Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic

By Benedetto Croce; Douglas Ainslie | Go to book overview

III
FERMENTS OF THOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

INTEREST in aesthetic investigation increased rapidly in the early years of the following century, owing either to the popularity acquired by certain new words or to the novel meanings given to words already familiar, which emphasized new aspects of artistic production and criticism, complicating the problem and rendering it thereby more puzzling and attractive. For example: wit, taste, imagination or fancy, feeling, and several others, which must be examined rather closely.


New words and new observations in the seventeenth century

Wit (ingegno) differed somewhat from intellect. Free use of the word arose, if we mistake not, from its convenience in Rhetoric as conceived by antiquity; that is to say, a suave and facile mode of knowledge, as opposed to the severity of Dialectic; an "Antistrophe to Dialectic," which substituted for reasons of actual fact those of probability or fancy; enthymemes for syllogisms, examples for inductions; so much so that Zeno the Stoic figured Dialectic with her fist clenched and Rhetoric with her hand open. The empty style of the decadent Italian authors in the seventeenth century found its complete justification in this theory of rhetoric; their prose and verse, Marinesque and Achillinesque, professed to exhibit not the true but the striking, subtly conceited, curious or nice. The word wit, ingegno, was now repeated much more frequently than in the preceding century; wit was hailed as presiding genius of Rhetoric; its "vivacities" were lauded to the skies; "belli ingegni"

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