch'an (Zen) Buddhists who succeeded them is seldom articulate, being confined to epigrams and short commentaries that remain opaque to the uninitiated.

The same epigrammatic style and the same fervent puritanism can be discerned in the writings of Mao Tse-tung, who initiated in the Cultural Revolution the most successful war against beauty that has been waged in modern history. (see also  Maoism)

 

7.3 Japan.

The practice of literary commentary and aesthetic discussion was extensively developed in Japan and is exemplified at its most engaging in the great novel Genji monogatari (c. 1000; Tale of Genji), written by Murasaki Shikibu, lady-in-waiting to the Empress. Centuries of commentary on this novel, as well as on the court literature that it inspired, on the no and puppet plays, and on the lyrical verses of the haiku poets, led to the establishment of an aesthetics of supreme refinement. Many of the concepts of this form of aesthetics were drawn from the writings of Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443), a playwright and actor-manager. Zeami argued that the value of art is to be found in yugen ("mystery and depth") and that the artist must follow the rule of soo ("consonance"), according to which every object, gesture, and expression has to be appropriate to its context. (see also  Japanese art, no theatre)

The domination of aesthetic scruples over Japanese life has, as its culminating instance, the tea ceremony--a marvel of constrained social ballet--to the study of which whole lives have been devoted. Associated with this triumph of manners is an art of mood and evocation, in which significance is found in the small, concentrated gesture, the sudden revelation of transcendent meaning in what is most ordinary and unassuming. In the late 18th century Motoori Norinaga, a leading literary scholar, summed up the essence of Japanese art and literature as the expression of a touching intimation of transience, which he captured in the famous phrase mono no aware, meaning roughly "the sensitivity to the sadness of things." Other aesthetic qualities emphasized by classical scholars and critics are en ("charming"), okashi ("amusing"), and sabi (having the beauty of old, faded, worn, or lovely things). In all such aesthetic categories, we can sense the resonance of the Taoist and Buddhist ideas of renunciation.

(Th.M./Ro.Sc.)

 

미학 (美學, aesthetics). 미와 예술을 대상 영역으로 삼고 있는 학문.

개요

예술이란 인간이 수행하는 많은 활동 가운데 사물의 창조와 같은 특수한 활동을 지시하는 개념이며, 미는 진·선과 더불어 인간이 추구하는 많은 가치 가운데 하나를 지시하는 개념이다. 여기서 미학이라는 학문은, 미가 진이나 선과 구별되며 예술은 과학이나 도덕과 구별되는 고유한 가치의 활동으로서 하나의 독립된 영역을 이루고 있다는 가정하에 성립된 근대적 사고의 소산이다. 역사적으로 볼 때 미는 일의적인 것이 아니며, '예술'이라는 말과 그 말이 대변하는 체제는 18세기에 와서 확립되었다. 예술로 번역해서 쓰고 있는 영어의 'fine arts'가 프랑스어인 'beaux-arts'를 번역한 말임을 고려할 때 예술은 'beauty'와 'arts'가 결합되어 만들어진 합성어라고 할 수 있다. 이같은 사실은 18세기 이전에는 '예술'이라는 말도 없었을 뿐더러, 현재 그 말로 부르는 인간의 활동(시·음악·회화·조각·건축 등)과 미와의 관계가 그다지 긴밀하지 않았음을 뜻한다. 그러므로 고전적 고대로부터 18세기 전까지는 미의 개념에 관련하여 위의 활동이 언급되는 경우가 있더라도 미가 예술만을 통해서 실현되는 가치라는 의미는 아니었다.

이러한 입장에서 18세기 전까지는 하나의 독립된 영역을 다루는 형식적 교과로서 미학이라는 별도의 학문이 성립할 수도 없었고 그럴 필요도 없었다. 근대적 형태의 미학이론은 없었지만 그러나 미학이론의 내용을 구성하고 있는 미학사상들, 곧 미와 나중에 예술이라 부르게 된 활동과 그 소산에 대한 철학적 논의는 고대에도 있었다. 형식상 새로운 것일 뿐 미학이론의 쟁점들은 모두 고대로부터 전승된 것들이다. 따라서 근대 미학이론의 내용을 이루는 고대 미학사상의 중심개념들과 그에 대한 철학적 논의가 우선 검토될 것이다. 다음으로 그러한 미학사상들이 어떠한 단계적 전의과정을 거쳐 형식적 교과로서 새로운 미학이론으로 발전했는가를 간단히 서술하고, 마지막으로 그로부터 복잡하게 전개되는 많은 이론들을 방법론의 입장에서 분류·고찰해본다.

고대 미학사상의 중심개념

미와 미론의 역사적 문맥

미는 우리 마음에 즐거움과 감탄을 불러일으키는 것으로서, 이 말을 가리키는 고대 그리스어에는 명사 'kallos'(로마어로는 'pulchritudo')와 형용사 'kalos'(로마어로는 'pulcher')가 있다. 미의 추상적 성질을 지시하고자 할 때는 전자를 사용했고, 개별적인 아름다운 사물을 지시하고자 할 때는 형용사의 명사형인 'to kalon'(the beautiful)을 사용했다.

이와 같은 미의 개념은 현대 서구인들이 이해하고 있는 것보다 훨씬 넓은 의미였다. 고대인들은 아름다운 사물이나 아름다운 색, 아름다운 음만이 아니라 아름다운 사고나 아름다운 제도라는 말을 썼으며, 플라톤은 미의 사례들로서 아름다운 성격이나 아름다운 법, 그리고 〈향연〉편에서는 미의 이념이라는 말을 쓰고 있다. 또한 플로티노스는 아름다운 과학, 아름다운 덕을 말하고 있다. 따라서 고대인들은 시각과 청각에 국한되는 좁은 의미의 미의 개념을 지니고 있지 않았으며, 청각적인 미에 해당하는 것에 대해서는 화음(harmonia), 시각적인 미에 해당하는 것에 대해서는 비례(symmetria)라는 말을 사용했다. 이처럼 감각적인 대상들 속에 구현된 화음이나 비례는 오늘날 좁은 의미의 미를 뜻하는 말로 사용되었다. 이와 같은 미의 개념이 최초로 제기된 것은 피타고라스의 음악론을 통해서였으며, 이 음악론은 건축·조각·회화에 영향을 미쳐 그들이 준수해야 할 규범(kanon)의 하나로서 완전한 비례의 이론을 낳게 했다. 그러나 지각에 대한 사유의 우월성이 신봉되고 있고, 사유와 지각과의 밀접한 관계가 인정되고 있는 중에 시각·지각만이 그러한 것으로 받아들여지고 있었으므로 미의 개념을 감각적인 것에 국한시키고자 했을 때 고대 그리스인들은 시각·지각에 기초하여 미의 개념을 정립했다. 따라서 미는 수와 척도와 비례에 있다는 이론을 발전시키게 되었고, 이것이 모든 미이론의 기초가 되고 있다는 점에서 W. 타타르키예비치는 이것을 서구미학의 대이론(great theory of beauty)이라 규정짓고 있다.

이 이론은 미의 이성적 본질, 형이상학적 기초, 객관성 및 가치 등에 관련되면서 많은 명제들을 낳고 있다. 참된 미는 감각이나 상상이 아니라 이성 혹은 마음에 의해 파악된다는 미의 이성적 본질에 대한 주장은 비례에 기초한 미의 개념과 아주 자연스럽게 결합되는 것이어서, '미는 곧 진'이라는 명제를 표방했던 르네상스를 통해 아주 강력히 옹호되어왔다. 미의 형이상학적 기초란 피타고라스에게는 수적 본질의 우주론, 플라톤에게는 이원론적 이데아론이었으며, 플로티노스에게는 일원론적 일자론이었고, 중세를 통해서는 신학이론이었다. 이와같은 형이상학적 기초의 차이에 따라 이념으로서 완전한 정신적인 미와 불완전한 감각적 미를 구분하게 되었고, 여기서 후자는 전자의 모방이라는 플라톤의 모방설과 후자는 전자의 유출이라는 플로티노스의 유출설이 제기되었다.

플로티노스의 사상은 그대로 중세의 미론으로 이어지면서 미는 비례뿐 아니라 빛에 있다는 이론이 나타났다. 결과적으로 유출설은 비례를 미의 한 요소로 상대화하는 결과를 가져왔다. 그러나 이것은 대이론을 거부한 것이 아니라 그것을 보완하고 제한한 것이다. 그러나 아무리 그러한 논의가 대두되고 있는 중이라 해도 같은 시기를 통해 비례의 이론은 여전히 고수되는 모습을 보여주고 있다.

