The Principles Of Aesthetics
by Dewitt H. Parker

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Chapter III - The Intrinsic Value of Art

Our definition of art can be complete only if it enables us to understand the value of art. The reader may well ask what possible value expression can have when it becomes an end in itself. “I can understand,” he may say, “the value of expression for the sake of communication and influence, but what value can it have of itself?" At this point, moreover, we are concerned with the intrinsic value immediately realized in the experience of art, not with further values that may result from it. Art, no less than practical expression, may have effects on other experiences, which have to be considered in measuring its total worth; but these we shall leave for investigation in our last chapters, after we have reached our fullest comprehension of art; we are interested now, in order to test and complete our definition, in the resident value only. As a help toward reaching a satisfactory view, let us examine critically some of the chief theories in the field. First, the theory, often called “hedonistic,” that the value of art consists in the satisfactions of sense which the media of aesthetic expression afford–the delight in color and sound and rhythmical movement of line and form. The theory finds support in the industrial arts, where beauty often seems to be only a luxurious charm supervening upon utility; but also in painting and sculpture when appreciated in their decorative capacity as “things of beauty.” There is a partial truth in this theory; for, as we have seen, the sensuous media of all the arts tend to be developed in the direction of pleasure; and no man who lacks feeling for purely sensuous values can enter into the fullness of the aesthetic experience. But the theory fails in not recognizing the expressive function of sensation in art. As Goethe said, art was long formative, that is, expressive, before it was beautiful, in the narrow sense of charming. [Footnote: “Die kunst is lange bildend eh sie schon ist.” Von Deutscher Baukunst, 1773.] In order to be beautiful, it is not enough for a work of art to offer us delightful colors and lines and sounds; it must also have a meaning–it must speak to us, tell us something.

The second theory which I shall examine is the moralistic or Platonic. According to this, art is an image of the good, and has value in so far as through expression it enables us to experience edifying emotions or to contemplate noble objects. The high beauty of the “Sistine Madonna,” for example, would be explained as identical with the worth of the religious feelings which it causes in the mind of the beholder. The advantage of art over life is supposed to consist in its power to create in the imagination better and more inspiring objects than life can offer, and to free and control the contemplation of them. This is the narrower interpretation of the theory. When the notion of the good is liberalized so as to include innocent happiness as well as the strictly ethical and religious values, beauty is conceded to belong to pictures of fair women and children, and to lyrics and romances, provided there is nothing in them to shock the moral sense. Aesthetic value is the reflection–the imaginative equivalent–of moral or practical value.

The prime difficulty of this theory is its inadequacy as an interpretation of the whole of actual art; for, in order to find support among existing examples, it is compelled to make an arbitrary selection of such as can be made to fit it. Actual art is quite as much an image of evil as of good; there is nothing devilish which it has not represented. And this part of art is often of the highest aesthetic merit. Velasquez’s pictures of dwarfs and degenerate princes are as artistic as Raphael’s Madonnas; Goethe’s Mephistopheles is one of his supreme artistic achievements; Shakespeare is as successful artistically in his delineation of Lady Macbeth as of Desdemona. Now for us who claim that the purpose of art must be divined from the actual practice of artists, from the inside, and should not be an arbitrary construction, from the outside, the existence of such examples is sufficient to refute the theory in question. If the artist finds a value in the representation of evil, value exists there and can be discovered.

If, indeed, the sole effect of artistic expression were to bring to the mind objects and emotions in the same fashion that ordinary life does, then the value of art, the image of life, would be a function of the value of the life imaged. And just as one seeks contact with the good in real life and avoids the evil, so one would seek in art imaginative contact with the good alone. But expression, and above all artistic expression, does something more than present objects to the imagination and arouse emotions. Art is not life over again, a mere shadow of life; if it were, what would be its unique value? who would not prefer the substance to the shadow? The expression of life is not life itself; hence, even if the evil in life be always evil, the expression of it may still be a good.

