New Relations between Philosophical Anthropology and Aesthetics


Eugenio De Caro

This paper briefly means to prove the significance of the connection between anthropology and aesthetics brought to light thanks to the recent studies of some Italian scholars. These studies concern Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, his sources and his historical period.
First, this movement has contributed to modify the historical idea of aesthetics as philosophy of beauty and art; such an aesthetics seems indeed to be only a particular field of the researches into the wider field of the aesthetic reality, with all its anthropological branches. So aesthetic science should be considered more as a knowledge and human praxis doctrine, than a specialization of a knowledge concerning the different domains of the artistic culture. This is proved by its same conception during the modern age, when, through the filter of a renewed attention to the arts (especially literary), a new psychology of the faculties of the mind took shape, revealing a pragmatic attention towards man's behaviour in society too.1
Second, the idea of history of aesthetics has in this way been enlarged and perhaps taken to a greater exactness. In fact, although a history of aesthetics like the one outlined by W. Tatarkiewicz might seem emblematic of these requirements - as it includes the so called «implicit» aesthetics and is attentive to the different productions of artistic culture -, even in this case we must acknowledge the dependence on a particular idea of aesthetics, essentially tracing back to a philosophy of beauty and art. This makes it difficult taking into account the recent outcomes of the aesthetic research, on which these lines mean to report.
The period the new reflection on aesthetics and anthropology is concentrating on seems to be mainly placed between XVIIth and XVIIIth century, when several ancient messages - not properly considered either in that time or perhaps still today - merged showing all their effectiveness and significance. It was in that time that the «analogon rationis», the faculty of perceiving indistinctly reality through our sensitive knowledge, began to be discussed in a new way and became one very interesting topic for aesthetics too. Starting from his Meditationes de cognitione, veritate et ideis, 1684, Leibniz had shown the way, but it was Baumgarten who defined the aesthetics as «ars analogi rationis», identifying the poetical abilities to assemble freely the phantoms of imagination with the indistinct syllogism that the soul can produce, even though anima brutorum.
Baumgarten referred to Wolff's syntagm «analogum rationis», that Wolff2 used to define the «exspectatio casuum similium», a cognitive performance able to link facts without distinctly knowing the causes3 and consequently able to influence animal behaviour, often with pragmatic success. A first important novelty appearing in the leibnizian-wolffian use of the syntagm «analogon rationis», in comparison with the traditional4 semantic value of «ratio analogos»,5 consists in outlining the issue of the birth of the intelligible in accordance with the lex continui : the reasoning that is developed by the «exspectatio casuum similium» - as Maurizio Ferraris underlines - provides that the trace of sensation acts simultaneously as a posteriori principle, as a kept trace of what has been perceived, and as a priori principle, since «the association of traces allows a forecast (…) that, even though of an empirical origin, assures an anticipation that mimes the a priori»6. This means that «you can't arrive from the analogon to the reason by progression but by means of iteration (reason is nothing but an iteration of analogon, as well as analogon is nothing but an iteration-idealisation of the sensation). … As mediation between sensible and intelligible, imagination is therefore the seat of analogon, according to the principle that the (sensible) trace kept in memory, becomes ideo facto intelligible» 7. The passage from the inferior to the superior knowledge is therefore nothing but an improvement of an activity that has its reason of being in the doubleness of memory: reproductive and productive. Nevertheless, Baumgarten's use of analogon rationis is even more distinctive, since he attributes to it the main functions of aesthetic science. The beauty or poetical value of the thoughts (the «repraesentationes» that are signified by the works of art) is identified with their sensitively observable ontological perfection, i. e., observable by means of analogon rationis.
Consequently analogon becomes the faculty that governs the judgement on the works of art considered in the modern meaning, that is to say belonging to the dawning system of fine arts. Moreover, as Francesco Piselli - rightful rediscoverer of Baumgarten - has exhaustively proved, the founder of aesthetics had even pointed out that besides the analogy between ratio and analogon rationis there is another analogy between intellectus and facultas fingendi : as intellect moulds conceptions of which it judges the intrinsic nexus by means of ratio, so facultas fingendi moulds fictions of which it judges the nexus by means of analogon rationis,8 which, in this case, is named «iudicium sensuum … le goût … Buon Gusto».9
By doing this the functions of analogon considerably broaden: the old «exspectatio casuum similium» or «praesagitio sensitiva»10 is considered as only one of the different functions of Baumgarten's analogon, and the «facultas fingendi», that now has added to the faculties of inferior knowledge, becomes sort of synecdoche of the analogon itself.
