A History of Aesthetic

A History of Aesthetic

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A History of Aesthetic

A History of Aesthetic

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Excerpt

ÆSTHETIC theory is a branch of philosophy, and exists for the sake of knowledge and not as a guide to practice. The present work is, therefore, primarily addressed to those who may find a philosophical interest in understanding the place and value of beauty in the system of human life, as conceived by leading thinkers in different periods of the world's history. It is important to insist that the æsthetic philosopher does not commit the impertinence of invading the artist's domain with an apparatus belli of critical principles and precepts. The opinion that this is so draws upon æsthetic much obloquy, which would be fully deserved if the opinion were true. Art, we are told, is useless; in a kindred sense æsthetic may well submit to be useless also. The æsthetic theorist, in short, desires to understand the artist, not in order to interfere with the latter, but in order to satisfy an intellectual interest of his own.

But besides professed students of philosophy, there is a large and increasing public of readers who are genuinely attracted by a fairly clear and connected exposition of any philosophical science the subject- matter of which comes home to them, be it Logic or Ethic, Sociology, or the theory of Religion. Such readers are approaching philosophy through the subject-matter that already interests them, instead of approaching the particular subject-matter simply because it is an integral part of philosophy. I confess to cherishing a hope that in spite of the defects which deprive this book of the charm that a more skilful writer might have given to such a subject, many intelligent lovers of beauty will be glad to make acquaintance, through it, with the thoughts of great men upon this important element of the spiritual world.

I have regarded my task, however, as the history of æsthetic, and not as the history of æstheticians. I have not paid much attention to the claims of historical justice. While I feel sure that no writer of the first rank is omitted, I could not venture to say that all the . . .

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