Topics Worth Investigating

  1. In what sense is Croce's ęsthetics properly termed an idealistic philosophy? Explain what Croce means when he asserts:

    [W]e may take into consideration the fact that the demonstration of the unreality of the physical world has not only been proved in an indisputable manner and is admitted by all philosophers … but is professed by these same physicists in the spontaneous philosophy which they mingle with their physics, when they conceive physical phenomena as products of principles that are beyond experience, of atoms or of ether… Thus physical facts reveal themselves, by their internal logic and by common consent, not as reality, but as a construction of our intellect for the purposes of science. …

    Is it physical phenomena or is it physical principles which are beyond experience in Croce's view?

  2. Croce argues both that ęsthetics is "the general science of expression" and "the general science of language." He calls attention to the "[illusion] that we possess a more complete intuition of reality than we really do":

    One often hears people say that they have many great thoughts in their minds, but that they are not able to express them.… If these thoughts seem to vanish or to become few and meager in the act of expressing them, the reason is that they did not exist or really were few and meager.

    The expression of thoughts in words is undoubtedly a conceptual activity which Croce excludes from ęsthetics as "the science of expression." Explain, then, the role of cognition in Croce's account of ęsthetic experience.

  3. Croce emphasizes in this reading that art is intuition, and that we cannot have knowledge of our artistic intuitions until they are formalized in a work of art. He writes:

    People think that all of us ordinary men imagine and intuit countries, figures and scenes like painters, and bodies like sculptors; save that painters and sculptors know how to paint and carve such images, while we bear them unexpressed in our souls. … Nothing can be more false than this view.

    Even so, as Wordsworth states in Ode: Intimations of Immortality:

    And by the vision splendid
    Is on his way attended;
    At length the Man perceives it die away,
    And fade into the light of common day.

    Isn't it arguable that some artistic works never become expressed? And others become expressed after great difficulty? Yet, in both cases, doesn't the intuition precede the expression and so be separate from it?

  4. Jacques Maritain argues that Croce's "Neo-Hegelian" ęsthetics has the serious error of

    …the failure to perceive that artistic contemplation, however intuitive it may be, is none the less above all intellectual. Ęsthetics ought to be intellectualist and intuitivist at the same time.[1]

    Croce, in our reading, draws his distinction between intuitive and intellectual knowledge in this way:

    [T]he total effect of the work of art is an intuition; and notwithstanding all those intuitions, the total effect of the philosophical dissertation is a concept.… The difference between a scientific work and a work of art, that is between an intellectual fact and an intuitive fact, lies in the difference of the total effect aimed at by their respective authors. This it is that determines and rules over the several parts of each, not these parts separated and considered abstractly in themselves.…

    To what extent do you think Maritain's criticism of Croce's distinction is a fair one?



Jacques Maritain. Art and Scholasticism. Translated by J.F. Scanlan. New York: Scribner's. 1930.