Another theory, often called the “intellectualistic” theory, claims that the purpose of art is truth. “Beauty is truth; truth, beauty." The immediate pleasure which we feel in the beautiful is the same as the instant delight in the apprehension of truth. There is no difference in purpose or value between science and art, but only a difference in method–science presents truth in the form of the abstract judgment; art, in the form of the concrete image or example.

The difficulty with this theory is the uncertainty as to what is meant by truth; hence the many shapes it assumes. But before going deeply into this question, let us consider some of the simple facts which seem to tell for and against the theory. There can be no doubt that many examples of the representative arts–painting, sculpture, novel, and drama–are praised for their truth. We demand truth of coloring or line in painting, of form in sculpture, of character and social relation in the drama or novel. On the other hand, we admit aesthetic value to fanciful painting and literature, and to expressions of beliefs which no one accepts at the present time. We appreciate the beauty of Dante’s descriptions of the Inferno and of the conversations between him and its inhabitants without believing them to be reports of fact. No one values the Blue Bird the less because it is not an account of an actual occurrence. Even with regard to the realistic novel and drama, no one thinks of holding them to the standards of historical or scientific accuracy. And, although we may demand of a landscape painting plausibility of color and line, we certainly do not require that it be a representation of any identifiable scene.

If by truth, therefore, be meant a description or image of matters of fact, then surely it is not the purpose of art to give us this truth. The artist, to be sure, may give this, as when the landscapist paints some locality dear to his client or the portraitist paints the client himself; but he does not need to do this, and the aesthetic value of his work is independent of it; for the picture possesses its beauty even when we know nothing of its model. In the language of current philosophy, truth in the sense of the correspondence of a portrayal to an object external to the portrayal, is not “artistic truth.”

The partisans of the intellectualistic theory would, of course, deny that they ever meant truth with this meaning. “We mean by truth,” they would say, “an embodiment in sensuous or imaginative form of some universal principle of nature and life. The image may be entirely fictitious or fanciful, but so long as the principle is illustrated, essential truth, and that is beauty, is attained.” But if this were so, every work of art would be the statement of a universal truth, as indeed philosophical adherents of this theory have always maintained–witness Hegel. Yet what is the universal truth asserted in one of Monet’s pictures of a lily pond? There is, of course, an observance of the general laws of color and space, but does the beauty of the picture consist in that? Does it not attach to the representation of the concrete, individual pond? I do not mean that there may not be beauty in the expression of universals; in fact, I have explicitly maintained that there may, under certain conditions; I am simply insisting that beauty may belong to expressions of the individual also, and that you cannot reduce these to mere illustrations of universal ideas. Because of its completeness and internal harmony, the philosopher may find the simplest melody a revelation of the Absolute; but even if it were, its beauty would still pertain to it primarily as a revelation of the individual experience which it embodies. Again, by reason of the freedom from the particular conditions out of which it arises acquired by a work of art, its individual meaning easily becomes typical, so that it often serves as a universal under which individuals similar to those represented are subsumed–as when we speak of “a Faust” or “a Hamlet"; nevertheless, the adequate expression of the individual is at once the basis of its beauty and of its extended, universalized significance. It is when works of art are profoundly individual that we generalize their meaning. In art the individual never sinks to the position of a mere specimen or example of a universal law. The intellectualistic theory is partly true of symbolic art, but not wholly, for even there, the individuality of the symbol counts. And yet, as we shall see, there is another meaning of artistic truth, which is legitimate.

Aesthetic value, therefore, is not alone sensuous value or ethical or scientific or philosophical value. A work of art may contain one or all of these values; but they do not constitute its unique value as art. The foregoing attempts to define the value of art fail because they renounce the idea of unique value, substituting goodness, sensuous pleasure, or truth-values found outside of art. But the intrinsic value of art must be unique, for it is the value of a unique activity–the free expression of experience in a form delightful and permanent, mediating communication. And this value we should be able to discover by seeking the difference which supervenes upon experience through expression of this kind.