미의 객관성에 관한 주장이란 미가 아름다운 사물들의 객관적 성질, 즉 비례에 있다는 주장으로서 이것은 고대의 소피스트들을 제외하고는 누구에게나 당연한 것으로 받아들여졌다. 우리에게 즐거움을 주기 때문에 아름다운 것이 아니라 그 자체가 아름다운 것이기 때문에 즐거운 것이라는 객관주의적 사고는 미로부터 일체의 상대성의 요소를 배제하고 있다. 이밖에도 고전적인 대이론은 그것 자체가 또한 여러 형태로 발전해왔다. 예컨대 다양의 통일이나 완전성·적합성으로 변형되기도 했고, 내용으로서의 이념과 형식으로서의 비례가 결합되는 형태로 발전되면서 후대의 미학이론에 나타나기도 했다. 이러한 객관적인 미의 개념으로부터 18세기에 이르러 미란 비례와 같은 객관적 성질을 지시하는 말이 아니라, "우리의 마음속에 일어난 하나의 관념"(F. 허치슨)을 지시하는 말이라는 의미로의 코페르니쿠스적인 전환이 일어났다. 즉 미란 불을 쬘 때 불과는 유사함이 없는 따스함의 관념을 얻는 것처럼 비례와 같은 형식적 성질을 지각할 때 그에 반응해서 일어나는 즐거움의 관념을 말한다.

이와 같은 미의 개념 전환은 존 로크의 영향을 받은 18세기의 사상가들, 예컨대 J. 애디슨 등이 신고전주의를 통해 옹호된 것과는 다른 취미와 경험을 근거로 미의 문제를 경험주의 철학방식으로 접근한 결과로서, 이러한 미학적 작업에 참여한 사상가들은 18세기를 통해 계속 나타났다. 대표적인 인물로는 애디슨을 포함하여 허치슨, D. 흄, E. 버크, A. 제러드, H. 홈, A. 앨리슨 등이 있다. 이들의 미학적 작업의 두드러진 특징은 미를 정의하는 데 있어서 마음속에 활기 띤 즐거움이 객관적 미의 개념에 있어서처럼 수반되는 성질이 아니라 정의적인 성질로 전환되고 있다는 점이다. 이 새로운 개념 역시 한편에서는 여전히 객관적인 대상의 형식적 요소를 수용하고 있는 점에서 전통적 주장을 답습하고는 있으나 이제 그것은 미의 관념, 곧 주관적인 즐거움을 구성하는 한 요소일 뿐 미 자체는 아니게 되었다.

이 경우 미의 경험은 대상으로부터 그러한 미를 판단할 수 있는 능력이 상정되지 않으면 안 된다. 여기서 내적 감관으로서의 취미(taste)라는 새로운 개념이 미학사에 도입되었다. 그러나 모든 즐거움이 미일 수는 없다. 바로 이 점에서 케임브리지 플라톤주의자인 샤프츠버리가 제기한 무관심성(disinterestedness)의 개념을 경험주의 입장에서 재해석하여, 미의 즐거움은 대상의 유용성이나 감각적 성질처럼 어떤 관심과 결부되지 않은 채 순전히 형식에 대해 반응하는 취미에 의해 환기되는 것이기에, 그것은 '이해가 동기되어 있지 않은' 순수한 무관심적 심리상태에서 갖게 되는 즐거움이라는 특징이 부여되고 있다. 더 나아가 여기서 무관심적 심리상태에 처해 있기만 하면 형식적 성질인 비례와는 거리가 먼 대상의 성질들, 오히려 통제하고 측량하기 힘든 거대한 힘을 지닌 대상으로부터도 역시 어떤 즐거움을 향유할 수 있지 않을까 하는 논의가 제기되었다. 그결과 숭고한 것(the sublime), 풍려한 것(the picturesque)과 같은 새로운 미적 범주가 등장하게 되었다. 버크의 숭고론은 그 대표적 사례라 할 수 있다. 이와 같은 새로운 논의는 주관적으로 전의된 전통적인 미의 개념을 또한 상대화함으로써 그것을 퇴조시킨 계기가 되었다. 이 사실은 BC 5세기경부터 18세기까지 2,300여 년 동안의 미 개념으로부터의 일탈을 뜻한다.

이러한 경향은 마침내 이론의 체계에도 심각한 변화를 초래하여 전통적으로 객관주의적이었던 미의 대이론은 새로운 취미론으로 바뀌게 되었다. 이것은 이론 역시 '주관화한' 방향으로 선회했음을 알려주고 있다. 미가 이처럼 미적 가치범주의 하나로 전락할 수밖에 없는 식으로 미학이론이 발전되었다면 이는 이제 미학이론의 축이 될 수 없다. 따라서 미와 함께 숭고·풍려 등과 같은 여러 즐거움을 묶는 통합적 개념이 필요해졌다. 미의 즐거움이나 숭고의 즐거움이 모두 취미라는 내적 기관에 의해 환기되는 무관심적 즐거움의 한 방식들로 정당화한 것이고 보면, 새로운 미학이론의 초석은 차라리 그러한 무관심적 즐거움의 경험에 놓이게 되지 않을까? J. 스톨니츠에 의하면 영국의 취미론자들이 이러한 경험에 비록 '미적'(aesthetic)이라는 말을 사용하지는 않았으나 예술이나 자연에 대한 그들의 미학적 논의는 바로 이 미적 경험의 개념을 암암리에 상정하고 전개한 것이라 한다. 여기서 샤프츠버리가 제기했으나 그후 충분한 설명이 주어지지 않은 채 취미론자들에게 당연한 것으로 전제되기만 했던 무관심적 심리상태에 대한 사고는 I. 칸트에 의해 해명·확립됨으로써 이른바 미적 태도라는 개념이 대두하여 발전하게 되었다. 즉 F. 실러의 유희론에서 '미적 가상'에 대한 '미적 상태'의 사고, A. 쇼펜하우어의 플라톤적 이념에 대한 '미적 관조' 등의 사고를 거쳐 '미적 태도'라는 현대적 개념이 성립했다. 그러한 무관심적-미적 태도를 취한다면 취미론처럼 대상의 특정한 성질에 구애받지 않고 모든 것이 미적인 만족을 환기하는 미적 대상이 될 수 있다는 것이 미적 태도론의 기본입장이다.

20세기에 크게 유행한 미적 태도론은 이와 같은 과정을 통해 나타났다. 결과적으로 고전적 고대의 미의 대이론은 18세기 취미론으로, 취미론의 기본구조는 그것을 예술에 적용한 C. 벨이나 I. A. 리처즈 등의 형식주의적 예술론에 의해 계승되고 있지만 칸트를 분수령으로 해서 미적 태도론으로 대체되어 그 기본구조가 완전히 와해되고 말았다. E. 벌로프의 '심적 거리', 스톨니츠의 '미적인 주목', V. C. 올드리치의 '미적 지각' 등은 여러 형태로 발전된 미적 태도론의 기본개념이 되고 있다.

시와 회화

이와같이 전통적인 객관적인 미가 주관적인 것으로 전의되고, 숭고 등 다른 미적 가치의 대두로 상대화하면서 미의 대이론은 서서히 퇴조하기 시작했다. 그러나 그러한 퇴조를 몰고온 18세기의 취미론조차도 취미의 기준으로서 객관적 미의 공식을 찾으려는 기도가 여전히 주된 관심사였다. P. 나이트나 D. 스튜어트 등이 미의 개념을 분석하여 이러한 작업이 무익하며, 동시에 불가능한 것이라는 사실을 판명할 때까지 '미'는 서구 미학사를 통해 가장 중요한 논의의 대상이 되어왔다. 그러나 아이러니컬하게도 20세기 현대에 이르러 '미'는 미학적 논의에서 사라졌거나, 기껏해야 동일 문맥의 미적 경험에 대한 논의 속의 한 요소로 해소되어버렸고, 대신 예술이 주된 관심사로 대두하고 있다. 그러한 가운데 미적 경험은 예술을 통해서만 획득되는 것이 아니며 자연을 통해서나 인간에게서도 얻을 수 있다고 보는 경향이 짙어졌다. 이것은 개념적으로 미적인 것과 예술적인 것 간에 근본적인 구별이 있음을 뜻하는 것으로 이 구별은 단순히 두 개념의 외연이 아니라 내포의 차이에서 찾아야 할 것이다. 본래 '미적'이라는 말은 우리가 세계에 대해 어떻게 지각할 것인가를 결정하기 위해 취하는 어떤 태도의 특성을 지적하기 위한 것이고, '예술적'이라는 말은 우리가 무엇을 창조(그것이 제작이든 표현이든)한다 할 때 그 창조활동의 특성을 지적하기 위한 말이다. 따라서 '미적 경험'이라든가 '예술적 창조'라는 말이 나오게 된 것이다. 그러므로 창조도 경험의 일환이라 생각하여 창조적 경험이라는 말을 할 수도 있지만 그 경우 원칙적으로는 창조를 위한 전 단계의 예술가의 경험을 뜻하는 것으로 이해해야 한다.

