Lectures on Aesthetics

The book is a compilation of university lectures written in Heidelberg in 1818 and in Berlin in 1820/21, 1823, 1826 and 1828/29.

Lectures notes compiled: 1835  This translation published: 1886

Author: G.W.F. Hegel
Translated by: William Hastie

Bio from Amaznon.com

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (/ˈheɪɡəl/; German: [ˈɡeːɔɐ̯k ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈheːɡəl]; August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher of the late Enlightenment. He achieved wide renown in his day and, while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy, has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although he remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized.

Hegel’s principal achievement is his development of a distinctive articulation of idealism sometimes termed “absolute idealism,” in which the dualisms of, for instance, mind and nature and subject and object are overcome. His philosophy of spirit conceptually integrates psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy.

The Science of Aesthetics has for its object the wide domain of Beautiful…beautiful Art is its sphere.

…the Beautiful of Art stands higher than Nature. For the beauty of Art is beauty that is born and born again of the Spirit.

all that is beautiful is only really beautiful insofar as it participates in the higher reality and is produced by it. In this sense the beautiful of nature appears only as a reflex of the beauty which belongs to mind…a form of what is contained essentially in the mind itself.

…beautiful Art is worthy in itself of scientific treatments.

The Beautiful in Art…moves, indeed, as a friendly genius through all the affairs of life and brightly adorns all its surroundings. It softens the severity of our earnest relations, and relieves the pressure of the complications of the real world.

Leisure…occupies the place of evil better than would the evil it supplants.

It is…effective in mingling its pleasing forms with truly real things…

it [Art] has frequently been recommended as a mediator between reason and sense, that is, between duty and inclination…

In works of art the various peoples have embodied the richest ideas and intuitions of their inner life, and thus beautiful Art often becomes the best guide to an understanding of the wisdom and religion of nations.

But in distinction from them [Religion and Philosophy] it [Art] exhibits the Highest in sensible form…

But to seem or appear is essential to what really exists.

…the productions of Art…possess the higher reality and the truer being.

For the formations of Art point and refer through themselves to a spiritual reality which obtains representation by them; and while the immediate manifestation of the work of art is not of itself illusive but is rather real and true, the real and true are deformed and obscured by the immediate appearances of sense.

Only a certain circle and stage of truth is capable of being exhibited in the element of works of art. An idea in order to furnish genuine material for Art, must have an inherent tendency to go out towards the sensible world and be capable of finding within it a form of existence adequate to itself, such as was the case, for example, with the gods of Greece.

Our Art thus invites us of itself to scientific consideration…for the purpose…of scientifically comprehending what Art in itself is.

I regard philosophy as throughout inseparable from what is really scientific.

And so the work of art, in which thought externalizes itself, belongs in this way to the sphere of conceptual thinking; and the mind, in subjecting it to a scientific consideration, only satisfies thereby the rational requirement of its own inmost, proper nature.

[Art’s] true task is to bring the highest interests of the spirit into consciousness.

It is not every formation that is capable of being an expression and representation of spiritual interests, or of assimilating and reproducing them. A definite spiritual subject determines a definite from appropriate to it.

The first mode of dealing with the subject starts from the empirical or the facts of experience…

…it has become more or less incumbent on every educated man to obtain some knowledge of Art.

Every work of Art belongs to its own age, to a certain people and to particular surroundings, and is connected with peculiar historical and other ideas and purposes.

…this erudition…needs not only memory for its acquirement , but also a keen imagination to grasp the forms of the artistic products in all their variations features, and to retain them for clear comparison with other works of Art.

…definiteness…is the main desideratum in the sphere of action.

…”Taste” regards the ordering and treatment, with the appropriateness and finish, of what belongs to the outward appearance of a work of Art.

But it will be always the case that everyone will view works of art, or characters, actions and events, according to the measure of his own insight and feelings.

…it is considered as a mode of scientific completeness, to quote and to criticize the various definitions given of the Beautiful.

Hirt…states…that the basis of a correct appreciation of the Beautiful in Art and of the cultivation of Taste, is the conception of what is “characteristic”.

The Beautiful…he [Hirt] defines as the “Perfect, which is or can become an object of the eye, of the ear, or of the imagination.”

The Perfect, he [Hirt] further defines as “what corresponds to its end, that is, to what nature or art in the formation of the object, proposed as its final cause, in respect of its genus and species.”

Hence, in order to form our judgment of beauty, attention must be directed as much as possible to the individual marks which distinguish a thing.

Hirt’s definition gives no exact account of the essential nature of the Beautiful, nor of what is and is not “characteristic” in the Beautiful of art.

…he [Meyer] treats only of the principle of Art as presented in the works of the ancients, but he treats them as exhibiting the nature of the Beautiful in general.

