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A Life Extreme. Life and Ideal in Hegel’s Aesthetic Paradigm

Davide Mogetta
p. 75-92

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to show how the logical-philosophical paradigm, which allows Hegel to encapsulate the living being in the Science of the Logic, plays a relevant role in his conception of the Ideal in his Lectures on Fine Art. To that end, I will first consider nature’s beauty as confronted to art’s beauty by taking into account the critical readings of this passage, particularly Adorno’s. Although this critique is rooted in Hegel’s text, that very same text can also be a means for a counter-critique and a different way of confronting the matter. This leads to the moving of the question to the proper forum: not an investigation on two contrasting forms of beauty, but rather the relationship between the living being and art in the structure of the concept of beauty and the Ideal. The distinction between nature and art is not annihilated in the relation; and if this relationship were to be lost, art could not be thoroughly thought, because art, by taking the living being to its extreme, translates it into the Ideal, the pivotal notion of Hegel’s aesthetic paradigm.

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Hegel (Friedrich), vita, ideale
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  • 1 Among the most recent publications, see Achella 2020 and Ng 2020.

1In recent years, Hegel’s philosophy – as well as classical German philosophy in a broader sense – has been receiving a great deal of attention, particularly regarding the implications of concepts and arguments related to nature. This involves the study of his philosophy of nature or other parts of his system, or, more precisely, the attempt to give a new account of his philosophy as a whole by giving attention to nature and life1. His Aesthetics, however, very rarely play a role in this ongoing debate. Furthermore, the debate seems not to have resonated greatly in the field of aesthetics.

2This likely has two main reasons. First, the philological studies on Hegel’s lectures have led to a shift in attention to the notebooks of his students, in which the sharp distinction between the two domains, which we see in Hotho’s edition, is less explicitly stated, in that chapters there are not divided as in his edition. At the same time, these studies have put greater focus on the actuality of Hegel’s philosophy of art: this has given rise to a discussion which tends to treating his lectures on fine art as autonomous from the system as a whole. The loss of interest in the aforementioned question is a natural consequence, as it implies a systematic reflection on the position and role of the philosophy of art. There is, however, a further shade cast on the relationship between nature and artistic beauty, which does not depend on newer editions of Hegel’s lectures; it is, of course, Adorno’s critique on Hegel’s discussion of natural beauty in his Aesthetic Theory.

  • 2 Szondi 1974. The translations of Szondi’s text are mine. The same goes for other texts which are no (...)
  • 3 “an die Stelle der endlichen Wirklichkeit der Natur tritt die in sich nicht beschränkte Wirklichkei (...)
  • 4 “dieser Hegelsche Begriff des Lebens, des Lebendigen, spielt auch in der Ästhetik eine große Rolle. (...)

3The combination of these approaches has brought these pages to fall by the wayside, yet it is impossible to avoid them to reach an organic understanding of Hegel’s aesthetics, which explicitly poses the question of the relation between the conception of the living being and art. Peter Szondi, in his lectures, noted this2. Although he maintains that, when passing from the natural beauty to the artistic one, “the reality of art, in itself unlimited, takes the place of the finite reality of nature”3, he also recognises that “this Hegelian concept of life, of the living, plays a big role in the Aesthetics as well. It is postulated as a presupposition of the Hegelian dialectic, […] that is, of his philosophy as a whole”4.

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  • 5 I have based this paper on Hotho’s edition. There are two main reasons for this, however weak they (...)
  • 6 For a general exposition of the chapters dedicated to the beauty of nature and the beauty of art, s (...)
  • 7 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 123.

4The possibility to recognise a beauty of nature seems to be prejudicated from the very beginning of the chapter that Hotho’s edition5 dedicates to the beauty of nature6. Natural life may be called beautiful when the idea directly exists in it as life, or, even better, as individual living being: but “the living beauty of nature is produced neither for not out of itself as beautiful and for the sake of a beautiful appearance. The beauty of nature is beautiful for another, i. e. for us, for the mind (Bewußtsein) which apprehends beauty”7. Is it possible, then, to speak properly of a beauty of nature? Furthermore, how can the constitution of the Ideal emerge in connection to the ontology of the living being if this is, as such, incapable of beauty?

  • 8 See Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 676-688 (Life).

5Beauty – and this exposes the presupposition on which such questions stand – in actuality has nothing to do with the living being left alone, nor with our mere intellect, as though beauty were a category which one could indiscriminately apply to any object. Even in this very brief consideration about the limits of the beauty of nature, it is already clear that the issue is not merely the demarcation-exclusion of a dimension (the beauty of nature) from another (the beauty of art, or beauty “properly defined”). The difference we can point at involves the appearance, the object’s capacity to manifest the idea. It is this dimension that emerges with the living being8 and overcomes its natural existence.

6The way in which beauty appears should further be specified as external appearance, grounded in the configuration of the being on which beauty is predicated. This exteriority means, specifically, that it is external with respect to our consideration:

  • 9 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 124.

But beauty can devolve only on the shape (Gestalt), because this alone is the external appearance in which the objective idealism of life becomes for us an object of our perception and sensuous consideration9.

7Thus, proper beauty surpasses the separation between beauty both as a structural feature of the living being and as a feature of our intellectualistic consideration of its teleological structure: we are urged to recognize the same structure both in our thinking and in the objective structure of the thing.

  • 10 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 132. In the English translation of this passage we read “Ideal”, (...)

