Vischer’s Aesthetics -- By: Sears

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 016:63 (Jul 1859)
Article: Vischer’s Aesthetics
Author: Sears


Vischer’s Aesthetics1

Rev. Dr. Sears

The best theory of the beautiful found in any ancient writer is that of Plotinus. It is substantially as follows: The divine reason is in itself perfect; but when it comes to act upon matter, which is by nature intractable, its work is imperfect. It were a contradiction to affirm that perfection could be realized in matter. The very nature of matter interposes insuperable obstacles. In the divine reason, therefore, there is a perfection not to be found in any of its material works, just as there is in the mind of an artist an idea which can be only imperfectly realized in any outward form. The human mind is kindred with the divine, and naturally conceives those ideas which flow from the latter. Not only does it see forms in nature which are more or less expressive of such ideas, but it has the power of conceiving of a beau ideal, that is, of ideas which are far above visible

forms, and can be only intimated by them. Beauty itself consists, not in outward forms, though these are necessary as a medium, but in the ideas which these forms imperfectly convey. Whenever the mind discovers in matter the expression of anything kindred to itself, such as spiritual ideas, it experiences great delight. This is what we mean when we say that a perception of beauty is attended with an agreeable emotion. Now there is a continual effluence of such ideas proceeding from external objects and passing into the human soul. When art comes to the assistance of nature, and removes its imperfections, and brings out the idea in its primal purity, it satisfies a natural longing of the soul, and becomes a source of exalted pleasure.

In nature, the idea and the form are not in a state of equipoise; they do not perfectly correspond to each other. The idea surpasses the form, and carries the susceptible mind away with it beyond and above the form. But nature repeats her efforts, and, by multiplying similar forms, makes up in individual varieties what is wanting in any one specimen. The artist, in contemplating beautiful objects, must, by an act of his own, elevate each one to the perfection of its class. The whole realm of any one kind of beauty, which is restricted in any single form, must be made to cluster about this single form, and constitute a halo around it. It is thus that the imagination is both true to nature and still creative. Spiritual ideas are beautiful in themselves; physical objects are beautiful only as they participate in their corresponding ideas. What, then, is the essence of physical beauty? In what does it consist? Not in symmetry of parts, for that would require that all beautiful objects be complex. Besides, may ther...

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