이와 같은 사실은 서구 미학사상의 초기단계에서 미론과 예술론의 문맥이 각기 달리 발전하고 있다는 사실에 연유한다. 즉 미적 경험은 미론의 문맥이고, 예술은 창조론(영감론이든 제작의 일환으로서 모방론이든)의 문맥에 속한다. 두 이론이 긴밀한 관계를 맺으며 많은 이론을 낳고 있는 것은 사실이지만 그것은 근대 이후 서구 미학이론의 특징이지 애초부터 그랬던 것은 아니다. 오늘날에는 예술이 주된 관심사이지만 고대 이후 근대에 이르기까지는 미가 주된 관심사였다. 그러므로 미를 논할 때 예술이라 할 것이 거론되는 경우가 있다 해도 그것은 지극히 지엽적이거나, 그나마도 부정적인 입장에서였다. 그렇다면 고대를 통해서 예술이라 할 것들은 어떻게 이해되었을까? 예술이란 말과 그 근대적 체계가 없었음은 이미 언급한 바이다. 그렇다면 서구 근대인들이 예술이라 부른 활동을 고대인들은 어떻게 이해하고 있었을까? 애초에는 없었던 말과 체제가 성립되었다면 그것이 성립되는 과정을 알아보는 것은 서구 미학사상의 발전의 중요한 문맥을 파악하는 일이 된다.

영감으로서의 시·음악·춤

발생 초기에 시·음악·춤은 상호 미분화된 활동이었다. 이처럼 말(시)과 리듬(음악)과 동작(춤)이 미분화된 채 통합된 인간활동의 특수한 형태를 고대 그리스인들은 '코레이아'(choreia)라 불렀다. 이 말은 현재 합창을 뜻하는 'chorus'에서 파생된 것으로 당시에는 군무를 뜻하는 말이었다. 그러므로 코레이아란 특히 춤과 깊이 관련된 말이다. 이러한 사실에서 짐작할 수 있듯 그것은 고대 원시종교 형태인 제의의 일환인 축제와 떼어 생각할 수 없는 인간활동의 형태이다. 제의가 신의 메시지를 기구하는 행사라면 축제는 그러한 기구를 촉진하기 위해 수반되는 행사이다. 이처럼 제의와 축제가 서로 분리되지 않은 채 진행된 것이 초기에는 인간 삶의 중요한 부분이었다. 따라서 제의는 오늘날의 입장에서 볼 때 종교적 측면과 예술적 측면이 분리되지 않은 상태에서 공존하고 있었다. 이러한 의미에서 H. 쿤은 "축제는 예술의 모태"라고 말한 바 있다. 고대 그리스인들은 이러한 종교행사에서 사제가 신의 메시지를 기구하기 위해 신과 교감하는 신적인 상태가 되는 것을 엔토우시아스모스(enthousiasmos)라 했다. 이 말이 오늘날 영어 'enthusiasm'의 어원이 되고 있는 점으로 미루어볼 때 신적인 상태란 열광적인 상태, 즉 제정신이 아닌 상태를 뜻하는 것임을 알 수 있다. 고대 미학사상에서 이같은 사실이 중요한 의미를 지니는 까닭은 종교현상을 설명하기 위해 사용된 이 말이 예술현상이라 할 코레이아를 설명하는 데에도 적용되고 있기 때문이다. 이것은 코레이아가 동일한 종교행사의 일환으로서 참여되고 있다는 사실에서뿐 아니라 사제로부터 신의 메시지를 전달받기 위해 축제에 참가한 사람들 역시 사제와 같이 신에 열광된 상태에 빠져야 하며, 코레이아는 그러한 상태를 촉진하는 마력을 지니고 있었음을 암시해준다.

이러한 엔토우시아스모스가 춤과 음악, 미분화된 상태이기는 하지만 시의 발생에 적용될 때 '시적 정열'이 되기도 했고 라틴어 'inspirare'로 번역되면서 영어의 '시적 영감'이라는 말로 발전하여 오늘에 이르고 있다. 그렇다면 시적 영감은 어떠한 의미로 고대 미학사상에 수용되었을까? 플라톤에 의하면 시인이 된다는 것은 시인 외부의 어떤 신적인 존재, 즉 뮤즈 여신에 게 사로잡힌 상태임을 뜻한다. 이것은 시인이 뮤즈에 홀렸음을 뜻하는 것이며 정신이 나간 일종의 광기(mania)의 상태임을 뜻한다. 시인에 대한 플라톤의 이같은 설명은 호메로스나 헤시오도스에게서도 언급되고 있는데, 이는 그 이전부터 내려온 오래된 사고로서 플라톤 역시 이성으로서는 설명할 수 없는 어떤 비밀스러운 요소가 개입되고 있음을 인식한 결과라 할 수 있다. 그러나 이러한 기원 때문에 시에 대한 플라톤의 평가는 긍정적이거나 호의적인 것이 아니었다. 플라톤은 시에 지식의 자격을 부여할 수 없다는 인식론적 입장과 아울러 순전히 이성에 의해 인도되어야 할 젊은이에게 격정을 불러일으켜 그들의 영혼을 타락시킨다는 윤리적 입장에서 시인추방론을 역설하게 되었다.

이처럼 시인과 시를 부정적으로 여기는 플라톤의 태도를 두고 그가 시적 창조와 경험을 너무 천박하게 이해하고 있다고 비난해서는 안 된다. 그가 시의 창조를 영감에 결부시키고자 했던 것은 시의 창조가 이성으로는 설명될 수 없는 어떤 특별한 힘에 의한 것이라는 사실을 비유적으로 표현한 것이며, 시가 지니는 불가항력적인 힘, 곧 시의 매력을 너무도 잘 알고 있었기 때문이다. 그럼에도 플라톤이 시에 대한 부정적 시각을 피력하게 된 것은 시의 발생과 그 경험이 그러한 것이라고 해서 반드시 찬미될 수는 없다는 시대적·사회적 요구 때문이었다. 반대로 이러한 요구 때문에 플라톤이 비난하게 된 바로 그러한 시를 찬미하게 된 낭만주의 철학자들의 평가태도는 플라톤과 좋은 대조를 이룬다. 이 점에서 플라톤의 시적 영감론은 오랜 세월을 거친 후 19세기 낭만주의에 이르러 상상과 무의식의 입장에서 다시 그 현대적 형태로 부활하고 있다.

모방으로서의 회화·조각

시가 영감의 개념에 관련되어 이해되었던 데 반해 회화와 조각은 고대 그리스적인 의미의 '테크네'(techne)라는 개념에 관련되어 이해되었다. 테크네란 동물과는 다른 인간의 한 특징을 이루는 기억에 의해 인간이 어떤 일을 하거나 어떤 것을 만들면서 경험을 쌓고, 그렇게 경험을 쌓는 중에 그것이 지성에 의해 조명됨으로써 그로부터 유도되는 일단의 규칙체계에 기초한 기술(craft)을 뜻하는 말이다. 이러한 의미의 테크네가 라틴어 'ars'에서 영어 'art'가 되었지만 본래의 테크네는 오늘날 예술이라고 불리는 회화·조각·건축과 같은 활동뿐 아니라 제약·농업과 같은 과학, 목공·제화·요리와 같은 단순한 기능(technique)에 적용되는 넓은 의미로 사용되고 있다. 여기서 제작(making)은 실천(doing)과 함께 테크네의 일환이 되고 있다.

플라톤은 이러한 테크네를 여러 가지 방식으로 분류했는데, 미학적 논의에 관련되는 것으로서는 〈소피스트〉편에 나오는 것을 들 수 있다. 여기서 제작기술은 실물을 제작하는 기술과 실물의 이미지를 제작하는 기술, 달리 말해 실물을 모방하는 기술로 분류되어 설명하고 있다. 오늘날 당연히 예술이라는 동일한 범주에 속하는 것으로 알고 있는 건축은 전자에 속하며, 회화나 조각은 후자인 모방에 속하고 있다. 플라톤은 이러한 모방기술을 다시 분류하여 실물을 실물 그대로 닮은 이미지(eikon)의 제작과 실물을 변형함으로써 실물처럼 보이도록 하는 이미지(phantasma)의 제작으로 나누고 있다. 플라톤이 회화를 모방이라고 했을 때는 우리의 눈을 기만하는 이미지의 제작이라는 후자의 의미에서였다. 그러나 플라톤에게 모방이라는 말은 어느 점에서는 회화나 조각만이 아니라 시에도 적용되고 있다. 시인의 시는 시인의 창조가 아니라 신의 말씀을 대변하는 것일 뿐이다.