8The figure (Gestalt) allows us to grasp this correspondence between the “for itself” (für sich) of the thing and the “for us” (für uns) of the consideration. In it, one must recognise the ideal unity of the parts which cannot be reduced to their exterior unity or coordination in space, as occurs in the inorganic natural system. Here, we must grasp the soul as the negative unity which gives life to the organism, which makes it alive in concert with and in mutual relation to its organic functions. The subjective part (with regard to the organism itself) of this activity of the soul is to be found in feeling, from which the vital process begins; however, to recognise that animation as beautiful, it is necessary that it appears as such on the superficial figure of the living being. It must manifest itself in and be made manifest by the body. This is the first natural limitation of the beauty of nature. The animal body itself, according to Hegel, has a non-intentional identity, and its unity has an inner necessity which goes beyond chance, but its soul does not appear on the outside; it remains merely implicit. “Further, this inner does not emerge into appearance as inner (als Inneres); the living thing in nature does not reveal its soul on itself, for the thing in nature is just this, that its soul remains purely inward (nur innerlich), i.e. does not express itself as something ideal (als Ideelles)”10.

  • 11 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 133.

9Consequently, only our consideration can recognise, in the animal body, the presence of the structural principle of beauty in the form of liveliness (Lebendigkeit). It follows that what is beautiful would not be the object on which beauty is predicated, but our own consideration of it. The moving of beauty from the animal figure to our consideration produces a disjunction between “the configurating form and the external reality presented to sense (die gestaltende Form und die sinnliche äußere Realität)”11. This disjunction ultimately implies that the characteristics determining the ascription of beauty to the figure of the living being seem not to depend on their emerging from the structure which characterises the natural but, rather, seem to be imposed from our consideration, and to be valid just for us. This brings us back to the intellect: the attribution of beauty to the natural living being seems to be based on the structural abstraction between the “configurating form” and the “external reality presented to the senses”, so that these characteristics make for the abstract domain to which proper artistic beauty negatively refers. The beauty of nature, thus, seems to be structurally related to the beauty of art in a negative form. The question then remains: how are we to understand this negation?

  • 12 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 142.
  • 13 As Verra writes, “only the sublation of life as pure naturality allows the idea to become real in l (...)

10It is meaningful to turn now to Hegel’s insistence that it is “this essential deficiency (dieser wesentliche Mangel)” of the beauty of nature which leads to “the necessity of the Ideal (die Notwendigkeit des Ideals)”12. We must proceed carefully. Hotho gave to this part of Hegel’s argument the title Deficiency of Natural Beauty, but this does not simply mean that the beauty of nature is insufficient when compared to a presupposed model (that of “proper” beauty) in relation to which its insufficiency may be measured. It is rather that the beauty of nature can only be insufficiently beautiful, because it lacks the appearance of the ideal subjectivity. On one hand, this calls back to the previous reflection, that the beauty of nature should be referred to as a beautiful consideration of ours; on the other hand, we must also recognise that the need for the appearance of the ideal subjectivity can only arise from this confrontation with the beauty of nature and its insufficiency13.

  • 14 Appendix, in Hegel 1981: 259-298.
  • 15 See Illetterati’s comment in Hegel 1996, and Illetterati 2016.
  • 16 Hegel 1981: 280.

11The insistence on terms such as deficiency or lack (Mangel) and its close relatives hints at a precise background for these reflections. In the Science of Logic, life is structurally thought of as being the place of incompleteness and contradiction in its very logical form. The fragment Zum Mechanismus, Chemismus, Organismus und Erkennen14, which has been recognised as relevant to understand Hegel’s conception of life15, makes use of a striking synthetic expression to describe it: life is defined by the “Tätigkeit des Mangels”16, activity of the lacking, so much that when the living being ceases to lack, it cannot be said to be alive anymore. Then, this lacking structure of the beauty of nature starts to lose its seemingly superfluous role, as it deals with an essential characteristic of the living being as such, which itself plays a crucial role in the Science of Logic, as it is with the living being that the Idea first comes to effectual reality (Wirklichkeit).

12This is why these pages of the Lectures on Fine Art, even if grouped by Hotho, make up a crucial turning point in Hegel’s Aesthetics: the notion of the Ideal (das Ideal) can be reached through this passage. A discerning reader of Hegel such as Adorno certainly could not miss it.

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13Let us take another look at this passage. Hegel specifies that

  • 17 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 151.

This defectiveness of immediate existence, whether physical or spiritual, is essentially to be regarded as finitude, more precisely as a finitude which does not correspond with its inner essence (welche ihrem Begriff nicht entspricht), and through this lack of correspondence just proclaims its finitude17.

14The infinitude of the idea, on the contrary, becomes manifest only if its effectual reality (Wirklichkeit) is perfectly adapted to it, and this coincides exactly with the capacity to exteriorly manifest, in its finitude, its inner vitality. We thus reach the point from which we can understand the difference that the Ideal realises by overcoming the structure we have dealt with so far.

  • 18 By referring to an “inclusive negation” I refer to what Henrich calls Hegel’s fundamental operation (...)

15The limit of the beauty of nature – its finitude – consists exactly in this, that this finitude is not adapted to its concept: it is finitude which cannot appear as such, and, thus, is but the mere constitutive finitude of the living being’s structure, the same which founders it. The Ideal’s discrepancy in relation to this finitude consists in this, that the finitude is not just negated, excluded; rather it appears perfectly as that finitude which it keeps on being, without being reduced to the mere finite figure of the finite itself. The finite appearance of the finite, it may be said, does not – and cannot – appear as the appearance it is, because it has foundered with the finitude of which it is appearance. What appears in that appearance is the incapacity of the living being to sustain the inclusive negation which is proper of the Idea, the negation of which, nonetheless, the living being itself is the first instance (although not its adequate manifestation)18. Its appearance, precisely because it is the appearance of the living being, appears itself as the exclusive negation of the living being of which it is the appearance (the forming form as related to the formed thing), so that it excludes that it may ever be the appearance of the finite living being of which it is appearance: it falls back in the finite’s contradiction and reaches its sunset. It is an appearance that, remaining simply internal, does not properly appear, but its sunset is art’s glowing dawn:

  • 19 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 152.

