Knowledge, Life and Reality: An Essay in Systematic Philosophy

By Trumbull Ladd George | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE SPIRIT OF BEAUTY

THE enormous differences which exist among the different objects esteemed beautiful, whether in nature or in art, and which are partly due to differences in material and partly to economic and utilitarian considerations, compel us, in our search for the spirit of beauty, to return to a more careful analysis of æsthetical experience. The different forms of admiration which men give to these objects correspond to the different kinds of beauty which the objects present. The fact of universal experience is that the human spirit is moved in notably different ways while contemplating these objects. From this follows the postulate or metaphysical assumption which is the ultimate aim of our inquiry. It may be stated in a preliminary way as follows: The varied movements of the human spirit correspond in some rational sort to the spiritual qualities actually belonging to the real objects. That there are kinds of beauty in reality is the explanation for the corresponding kinds of man's æsthetical consciousness. But since the latter are matters of fact that admit of investigation by more or less sure scientific methods, while the former are inferences or faiths of reflective thinking about which the mind may easily have its doubts, the philosophy of beauty begins with the matters of fact.

The notably different states of consciousness that fall under the common category of the æsthetical, seem to depend chiefly upon the following three factors: (1) The feelings awakened, especially with respect to their sensuous qualities, and their varying intensities, and magnitudes or massiveness (seizure of, and spreading over, all the bodily organs); (2) The imagina-

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