Knowledge, Life and Reality: An Essay in Systematic Philosophy

By Trumbull Ladd George | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
ÆSTHETICAL CONSCIOUSNESS

THERE is a certain attitude of mind with which a selected class of objects is contemplated or reflected upon that resembles in important respects the moral consciousness, but is not identical with it. To this may be given the title of the "æsthetical consciousness." And since it involves in no doubtful way the postulate of an ideal in more or less perfect control over the forms and relations of really existent beings, both Things and Selves, the nature and implicates of this kind of consciousness require treatment at the hands of philosophy. For here are subjective conditions and states which make a persisted and, on the whole, a gratefully accepted claim to tell to man the truth about the Nature of that Ultimate Reality in which all particular existences have their origin, explanation, and ground. The confidence of humanity that Nature, by its processes, recognizes and realizes æsthetical ideas, is as well-founded in the processes of human reason, as are the laws and principles of the chemico-physical sciences. In other words, the sentiments and judgments of the artistic development of the race may as truly teach us what the Being of the World really is, as the feelings and judgments of the race's scientific development.

In any satisfactory study of the philosophy of the beautiful, whether in nature or in art, the foundations can be laid securely only by beginning with psychological analysis. We ask, then, first, this question: What, as a matter of experience, is the so-called æsthetical consciousness? The obvious preliminary answer to this question can be no other than the following: This form, like every other form of the experience of the self-

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