이처럼 시인은 신의 통로 역할을 하지만 마치 자기가 아킬레스인 양 시 속의 인물을 흉내내고 있다. 또 시인이 아킬레스를 흉내내고 있지 않다 해도 그의 시는 아킬레스에 관한 것이다. 이처럼 시인은 시 속의 인물을 흉내내고 있다는 행위에서, 또 시는 시 속의 인물에 관한 것이라는 내용에서 시 역시 모방적이라 할 수 있다. 그러나 플라톤은 시인의 모방을 회화나 조각과 같은 모방기술의 하나로 보지는 않는다. 시의 발생은 어디까지나 영감의 소산이고, 회화와 조각은 테크네의 일환으로서 모방기술의 소산임을 분명히 하고 있다. 이 점에서 신적 영감으로서의 시와 인간적 제작으로서의 회화, 즉 시적 창조와 기술적 창조라는 서구 미학의 이원적 창조관이 출발하게 된다. 그렇다면 모방으로서의 회화·조각에 대한 플라톤의 평가는 어떠했을까? 플라톤은 회화를 "눈을 뜨고 있는 사람을 위해 사람이 만든 꿈"이라고 규정한다. 이 규정은 이념계와 현상계를 엄격히 구분하고 있는 그의 이원론적 형이상학의 입장에서 내린 회화에 대한 비난을 함축하고 있다. 왜냐하면 이것은 회화가 진정한 실재인 이념으로부터 두 단계나 떨어진 이중의 모방이고, 실재와 아무 관계가 없는 한낱 꿈 같은 사물에 지나지 않는다는 것을 의도한 표현이기 때문이다. 이것이 모방적이라고 규정한 시를 포함하여 모방기술로서 회화에 대해 플라톤이 〈국가〉 10권에서 행한 공격의 기본입장이었다. 결론적으로 말해 플라톤은 영감된 시에 대해서는 인식론적 자격을, 모방된 회화·조각에 대해서는 존재론적 자격을 인정하지 않고 있다. 전자인 시가 비합리적 과정의 소산이라면, 후자에 대해서는 그 제작과정이 합리적임을 주장하고 있는 점에서 그의 모방론은 그후 르네상스 및 그로부터 발전된 신고전주의 예술관으로 이어진다.

예술, 체제와 개념

플라톤의 설명을 통해 알 수 있듯이, 고대 그리스 시대에 시 부류의 표현적 예술과 회화 부류의 조형적 예술은 그들이 존재하는 방식을 달리하고 있다. 따라서 2가지 부류의 활동을 하나로 묶는 개념이 없었다. 모방이 거론되는 경우에도 앞서 언급한 사실 때문에 모방은 양자를 실질적으로 종합하는 통일적인 개념으로 강조되기 힘들며, 동시에 거기에는 건축이 빠져 있다. 설령 건축이 포함되고 음악과 춤이 분리되는 과정을 고려할 때라도 모방은 근대 이후 서구인들이 예술이라고 부르고 있는 2가지 부류의 활동에만 국한된 개념은 아니었다.

플라톤이나 아리스토텔레스가 테크네의 일환으로서 특수한 부류로 모방기술을 논하고 있는 경우에는 예술 이외에도 궤변, 거울이나 마술의 사용, 나아가 동물 목소리 흉내내기와 같은 도저히 '아름답다'(fine)고 할 수 없는 그밖의 활동을 포함하고 있다. 그렇다면 모방 이외에 오늘날 예술이라고 하는 활동을 수용하고 있는 것으로 볼 수 있는 다른 개념은 없을까? 이 점에서 간혹 유용한 기술과 오락술의 구분이 거론되기도 하지만 여기서 후자는 예술을 수용하는 점에서는 모방기술만도 못하다. 그러므로 시 부류의 활동과 회화 부류의 활동이 동류로 여겨져 근대적인 예술체계가 확립되기 위해서는 역사적으로 여러 형태의 단계적 논의가 있어야 한다.

먼저 뮤즈에 의한 비합리적 창조로 이해되던 시가 규칙에 입각한 인간의 제작으로 전의되든가, 아니면 그 역이든가 하는 계기가 마련되어야 한다. 여기서 아리스토텔레스는 시를 보편적 인간행위의 모방으로 재해석함으로써 시가 전자의 의미로 전의될 수 있는 이론적 기초를 마련했다. 그의 〈시학〉은 이러한 입장에서 시, 특히 비극적인 시가 제작될 수 있는 근거를 제시하기 위해 시가 준수해야 할 규칙을 논한 시의 입법서이다. 한 걸음 더 나아가 아리스토텔레스는 그러한 시를 보편적인 인간행위의 모방으로 규정함으로써 시가 역사보다 더욱 철학적이라고 했다. 결과적으로 아리스토텔레스는 플라톤이 거부했던 인식적인 자격을 시에 부여하고 있고, 플라톤의 비난으로부터 시를 되살려놓고 있다. 그러나 아리스토텔레스는 시에 대해 행했던 방식으로 플라톤의 비난으로부터 회화를 되살려놓고 있지는 않다. 즉 〈시학〉에 해당되는 화론을 남겨놓지 않았다. 이러한 사실은 앞으로 전개될 회화의 운명에 치명적이었다. 피타고라스주의자들에 의해 이론적 계기가 부여되기 시작한 음악과 함께 시는 정신적 활동과 깊은 관련이 있다고 긍정적으로 이해되는 데 반해, 회화는 여전히 일체의 존재론적 의미를 찾아볼 수 없는 사이비 기술(kolakeia)로서 순전한 수공의 의미를 벗어날 수가 없었다. 즉 신체를 경멸하는 철학적 입장과 신체노동을 하지 않는 귀족정치의 체제 때문에 화가의 사회적 지위는 시인과 같은 것이 될 수 없었다.

그러므로 아리스토텔레스의 〈시학〉이 시를 인간행위의 모방이라고 규정했다고 해서 시와 음악이 곧 회화와 조각과 동류의 활동으로 간주되지는 않았다. 그렇게 되기 위해서는 플라톤의 비난으로부터 회화나 조각이 구제되어야 했다. 우선 플라톤의 이원론적 형이상학이 일원론적인 것으로 변모해야 했는데 이 점에서 아리스토텔레스의 형이상학에서 실체 개념이 회화를 구제할 수 있는 가능성을 지니고는 있었다. 그러나 아리스토텔레스는 자기 철학의 입장에서 회화를 논하지는 않았다. 그러므로 새로운 철학적 입장에서 회화에 대한 논의는 그리스 문화를 계승하려는 과정에서 수행된 키케로나 세네카의 조각에 대한 논의가 있은 뒤에야 대두했다. 위의 2가지 계기, 즉 아리스토텔레스의 형이상학과 회화나 조각에 대한 재평가를 일자의 개념을 기초로 새로운 일원론적 형이상학 속에 종합해놓은 사람이 바로 플로티노스이다. 그는 정신적이고 가치적인 이념과 감각적인 미 사이의 연속성을 말하는 중에 예술만을 열거하고 있는 것은 아니지만 근대인들이 예술이라고 하는 활동들을 열거하고 있다. 이것은 여러 예술을 처음으로 일정한 원리하에 체계적으로 종합하고 있으며, 이념과 예술 간에 긴밀한 등식이 성립될 수 있는 첫 계기를 마련해놓고 있다는 점에서 미학사적으로 중요한 의미를 지니고 있다.

그러나 헬레니즘 시대를 통한 이러한 접근은 불안정한 것이었으며, 회화나 조각에 대해서는 이내 고대적 사고로 회귀했다. 그러한 회귀는 곧 찾아오는 그리스도교의 교회철학과 결부되어 일어났다. 복음서의 정신과 금욕주의로 인해 예술은 고대 그리스 이래 오랫동안 점진적으로 획득해온 중요성을 잃게 되었다. 즉 그리스도교 정신은 감각을 매개로 하는 감각적인 미를 인정하지 않았으며, 미는 신과 그 창조물인 자연 속에서만 볼 수 있고 인간의 불완전한 작품 속에는 존재할 수 없는 것으로 보았기 때문이다. 그러므로 중세에도 많은 미학적 저술을 통해 미학적 사상을 제기했다고 해도 그것은 미 그 자체에 관한 논의일 뿐 예술에 관한 것은 아니었다는 점에 주목해야 한다. 그러는 중에 회화나 조각에 관한 고대의 모방 개념 역시 사라지게 되었다. 신성으로서의 미를 모방하는 일은 우상을 조장하는 일이 되며, 따라서 미에 관해서만은 아니지만 설령 정신성을 드러내기 위해 가시적·감각적인 예술이 요구될 때라면 모방 대신 상징이 강조되고 있다.