Apart from expression, experience may be vivid and satisfactory as we feel and think and dream and act; yet it is always in flux, coming and going, shifting and unaware. But through expression it is arrested by being attached to a permanent form, and there can be retained and surveyed. Experience, which is otherwise fluent and chaotic, or when orderly too busy with its ends to know itself, receives through expression the fixed, clear outlines of a thing, and can be contemplated like a thing. Every one has verified the clarifying effect of expression upon ideas, how they thus acquire definiteness and coherence, so that even the mind that thinks them can hold them in review. But this effect upon feeling is no less sure. The unexpressed values of experience are vague strivings embedded in chaotic sensations and images; these expression sorts and organizes by attaching them to definite ordered symbols. Even what is most intimate and fugitive becomes a stable object. When put into patterned words, the subtlest and deepest passions of a poet, which before were felt in a dim and tangled fashion, are brought out into the light of consciousness. In music, the most elusive moods, by being embodied in ordered sounds, remain no longer subterranean, but are objectified and lifted into clearness. In the novel or drama, the writer is able not only to enact his visions of life in the imagination, but, by bodying them forth in external words and acts, to possess them for reflection. In painting, all that is seen and wondered at in nature is seen with more delicacy and discrimination and felt with greater freedom; or the vague fancies which a heated imagination paints upon the background of the mind come out more vivid and better controlled, when put with care upon a canvas.

Even ordinary expression, of course, arrests and clarifies experience, enabling us to commune with ourselves; but since its purpose is usually beyond itself, this result is hasty and partial, limited to what is needful for the practical end in view. In art alone is this value complete. For there, life is intentionally held in the medium of expression, put out into color and line and sound for the clear sight and contemplation of men. The aim is just to create life upon which we may turn back and reflect.

This effect of artistic expression upon experience has usually been called “intuition.” Because of its connotation of mysterious knowledge, intuition is not a wholly satisfactory word, yet is probably as good as any for the purpose of denoting what artists and philosophers of art have had in mind and what we have been trying to describe. Other terms might also serve–vision, sympathetic insight (sympathetic, because it includes the value of experience; insight, because it involves possessing experience as a whole and ordered, and as an object for reflection). Intuition is opposed, on the one hand, to crude unreflecting experience that never observes itself as a whole or attains to clearness and self-possession; and, on the other hand, to science, which gives the elements and relations of an experience, the classes to which it belongs, but loses its uniqueness and its values. Science elaborates concepts of things, gives us knowledge about things; art presents us with the experience of things purified for contemplation. Scientific truth is the fidelity of a description to the external objects of experience; artistic truth is sympathetic vision–the organization into clearness of experience itself.

Compare, for illustration, life as we live it from day to day with our delineation of it as we recall it and tell it to an intimate companion; and then compare that with the analysis and classification of it which some psychologist or sociologist might make. Or compare the kind of knowledge of human nature that we get from Shakespeare or Moliere with the sort that we get from the sciences. In the one case, knowledge attends a personal acquaintance with the experience, a bringing of it home, a feeling for its values, a realization of the inner necessity of its elements; in the other, it is a mere set of concepts. Or finally, compare the knowledge of the human figure contained in an anatomist’s manual with a painting of it, where we not only see it, but in the imagination touch it and move with it, in short live with it.

Intuition is the effect of artistic appreciation no less than of artistic creation. If the artist’s expression of his feelings and ideas results in intuition, our appreciation of his work must have the same value, for appreciation is expression transferred from the artist to the spectator. By means of the colors, lines, words, tones that he makes, the artist determines in us a process of expression similar to his. Out of our own minds we put into the sense-symbols he has woven ideas and feelings which provide the content and meaning he intends. Hence all aesthetic appreciation is self-expression. This is evident in the case of the more lyrical types of art. The lyric poem is appreciated by us as an expression of our own inner life; music as an expression of our own slumberous or subconscious moods. Yet even the more objective types of art, like the novel or the drama, become forms of self-expression, for we have to build up the worlds which they contain in our own imagination and emotion. We have to live ourselves out in them; we can understand them only in terms of our own life.