Thus it is from the deficiencies of immediate reality (aus den Mängeln der unmittelbaren Wirklichkeit) that the necessity of the beauty of art is derived. The task of art must therefore be firmly established in art’s having a calling to display the appearance of life (die Erscheinung der Lebendigkeit), and especially of spiritual animation (in its freedom, externally too) (der geistigen Beseelung auch äußerlich in ihrer Freiheit) and to make the external correspond with its Concept (Begriff)19.

16This passage is at the core of Adorno’s critique to Hegel’s philosophy of art, and the usage Adorno makes of it is crucial: it is the scalpel with which he tries to disect Hegel’s philosophical enterprise in general. He maintains that:

  • 20 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.

The inner thread of Hegel’s philosophy is revealed in this passage: Natural beauty (das Naturschöne) gains legitimacy only by its decline (durch seinen Untergang), in such a way that its deficiency (sein Mangel) becomes the raison d’etre of art beauty20.

  • 21 Adorno’s attentiveness to this passage may be taken as a sign of the liveliness of Hegel’s thought, (...)

17This is why reconstructing the background of this passage by looking at Hegel and discussing it was so important: Hegel’s own text will now allow us to critically read Adorno’s critique21.

  • 22 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.
  • 23 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.

18Now, according to Adorno, this passage is crucial because the proper sense of Aufheben would be lost in it, as the manifold of senses of the Aufheben would be reduced to an excluding negation. Then, “natural beauty flickers out without a trace of it being recognizable in art beauty (verlischt, ohne daß es im Kunstschönen wiedererkannt würde)”22, so much that it should be considered as merely being “preaesthetic”23. How, then, could one maintain that the constitution of the beauty of art is legitimate if it draws on a philosophically illegitimate usage of the sublating (aufhebende) negation?

  • 24 See Peters 2015: 54-58. She draws a distinction between two “directions” of Adorno’s critique. 1) E (...)

19This critique is potentially devastating, and as Peters has shown, this potential depends particularly on its being an attempt to perform an internal critique 24. It intends to show that thinking in a Hegelian fashion should have implied thinking this relationship as not merely an overcoming of the beauty of nature, but as a continuity between it and the beauty of art. Nature – as being only aestheticised – would only be erased or excluded in art. Art itself then would not only end up being a static idealisation, therefore classicistic, but furthermore, having rendered the bond to nature impossible, would be radically incapable of being effective. By not having an effective reality it would simply be inexistent as the “art” it would have had to be.

  • 25 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 65.

20In Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, at least in the parts relevant to our argument, he seemingly wants to develop what Hegel, it may be said, had perceived but did not (and could not) fully grasp, at least according to Adorno himself: the continuity between nature and art. The instruments with which Adorno criticises Hegel in this sense are not neutral, as they rely on Adorno’s own broader theoretical approach. One, then, may point at a discrepancy within his internal critique. The intuition which Hegel could not follow is that “art is not nature, a belief that idealism hoped to inculcate, but art does want to keep nature’s promise”25. It is not only that Hegel did not develop this intuition – because in any case, he could not have developed it – but that this passage can only be seen through Adorno’s eyes. Then, even if he allows us to focus on an aspect of Hegel’s aesthetics, we will have to turn the form of his critique on himself: he presupposes a structure of thought which does not allow him to fully find that which he is searching for. How?

  • 26 On this passage see Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 65-ff.
  • 27 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 72.
  • 28 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 74.

21From Adorno’s point of view, the continuity between the beauty of nature and the beauty of art can be grasped in an essential feature of art itself, namely its ambiguous or enigmatic character, which nature itself transmitted to it26. “Art does not imitate nature (Kunst ahmt nicht Natur nach), not even individual instances of natural beauty (einzelnes Naturschöne), but natural beauty as such (das Naturschöne an sich)”27, writes Adorno, as its object is a negative one, an indeterminable to which it gives determinate existence, so that “what in artworks is structured, gapless, resting in itself, is an afterimage of the silence that is the single medium through which nature speaks (Nachbild des Schweigens, aus welchem allein Natur redet)”28. The impossibility of determining the beauty of nature was in what we have seen before regarded as what, from an idealistic point of view, confined natural beauty to a pre-aesthetic dimension, and thus to exclude it from proper beauty. The exclusion would thus involve the beauty of nature from the very beginning and would reduce it, at best, to something which is modelled on the Idea, and thus only possible as being posited as modelled on the Idea.

22It is not relevant to discuss here whether or not Adorno’s attempt reproduces the mechanism he attributes to Hegel, because this would lead to a discussion of his theory as such; however, it is possible to show that his is a far-fetched critique, if we read it in its terms as a meta-critique of Hegel’s critique on the beauty of nature. By giving attention to the ontology of the living being and the structure of the Ideal proposed by Hegel, we should say that the presupposition without which Adorno’s meta-critique cannot be performed – that in Hegel the beauty of art negates the beauty of nature in an excluding fashion – cannot itself be held. In fact, as shown in section 2 and at the beginning of this section, the limits of the beauty of nature are intrinsic, and it is the impossibility for the living being to be beautiful according to its own principle that sparks the need for the Ideal: the structure of the Ideal involves the form of the excluding negation which permeates the structure of the beauty of nature, by not excluding it as its own negation. Therefore, Adorno’s premise does not hold to the ends of his critique.