이러한 입장에서 예술이라는 것은 고대의 전통을 이어 발전시킨 7가지 리버럴 아츠(liberal arts)와 7가지 머캐니컬 아츠(mechanical arts)의 체제 속에서나 겨우 그 언급을 찾아볼 수 있을 뿐이다. 그것도 전자에는 음악, 후자에는 건축이 포함되어 있다. 물론 시는 문법이나 수사에 관련되어 언급되고 있으나 회화와 조각은 머캐니컬 아트에도 포함될 수 없을 만큼 그 중요성이 낮게 평가되고 있다. 이 경우의 중요성은 유용성을 말하는 것으로, 회화나 조각은 지극히 미미한 것으로 생각되어 캄포룽고의 라둘프나 생 빅토르 위고도 회화나 조각에 대해서는 언급하지 않고 있다. 따라서 조각가와 화가는 고대처럼 물질적 재료를 가지고 신체노동을 하는 직조인이나 석수와 동일한 일을 하는 사람으로 분류되고 있다. 그러므로 예술이라는 근대적 체제가 성립되기 위한 다음 단계의 논의는 회화나 조각이 시나 음악처럼 리버럴 아트의 자격을 획득하자는 데서 비롯되었다. 사실 1,000년의 한을 실현한 것은 르네상스 시기를 통해서였다.

르네상스 시기는 신의 은총으로서의 이성이 아니라 인간이 지닌 자연적인 힘으로서 이성의 능력을 자각하고 발견해가는 시대이기도 했다. 따라서 인간은 신의 말씀인 성서에 입각해 세계를 이해하는 것이 아니라 자기의 이성으로 세계를 파악하게 되었다. 근대의 과학적 발견과 발명을 위한 철학적 기초가 서서히 확립되는 중에 화가에게도 자기 앞에 펼쳐진 비옥한 자연과 그 풍경이 소재가 되었다. 그래서 까맣게 잊혀졌던 고대의 모방 개념이 다시 대두하기 시작했으며, 바로 이같은 문맥에서 르네상스의 화가들은 고대의 모방론을 다시 부활시키고 있다. 우선 과학에서 정확한 관찰이 요구되듯 회화에서도 정확한 모방이 문제되었다. 이를 위해 르네상스인들은 고대의 문헌을 통해 모방에 관한 여러 가지 규칙들을 발견하고 연구했으며, 따라서 원근법·해부학·심리학·인상학 등의 규칙을 수립하기에 이르렀다.

이러한 바탕에서 추후 미술론(theory of art)으로 발전된 새로운 교과의 싹이 나타나기 시작했다. 다음으로 회화는 미를 추구하는 것이라는 논의가 발전되었다. 과학자가 자연을 관찰한 후 이성적으로 통찰할 때 그 배후로부터 보편적인 법칙, 곧 진리를 발견해내듯 화가도 이성을 가지고 자연을 통찰할 때 자연의 보편적인 모습인 미를 모방할 수 있다고 믿었으며, 그러한 보편적인 자연을 곧 플라톤이 이념이라고 말한 것이라고 해석함으로써 초월적 의미로서의 전통적인 이념의 개념을 심리적인 것으로 바꿔놓고 있다. 이같은 과정을 통해 진과 미는 동일한 자연의 서로 다른 양상이고 과학자와 화가는 동일한 지적 활동을 하는 사람이라는 인식이 확립되었다. 그리고 화가에 의해 모방되는 보편적 자연인 이념은 그에게도 이성적으로 파악되는 것이기에 이념은 일단 화가에 의해 구성되어 화가의 머리에 떠오르는 것이어야만 한다고 믿었다. 이처럼 머리에 떠오른 생각을 르네상스 화가들은 디자인(disegno)이라고 불렀으며, 그러한 디자인을 갖고 모방작업을 한다는 점에서 회화나 조각은 물론 건축까지도 동일한 활동이라고 생각했다. 여기서 미술(Arti del disegno)의 체제가 처음 만들어지게 되었으며, 이때부터 범주적으로 달리 분류되었던 건축이 회화와 조각과 함께 미를 구현하는 동류의 활동으로 여겨졌다.

이제 미술은 이론적으로는 과학과 같은 지적 활동의 자격을 획득하게 되었으므로 그러한 이론적 기초 위에서 미술가의 사회적 지위를 승격시켜야 하는 문제가 남게 되었다. 미술가를 길드의 구성원으로부터 분리시켜 시인처럼 아카데미에서 교육시켜야 한다는 요구가 일어났고, 이에 따라 1563년 피렌체에 미술학원(Accademia del Disegno)이 세워졌다. 이론적으로 회화는 과학과 같은 정신활동이며 사회적인 입장에서 화가는 더이상 직인이 아니므로, 최종적으로 남은 문제는 미술도 시처럼 리버럴 아트의 일환임을 당당히 주장해야 하는 일이었다. 이러한 실제적 목적을 위해 취해진 이론적 기도가 호라티우스의 시구에서 따온 "시는 그림과 같이"(Ut pictura poesis)의 이설이다. 왜냐하면 미술도 리버럴 아트의 일원임을 주장하기 위해서는 르네상스를 통해 리버럴 아트 가운데 3과(triuium:문법·수사·논리학)를 확대한 인문과학(studia humanitatis)에 논리학을 대체한 시와 회화가 평행이라는 사고를 발전시켜 양자가 동등한 활동이라는 이론을 세우면 되기 때문이다. 시와 회화의 평행론에 관한 뒤 프레소니의 〈미술론 Ars graphica〉은 이러한 논의의 귀결인 셈이며, 그결과 회화는 최소한 논리적으로는 시와 같은 활동으로서 리버럴 아트의 일원일 수 있는 가능성이 열리게 되었다.

시의 경우에 있어서 이러한 긍정적 논의는 이미 아리스토텔레스에 의해 제기된 바 있다. 그러나 르네상스 시기를 통해 발전된 시적 모방의 개념에는 엄격한 규칙과 함께 플라톤에 의해 논의된 바 있는 영감의 요소가 개입되고 있다는 특징이 있다. 이 점에서 음악과 시는 다같이 보편적인 미를 모방하는 동등한 활동으로 이해되고 있다. 과학으로서의 회화에 대한 사고에 있어서도 영감의 요소가 개입되고 있다. 그러므로 자연의 비밀을 드러내주는 점에 있어서 회화와 과학은 다를 바 없으나 양자의 그러한 차이 때문에 구별되는 것으로 생각하고 있다. 그럼에도 불구하고 양자를 다같이 이성의 활동이라고 생각하고 있는 점이 르네상스인들의 이성개념의 특징이다. 그들에게 있어서 이성은 과학적 진리뿐 아니라 미와 선 같은 가치까지 파악하는 폭넓은 의미로 이해되고 있었다. 이러한 의미에서 J. 베이트는 선과 같은 최고의 가치를 파악하는 것이 르네상스적 이성개념의 특징이라고 말하면서 그것을 윤리적 이성이라 규정하고 있다. 바로 이 점에서 수학적 이성의 개념을 정립하는 문제가 그후 데카르트 철학의 기본과제가 되었다. 이제 "시는 그림과 같이"의 이설을 통해 시와 음악과 함께 회화를 필수로 한 미술 역시 리버럴 아트의 체제 속에 포함되었다. 그리고 이 5가지 리버럴 아트는 미를 모방하고 있다는 점에서 18세기를 통해 '예술'(beaux-art)이라는 어법이 만들어졌다.

이상이 미학의 한 문제로서 예술이라는 말과 체제와 개념이 만들어진 역사적 과정이다. 그러나 주의해야 할 사실은 예술이라는 말과 체제는 근대적 사고의 소산이며 그 개념은 비록 심리적인 것으로 바뀌었지만 형이상학적인 이념·자연·미라는 점에서 여전히 고전적인 전통을 계승하고 있다는 것이다. 이러한 고전적 개념에 기초한 미의 모방을 데카르트 철학의 엄격한 이성의 개념으로 옹호하고자 한 것이 바로 신고전주의 예술관이다. 그러나 신고전주의 예술관은 오래 지속될 수 없는 한계를 지니고 있었다. 계속적인 과학의 발달은 예술을 이성의 이름으로 정당화하는 데 커다란 어려움을 갖게 했고, 따라서 진과 미는 동일한 것일 수 없게 되었다. 결과적으로 전통적인 리버럴 아트의 체제가 붕괴되기에 이르렀으며, 예술은 자신의 정당성을 과학과는 다른 데서 구해야 했다. 여기서 예술은 이성이 아니라 상상의 문제이며 미는 비례와 같은 규칙에 의해서가 아니라 우리의 마음에 환기시키는 즐거움에 의해 평가되어야 한다는 근대적 예술의 개념이 싹트기 시작했다. 이 새로운 경향은 경제적으로는 중산계급의 대두와 사회적으로는 개인주의적 성향에 편승하여 전통적인 고전적 경향을 점진적으로 대체하게 되었다.