In the appreciation of the more objective types of art, the personality expressed is not, of course, the actual personality; but rather the self extended and expanded through the imagination. The things which I seem to see and enjoy in the landscape picture I may have never really seen; I may have never really moved through the open plain there, as I seem to move, toward the mountain in the distance. The acts described in the novel or portrayed on the stage I do not really perform; the opinions uttered by the persons I do not hold. And yet, in order to appreciate the picture, it must be as if I really saw the mountain and moved towards it; in order to appreciate the novel or the play, I must make the acts and opinions mine. And this I can do; for, as it is a commonplace to note, each one of us has within him capacities of action and emotion and thought unrealized–the actual self is only one of many that might have been–hundreds of possible lives slumber in our souls. And no matter which of these lives we have chosen for our own, or have had forced upon us by our fate, we always retain a secret longing for all the others that have gone unfulfilled, and an understanding born of longing. Some of these we imagine distinctly–those that we consciously rejected or that a turn of chance might have made ours; but most of them we ourselves have not the power even to dream. Yet these too beckon us from behind, and the artist provides us with their dream. Through art we secure an imaginative realization of interests and latent tendencies to act and think and feel which, because they are contradictory among themselves or at variance with the conditions of our existence, cannot find free play within our experience. That same sort of imaginative enlarged expression of self that we get vicariously by participating in the life of our friends we get also from art. [Footnote: Compare Santayana: The Sense of Beauty, p. 186.]

Yet in appreciation, as in creation, expression results in intuition. Appreciation is no mere imagining, transitory and lawless like a daydream. The activity of the imagination is so organized in a permanent and perspicuous form that we not only live it, but possess it as an object. The activities engaged in building up the work of art in my own mind are not the whole of me; judgment remains free to watch and synthesize those that are being crystallized there. In looking at a portrait, for example, the process of interpreting the life represented is ancillary to a total judgment of character. In the novel or drama, no matter with what abandon I put myself into the persons and situations, the expression of them in outward words and acts, and the organization which the artist has imposed upon them, makes of them permanent objects for reflection, not mere modes of feeling and imagining to endure. Self-expression that does not attain to objectivity is incomplete as art. Even music and lyric poetry are something more than mere feeling. In all genuine art, experience takes on permanence and form–a synthesis, a total meaning, supervenes within the flux of impressions and ideas and moods, not excluding, but embracing and controlling them. That is intuition.

The insight into experience which art provides is the more valuable because it is communicable; to possess it alone would be a good, but to share it is better. All values become enhanced when we add to them the joy of fellow feeling. The universality of aesthetic expression carries with it the universality of aesthetic insight. Merely private and unutterable inspirations are not art. Beauty does for life what science does for intelligence; even as the one universalizes thought, so the other universalizes values. In expressing himself, the artist creates a form into which all similar experiences can be poured and out of which they can all be shared. When, for example, we listen to the hymns of the church or read the poems of Horace, the significance of our experience is magnified because we find the feelings of millions there; we are in unison with a vast company living and dead. No thing of beauty is a private possession. All artists feed on one another and into each experience of art has gone the mind-work of the ages.

But there are two types of universality, one by exclusion, the other by inclusion. Communists like Tolstoy demand that art express only those feelings that are already common, the religious and moral; they would exclude all values that have not become those of the race. But this is to diminish the importance of art; for it is art’s privilege to make feelings common by providing a medium through which they can be communicated rather than merely to express them after they have become common. Understanding is more valuable when it encompasses the things that tend to separate and distinguish men than when it is limited to the things that unite them. There is nothing so bizarre that art may not express it, provided it be communicable.