  • 29 De Vos further shows, through a diachronic reading, that this view first come up in 1823, and was r (...)
  • 30 “Translate” is intended here in a linguistic-categoric sense as well as in a concrete sense of “re- (...)

23In summary, we have seen so far that the ontological structure of the living being, with its constitutive lack, is what allows for the discussion of beauty of nature; with the consequence, however, that a properly natural beauty is itself lacking as a beautiful thing because, in the living being, the vital principle does not appear as such. As De Vos has shown, even if natural life is still ill-adapted to its concept, its liveliness – even if the thing itself must still adapt – opens up the possibility for this adaptation29. That is why it allows reaching the Ideal, or proper artistic beauty. To explain this, one must discuss how the Aesthetics translate30 a conceptual – Logical – process in their own terms. And this also deepens the response to Adorno’s critique.

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  • 31 There are some few, important exceptions: Oldrini 1994, Haas 2003, Hilmer 1997. As we will see in a (...)
  • 32 The need for such a direction in her research was already present in Gethmann-Siefert 1978; this ne (...)

24Before we continue with the analysis, a brief consideration of a possible objection is merited. One might question the need for such a reflection on the relationship between the Science of the Logic and the Lectures on Fine Arts. In contemporary studies, this possibility is nearly always overlooked, when not explicitly declared as unfruitful or impossible31. This depends partly on our loss of blind faith in Hotho’s edition, partly on needs that are specific to contemporary readings or uses of Hegel’s lectures. Gethmann-Siefert is perhaps the decisive voice in this sense. I will not take her position extensively into account here, but I think it is important to note that her studies, seen in a broader context than that of the philological issue of reconstructing the different stages of Hegel’s lectures during the years, move from the need of understanding how, if ever, Hegel’s philosophy of art can be useful in our current debate: whether it can be “actual”32. Hers, however, is not merely a philological problem, but rather a philosophical one: freeing the aesthetics from the system. The question is, is it fruitful to do so?

  • 33 See Farina 2016.
  • 34 See Farina 2017.
  • 35 In his very meaningful essay Halper seems to miss this point, when he writes that “nature and art f (...)
  • 36 See, among her various works, Nuzzo 1995: 153. Hegel himself makes reference to the Ideal and beaut (...)

25Farina gives convincing grounds for a negative response. He proposes an examination of the Encyclopedia to define the scientific status of art in that context, and on this basis to understand the logic of art as a form of knowledge33. An important consequence of his argument, which relies on an understanding of the logic which does not abstractly keep it separate from the real, is that when dealing with the “logic” of the philosophy of art, we are not trying to locate its precise place in the Science of Logic or Hegel’s other works. Rather, it is saying that the Aesthetics can only be philosophical in a full sense if it offers a speculative (and in this sense critical) understanding of art34. This does not mean that we reduce the categories of the Aesthetics to a place of the Logical35, nor that we apply logical (or arguments from other parts of Hegel’s system) to our understanding of art. The primacy of the Logic, in this sense, lays in its offering the philosophical foundations of categories which may be found in other parts of the system, but, as Nuzzo has poignantly put, with a “selective return” or back-effect, when they are realised and thus appear in the Realphilosophie36.

  • 37 De Vos 2000: 15: “die Realität oder Wirklichkeit der Kunst ist so, daß sie weder Natur, noch auf te (...)
  • 38 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 153-154.

26First, let us take a step back to the end of section 3. It is the type of appearance that distinguishes the living being from the Ideal. We could expand on an argument by De Vos, who maintains that “the reality (Realität) or effective reality (Wirklichkeit) of art is such that it cannot be reduced to nature nor to a technical performance; rather, this irreducibility can be looked at in it”37, to say that art produces a difference which divides it from nature, but, at the same time, the difference between the two only becomes manifest in art: therefore, art cannot simply exclude and destroy the natural, its difference from which, and the appearance of the difference from which, is constitutive to it. The passage from the general discussion on the differences between the beauty of nature and the beauty of art to the closer conceptual determination of the Ideal is significantly marked by the very famous metaphor of Argus: “art makes every one of its productions (jedes ihrer Gebilde) into a thousand-eyed Argus, whereby the inner soul and spirit (Geistigkeit) is seen at every point”38. By looking for the meaning of this metaphor, immediately preceded by the quotation of the allegedly platonic couplet dedicated to Aster, one may easily overlook that this page is built with an insistent reference to the eye. Why is this so important?

  • 39 On this passage see Simmen 1980: 27.
  • 40 Hegel (1835), Eng. transl. 1975: 154.

27The eye is that which allows the capturing of the objective element of continuity in the discontinuity between nature and art: it is the organ, and in this case taken as the human eye, which allows for the inner liveliness, the spiritual liveliness, to be seen on the outside, and at the same time it is the organ which lets the external liveliness appear on the inside. The eye has a double value, natural as organ, spiritual in its ability to let the soul be seen39. It is almost a natural metaphor. This is crucial: if art, like an inverted Argus, has the power to make any point of its surface an eye-equivalent, then it can perfectly show on the outside what remains internal. That surface, however, is not limited to the body or the physical object, because artistically it equates appearance itself, so that art in reality makes even actions fully manifest, even discourses, sounds; then, it can be the eye “in which the free soul is revealed in its inner infinity”40.

28The liveliness of the Ideal which is manifest in art and makes for its beauty is thus different from the liveliness of the living-being in that the first appears as such on the outside while remaining internal. We are still dealing with liveliness, then, but another liveliness. If there is a way to show how the continuity-in-discontinuity between the beauty of nature and beauty of art can be understood, it might be found here. We need to give attention to the relationship between these two forms of liveliness.

