Should We Care What Hegel Really Thought of Art? Tom Whyman, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [13/12/2022]
And do we need more of the great idealist philosopher’s lectures on aesthetics?
Probably the most important philosophy news of the year came this autumn, when it was announced that a large stash of new Hegel manuscripts had been discovered in the library of the Archdiocese of München and Freising.
Well, I say ‘new Hegel manuscripts’. Spread across five boxes, the discovery (by Jena philosophy professor Klaus Viewig) is actually of 4000 pages of lecture notes taken between 1816 and 1818 by Hegel’s apparently very diligent student Friedrich Wilhelm Carové, during the period when the great German idealist philosopher was teaching at Heidelberg. This is still important though, not least because according to Viewig, the dominant focus of the manuscripts is the philosophy of art.
With his ideas about art anticipating modernism, and acting as a decisive influence on the likes of Adorno, Heidegger, and Arthur Danto, Hegel has long been considered one of the most essential figures in Western aesthetics. Briefly: Hegel reconstructs a sort of art history whereby, in societies like ancient Greece, or medieval Europe, art somehow gave objective sensuous expression to people’s ‘highest’ needs: for instance, their religious faith (think of medieval art that depicts the suffering of Christ). It therefore played a vital social role. But nowadays, developments in religion (particularly, the turning-inward catalysed by the Reformation) and philosophy (including natural science) mean that art is no longer really needed to play this role. Other things can do this more effectively instead (we might understand the truth of our society by, say, reading Hegel, instead). Art has, therefore, come to a sort of ‘end’: thus explaining the development of an insular, though autonomous, ‘artworld’.
This might (by art’s own lights) be thought to be a good thing, since ‘beauty’ is for Hegel the sensuous expression of human freedom. In a way, the more autonomous art is, the more it might be able to do this. But Hegel never wrote a systematic treatise on the topic himself: what we have instead are his lectures on the philosophy of art (delivered between 1818 and 1829), which were written up posthumously from the notes taken by another student, Heinrich Gustav Hotho. Textual controversies abound: it is hoped that the new discovery might help clear up what Hegel ‘really’ thought about art, and which bits Hotho either misremembered, or added himself.
Η συνέχεια εδώ.