The life of the imagination, which is the life of art, is, moreover, the only life that we can have in common. Sharing life can never mean anything else than possessing the life of one another sympathetically. Actually to lead another’s life would involve possessing his body, occupying his position, doing his work, and so destroying him. But through the sympathetic imagination we can penetrate his life and leave him in possession. To do this thoroughly is possible, however, only with the life of a very few people, with intimates and friends. With the mass, we can share only ideal things like religion or patriotism, but these also are matters of imagination. Now art enlarges the scope of this common life by creating a new imaginary world to which we can all belong, where action, enjoyment, and experience do not involve competition or depend on possession and mastery.

Finally, the intuitions that art provides are relatively permanent. Art not only extends life and enables us to share it, but also preserves it. Existence has a leak in it, as Plato said; experience flows in and then flows out forever. The individual passes from one act to another, from one phase of life to another, childhood, then youth, then old age. So the race; one generation follows another, and each type of civilization displaces a predecessor. Against this flux, our belief in progress comforts us; maturity is better than youth, we think, and each generation happier and more spiritual than the last. Yet the consolations of progress are partial. For even if we always do go on to something better in the future, the past had its unique value, and that is lost ineluctably. The present doubtless repeats much of the form of the past–the essential aspects of human nature remain the same; but the subtle, distinctive bloom of each stage of personal life, and of each period of the world’s history, is transient. We cannot again become children, nor can we possess again the strenuous freedom of the Renaissance or the unclouded integrity of personality of the Greeks.

In the life of the individual, however, the flux is not absolute; for through memory we preserve something of the unique value of our past. Its vividness, its fullness, the sharp bite of its reality go; but a subtilized essence remains. And the worth that we attach to our personality depends largely upon it; for the instinct of self- preservation penetrates the inner world; we strive not only to maintain our physical existence in the present, but our psychic past as well. In conserving the values of the past through memory we find a satisfaction akin to that of protecting our lives from danger. Through memory we feel childhood’s joys and youth’s sweet love and manhood’s triumphs still our own, secure against the perils of oblivion.

Now art does for the race what memory does for the individual. Only through expression can the past be preserved for all men and all time. When the individual perishes, his memories go with him; unless, therefore, he puts them into a form where they can be taken up into the consciousness of other men, they are lost forever. And just as the individual seeks a vicarious self-preservation through identifying himself with his children and his race, and finds compensation for his own death in their continuance, so he rejoices when he knows that men who come after will appreciate the values of his life. We of the present feel ourselves enriched, in turn, as by a longer memory, in adding to the active values of our own lives the remembered values of the past. Their desire to know themselves immortal is met by our desire to unite our lives with all our past. Art alone makes this possible. History may tell us what men did, but only the poet or other artist can make us relive the values of their experience. For through expression they make their memories, or their interpretations of other men’s memories, ours. Art is the memory of the race, the conserver of its values.

The distinguishing characteristics of aesthetic expression observed by us–the pleasurableness of the medium, the enhanced unity–serve intuition as that has been described by us. One of the strongest objections against the theory of art as intuition, as that theory has been developed by Croce, for example, is that it provides no place for charm. Yet without charm there is no complete beauty, and any interpretation of the facts of the aesthetic experience which neglects this element is surely inadequate. But charm although an indispensable, is not an independent, factor in the experience of art; for it serves intuition. It does so in two ways. The charm of the medium, by drawing attention to itself, increases the objectivity of the experience expressed. Even when the experiences felt into color and line and sound are poignantly our own, to live pleasantly in any one of these sensations is to live as an object to oneself, the life sharing the externality of the medium–we put our life out there more readily when it is pleasant there. And the charm of the medium serves intuition in another way. When the activities of thought and feeling and imagination released by the work of art are delightful, they become more delightful still if the medium in which they function is itself delightful. To imagine

  Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas, in fairy lands forlorn

is a pleasure by itself, but more pleasurable, and therefore more spontaneous, because of the melody of sound in which it is enveloped. And when the activities expressed are not pleasant, the expression of them in a delightful medium helps to induce us to make them our own and accept them notwithstanding. The medium becomes a charming net to hold us, and because of its allurements we give ourselves the more freely to its spirit within. The following, for example, is not an agreeable thought:

  To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
  To the last syllable of recorded time;
  And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
  The way to dusty death.

