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respect to its bare quality and conformation” does not, of course, give the needed information, for objective beauty, of the character of this conformation or form. But yet, it might be said that the content of beauty might conceivably be deduced from the psychological conditions of absorption. In the same way, Santayana's “ Beauty as objectified pleasure,” or pleasure as the quality of a thing, is neither a determination of objective beauty nor a sufficient description of the psychological state. Yet analysis of those qualities in the thing that cause us to make our pleasure a quality of it would supplement the definition sufficiently and completely in the sense of our own formula. Why do we regard pleasure as the quality of a thing ? Because there is something in the thing that makes us spread, as it were, our pleasure upon it. This is that which fixates us, arrests us, upon it, — which can be only the elements that make for repose.
Guyau, however, comes nearest to our point of view. “ The beautiful is a perception or an action which stimulates life within us under its three forms simultaneously (i. e., sensibility, intelligence, and will) and produces pleasure by the swift consciousness of this general stimulation.”i It is from this general stimulation that Guyau explains the æsthetic effect of his famous drink of milk among mountain scenes. But such general stimulation might accompany successful action of any kind, and thus the moral and the æsthetic would fall together. That M. Guyau is so successful in his analysis is due rather to the fact that just this diffused stimulation is likely to come from such exercise as is characterized by the mutual checking of antagonistic impulses producing an equilibrium. The diffusion of stimulation would be our formula for the æsthetic state only if interpreted as stimulation arresting action.
1 Problèmes de l'Esthétique Contemporaine, 1902, p. 77.
The diffusion of stimulation, the equilibrium of impulses, life-enhancement through repose! — this is the æsthetic experience. But how, then, it will be asked, are we to interpret the temporal arts ? A picture or a statue may be understood through this formula, but hardly a drama or a symphony. If the form of the one is symmetry, hidden or not, would not the form of the other be represented by a straight line ? That which has beginning, middle, and end is not static but dynamic.
Let us consider once more the concept of equilibrium. Inhibition of action through antagonistic impulses, or action returning upon itself, we have defined it; and the line cannot be drawn sharply between these types. The visual analogue for equilibrium may be either symmetrical figure or circle ; the excursion from the centre may be either the swing of the pendulum or the sweep of the planet. The return is the essential. Now it is a commonplace of criticism — though the significance of the
dictum has never been sufficiently seen — that the great drama, novel, or symphony does return upon itself. The excursion is merely longer, of a different order of impulses from that of the picture. The last note is the only possible answer to the first; it contains the first. The last scene has meaning only as the satisfaction of the first. The measure of the perfection of a work of temporal art is thus its implicit character. The end is contained in the beginning — that is the meaning of “inevitableness."
That the constraining power of drama or symphony is just this sense of urgency, of compulsion, from one point to another, is but confirmation of this view. The temporal art tries ever to pass from first to last, which is first. It yearns for unity. The dynamic movement of the temporal arts is cyclic, which is ultimately static, of the nature of equilibrium. It is only in the wideness of the sweep that the dynamic repose of poetry and music differs from the static activity of picture and statue.
Thus the Nature of Beauty is in the relation of means to an end; the means, the possibilities of stimulation in the motor, visual, auditory, and purely ideal fields; the end, a moment of perfection, of self-complete unity of experience, of favorable stimulation with repose. Beauty is not perfection ; but the beauty of an object lies in its_permanent possibility of creating the perfect moment. The experience of this moment, the union of stimulation and repose, constitutes the unique æsthetic emotion.