Philosophic Thought in France and the United States: Essays Representing Major Trends in Contemporary French and American Philosophy

By Marvin Farber | Go to book overview

RECENT ESTHETIC THOUGHT IN FRANCE

Raymond Bayer*

A backward glance over the esthetics of the period between the two wars will perhaps help toward casting light on the paths into which the last war steered our French esthetics. The years from 1920 to 1940 witnessed a general advent and consecration of the kingdom of the spirit. This was the import, in literature, of the enterprise of a Gide and a Giraudoux; in philosophy, of the development and completion of the critical doctrine of a Léon Brunschvicg; in art history, of the application of the spirit to the world of forms by a Henri Focillon; in esthetics, of the all but dominant new perspective of a Valéry. This, and no other, was the import of the Paris conferences toward a Policy of the Spirit, organized by the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations, and ominous of the cataclysms which were to follow. The straight line, the rigorous askesis of a spiritual training, the rectitude of a method and a lucidity, doubtless brought French culture a period of equilibrium which other generations rarely knew. For esthetics, it will remain the equilibrium period of a piece of furniture of the 1925 style, or the Discours aux esthéticiens of a Paul Valéry, at the 1937 Congress.

After liberation in 1944, the return to new world conditions endowed the esthetics of recent years with quite opposite characteristics. A traumatism seems to have touched to spirit itself. Without making any valuejudgments on more immediate efforts and the new studies on the beautiful and the meaning of art, it is quite obvious that the previous generation's pledge of purism and lucidity has undergone some sort of eclipse. In all directions, and in art too, philosophy loses its most certain autonomy. Confusion of genres and the emotional vibrato of doctrines supplant the speci

____________________
*
Born in 1898. Student of Victor Basch and Henri Focillon. Professor of philosophy, Sorbonne. Co-Director of the Revue d' Esthétique. General Secretary of the Société Francaise de Philosophie, of the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie, and of the Société Française d'Esthétique. Administrator of the Institut International de Philosophie. Director of the Corpus Général des Philosophes Français. Author of L'estétique de la grace ( 1933), and Léonard de Vinci ( 1933).

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