근대미학의 성립과 현대미학의 제 전개

근대미학의 성립

이러한 변화의 귀결로 19세기 낭만주의 예술관이 성립되었지만, 신고전주의 예술관이 변모하는 이같은 과정에서 형식적 교과로서의 근대적 형태의 미학이론이 성립하게 되었음을 주목해볼 필요가 있다. 예술이 상상에 관련된 활동이며, 미가 감정에 관련된 가치인 것으로 자각되는 과정을 통해 예술과 미의 문제는 과거처럼 진리의 문제를 다루는 형이상학에 지엽적으로 부수되는 문제가 아니라 그 자체가 하나의 고유한 영역을 이루는 특수한 문제로 부각됨은 당연한 일이다. 여기서 로크의 경험주의적 철학에 기초하여 미의 문제를 중심으로 전개된 미학적 논의가 앞서 미론의 항목에서 언급한 취미론이고, 라이프니츠-볼프의 합리주의적 철학에 기초하여 예술(시)의 문제를 중심으로 전개된 미학적 논의가 A. G. 바움가르텐이 주장하는 '감성적 인식의 학'으로서의 '에스테티카'(aesthetica)이다. 근본적으로 취미론은 2가지 신념에 입각하고 있다. 하나는 "미는 대상의 성질 속에 있는 것이 아니라 그것을 지각하는 사람의 마음에 있다"는 흄의 표현에서 알 수 있듯 영국의 취미론자들은 미의 주관성을 확신하고 있다. 다른 하나는 미가 주관적인 즐거움의 문제임을 인식하고 있음에도 불구하고 그러한 미의 감정을 환기시키는 객관적 기준, 곧 취미의 기준이 있으리라는 신념이다. 이러한 2가지 신념하에서 취미론자들은 주관적인 감정의 문제인 미를 감각적 성질의 문제로 환원시켜 미의 공식을 확립하려 했다.

이에 비해 바움가르텐은 예술을 이성이 아닌 감성의 문제로 파악하고 있다. 이성을 통해 획득되는 명석하고 분명한 관념만이 세계에 대한 유일한 인식이라는 데카르트의 주장을 수정·보완하여, 명석하지만 혼연한 관념의 획득도 이 세계를 파악하는 또다른 방식이라는 라이프니츠의 주장을 발전시킴으로써 바움가르텐은 후자의 관념을 획득하는 능력을 이성에 대해 감성이라고 말했다. 그는 판명하기보다는 불분명하게 세계를 파악하는 능력이라는 점에서, 고급 인식능력인 이성에 비해 감성을 '저급한 인식능력'이라고 불렀다. 그러나 감성은 여전히 사유능력의 한 형태이기 때문에 '의사 이성'(analogi rationis)이라고도 불렀다. 여기서 바움가르텐은 사유능력으로서의 이성의 법칙을 연구하는 학으로서 논리학이 있듯이 비록 저급하지만 사유능력인 감성 역시 어떤 원리에 따라 사유하는 능력이라고 한다면 그러한 원리에 대한 학이 있어야 한다는 의미에서 에스테티카라는 학명을 세례했던 것이다. 그리고 그는 예술을 이러한 사유능력인 감성에 의한 일종의 인식활동으로 생각했다. 따라서 예술가들은 감성 자체의 원리로부터 연역된 규칙을 준수해야 하며, 시학·회화론·음악론 등에서 언급되는 제규칙들이 바로 그러한 규칙이라고 주장했다.

이러한 논의 속에서 미는 감성을 통해 파악된 세계의 완전성(vollkommenheit)으로 규정되었다. 이처럼 미를 객관적인 완전성의 개념에 결부시킨다는 점에서, 그리고 예술을 비록 저급하지만 과학과 같은 인식의 한 방식으로 보고 철저한 규칙준수를 주장하고 있다는 점에서 바움가르텐은 신고전주의 예술관을 여전히 대변하고 있다고 할 수 있다. 그러나 다른 한편 이성 대신 데카르트에게서는 도저히 허용될 수 없는 또다른 인식능력으로서의 감성을 주장하고, 따라서 예술이 과학과 같은 이성의 활동일 수 없다는 주장을 펴고 있다는 점에서 그의 미학이론은 지극히 근대적인 계기를 담고 있다. 이처럼 18세기는 미의 공식이라든가 예술의 규칙과 같은 고전적인 요소가 여전히 계승되고 있는가 하면, 다른 한편으로는 19세기를 통해 전개되는 다양한 미학이론의 노선을 예비해놓고 있는 징후가 미나 예술의 개념에서 나타나고 있었다. 이런 사실은 영국의 취미론과 독일의 에스테티카와 같은 근대적인 형태의 미학적 기도 속에서도 찾아볼 수 있다.

근대미학의 최종적인 귀결로서 18세기말의 칸트라는 거목이 자리를 잡고 있다. 그의 〈판단력 비판 Kritik der Urteilskraft〉(1790)은 영국의 취미론이나 바움가르텐의 에스테티카를 통해 논의된 미학적 문제들을 수용하고 있다. 동시에 그는 그 문제들을 자기 비판철학의 입장에서 새롭게 조명·해석하여 미의 예술이 진정으로 독자적인 고유영역을 이루고 있음을 보증해줌으로써 미학이라는 학문이 문자 그대로 하나의 독립된 자율적인 교과로 발전될 수 있는 철학적 기반을 마련했다. 따라서 칸트를 분수령으로 그에게 귀결되는 18세기의 여러 미학적 논의들을 근대미학이라 규정하고, 그러한 근대미학적 논의들 속에서 어떤 특수한 사상을 새로운 방법론의 입장에서 더욱 철저히 밀고나간 그후의 다양한 미학이론들을 현대미학이라 규정할 수 있다. 여기서 현대미학을 형이상학적 미론의 전통을 계승한 예술철학(philosophy of art), 취미론에서의 경험주의적 전통을 보다 과학적으로 발전시킨 19세기말 이후의 예술학(science of art), 그리고 1950년대 언어분석의 방법이 미학에 도입되면서 새롭게 대두된 비평철학(philosophy of criticism)이라는 3가지 경향으로 압축된다.

현대미학의 제 전개

예술철학

예술의 본질을 묻는 미학이론으로서 칸트의 〈판단력 비판〉 후반부에 나오는 예술의 개념, 곧 미적 이념을 표현하는 천재의 소산으로서 예술의 개념을 관념론의 중요한 계기로 수용·발전시킬 때 형이상학적인 예술철학이 성립한다. 즉 인간의 정신에 세계를 구성하는 힘을 부여하고, 유일한 실재는 그러한 정신적 실체로서의 절대적 이념일 뿐이라는 관념론적 철학의 입장에서 볼 때 예술이야말로 그 고유한 방식으로 이념을 파악 또는 구현하는 정신활동으로서 관념론의 기본주장을 실증해주는 적합한 사례로 수용되고 있다. 결과적으로 예술은 이념을 파악하여 진리를 획득하는 정신활동의 하나로서 형이상학의 체계 속에 수용되고 있다.

F. W. 셸링 같은 철학자에 있어서 가장 고차적인 진리획득의 기관으로서의 예술은 곧 철학이다. 이러한 사실로부터 예술철학이라는 학명이 나왔지만, 그렇다고 그의 예술철학이 유일한 예술철학은 아니다. 상상적 직관보다는 이념을 파악하는 방식으로서 개념을 우위에 둘 때 G. W. F. 헤겔의 예술철학이 성립하기 때문이다. 셸링과 헤겔을 출발점으로 이념을 말하는 형이상학의 특성에 따라 온갖 형태의 예술철학이 전개되어왔는데, 흔히 신관념론자로 불리는 B. 크로체, R. G. 콜링우드와 신칸트주의자로 불리는 E. 카시러 등이 그 대표적인 사람이라 할 수 있다. 그렇다고 예술철학이 관념론적 형이상학자들에 의해서만 전개되는 것은 아니다. 예술이 고유한 인식의 한 방식이라는 기본가정에 입각하여 발전된 교과인 한, 예술철학은 레닌의 유물론적 인식론에 입각하여 예술을 사회적 실재의 반영이라고 주장하는 마르크스주의자들, 예컨대 G. V. 플레하노프나 G. 루카치 등에게서도 강력히 구성되고 있다. 또한 존재론의 입장에서 예술을 존재(Sein) 해명의 수단으로 보는 H. 하이데거의 시론 및 예술을 세계와의 1차적 접촉을 통한 근원적 의미의 개시로 보는 현상학적 입장의 M. 메를로퐁티 등은 모두 예술철학적 경향의 미학이론을 개진하고 있다고 할 수 있다.

