Since the age of Kant, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, and Schiller the systematic academic study of letters and arts not only in German literature but to a large extent in modern literature generally has been deeply influenced by the main currents of German philosophy.
Anyone familiar with the systematological literature upon literary history and interpretation can not but despair of threading, the maze of theories. It is impossible and would add only more tangles, to follow in detail each theory and variant of the variants of the variants of theories spread like an unending net over the field of letters and arts.
The method pursued in this essay is to seek only the main stems of theories. The most direct and conclusive way to this end is to concentrate attention on the ultimate premises involved in every major generalization. It is not sufficient to limit oneself to the premises and their definitions expressly stated. It is necessary to uncover also the tacit premises and assumptions of meaning, validity, and value. This is a somewhat odious task. It involves a tentative surmise that the representatives of the traditional theories may have stopped short of an exhaustive analysis of their premises. It includes a sceptical attitude toward any commitments placed "hors concours" by the assertion that they are truths preexistent and super-existent beyond any evidence furnished by experience; an attitude unduly mistaken by absolutists for hostility. It implies the rejection of a