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Goethe as the Founder of a New Science of Aesthetics

On-line since: 23rd May, 2012


Pages 8 et seq. We are concerned here with Æsthetics as an independent science. It is of course possible to find treatises on the fine arts by leading spirits in earlier times. A historian of Æsthetics, however, could only treat this material as all human effort in philosophy is appropriately treated, before the actual beginning of philosophy in Greece, with Thales.

Pages 10 and 11. It is said of thought in the Middle Ages that it ‘found nothing at all in Nature.’ Against this the great thinkers and mystics of the Middle Ages might be cited. Such an objection is based on a complete misapprehension. It is not stated that thought in the Middle Ages was incapable of forming a conception of the importance of apprehension and so on, but simply that man's spirit in those days was turned towards the spirit as such, in its own primal form, and felt no inclination to come to terms with the separate facts in Nature.

Page 20. With Schelling's fundamental error is by no means meant the effort of the spirit to ‘rise to the heights where the divine is enthroned,’ but Schelling's application of this conception to his treatment of Art. This must be clearly pointed out, so that what is said here against Schelling should not be confused with the criticism nowadays frequently levelled against that philosopher, and generally against philosophical idealism. It is possible for the author of this treatise to hold Schelling in high esteem, but still find much to object to in the details of his achievement.

Pages 23 and 24. In Art, physical reality is transfigured through its appearance as though it were spirit. To this extent, artistic creation is not an imitation of anything already in existence, but a continuation, springing from the human soul, of the cosmic process. Something can just as little be created by mere physical imitation as by the representation of spirit already in existence. Real strength cannot be felt in the artist who impresses the observer with the true imitation of reality, but by the artist who forces us along with him when he creatively continues the cosmic process in his work.

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