Hegel, G.W.F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Art: The Hotho Transcript of the 1823 Berlin Lectures

By Wood, Robert E. | The Review of Metaphysics, September 2015 | Go to article overview

Hegel, G.W.F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Art: The Hotho Transcript of the 1823 Berlin Lectures


Wood, Robert E., The Review of Metaphysics


HEGEL, G. W. F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Art: The Hotho Transcript of the 1823 Berlin Lectures. Introduction by Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert. Edited and translated by R. Brown. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2014. xiii+ 508 pp.--After Hegel's death, his student Heinrich Gustav Hotho took over his course on aesthetics. The standard English translation by T. M. Knox of Hegel's Aesthetics: Lectures of Fine Art is actually the version produced by Hotho in 1835 and revised in 1842.

One hundred seventy-six pages of the current work are devoted to an essay by Gethmann-Siefert on the 1823 transcript. There are forty-six pages of glossary, bibliography, and index; the actual Hotho text is 263 pages. The Knox translation is 1,237 pages--which adds almost 1,000 pages to the 1823 lectures. The difficulty is sorting out what is Hegel's and what is Hotho's.

Gethmann-Siefert notes that Hotho's views differed in important ways from Hegel's and that he imposed his own views as Hegel's in the text we have as the standard English text. Hotho himself admits to "drastic interventions" in constructing the 1835 text. So we should go back to a direct transcription of Hegel's lectures.

Hegel's several posthumously published works were based upon his own notes and also, rather extensively, upon student notes. Student notes also appear in some works Hegel published--Elements of the Philosophy of Right and Encyclopaedia of Philosophic Sciences--in smaller print as Zusdtze or additions. It is astonishing how much the students were able to retain in their notes. Hotho especially is a devoted scribe, hence the current edition based on his notes for the 1823 lecture series on aesthetics to get a relatively Hotho-free text through Hotho's own scribal fidelity.

The first quarter of Gethmann-Siefert's introduction focuses first upon the contemporary importance of Hegel's aesthetics. Some view his phenomenological presentation and his sometimes revolutionary insights into the nature of art as significantly more important than his systematic approach; and, of course, some view it in the opposite manner. The author attributes the difference in part to the sometimes contradictory character of what Hegel has to say. (One wishes that she had given some examples.)

Concerning the famous claim to "the end of art," she notes that one should also speak of the "interminable future" of art in Hegel's view. The qualification "in its highest mission" should be added, for that mission is taken over by revealed religion and the state, but art still has its future in them.

She goes on to delineate the genesis of the Aesthetics from the four Berlin lecture courses in 1820-21, 1823, 1826, and 1828-29. Hotho had also transcribed the 1826 lecture series (which is no longer extant) and used it in his construction of the 1835 Hegel/Hotho text. Georg Lasson's critical edition stopped with the General Part (which in the Hotho transcription includes what later became the Particular Part, that is, the epochs of art: symbolic, classical, romantic) and did not include the Individual Part (individual art forms, called "Particular Part" in the current work). In Lasson's work, Hotho's additions are placed in parentheses.

Hotho admits that, in developing the Aesthetics, he had to go beyond Hegel's expressed views to the system that it implied. In his Encyclopaedia Hegel presented his system within which he lightly sketched the main lines of his aesthetics. Poggeler suggests that Hegel himself could have supported Hotho's more extensive efforts in this respect.

In the second section, Gethmann-Siefert traces the genesis of Hegel's views on aesthetic matters from the 1797 "The Oldest System-Program of German Idealism" up to his Berlin lectures from 1821 on. In 1818 the first version of the Encyclopaedia contained the sketch of aesthetics within the now emergent system and not yet separated from religion. (Intriguingly, philosophy is presented in the last version as the synthesis of art and religion. …

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