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Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic Art Terry Pinkard From his first published philosophical monograph in 1801 on the Difference Between Schelling’s and Fichte’s Philosophies to the end of his life, Hegel characterized modern life as “estranged from itself” (entzweit), as containing a “reflective” distance between itself and its practices. In his lectures on aesthetics in the 1820s, Hegel spoke of our modern, reflective culture as “Kantian” and noted that it had in effect made us into what he called “amphibious animals,” caught between a disenchanted natural world and a world in which we legislated the moral law for ourselves and secured for ourselves a “dignity” not to be found in nature.1 Hegel went on to claim that the oppositions to be found in modern life encompassed not merely the apparent incompatibility between freedom and nature but also those between “duty” and the “warmth of heart,” between “inner freedom and nature’s external necessity,” and even (strangely, coming from Hegel himself) between “the dead concept, empty within itself, and the full concreteness of life.”2 The goal of his own “speculative philosophy,” Hegel declared, was to supersede those oppositions within a philosophy that would contribute to bringing about a modern reconciliation in our own self-understandings; whereas it has come to seem to us moderns that we must metaphorically live in two opposed worlds, in fact the better view is that there is just one world (with certain tensions inherent in it), that we need not be “amphibians” to live in that world, and that this world, tensions and all, is more rational. These are rather heavy burdens to be placed on any philosophy, certainly on aesthetics. It is not surprising, therefore, that Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics open with some rather striking claims, most of which seem at first glance to be completely implausible unless one buys into the entire Hegelian system. He claims, for example, that there are three and only three art forms (symbolic, classical, and romantic), that each of them develops systematically out of the other in that order, and that they succeed each other historically in that order.3 Moreover, art is said to exhibit or to 3 present “the divine,” the truth (and sometimes the “genuinely true,” or perhaps “the real,” both of which are connoted by Hegel’s use of the term das Wahrhaftige), the “deepest” and “highest” interests of mankind, the “most comprehensive truths of spirit,” our “highest needs,” mankind’s “true interests,” and so forth.4 Likewise, Hegel is often portrayed as having proclaimed the “end of art” in the third, romantic form of art. Finally, Hegel claims that art (like philosophy and Christian religion) seeks to offer us a kind of “reconciliation” in its intimations that it can heal a kind of self-inflicted alienation of Geist, spirit, from itself, or at least to point to the way that religion and philosophy, if not art itself, can perform that healing function. It is hard enough to sort out these claims (and from the standpoint of modern philology, to see which of them Hegel actually entertained), and it is equally difficult to come to some sort of evaluation of what is really being claimed. Hegel’s own statements aboutGeist bring out the very basic tension already at work in his theory. Over and over again, he tells us that Geist makes itself, gives itself its reality, that it is only what it makes of itself, and so forth; yet if there were no Geist already there, as it were, how could it “give itself” reality or be a product of itself? Hegel’s own statement to this effect near the beginning of his lectures on aesthetics brings out this puzzling feature: The universal and absolute need from which art . . . springs has its origin in the fact that man is a thinking consciousness, i.e., that man makes out of himself for-himself what he is and what in general is. Things in nature are only immediate and single, while man as spiritduplicates himself, in that he exists in the way the things of nature exist, but he is to the same extent for-himself; he intuits himself, represents himself to himself, thinks, and only by means of this active being-for-self is he spirit.5 The typical Hegelian points of emphasis are all in play here, particularly the emphasis on the agent’s self-relation—his “being-for-self”—as crucial to his agency. An agent is a “thing...


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