Facultas fingendi has a productive character and has more liberty than the other inferior cognitive faculties: senses and fancy supply the sensitive knowledge only with stuff, without moulding it,11 whereas the faculty called by Baumgarten «poetica»12 is even able to mould freely new beings, endowed with a considerable percentage of metaphysical perfectio, even though set in the heterocosmic world of fictions, i.e., in the world of the possible. In my opinion this is one of the reasons why art, with its constitutive inventiveness and with its claimed freedom of the artist, will become preferential domain of aesthetics. In this way the analogon, that had joined issue in the context of a lively debate on a probable intellect and soul of animals, has now become (thanks to its relation with facultas fingendi) the human faculty that governs the artistic production. This means after all that not only the sensitive is included but also the perfection of the sensitive, perfection that the analogon has to judge and that according to Baumgarten has an independent ontological reality: the beauty. Moreover this aesthetic perfection better points out the constitutive freedom of the spiritual monads, freedom grasped now within its constitutive relation with the aivjsqhsi".
Nevertheless the path of the aesthetics of analogon is comparatively short; within half a century the aesthetic science will abandon the wide field of sensitive which Baumgarten had assigned to it (and that still Meier was opening up) because of its concentrating quite exclusively upon art and beautiful. The faculty of analogon by its specialising will leave its place to the taste; aesthetics, once considered as «ars pulchre cogitandi» (Baumgarten),13 will become first «scientia de pulcro et pulcris philosophice cogitans» (Herder),14 after «Philosophie der schönen Künste» (Sulzer),15 «Kritik der ästhetischen Urtheilskraft» (Kant)16 and finally «Philosophie der Kunst» (Schelling, Hegel). Consequently the psychological and anthropological origin of the XVIIIth century aesthetics will be easily forgotten.
Kant, for example, openly refuses17 Baumgarten's aesthetics, most of whose topics leave their place to a pragmatic anthropology having as its matter «was Er [der Mensch] als freihandelndes Wesen aus sich selber macht, oder machen kann und soll»18, that is to say all what distinguishes man from animals, not from the physiological point of view but from the cultural one. And this could be the reason why Kant considers the relation between the transcendental sphere and the empirical one19 - that, as we have seen, had characterised the debate on analogon rationis - only referring to a seat no more officially belonging to the horizon of the aesthetic science20 (even though with a strange, residual use of the same word «Ästhetik»: «transzendentale Ästhetik»). Later on, according to Hegel, the problems concerning analogon will be placed into the systematic sphere of subjective spirit21 while aesthetics will be transformed in the philosophical container of the questions concerning art. Thus I think that the attempt to incline aesthetics to the wider field of knowledge and praxis according to the baumgartenian original plan could offer new cues both concerning the conception of aesthetics as such and dealing with its historiography.22

a) XVIIth - XVIIIth works
Baumgarten, Alexander Gottlieb Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus, 1735. Id. Methapysica, ed. I, 1739, ed. IIII, 1750. Id.
Aesthetica, 1750-58. Id. Acroasis logica in Christianum L. B. de Wolff, 1761
Bayle, Pierre Dictionnaire historique et critique, art. Rorarius (Jérôme), 1697
Bouhours, Dominique La manière de bien penser dans les ouvrages d'esprit, 1687
Diderot, Denis Essai sur le Mérite et la Vertu, 1745. Id. Lettre sur les sourds et muets, 1751. Id. Salon, 1767. Id. Paradoxe sur le Comédien, 1773
Goclenius, Rudolph Lexicon Philosophicum Graecum, Francofurti, 1613;
Herder, Johann Gottfried Kritische Wäldchen oder Betrachtungen über die Wissenschaft und Kunst des Schönen. Viertes Wäldchen über Riedels Theorie der schönen Künste, 1769
Kant, Immanuel Beobachtungen Über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen, 1764. Id. Nachricht von der Einrichtung seiner Vorlesungen in dem Winterhalbenjare von 1765-1766. Id. Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1781, ed. II 1787. Id. Erste Einleitung in die Kritik der Urtheilskraft, 1789. Id. Kritik der Urtheilskraft, 1790. Id. Anthopologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht, 1798. Id. Logik, hrsg von G. B. Jäsche, 1800.