이와 달리 이념이나 절대자, 실재나 존재 등과 같은 실체들이 사실상은 존재하지 않는다는 경험주의적 입장에서 역시 예술을 일종의 특수한 의미의 활동으로 보고, 예술작품을 고유한 의미의 담지체로 간주함으로써 예술철학의 기초를 마련하려는 기도도 있다. 실용주의 입장의 J. 듀이, 기호론적 입장의 S. K. 랑어, 그리고 새로운 지각철학의 입장에서 '회화적 의미'라는 개념을 주장하고 있는 올드리치, 예술을 세계파악의 상징체계의 일환으로 보는 유명론적 입장의 N. 굿먼 등도 예술을 고유한 의미의 담지자로 보는 예술철학적 입장의 미학자들이다. 이처럼 예술을 인식의 한 방식으로 보고 있는 점에서 예술철학은 고전적 전통을 잇는 바움가르텐의 에스테티카 이념을 계승·발전시키고 있다.

예술학

예술학의 성립에는 전에 볼 수 없는 몇 가지 이론적 요인이 배경으로 작용하고 있다. 첫째, 19세기 중엽 이후 형이상학 자체 내에서 나타나기 시작한 자기 변모와 함께 대두한 자연주의적 철학 경향은 미와 예술의 문제에 있어서 역시 자연주의적 설명을 허용함으로써 형이상학적인 각종 예술철학을 위기로 이끌고 있다. C. 다윈의 진화론과 H. 스펜서의 유희론은 예술과 미의 발생에 관한 이러한 설명을 촉진시켰으며, G. 페히너의 '밑으로부터의 미학'(Aesthetik von unten)은 미와 예술과 같은 특수한 심리현상에 대해서 역시 심리학과 같은 과학이 접근될 수 있는 길을 터주고 있다. 다음으로 미의 문제와 예술의 문제는 분리되어야 한다는 주장이 K. 휘들러나 K. 랑게 등에 의해 대두되었다. 이어 예술은 미의 문제로 환원될 수 없는 그 자체의 고유성이 있다는 점에서 예술에 대한 독자적인 연구를 수행해야 한다는 주장이 나타났다. 이같은 주장의 대두와 함께 예술에 대한 과학적인 설명방법이 도입될 수 있는 전기가 마련된 이상, 심리학의 계속적인 발전과 사회학·인류학·인종학 및 역사(특히 미술사) 등에서 성취한 발전들이 예술의 문제에 계속 개입하게 되었고, 따라서 마지막으로 근대적인 예술의 체제와 개념에 심한 변화가 일어났다.

결과적으로 미학의 경향은 미라는 획일적인 규범미학이 아니라 기술미학의 성격을 띠면서 예술에 대한 구체적·경험적 연구가 진행되는 방향으로 발전하게 되었다. 그러한 연구가 계속될수록 종래의 미학이론, 특히 형이상학적 예술철학을 떠받치고 있던 기본가정들은 점차 허위로 밝혀졌고, 결국 붕괴되기에 이르렀다. 이러한 때에 예술에 대한 여러 과학적인 연구자료를 바탕으로 그들 자료를 체계적으로 종합함으로써 예술에 대한 일반법칙을 찾고자 하는 기술적 경험과학으로서의 미학, 곧 예술학이 나타났다. 물론 예술학에서도 학자에 따라 체계구성의 원리와 과정이 다르기 때문에 여러 형태의 시도가 일어났다. 대표자로는 E. 우티츠, M. 데수아, F. 카인츠, T. 먼로 등이 있다. 그러나 이들의 이론은 종래의 예술철학이 지니고 있는 경험적 허구성에 대한 비판으로부터 발전된 것이라는 점에서 공통점을 지니고 있으며 바로 그러한 점에서 예술학은 경험주의적인 취미론의 전통을 계승·발전시키는 미학적 노력이라 할 수 있다.

그러나 예술학에는 심각한 어려움이 있다. 왜냐하면 예술학을 수립하려는 예술학자들은 그 작업이 예술의 이해를 위한 것이기 때문에 분명하건 불분명하건간에 예술의 개념을 전제로 출발해야 한다는 것을 알기 때문이다. 여기서 예술학은 그 개념을 어떻게 마련할 수 있을까? 이 점에서 예술학은 예술의 본질을 규정하고자 하는 예술철학을 전제로 하거나 그와 제휴하여 구성될 수밖에 없다. 그러나 아무리 예술의 개념이 요청된다 하더라도 예술학 그 자신이 비판하고 나선 형이상학적인 이론으로부터 그것을 빌려올 수는 없다. 허구라고 해서 앞문에서 차버린 것을 필요 때문에 뒷문으로 슬그머니 받아들일 수는 없는 일이기 때문이다. 따라서 예술학자들은 그들 스스로가 동시에 예술철학적 입장을 취해 예술의 개념을 정의하고 있거나 혹은 그것을 예술철학으로부터 빌려오는 수밖에 없다. 이 점에 바로 학으로서의 예술학의 한계가 있는 것이다.

비평철학

예술학의 정립에 필요한 타당한 예술의 개념을 예술철학이 제공하기 힘들다고 한다면 예술철학이 자신의 한계를 해결할 수 있는 길은 탐구할 대상을 제공해주는 예술가들과 그들의 소신에 의지하는 길밖에 없다. 그러나 예술가임을 자부하는 사람들이라고 해서 그들의 소산 모두가 예술작품으로 여겨질 수는 없다. 이 점에서 예술에 대해 훌륭한 취미와 풍부한 조예를 지니고 있는 사람, 즉 어느 대상을 예술로 가치화하고 평가할 수 있는 비평가의 존재가 개입하게 된다. 과학으로서의 예술학은 비평가를 통해 자기의 연구대상을 제공받을 수 있다. 그러나 비평가마다 서로 다른 기준을 가지고 있다고 한다면 또다른 문제로서 올바른 비평의 기준을 구해야 할 필요가 있다. 비평의 철학은 바로 이와 같은 입장에서 리처즈를 비롯한 신비평의 실제와 비트겐슈타인의 언어분석 방법을 배경으로 발전된 미학의 새로운 경향이다.

그러나 여기서도 올바른 비평의 기준을 어떻게 설정하느냐에 따라 서로 다른 형태의 이론이 있게 된다. 이를테면 전통적으로 취미론의 문맥인 미적 태도론의 기본가정을 받아들여 미적 태도를 취할 때의 지각대상을 올바른 비평의 고유한 대상으로 설정하고 있는 것이 스톨니츠의 이론이다. 한편 미적이라 규정되는 그러한 특수한 태도는 없으며, 따라서 실제 비평가의 비평적 진술을 분석함으로써 고유한 비평적 진술을 가려내고, 그러한 진술의 대상으로서의 미적 대상을 비평의 대상으로 설정하고 있는 M. C. 비어드즐리의 이론도 있다. 그러므로 스톨니츠는 미적 태도에 입각한 미적 자각을, 비어드즐리는 미적 대상이 지니고 있는 대상의 특수한 성질을 비평의 기준으로 제시하고 있다. 이와 같은 비평철학은 근본적으로 대부분의 전통적 미학이론이 저지르고 있는 본질론자의 오류를 지적하는 언어분석의 입장으로부터 발전된 지극히 새로운 경향이다. 이러한 분석은 18세기 영국 취미론의 최종적인 귀결로서, '미'가 정의될 수 없다는 식의 미에 대한 스튜어트의 분석과 일치하고 있는 미학적 전통이라고 할 수 있다. 따라서 비평철학은 예술이 정의될 수 없는 열려진 개념임을 논리적으로 분석해냄으로써 예술의 정의를 기초로 한 체계적인 예술철학이 가능하지 않음을 주장하게 되었다. 그렇다고 해서 전통적인 예술철학의 근본문제였던 예술의 정의 문제가 기피될 수는 없는 일이다. 이 문제는 예술학에서와 마찬가지로 예술비평가들에게도 전제되어 있는 것이기 때문이다. 그러므로 예술이란 무엇인가 하는 물음은 여전히 그에 대한 답을 기다리고 있다. 이 난문에 부딪치고 있는 것이 바로 오늘날 미학의 상황이다. 이 문제를 해결하기 위한 다각적인 시도가 일어나고 있지만 이 문제는 미학 자체의 문제가 아니라 현대철학에서 형이상학의 전개와 깊은 관련을 맺고 있기 때문에 앞으로 계속 주목해야 할 문제이다.