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  • 41 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 684.
  • 42 As Ferrarin has shown, it is the very lack, and need as response to it, that deeply connects life w (...)

29A crucial passage of the Science of Logic allows us to grasp the ambivalence of life, between its being the first dimension in which the absolute negation is realised and its impossibility to fulfil this task in its own realisation in the stages of the living being, the life process, and the species. Life forces us to consider, for the first time, of the existence of something whose constitution is the realisation of the negative unity. That is, something in which the whole is but the negation of its parts, which at the same time are in a negative relationship with one another, and with the whole itself. This negation, however, is not an exclusive one. It is such that the negative relationship forms a unity in which autonomy and interdependence are preserved. The lively principle, the soul, is everywhere and nowhere in the organism at the same time. It is determined in the external objectivity – which, of course, it is not – exactly because (paradoxically) it is self-identical, and therefore “it is the absolute contradiction41. This is a contradiction for the intellect – but this is not just a contradiction that might be further resolved, because this is the mark of the presence of the concept as such in the living being. However, the fact that it is determined by the external objectivity puts the living being in the dependent situation which characterises its structure42.

  • 43 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 678.

30The insufficiency of life is in its very realisation. By being active in the process which “organises,” in the sense of creating and sustaining an organic being, the soul finds itself involved in a process of continuous determination and immanent negation. This, however, has an implication that goes beyond the self-referenced existence of the organism, which can indeed be accounted for as an inclusive negation. The crucial passage in this sense is the following: by being the negative unity of its objectivity and its particularisation, life is soul, liveliness, and “as such, it is essentially a singular that refers to objectivity as to an other, an inanimate nature”43. This means that life’s inclusive negation, when it is realised in an organism as its liveliness, is once again incapsulated in the exclusive form of the negation:

  • 44 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 678.

The originative judgment of life (Das ursprüngliche Urteil des Lebens) consists therefore in this, that it separates itself off as individual subject from the objective and, since it constitutes itself as the negative unity of the concept, makes the presupposition of an immediate objectivity44.

31It is this dependence on a presupposed objectivity that decides – or, judges – life’s destiny in its further stages, and makes for its essentially lacking nature, in its very liveliness.

  • 45 In this sense we can follow Halper when he writes that “the Idea of beauty contains the relation th (...)

32If we look back at what we have seen about the insufficiency of the beauty of nature due to its inability to manifest its liveliness on the part of the living being, we can now better see why the foundation of that argument is grounded in the Logic. Life, then, is not just ambivalent and contradictory in its concept, but it is so for us as well. We now see that it cannot help but betray its negative unity while realising it in the individual living being, and the same goes for its appearance in the case of the beauty of nature; at the same time, it is still in liveliness that we first get a glimpse of the absolute negativity of the Idea and the spirit45. This allows us to take a step forward in understanding what is at stake in the relation between the liveliness of the living being and that of art.

33Art’s purpose, we may say, is to bring vitality and spiritual liveliness (Lebendigkeit) to manifestation in the exterior. And this can only be realised when the Ideal has properly been structured. Artistic appearance is the appearance of a structure which emerges from the ontology of the living being when it is brought, so to speak, to its extreme: when it is given an appearance which corresponds to its limitation. Life translates itself in the structure of the absolute Idea, in which the horizon of the excluding negation (of lacking) is re-affirmed as the horizon that cannot be transcended, in which the inclusive form of the negation, proper to the absolute Idea, appears. We can see this by comparing what happens in the case of art with regard to the individual.

  • 46 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 154.

34The liveliness of art is not a mere exclusion of nature’s liveliness. If it were so, that which excludes, by excluding, would be submitted to the principle of exclusion which, as we have seen, constitutes the limit of the living being and makes its appearance as the beauty of nature impossible. We could say that nature’s eye must remain blind to itself. On the contrary, “the animation and life of spirit (des Geistes) alone is free infinity; as such, the spirit in real existence is self-aware as something inner, because in its manifestation it reverts into itself and remains at home with itself (in ihrer Äusserung zu sich selber zurückkehrt und bei sich bleibt)”46. This is the turning point in Hegel’s argument, because the need for the exteriority in which the individual is realised is what dooms the living being. The spirit, precisely because it is just internal, is at the same time just external, by being the immanent negation of their opposition, and realising in the highest form the structure of the absolute negation, which negates itself and thus institutes the excluding opposition which it immanently negates. This implies that the individual in art, in which the Ideal is realised, does not share the living being’s destiny in being once more encapsulated in the excluding negation. Thus, we read that:

  • 47 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 155.

[…] art has the function (die Bestimmung) of grasping and displaying existence, in its appearance (in seiner Erscheinung), as true, i.e. in its suitability to the content which is adequate to itself, the content which is both implicit and explicit. Thus the truth of art cannot be mere correctness, to which the so-called imitation of nature is restricted; on the contrary, the outer must harmonize with an inner which is harmonious in itself, and, just on that account, can reveal itself as itself in the outer (das Äußere muß mit einem Inneren zusammenstimmen, das in sich selbst zusam- menstimmt und eben dadurch sich als sich selbst im Äußeren offenbaren kann)47.

35This spiritual liveliness (geistige Lebendigkeit) longs for the particular in which the spirit makes its substantial content manifest; without, in this, implying that the particular itself is bound to disappear as such, because it is in the particular that art brings the absolute to manifestation.

6

  • 48 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 155.

