Beauty and the Aesthetic
Dilemma of Modernity
In this concluding chapter I propose to undertake a final exploration of our theme of art and the absolute in terms of the significance of Hegel's concept of the beautiful. A number of reasons can be offered for thus focussing on the beautiful, all of which will be examined in more detail later, but which it would be helpful here to outline in advance. Reflection on the beautiful is a justified aesthetic theme in itself, if indeed it is not the major theme in the history of aesthetics. Yet it can also be seen to facilitate some summation, some gathering up of the substantive themes centering on art and the absolute in Hegel's aesthetics. First, while calling to mind the essential motif of classical, Greek aesthetics, Hegel's concept of the beautiful is firmly placed in the modern problematic of the expressive artistic self and art's positive, creative power (themes discussed in Chapters One and Three). Second, the concept of the beautiful is ultimately related to the issue of art's metaphysical concreteness (the theme of Chapter Two). Third, beauty helps us to make further sense of art's effort to sensuously concretize man's sense of absoluteness and ultimacy (the issue of Chapter Three). Fourth, beauty relates to the concept of art's open wholeness and its synthetic power to accept and include within itself the divisive forces of complex dualisms (issues touched on especially in Chapters Four and Five).