 

8 Bibliography

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Two of the most useful anthologies of contemporary aesthetics are ELISEO VIVAS and MURRAY KRIEGER (eds.), The Problems of Aesthetics (1953); and JOSEPH MARGOLIS (ed.), Philosophy Looks at the Arts, 3rd ed. (1987). Others are JOHN HOSPERS, Introductory Readings in Aesthetics (1969); and HAROLD OSBORNE (ed.), Aesthetics (1972), which contains a particularly useful bibliography. More recent collections include RICHARD SHUSTERMAN (ed.), Analytic Aesthetics (1989); and PHILIP ALPERSON (ed.), The Philosophy of the Visual Arts (1992). MONROE C. BEARDSLEY, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism, 2nd ed. (1981), provides a broad, scholarly overview of the subject; while RICHARD WOLLHEIM, Art and Its Objects, 2nd ed. (1980, reissued 1992), is more narrow. A comprehensive survey is also attempted in DAVID E. COOPER (ed.), A Companion to Aesthetics (1992). For the definition of aesthetics, the above texts are relevant, as are ROGER SCRUTON, The Aesthetics of Architecture (1979); PAUL ZIFF, "The Task of Defining a Work of Art," The Philosophical Review, 62:58-78 (1953); GEORGE DICKIE, Aesthetics: An Introduction (1971); JERROLD LEVINSON, Music, Art, and Metaphysics (1990); and NICHOLAS WOLTERSTORFF, Works and Worlds of Art (1980).

The first approach to the subject as addressed in the article is exemplified in JOHN CASEY, The Language of Criticism (1966); the second in ROGER SCRUTON, Art and Imagination (1974, reissued 1982); and the third in Wollheim's book (above). The classical study of the aesthetic recipient remains that of IMMANUEL KANT, Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790); to which one may add BERNARD BOSANQUET, Three Lectures on Aesthetic (1915, reissued 1968). The aesthetic object is dealt with in considerable detail by ROMAN INGARDEN, The Literary Work of Art (1973; originally published in German, 1931); and MIKEL DUFRENNE, The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience (1973; originally published in French, 1953). The differences between the various art forms are explored in JOHN DEWEY, Art As Experience (1934, reissued 1980); and SUSANNE K. LANGER, Feeling and Form (1953, reissued 1973). In addition to the works already cited, the following are particularly important discussions of paradoxes: LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. by CYRIL BARRETT (1966); and F.N. SIBLEY and MICHAEL TANNER, "Objectivity and Aesthetics," in ARISTOTELIAN SOCIETY (GREAT BRITAIN), Supplementary Volume, no. 42 (1968), proceedings. Some philosophical approaches to imagination are summarized in MARY WARNOCK, Imagination (1976). The most important 20th-century texts are JEAN-PAUL SARTRE, The Psychology of Imagination (1948, reissued 1991; originally published in French, 1940); and LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Philosophical Investigations, 3rd ed. (1968, reprinted 1986; originally published in German, 1953), part 2. Later attempts to describe the place of imagination in aesthetic experience as a whole are found in Scruton's Art and Imagination (above); and KENDALL L. WALTON, Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990). The matters of emotion, response, and enjoyment are considered in some depth in BERNARD BOSANQUET, "On the Nature of Aesthetic Emotion," in BERNARD BOSANQUET (ed.), Science and Philosophy and Other Essays (1927, reissued 1967); and in the study by Casey (above). A detailed bibliography on the understanding of art can be found in the section Philosophy of art in the bibliography to the article PHILOSOPHIES OF THE BRANCHES OF KNOWLEDGE.

Many of the individual problems are discussed in the book by Wollheim (above); ROGER SCRUTON, The Aesthetic Understanding (1983); SUSANNE K. LANGER, Philosophy in a New Key, 3rd ed. (1979); ROLAND BARTHES, Elements of Semiology (1967; originally published in French, 1965); BENEDETTO CROCE, Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic, 2nd ed. (1922, reissued 1978; originally published in Italian, 1902); R.G. COLLINGWOOD, The Principles of Art (1938, reissued 1975); NELSON GOODMAN, Languages of Art, 2nd ed. (1976); P.F. STRAWSON, "Aesthetic Appraisal and Works of Art," in his Freedom and Resentment (1974); and OSCAR WILDE, The Critic As Artist (1925). Discussions of the logic of music include RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Art and Visual Perception, expanded and rev. ed. (1974); HEINRICH SCHENKER, Harmony (1954, reissued 1980; originally published in German, 1906); ROGER SCRUTON, "Understanding Music," in his The Aesthetic Understanding (above); the work by Levinson (above); and PETER KIVY, Music Alone (1990).

Criticism and aesthetic judgment are dealt with in F.N. SIBLEY, "Aesthetic Concepts," The Philosophical Review, 68:421-450 (1959), and "Aesthetic and Non Aesthetic," The Philosophical Review, 74:135-159 (1965); WILLIAM K. WIMSATT, JR., and MONROE C. BEARDSLEY, "The Intentional Fallacy," in WILLIAM K. WIMSATT, JR., The Verbal Icon (1954, reissued 1989); and F.R. LEAVIS, "Literary Criticism and Philosophy," in his The Common Pursuit (1952, reissued 1984). ANTHONY SAVILE, The Test of Time (1982), is a discussion of some contemporary problems. Philosophical discussions of particular art forms include MALCOLM BUDD, Music and the Emotions (1985, reissued 1992); and RICHARD WOLLHEIM, Painting as an Art (1987).

An idiosyncratic but useful historical summary is provided in MONROE C. BEARDSLEY, Aesthetics from Classical Greece to the Present (1966, reprinted 1975). A full summary, although in an outmoded idiom, is given by WLADISLAW TATARKIEWICZ, History of Aesthetics, 3 vol. (1970-74; originally published in Polish, 1960). Additional information pertaining to ancient aesthetics may be found in the Macropædia entries PLATONISM, PLATO AND; and ARISTOTELIANISM, ARISTOTLE AND. MAYNARD SOLOMON (comp.), Marxism and Art (1974), is a treatment of Marxist aesthetics. More recent Marxist writings have tended toward skepticism concerning the concept of the aesthetic, notably TERRY EAGLETON, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990).

THOMAS MUNRO, Oriental Aesthetics (1965), includes a comparison of Eastern and Western attitudes and beliefs (with many bibliographic notes). Other informative studies are Indian Aesthetics and Art Activity (1968); MAI-MAI SZE, The Tao of Painting, 2nd ed. with corrections, 2 vol. (1963); and MAKOTO UEDA, Literary and Art Theories in Japan (1967, reissued 1991).

(Ro.Sc.)

 

철학적 탐구 : L. 비트겐슈타인, 이영철 역, 서광사, 1994

현대미학입문 : R. 볼하임, 오병남·임일환 공역, 서광사, 1993

미학논평 : G. 루카치, 홍승용 역, 문학과학사, 1992

셸링의 예술철학 : 김혜숙, 자유출판사, 1992

예술이란 무엇인가 : H. 리드, 윤일주 역, 을유문화사, 1991

미학과 현상학 : 박상규, 문예출판사, 1991

미학사(학술총서 4) : 먼로 C. 비어슬리, 이성훈·안원현 공역, 이론과 실천, 1990

미학의 기초와 그 이론의 변천 : 강대석, 서광사, 1990

프랑스현대미학 : V. 펠드망, 박준원 역, 서광사, 1987

변증법적 미학이론 : G. H. R. 파킨슨, 김대웅 역, 문예출판사, 1986

근대미학연구 : 김문환, 서울대학교 출판부, 1986

루카치 미학 비평 : 키랄리활비, 김태경 역, 한밭출판사, 1984

현상학과 예술 : M. 메를로퐁티 외, 오병남 편역, 서광사, 1883

미학의 차원(청하신서 2) : H. 마르쿠제, 문학과사회연구소 역, 청하, 1983

미학입문 : G. 딕커, 오병남·황유경 공역, 서광사, 1983

시학 : 아리스토텔레스, 천병희 역, 운암사, 1983

헤겔 미학입문 : T. 메춰·페터스촌디, 여균동 외 역, 종로서적, 1983

현대미학-예술과 미적 대상의 분석 : G. 딕키, 오병남 역, 서광사, 1982

마르크스주의와 예술 : H. 아르봉, 오병남 편역, 서광사, 1981

예술철학 : 조요한, 경문사, 1980

미학 : 백기수, 서울대학교 출판부, 1980

미학 : N. 하르트만, 전원배 역, 을유문화사, 1980

비판력 비판 : I. 칸트, 이석윤 역, 박영사, 1974

 

   

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