36Art can only be the appearance of this liveliness in and as an individual, but it was the logic of the particularisation that led to the impossibility of ascribing beauty to the individual living being, as an immediate singularity which is bound to a necessary exchange with an excluding exteriority. From this point of view, art “only by this purification (Reinigung) does […] produce the Ideal (bringt das Ideal hervor)”48. Art purifies the particular from its accidental elements, in which individuality is lost. This does not destroy the particularity as such but rather preserves it: this purification includes the logic of exclusion which characterises particularity as such.

  • 49 I simply use Hegel’s example here, which draws on portraiture; yet portraiture itself has a relevan (...)

37Proper to art, in fact, is the inclusion of that particularity which manifests the substantial content, which is adapted to the spirit; but the particular, as such, still excludes all other particulars. For a particular not to be another particular means that it necessarily refers to the excluded other, to be in need of it. This, again, is the structure that brings the living being to be dependent as soon as it comes to life in an objective environment. Art does amend the particular, but it does not amend the constitutive imperfection of particularity. When painting a portrait, to use Hegel’s example, the artist will avoid giving a full account of all the particulars of a given face; still, it will be through the chosen particulars that the well-made portrait will be able to show the true nature of the portrayed person49. Art, then, manifests the inclusive power of spiritual liveliness, which by letting itself be visible through a particular becomes true to itself by exposing its self-negation.

38In art, what is “merely internal” is manifest in what is “merely external;” without that, the exteriority loses any of its characteristics, simply appearing perfectly, such as it is, because it shows the internal of which it itself is a manifestation. It leaves the fracture, the lacking, there, while opening up nature’s eye – when we grasp the liveliness of the Spirit.

  • 50 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 156.

39If all this holds for art’s way of making manifest, we must still not be tempted to surpass art’s limits, which are also its privilege with respect to the natural. Precisely because art is the appearance of the internal in the external, it cannot avoid being involved in this opposition. Hegel makes this clear by saying that even if in art’s logic the external is brought back to the internal which manifests in it, it cannot be extended “to the extreme which thinking is, but remains in the centre where the purely external and the purely internal coincide”50. At the same time, thought can fully realise the process of idealisation, the true negation, absolute and immanent to the abstract determinations, only because the particularisation which suffocated nature’s sight appears in its extreme form in art:

  • 51 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 156.

The ideal is actuality (Das Ideal ist demnach die Wirklichkeit), withdrawn from the profusion of details and accidents (zurückgenommen aus der Breite der Einzelheiten und Zufälligkeiten), in so far as the inner appears itself in this externality, lifted above and opposed to universality, as living individuality51.

40A living individuality that is the perfect inclusive negation of the limits of the natural living being, bringing out its liveliness in its truth. The beauty of art, then, can make liveliness truly manifest because it adequately exposes its extreme nature, by taking in that negation of the exteriority which overcomes the abstract opposition of/to the internal – the abstraction which would make art’s kind of appearance impossible – while including that abstraction which exteriority as such still is, even in art.

41Thus we reach a partial conclusion: art opens the eye of nature by bringing natural liveliness to its extreme. This shows how relevant the reference to the natural living being, and particularly to the concept of life as discussed in the Science of the Logic, is for the development of Hegel’s aesthetical paradigm. The Ideal’s liveliness is a life extreme. At the same time, this conclusion is partial, because it is limited to a discussion of the conceptual determination of the Ideal and does not show the bearing of this reference on the discussion of the work of art as such. However, it should be enough to spark further discussion on a rather neglected part of Hegel’s aesthetical thought.

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Bibliografia

Achella, S. 2020, Pensare la vita. Saggio su Hegel, Bologna, il Mulino.

Adorno, T.W. 1970, Ästhetische Theorie; Engl. transl. by R. Hullot-Kentor, Aesthetic Theory, Continuum, London - New York 2002.

Bubner, R. 1990, Gibt es ästhetische Erfahrung bei Hegel?, in H.-F. Fulda, R.-P. Horstmann (eds), Hegel und die “Kritik der Urteilskraft”, Stuttgart, Klett-Cotta: 69-80.

Campana, F. 2016, L’attualità della filosofia hegeliana come problema, “Verifiche”, XLV, 1-2: 13-71.

De Vos, L. 2000, Das Ideal. Anmerkungen zum spekulativen Begriff des Schönen, “Hegel-Jahrbuch”, 2000: 13-20.

De Vos, L 2005, Die Bestimmung des Ideals. Vorbemerkungen zur Logik der Ästhetik, in A. Gethmann-Siefert A., De Vos, L., Collenberg-Plotnikov, B. (eds), Die geschichtliche Bedeutung der Kunst und die Bestimmung der Künste, München, Wilhelm Fink: 41-51.

Duque, F. 1991, L’oggettività come atto logico di tra-duzione della teologia nelle scienze moderne, in V. Vitiello (ed.), Hegel e la comprensione della modernità, Milano, Guerini e Associati: 59-81.

Farina, M. 2016, Die logische Form des Kunstwissens. Das Leben, die Seele und das Ideal, in L. Fonnesu, L. Ziglioli (eds), System und Logik bei Hegel, Hildesheim - Zurich - New York, Georg Olms Verlag: 289-307.

Farina, M. 2017, Il giudizio e la vita. Sulla logica dell’estetica di Hegel, “estetica. studi e ricerche”, VII, 2: 363-389.

Ferrarin, A. 2016, Il pensare e l’io. Hegel e la critica a Kant, Roma, Carocci.

Gethmann-Siefert, A. 1978, Zur Begründung einer Ästhetik nach Hegel, “Hegel-Studien”, 13: 237-289.

Gethmann-Siefert, A. 2005, Einführung in Hegels Ästhetik, München, Wilhelm Fink.