Goethe says, “the highest principle of the ancients was the Significant; and the highest result of a happy treatment, the Beautiful.”

…every word in a language has a meaning, and does not exist merely for itself. In like manner, the human eye, the face, flesh, skin, and the whole form, let the spirit and soul appear through them.

Only its [Art] learning, as connected with the history of Art, has retained a permanent value.

[The] mode of appreciation, when made with sympathy and insight, and supported by historical information, is the only genuine method of penetrating into the whole individuality of a work of art.

What is truly beautiful is the Ideal, which is spirituality embodied in form. More precisely, the Beautiful is the expression of the absolute Spirit, which is truth itself.

The Beautiful develops itself in its own world as an objective reality…

Architecture only paves the way for a more adequate presentation and embodiment of the Divine.

That inner spirituality, to which Architecture is only able to point, is embodied by Sculpture in the sensible representation of the external matter.

In Sculpture, matter is transfigured into the ideal forms of the human body, and through the whole of its dimensions as filling space.

[Sculpture enables] the inward and spiritual to obtain a manifestation of its eternal rest and essential self-sufficiency.

[In Painting, Music, and Poetry. “Romantic Art”] Colors, Tones, and Words [are] mere designations of inner intuitions and images.

[In Painting] The Material…is…visible and colored…the process of representation is…confined to making the subject visible.

[In Painting] Art is thus so far liberated from the sensuous materiality of solid extension, and limited only by the dimension of surface.

Whatever may obtain place in the human breast as feeling, representation or purpose, and whatever man is capable of shaping into action…may be taken as the subject of Painting.

Its [Music’s] material…advances to yet deeper consciousness and particularization.

It is the function of Music further to overcome the externality of extended matter, and to idealize it into the individual unity of the point.

…Music again form the center of the Romantic Arts as a whole. It thus constitutes the point of transition between the extended sensuousness of Painting and the higher spirituality of Poetry.

Poetry [is the] most spiritual representation of the romantic form of Art…it subjects the sensible element, to the sway of the mind and its imaginings.

It [Poetry] is the artistic expression of the spirit, become free in itself and bound no longer to the external material of sense for its realization.

…the forms of Art [divides] into the Symbolical [Architecture], the Classical [Sculpture], and the Romantic [Painting, Music, Poetry].

Poetry…is capable of expressing all the forms of the Beautiful…because its proper element is the artistic fantasy, and fantasy is necessary for every production of Beauty…

…the completion of this world of Beauty can only be achieved in human history, through a development of thousands of years.

The Beautiful is the representation of the Ideal, that is of a spiritual idea in a sensible, individual form.

Art has for its object the production and realization of the Beautiful, and the Philosophy of Art has to examine and explain the conditions of this process in relation to the highest objects and ends of human thought.

The Beautiful…is also philosophically apprehended as the True and the Good.

The nature or subject of the Ideal…determines the inner idea…of the work of Art.

Works of Art may be regarded as subjective, objective, or absolute…

Subjective works of Art include all forms of the Beautiful exhibited in useful or industrial products…the beautiful idea…is entirely limited, subsidiary, and finite…

In the objective…the idea…is dependent upon the object….the idea of the Beautiful…is infinite…transfused into the objective medium…the mind of the Artist or Beholder is only the form of activity by which the ideal is unfolded or…reproduced.

The absolute work of Art…is the highest of all…the [finite] individual mind [rise] to the consciousness of the infinite within itself…


Poetry, as the speaking art, belongs to all countries and to all times.

At the outset, the Architectural idea was satisfied with furnishing a protected and protecting roof, as a shelter from the inclemencies of the weather. And as wood was the most convenient material available for this purpose, all Architecture started with the wooden building.

At its [Architecture] highest it seeks the aid of Sculpture, and even makes use of Painting…

Melody is the soul-speech of music…

Music can stand in subservient relation to poetry, and accompany its representations with the feelings corresponding to them.

Poetry is the universal Art which belongs to no particular epoch or people.

…the language of poetry arose earlier than that of prose.

History narrates only individual events as they have happened, and does not show what ought to happen.

Poetry has thus the right to transform history, in order to realize its own end.

Oratory…uses its ideas only as means for an end that lies outside of art and is entirely practical and determined by relations of fact…it aims…at bringing the audience to a particular conviction…

Dramatic Poetry…as the most perfect Art of all, represents the world involved and unfolding itself in experiences of individual men, as it is, and as it ought really to be.

In Art, the process of spiritual reconciliation is only begun and carried out in limited form; and in order that it may be fully and finally realized, the mind must pass from the sensible and formal representations of the Beautiful, to the direct spiritual apprehension and realization of the Absolute.

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