Yet the expression of this thought is pleasant, among other reasons, because of the rhythmic charm of language. We shall come back to this fact in our chapter on “The Problem of Evil in Aesthetics.” There is no contradiction between the fair form of a work of art and its content, however repellent. For if we value the sympathetic knowledge of life, we shall be glad of any means impelling us to undertake what alone can give this–a friendly dwelling with life itself. Thus the decorative and the expressive functions of art are reconciled–pleasure and intuition meet.

Just as from time to time pleasure in sensation has been one-sidedly thought to be the purpose of art, so likewise the unity characteristic of beautiful things. Indeed, beauty and order have become almost synonymous in popular thought. And, to be sure, this unity, as we have already remarked, has its own value; the mind delights in order just for its own sake, and the artist, who is bent on making something worthful on its own account, strives to develop it for that reason. And yet unity is no more independent of expression and intuition than sensation is; it too enters into their service. Many forms of unity in works of art are themselves media of expression–the simplest and most striking example is perhaps the rhythmical ordering of sounds in poetry and music, the emotional value of which everybody appreciates. In a later chapter, I shall try to show that the same is true of harmony and balance. In another way, also, unity serves intuition. For the existence of order in an experience is indispensable to that wholeness of view, that mastery in the mind, which is half of intuition. The merely various, the chaotic, the disorganized, cannot be grasped or understood. In order that an experience may be understood, its items must be strung together by some principle in terms of which they may demand each other and constitute a whole. Organization is understanding. Every work of art, every beautiful thing, is organized, and, as we have observed, organized not merely in the thought or other meaning expressed, but throughout, in the sensuous medium as well.

So far the value which we have discovered in artistic expression has been that of delightful and orderly sympathetic vision. This is supplemented from still another source of value. Through artistic expression pent-up emotions find a welcome release. No matter how poignant be the experience expressed, the weight, the sting of it disappears through expression. For through expression, as we have seen, the experience is drawn from the dark depths of the self to the clear and orderly surface of the work of art; the emotions that weighed are lifted out and up into color and line and sound, where the mind can view and master them. Mere life gives place to the contemplation of life; and contemplation imposes on life some of the calm that is its own. The most violent and unruly passions may be the material of art, but once they are put into artistic form they are mastered and refined. “There is an art of passion, but no passionate art” (Schiller). Through expression, the repression, the obstruction of feeling is broken down; the mere effort to find and elaborate a fitting artistic form for the material diverts the attention and provides other occupation for the mind; an opportunity is given to reflect upon and understand the experience, bringing it somehow into harmony with one’s total life,–through all these means procuring relief. It is impossible to cite the famous passage from Goethe’s “Poetry and Truth” too often:–

  And thus began that bent of mind from which I could not
  deviate my whole life through; namely, that of turning into
  an image, into a poem, everything that delighted or troubled
  me, or otherwise occupied my attention, and of coming to
  some certain understanding with myself thereupon....
  All the works therefore that have been published by me are
  only fragments of one great confession.

[Footnote: English translation, edited by Parke Godwin, Vol. I, p.66.]

This effect of artistic expression belongs, of course, to other forms of expression. Every confession, every confidential outpouring of emotion, is an example. We have all verified the truth that to formulate feeling is to be free with reference to it; not that we thereby get rid of it, but that we are able to look it in the face, and find some place for it in our world where we can live on good terms with it. The greatest difficulty in bearing with any disappointment or sorrow comes not from the thing itself–for after all we have other things to live for–but from its effect upon the presuppositions, so to speak, of our entire existence. The mind has an unconscious set of axioms or postulates which it assumes in the process of living; now anything that seems to contradict these, as a great calamity does, by destroying the logic of life, makes existence seem meaningless and corrupts that faith in life which is the spring of action. In order for the health of the mind to be restored, the contradictory fact must be somehow reconciled with the mind’s presuppositions, and the rationality of existence reaffirmed. But an indispensable preliminary to this is that we should clearly envisage and reflect upon the fact, viewing it in its larger relations, where it will lose its overwhelming significance. Now that is what expression, by stabilizing and clarifying experience, enables us to do.