Haas, B. 2003, Die freie Kunst. Beiträge zu Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik, der Kunst und des Religiösen, Berlin, Duncker & Humboldt.

Halbig, C. 2007, Pensieri oggettivi, “Verifiche”, XXXVI, 1-4: 33-60.

Halper, E. 2000, The Logic of Art. Beauty and Nature, in W. Maker (ed.), Hegel and the Arts, New York, SUNY Press: 187-204.

Hegel, G.W.F. 1816, Wissenschaft der Logik, zweiter Band. Die subjektive Logik oder Lehre vom Begriff (GW 12); Engl. transl. by G. di Giovanni, The Science of Logic, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Hegel, G.W.F. 1832, Wissenschaft der Logik, Erster Teil, die objective Logik. Erster Band, die Lehre vom Sein (GW 21); Engl. transl. by G. di Giovanni, The Science of Logic, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Hegel, G.W.F. 1835, Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik; Engl. transl. by T.M. Knox, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1975.

Hegel, G.W.F. 1981, Wissenschaft der Logik, zweiter Band. Die subjektive Logik oder Lehre vom Begriff, F. Hogemann, F., W. Jaeschke, (eds), in Gesammelte Werke, vol. 12, Rheinisch-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.), Hamburg, Felix Meiner.

Hegel, G.W.F. 1996, Sul meccanismo, il chimismo, l’organismo e il conoscere, L. Illetterati (ed.), Trento, Verifiche.

Henrich, D. 1976, Hegels Grundoperation. Eine Einleitung in die “Wissenschaft der Logik”, in U. Guzzoni, B. Rang, L. Siep (eds), Der Idealismus und seine Gegenwart, Hamburg, Felix Meiner: 208-230.

Hilmer, B. 1997, Scheinen des Begriffs. Hegels Logik der Kunst, Hamburg, Felix Meiner.

Horstmann, R.-P. 1999, What is Hegel’s Legacy and What Should We Do With It?, “European Journal of Philosophy”, VII, 2: 275-287.

Illetterati, L. 2016, Vita e concetto. Hegel e la grammatica del vivente, “il Pensiero”, LV, 2: 59-95.

Ng, K., 2020, Hegel’s Concept of Life. Self-Consciousness, Freedom, Logic, New York, Oxford University Press.

Nuzzo, A., 1995, Pensiero e realtà nell’idea hegeliana della Logica come fondamento del sistema della filosofia, “Discipline Filosofiche”, V, 1: 141-160.

Oldrini, G., 1994, La struttura logica dell’estetica di Hegel, in Id., L’estetica di Hegel e le sue conseguenze, Roma-Bari, Laterza: 3-26.

Peters, J. 2015, Hegel on Beauty, New York, Routledge.

Pinna, G. 2005, Hegel über das Portrait und die spezifisch moderne Konzeption des Ideals, in A. Gethmann-Siefert, U. Franke (eds), Kulturpolitik und Kunstgeschichte. Perspektiven der Hegelschen Ästhetik und des Hegelianismus, Hamburg, Felix Meiner: 143-154.

Seel, M. 2018, Das Naturschöne und das Kunstschöne, in B. Sandkaulen (ed.), G.W.F. Hegel. Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik, Berlin, De Gruyter: 37-71.

Simmen, J. 1980, Kunst-Ideal oder Augenschein. Ein Versuch zu Hegels Ästhetik, Berlin, Medusa.

Szondi, P. 1974, Hegels Lehre von der Dichtung, in Id., Poetik und Geschichtsphilosophie I, S. Metz, H.-H. Hildebrandt (eds), Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp: 267-511.

Verra, V. 2007a, “Idee” nel Sistema hegeliano, in Id., Su Hegel, C. Cesa (ed.), Bologna, il Mulino: 143-163.

Verra, V. 2007b, L’arte e la vita nell’estetica hegeliana, in Id., Su Hegel, C. Cesa (ed.), Bologna, il Mulino: 305-319.

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Note

1 Among the most recent publications, see Achella 2020 and Ng 2020.

2 Szondi 1974. The translations of Szondi’s text are mine. The same goes for other texts which are not translated into English.

3 “an die Stelle der endlichen Wirklichkeit der Natur tritt die in sich nicht beschränkte Wirklichkeit der Kunst”, Szondi 1974: 346.

4 “dieser Hegelsche Begriff des Lebens, des Lebendigen, spielt auch in der Ästhetik eine große Rolle. Er wird, als Voraussetzung der Hegelschen Dialektik, d. h. seines gesamten Philosophieren [...], postuliert”, Szondi 1974: 334.

5 I have based this paper on Hotho’s edition. There are two main reasons for this, however weak they may be. The first is that a critique of Adorno’s critique (and therefore an implicit critique of its consequences) must rely on the textual basis that was used by Adorno himself. The second, which will partly come up in my paper, is that the philological take on Hegel’s lecture isn’t void of philosophical presuppositions or, rather, philosophical decisions, on what the analysis should be: in the case of this paper, which tries to reconstruct a theoretical problem in the aesthetic field, using Hotho’s edition helps to keep track of the problem itself rather than its development through Hegel’s lectures. My attitude is similar to that which Bubner proposed, by analogy with the handling of the corpus Aristotelicum (see Bubner 1990: 70). In any case, a discussion of my argument based on the published notebooks would rely mainly on the lessons of the years 1826 and 1828/29, in which the problem is more thoroughly discussed.

6 For a general exposition of the chapters dedicated to the beauty of nature and the beauty of art, see Seel 2018.

7 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 123.

8 See Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 676-688 (Life).

9 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 124.

