Г. V. F. Hegel. Lectures on aesthetics
Art and other forms of consciousness
Since art deals with the true as the absolute object of consciousness, then it also belongs to the absolute sphere of the spirit and stands on its content on the same soil as with religion in a special sense of the word, and with philosophy. [...]
With such an identity of their content, the three realms of the absolute spirit differ from each other only in those forms in which they realize their object, the absolute.
[...] The first form of this comprehension is immediate and therefore sensory knowledge, knowledge in the form and image of the most sensible and objective, in which the absolute becomes the object of contemplation and feeling. The second form is the consciousness representing consciousness and, finally, the third form - the free thinking of the absolute, the spirit.
The form of sensual contemplation is inherent in art. It is art that brings to the truth the truth in the form of a sensual image, and moreover of such a sensual image, which in its very appearance has a higher, deeper meaning and meaning. Art, however, does not aspire to comprehend by means of this sensual embodiment the concept as such, a concept in its universality, for just the unity of this concept with an individual phenomenon constitutes the essence of the beautiful and its artistic reproduction. True, this unity is generated in art and especially in poetry also in the element of representation, and not only of sensory, external objectivity. However, even in poetry, this most spiritual art, there is a unity of meaning and its individual embodiment, even if only for the representative consciousness, and every content is grasped and becomes the object of representation in a direct way. [...]
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If we assign this absolute place to art, then we explicitly and unconditionally eliminate the idea mentioned above, according to which art can be used to express many other contents and achieve alien interests. True, religion often uses art to make us better feel the religious truth or make it accessible to fantasy, expressing it in images, and in this case art certainly stands in the service of a different area. However, where art reaches the highest perfection, it is in its imagery that it finds the most appropriate and essential for the content of the true way of presentation. So, for example, the ancient Greeks art was the highest form in which the people represented the gods and realized the truth. Therefore poets and artists became the creators of their gods for the Greeks, that is, the artists gave the nation a certain idea of the affairs, life and influence of the divine, and, consequently, gave it a certain content of religion. And it should not be understood that these ideas and teachings were abstractly existed before in consciousness as universal religious positions and definitions of thinking, and then the artists only clothed them in a figurative form and surrounded them with external adornments of fiction. Artistic creativity was precisely in that and that these poets could express the content that wandered in them only in this form of art and poetry. At other levels of religious consciousness, where it is less accessible to artistic embodiment, art receives less space in this respect.
This is the original, true position of art as representing a higher interest of the spirit.
Just as art has in nature and the final regions of life the preceding stage, so it has the next stage, that is, the sphere, which in turn goes beyond its mode of understanding and the image of the absolute. For art in itself has a limit that limits it and passes therefore to higher forms of consciousness. This restriction also determines the place that we are now accustomed to assign to art in our modern life. We do not consider art to be the higher form in which truth realizes itself.
The idea of beauty and its embodiment
[...] Since art refers to immediate contemplation and has the task of translating the idea into a sensory image, and not in the form of thinking and in general pure spirituality, and since the value and dignity of this incarnation consist in consistency and unity both sides, the idea and its image, the height achieved by art, the degree of excellence and the reality that is proportional to its concept will depend on the degree of internal unity in which the artist succeeded in merging the idea and its image with each other.
At this point of the highest truth, spirituality, which has won for itself an adequate formation of the spirit, contains the foundation of division for the philosophy of art. The spirit, before it reaches the true concept of its absolute essence, must pass through a series of steps rooted in the very concept, and to these levels of content, which he himself communicates, there corresponds directly to him a coherent succession of types of art in the form of which the spirit as an artistic principle he regains consciousness of himself.
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[...] Therefore, only the classical form [of art] creates a complete ideal and allows us to contemplate it as done.
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