Breviary of Aesthetics: Four Lectures by Benedetto Croce

By Benedetto Croce

Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) used to be one of the most crucial of these philosophers of the 20 th century who grappled with problems with natural aesthetics. The sequence of lectures written in 1912 because the inaugural deal with of the Rice Institute in Texas and picked up lower than the identify Breviario di estetica (Breviary of Aesthetics) is certainly Croce's definitive learn of the humanities, and the paintings is still foundational within the philosophy of aesthetics to at the present time. it's been translated into numerous languages and maintains to draw a large readership.

In this version, the Breviary of Aesthetics is gifted in a new English translation and observed via informative endnotes that debate some of the philosophers, writers, and works pointed out by means of Croce in his unique textual content. the hot translation intentionally preserves the idiosyncratic use of language for which Croce used to be recognized, and emphasizes his writing kind, which, including that of Galileo Galilei, is taken into account to be one of the such a lot lucid in Italian literature. An advent by way of Remo Bodei discusses the wider influence of the paintings and locations it in ancient context. briefly, this variation reintroduces a seminal textual content on aesthetics to a brand new iteration of English-speaking readers, and represents an important contribution to the Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library series.

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It is an evaluation that, no matter how often executed in an arbitrary and disorganized manner, precisely expresses the legitimate need, in treating a problem, to cover all solutions attempted in history or that can be attempted in theory (that is, at the present moment but still in history), in such a way that the new solution includes in itself all preceding labour of the human spirit. This need is a logical need, and as such, it is intrinsic to every true thought and inseparable from it; we must not confuse it with a given literary form of exposition, to avoid falling into the pedantry for which Scholastics in the Middle Ages and the dialectics of the Hegelian school in the nineteenth-century were famous, and which is quite similar to formalistic superstition, believing in the wondrous faculty of a certain extrinsic and mechanical manner of philosophical exposition.

The insurmountable difficulties associated with allegory are well known, as is its frigid – and antiartistic – character known, and universally felt. Allegory is the extrinsic union, or the conventional and arbitrary juxtaposition of two spiritual facts – of a concept or thought and an image – for which one holds that this image must represent that concept. And not only, thanks to allegory, is the unitary character of the 21 B r e v ia ry o f A e s th e ti c s artistic image not explained, but what is more, a duality is established, deliberately, because in that juxtaposition thought remains thought and the image remains image, without a relationship between the two, so much so that in contemplating the image, we forget the concept, without peril, in fact as an advantage; and in thinking about the concept, we dissolve, also to our advantage, the superfluous and bothersome image.

The historian of Aesthetics follows in the footsteps of this arduous march, in which (and here is more magic of thinking) the victor, instead of losing strength from his adversary’s blows, gains from them in strength and reaches the coveted knoll, thus denying his adversary but still remaining in his company. Here, I can only comment in passing on the importance of the Aristotelian concept of mimesis (which arose in opposition to Plato’s condemnation of poetry), and on the attempt by that same philosopher to make a distinction between poetry and history 20 – a concept not sufficiently developed, and perhaps not fully formed in his mind, for which it remained long misunderstood, but that would become, many centuries later in modern times, the departure point of aesthetic thought.

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