10 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 132. In the English translation of this passage we read “Ideal”, while in German “Ideelles”, a word here implicitly opposed to “(das) Ideal”. In {The Science of Logic} a footnote explains the difference between what is merely “idealized” and what is “ideal” in the full sense: “The ideal [das Ideale] has a broader meaning (such as of the beautiful and its associations) than the {idealized} [das Ideelle]” (Hegel, 1832), Engl. transl. 2010: 119); On this distinction see Verra 2007a.

11 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 133.

12 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 142.

13 As Verra writes, “only the sublation of life as pure naturality allows the idea to become real in life itself as naturality, at this point set free from the misery of the sensible and from the contingent finitude of appearing” (“soltanto il superamento della vita come pura naturalità consente all’idea di realizzarsi adeguatamente nella stessa vita come naturalità, liberata ormai dalla miseria del sensibile e della finitezza contingente dell’apparire”, Verra 2007b: 314).

14 Appendix, in Hegel 1981: 259-298.

15 See Illetterati’s comment in Hegel 1996, and Illetterati 2016.

16 Hegel 1981: 280.

17 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 151.

18 By referring to an “inclusive negation” I refer to what Henrich calls Hegel’s fundamental operation (Henrich 1976). The full conceptual institution of that type of negation, of which incomplete occurrences are to be found in the course of the Science of Logic, can only be thought of properly at the end of the Logic itself, in its last Part. The inclusive negation is present in the course of the Logic, but it remains in the background of the excluding one, which seemingly moves logical thought on: it’s only at the end that, reflecting on the method, one can assess the breadth of the inclusive negation, which actually includes (does not exclude) the exclusive one.

19 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 152.

20 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.

21 Adorno’s attentiveness to this passage may be taken as a sign of the liveliness of Hegel’s thought, as he seems to dramatically live what Halbig, referring to Horstmann 1999, called “Horstmann’s dilemma”, “il dilemma di Horstmann” (Halbig 2007: 34). Adorno’s critique shows at once the relevance Hegel had for him, and, through his critic, the relevance Hegel’s philosophy still has.

22 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.

23 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 76.

24 See Peters 2015: 54-58. She draws a distinction between two “directions” of Adorno’s critique. 1) External (“Hegel refuses to acknowledge the possibility of a form of beauty in which spirit is not involved), and 2) internal (“Hegel construes the transition from nature to artistic beauty in the Aesthetics in a way that runs counter to Hegel’s own methodological premises”. As it emerges from the insufficiency of the natural, it would be created “to correct a flaw of nature”, so that “rather than from an immanent development of nature, artistic beauty emerges simply from an authoritative ‘positing’ of spirit”).

25 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 65.

26 On this passage see Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 65-ff.

27 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 72.

28 Adorno (1970), Engl. transl. 2002: 74.

29 De Vos further shows, through a diachronic reading, that this view first come up in 1823, and was reassessed and confirmed in later courses, see De Vos 2005.

30 “Translate” is intended here in a linguistic-categoric sense as well as in a concrete sense of “re-moving from one place to another” (as coming from the Latin transferre), in the way Duque proposed in his analysis of the section Objectivity of the Science of the Logic, see Duque 1991.

31 There are some few, important exceptions: Oldrini 1994, Haas 2003, Hilmer 1997. As we will see in a moment, those who have tried to study the relevance of the concept of life for the notion of the ideal have all discussed this issue as well.

32 The need for such a direction in her research was already present in Gethmann-Siefert 1978; this need is in some sense fulfilled with her comprehensive book, Gethmann-Siefert 2005. The problem of the ‘actuality’ of Hegel’s philosophy of art is, of course, an enormous one (see Campana 2016).

33 See Farina 2016.

34 See Farina 2017.

35 In his very meaningful essay Halper seems to miss this point, when he writes that “nature and art fall under the same logical category” (Halper 2000: 194).

36 See, among her various works, Nuzzo 1995: 153. Hegel himself makes reference to the Ideal and beauty when writing about life in the Science of Logic, in order to rule it out from the discussion of logical life. Even if the Ideal develops life, it cannot be equated to logical life, because this doesn’t get involved in the relation with reality (Realität) or subjectivity in the way natural life, human life, or the Ideal do (Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 677-678).

37 De Vos 2000: 15: “die Realität oder Wirklichkeit der Kunst ist so, daß sie weder Natur, noch auf technische Leistung reduziert werden kann, sondern diese Unreduzierbarkeit selbst darin anschaubar wird”.

38 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 153-154.

39 On this passage see Simmen 1980: 27.

40 Hegel (1835), Eng. transl. 1975: 154.

41 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 684.

42 As Ferrarin has shown, it is the very lack, and need as response to it, that deeply connects life with reason and its need (the need for it, its neediness), see Ferrarin 2016: 89-94.

43 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 678.

44 Hegel (1816), Engl. transl. 2010: 678.

45 In this sense we can follow Halper when he writes that “the Idea of beauty contains the relation that is the defining mark of life” (Halper 2000: 193).

46 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 154.

47 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 155.

48 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 155.

49 I simply use Hegel’s example here, which draws on portraiture; yet portraiture itself has a relevant theoretical-historical background, which may be further discussed: see Pinna 2005.

50 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 156.

51 Hegel (1835), Engl. transl. 1975: 156.

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Davide Mogetta, «A Life Extreme. Life and Ideal in Hegel’s Aesthetic Paradigm»Rivista di estetica, 81 | 2022, 75-92.

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Davide Mogetta, «A Life Extreme. Life and Ideal in Hegel’s Aesthetic Paradigm»Rivista di estetica [Online], 81 | 2022, online dal 01 février 2024, consultato il 24 juin 2024. URL: http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/estetica/12360; DOI: https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/estetica.12360

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