Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics

Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics

Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics

Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics


Art and the Absolute restores Hegel's aesthetics to a place of central importance in the Hegelian system. In so doing, it brings Hegel into direct relation with the central thrust of contemporary philosophy.

The book draws on the astonishing scope and depths of Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics, exploring the multifaceted issue of art and the absolute. Why does Hegel ascribe absoluteness to art? What can such absoluteness mean? How does it relate to religion and philosophy? How does Hegel's view of art illuminate the contemporary absence of the absolute? Art and the Absolute argues that these aesthetic questions are not mere theoretical conundrums for abstract analysis. It argues that Hegel's understanding of art can provide an indispensable hermeneutic relevant to current controversies.

Art and the Absolute explores the intricacies of Hegel's aesthetic thought, communicating its contemporary relevance. It shows how for Hegel art illuminates the other areas of significant human experience such as history, religion, politics, literature. Against traditional, closed views, the result is a challenge to re-read Hegel's aesthetic philosophy."


This book tries to respond to the strange neglect suffered by Hegel's philosophy of art. This neglect can be traced, in part at least, to the view that for Hegel religion and philosophy are seen to possess greater ultimacy than art. in part, also, it is due to an often caricatured picture of Hegel's thought as representing an aesthetically insensitive rationalism. Anyone who has studied Hegel with any measure of seriousness soon finds this caricature dissolving. Suspicion, nevertheless, seems to linger longer in relation to Hegel's subordination of art. What has always struck me as perplexing in Hegel's aesthetics, however, is his continued ascription of absoluteness to art, even despite the fact that at the same time some subordination to religion and philosophy does occur. the question I found insistent was, how can art be both absolute and subordinate? in this study, as its title perhaps indicates, I have tried to its title perhaps indicates, I have tried to respond philosophically to this question.

Not surprisingly, this issue of art and the absolute turns out to be multifaceted, and as I will indicate in my introduction, I have tried to deal with the many-sided nature of the question. But I need to make the point here that this work makes no pretension to being anything like a comprehensive commentary on Hegel's aesthetics. Undoubtedly there is much room and great need for such commentary. I have rather tried to come to grips philosophically with some of the central issues raised for us by Hegel's philosophy of art. I believe this is essential for the following reasons.

First, without some understanding of art's place in Hegel's thought as a whole, we inevitably end with a seriously truncated pic-

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