Selected Writings on Aesthetics

Selected Writings on Aesthetics

Johann Gottfried Herder
Translated and edited by Gregory Moore
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 468
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    Selected Writings on Aesthetics
    Book Description:

    A seminal figure in the philosophy of history, culture, and language, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) also produced some of the most important and original works in the history of aesthetic theory. A student of Kant, he spent much of his life striving to reconcile the opposing poles of Enlightenment thought represented by his early mentors. His ideas influenced Hegel, Schleiermacher, Nietzsche, Dilthey, J. S. Mill, and Goethe.

    This book presents most of Herder's important writings on aesthetics, including the main sections of one of his major untranslated works,Kritische Wälder(Critical Forests). These notes, essays, and treatises, the majority of which appear here in English for the first time, show this idiosyncratic thinker both deeply rooted in the controversies of his day and pointing the way to future developments in aesthetics. Chosen to reflect the extent and diversity of Herder's concerns, the texts cover such topics as the psychology and physiology of aesthetic perception, the classification of the arts, taste, Shakespeare, the classical tradition, and the relationship between art and morality.

    Few thinkers have reflected so sensitively and productively on the cultural, historical, anthropological, ethical, and theological dimensions of art and the creative process. With this book, the importance of aesthetics to the evolution and texture of Herder's own thought, as well as his profound contribution to that discipline, comes fully into view.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2716-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on the Texts
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    In notes written in 1765 bemoaning the wretched state of German literature, Johann Gottfried Herder took some comfort from the thought that though his country was devoid of “original geniuses in the realm of the ode, the drama, and the epic,” he was at least living in “the philosophical century.” Those nations lacking poetic inspiration and the political unity necessary for a mature literary tradition ought instead to devote themselves to developing a fuller understanding of the nature of art and the historical and cultural conditions under which it flourishes. Perhaps such a theory would enable writers to discover and...

  6. Is the Beauty of the Body a Herald of the Beauty of the Soul?
    (pp. 31-40)

    “In the countenance dwells the spirit!” This maxim has been in currency since the earliest times; even today it is the basis of our judgments in our daily commerce with others, and only those on whom Nature herself has bestowed a repugnant form seem to doubt it. For that reason we consider their objections biased and stick with the tenet to which we subscribed: “in the countenance dwells the spirit!”

    If this rule is universally true, then surely Mother Nature can have given us no better letter of recommendation to our fellow men than a favorable face—but on the...

  7. A Monument to Baumgarten
    (pp. 41-50)

    How the most singular phenomena not only in the realm of the mind but also in the republic of philosophers depend on external causes! The various events and circumstances of life lead our manner of thinking in different directions, and it is the complexion of our schooling in particular—as the first coating applied to the young soul, so to speak—that exerts the greatest influence on the form in which that soul subsequently appears before the world. It was no different with Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten. His earliest learned education was in the hands of a—philologist: perfect for what...

  8. Critical Forests, or Reflections on the Art and Science of the Beautiful: FIRST GROVE, DEDICATED TO MR. LESSING’S LAOCOÖN
    (pp. 51-176)

    Mr.Lessing’sLaocoön, a work on which the three Graces of the human sciences—the Muses of philosophy, poetry, and fine art—have busied themselves, has been for me, during the critical pestilence currently raging in Germany, one of those propitious phantoms that Democritus prayed we might encounter. I should compare it most fittingly with the statue from which it takes its name, were not the appearance of completion, of the authorial έποίησε, the very attitude that thisLaocoöndesires least to adopt. Let this way of speaking with its comparisons of the different arts remain the province of ourbeaux-artistes...

    (pp. 177-290)

    Like all good things, the fundamental concepts of our new fashionable philosophy come in threes. Here they are in Mr. Riedel’s words:

    Man has three ultimate ends, which are subordinated to his spiritual perfection: the true, the good, and the beautiful.

    For each Nature has endowed man with a special fundamental faculty [Grundkraft]: for the true thesensus communis, for the good the conscience, and for the beautiful taste.

    Thesensus communisis the inner feeling of the soul by means of which, without rational inferences, it is immediately convinced of the truth or falsity of a thing. The conscience...

  10. Shakespeare
    (pp. 291-307)

    If any man brings to mind that tremendous image of one “seated high atop some craggy eminence, whirlwinds, tempest, and the roaring sea at his feet, but with the flashing skies about his head,” that man is Shakespeare! Only we might add that below him, at the very base of his rocky throne, murmur the multitudes who explain, defend, condemn, excuse, worship, slander, translate, and traduce him—and all of whom he cannot hear!

    What a library has already been written about for and against him! And I have no mind to add to it in any way. It is...

  11. The Causes of Sunken Taste among the Different Peoples in Whom It Once Blossomed
    (pp. 308-334)

    It is a sight wondrous to behold that taste, the beautiful gift that heaven seems to have bestowed on the human spirit only when it puts forth its finest flowers, not only appears exclusively within a narrow region of the earth’s surface but also holds sway there for only short periods. No sooner has it made itself at home in some fortunate locality than it gathers kindling for its own funeral pyre, until elsewhere another phoenix rises belatedly from its ashes, only to share the same fate as its father.

    Whence come these waves on the great ocean of time?...

  12. On the Influence of the Belles Lettres on the Higher Sciences
    (pp. 335-346)

    First we must determine what we mean by “belles lettres” and “higher sciences.” If the former are nothing more than what young, idle minds like to understand by the term—that is, a trifling and wanton reading of verses and novels, reviews and witty journals—then we cannot really speak of their having agoodinfluence. And since such abuse of the term is nowadays pretty universal, and the Electoral Academy doubtless intends that the answer to the question it has set be on all sides practical and useful, then this treatise must unfortunately begin by addressing the abuse of...

  13. Does Painting or Music Have a Greater Effect? A DIVINE COLLOQUY
    (pp. 347-356)

    There were occasions when the Muses were at a loss as to what they should talk about, and so from time to time they quarreled over their respective merits, over the value of their arts. One such confabulation between the Muses ofPaintingand ofMusic, whereof word has reached me through secret reports, I wish to relate here, for Father Apollo was presiding. The god, in the eternal bloom of youth, sat beneath his beloved laurel tree, with the youngest and dearest of his daughters, Poetry, in his lap. Her two older sisters sat to the right and left...

  14. On Image, Poetry, and Fable
    (pp. 357-382)

    Man is such a complex, artificial being that despite every effort he can never achieve a wholly simple state. At the very moment that he sees, he also hears and unconsciously enjoys, through all the organs of his manifold machine, external influences that remain largely obscure sensations but nevertheless secretly cooperate on the sum of his whole condition at all times. He floats in a sea of impressions of objects, in which one wave laps against him softly, another more perceptibly, but where sundry changes in the outside world excite his inner being. In this respect also he is a...

  15. Editor’s Notes
    (pp. 383-444)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 445-448)
  17. Index
    (pp. 449-455)