A great many works of art besides Goethe’s, not merely of lyric poetry, but also of the novel and drama, among them some of the greatest, like the Divine Comedy, so far as they spring intimately from the life of the artist, are “fragments of a great confession,” and have had the sanitary value of a confession for their creators. It is not always possible to trace the personal feelings and motives lying behind the artist’s fictions; for the suffering soul covers its pains with subtle disguises; yet even when we do not know them, we can divine them. We are certain, for example, that Watteau’s gay pictured visions were the projection–and confession–of his own disappointed dreams. The great advantage of art over ordinary expression, in this respect, is its universality. Art is the confessional of the race. The artist provides a medium through which all men can confess themselves and heal their souls. In making the artist’s expression ours, we find an equal relief. Who does not feel a revival of some old or present despair of his own when he reads:–

  Un grand sommeil noir
  Tombe sur ma vie;
  Dormez toute espoir,
  Dormez toute envie!

  Je ne vois plus rien,
  Je perds la memoire
  Du mal et du bien....
  Oh, la triste histoire!

yet who does not at the same time experience its assuagement? And this effect is not confined to lyrical art, for so far as, in novel and drama, we put ourselves in the place of the dramatis persona, we can pour our own emotional experiences into them and through them find relief for ourselves. Just so, Aristotle recognized the cathartic or healing influence of art, both in music and the drama–"through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions.” [Footnote: Poetics, 6, 2. Politics, 5, 7.]

The delightsomeness of the work of art and its self-sufficient freedom, standing in contrast with the drab or difficult realities of nature and personal striving, serve also to make of beauty a consoler and healer. In place of a confused medley of sense impressions, art offers orderly and pleasant colors or sounds; instead of a real life of duties hard to fulfill and ambitions painfully accomplished, art provides an imagined life which, while imitating and thus preserving the interest of real life, remains free from its hazards and burdens. I would not base the value of art on the contrast between art and life; yet it is unlikely, I think, if life were not so bound and disordered, that art would seem so free and perfect; and it is often true that those who suffer and struggle most love art best. The unity of the work of art, in which each element suggests another within its world, keeping you there and shutting you out momentarily from the real world to which you must presently return, and the sensuous charm of the medium, fascinating your eyes and ears, bring forgetfulness and a temporary release.

To sum the results of the last two chapters. Art is expression, not of mere things or ideas, but of concrete experience with its values, and for its own sake. It is experience held in a delightful, highly organized sensuous medium, and objectified there for communication and reflection. Its value is in the sympathetic mastery and preservation of life in the mind.


Preface  •  Chapter I - Introduction: Purpose and Method  •  Chapter II - Definition of Art  •  Chapter III - The Intrinsic Value of Art  •  Chapter IV - The Analysis of the Aesthetic Experience: The Elements of the Experience  •  Chapter V - The Analysis of the Aesthetic Experience: The Structure of the Experience  •  Chapter VI - The Problem of Evil in Aesthetics, and Its Solution Through the Tragic, Pathetic, and Comic  •  Chapter VII - The Standard of Taste  •  Chapter VIII - The Aesthetics of Music  •  Chapter IX - The Aesthetics of Poetry  •  Chapter X - Prose Literature  •  Chapter XI - The Dominion of Art Over Nature: Painting  •  Chapter XII - Sculpture  •  Chapter XIII - Beauty in the Industrial Arts: Architecture  •  Chapter XIV - The Function of Art: Art and Morality  •  Chapter XV - The Function of Art: Art and Religion  •  Bibliography

[Buy at Amazon]
The Principles Of Aesthetics
By Dewitt H. Parker
At Amazon