The principles of aesthetics by Henry Parker DeWitt

By Henry Parker DeWitt

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Following the German school of einfuehlung, I have insisted throughout this discussion on the importance of feeling in the aesthetic experience; yet I do not think the voice of those people can be neglected who claim that their experience with works of art is of slight or no emotional intensity. There are people who would report that they feel no jollity when they see the "Laughing Cavalier," or anguish when they read the Ugolino Canto in the Inferno; yet such people often have a highly developed aesthetic taste.

We hear the feeling in the sounds and see it in the lines and colors. The happiness seems to belong to the face, the joy to the tones, in the same simple and direct fashion as the shape of the one or the pitch of the others. The feelings have become true attributes. It is only by analysis that we pick them out, separate them from the other elements of idea or sensation in the whole, and then, for the purpose of scientific explanation, inquire how they came to be connected. And this connection is not one that depends upon the accidents of personal experience.

Feeling is a function of ideas; if, then, we demand sincerity in the one, we must equally demand conviction in the other. The poet could not convey to us his pleasure at the sight of nature or his awe of death unless he could somehow bring us into their presence. The painter could not express the moods of sunlight or of shadow until he had invented a technique for their representation. Clear and confident seeing is a condition of feeling. Hence every advance in the imitation of nature is an advance in the power of expression.

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