Koller, J. Entwurf zur Geschichte und Literatur der Aesthetik vom Baumgarten bis auf die neuste Zeit, Regensburg, in der Montag und Weißischen Buchhandlung, 1799
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm Meditationes de cognitione, veritate et ideis, 1684. Id. Discours de métaphisique, 1686. Id. Système nouveau de la nature et de la comunication des substances aussi bien que de l'union qu' il y a entre l'âme et le corps, 1695 . Id. Nouveaux Essays sur l'entendement humain, 1693-1704 (1765) . Id. Essays de théodicée, 1710. Id. Epistula II ad Christianum Golbachium, 1713. Id. Monadologie, 1714 (1720). Id. Principes de la Nature et de la Grâce fondés en raison, 1714 (1718) Meier, Georg Friedrich Anfangsgründe aller schönen Künste und Wissenschaften, 1748-50. Id. Versuch einer allgemeiner Auslegungskunst, 1757 Shaftesbury, Anthony Earl of Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, 1711, 17142. Id. Second Characters, 1712 (1914). Id. The Life, Unpublished Letteres and Philosophical Regimen of Antony, Earl of Shaftesbury, edited by Benjamn Rand, London-New York, Sonnenschein & Co. Lim. - The Macmillan Co., 1900. Sulzer, Johann Georg Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste, 1771-74. Schiller, Johann Christoph Friedrich Kallias. Briefe an G. Körner, II, 18.2.1793
Wolff, Christian Verünftige Gedanken von Gott, der Welt, und der Seele des Menschen, auch allen Dingen überhaupt, 1720. Id. Anmerckungen über die verünftigen Gedanken von Gott, der Welt, und Seele des Menschen, auch allen Dingen überhaupt, zu besserem Verstande und bequerem Gebrauche derselben, 1724. Id. Psychologia empirica, 1732. Id. Psychologia rationalis, 1734. Id. De architectura civili, 1738
b) Last decade's studies (1986-1996):
Amoroso, Leonardo (editor) Alexander G. Baumgarten, Immanuel Kant Il battesimo dell'estetica, Pisa, Edizioni ETS, 1993, pp. 79; 19962, pp. 85. Id. Sul problema di una storia dell'estetica, in Le grandi correnti dell'estetica novecentesca, a cura di G. Marchianò, Milano, Guerini, 1991, pp. 93-108. Id. L'estetica come problema, Pisa, ETS, 1988, pp. 190. Id. Trasfigurazione della metafisica e nascita dell'estetica nel mondo moderno, in «Teoria», VI, 1, 1986, pp. 165-178 Antico e moderno. L'estetica e la sua Storia, Palermo «Aesthetica Preprint», 25, settembre 1989, pp. 91 (Contributions of Franco Fanizza, Sergio Givone, Emilio Mattioli, Emilio Garroni, Michele Cometa)
D'Angelo, Paolo A proposito di Croce storico dell'estetica, in «Rivista di estetica», XXX, 33, 1, 1990, pp. 105-122. Id. Simbolo e arte in Hegel, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1989, pp. 257
De Caro, Eugenio Eidos. Una ricerca sulla fortuna italiana dell'estetica fenomenologica, Milano, I.S.U.-Univ. Cattolica, 1990, pp. 312. Id. L'animale "naturale". Scala naturae. Leibniz e l'armonia fra gli esseri, in «Notiziario dell'ordine dei medici veterinari della Provincia di Bergamo», IX, 3, ottobre 1993, pp. 47-59. Id. Notizie sull'estetica fino all'epoca contemporanea. Vol. I: Dalle origini al Barocco, Milano, I.S.U. - Univ. Cattolica, 1994, pp. 162 [1994a]. Id. Regno della natura, regno della grazia. Le regole e l'estetico. in: La Natura tra Oriente e Occidente. Milano, Luni, 1996, pp. 129-143. [1994b]. Id. Diffrazioni antropologiche dell'estetico. L'autopoiesi del soggetto in Anthony Earl of Shaftesbury e Diderot; in La polifonia estetica. Specifità e raccordi, a c. di Massimo Venturi Ferriolo, Milano, Guerini & Associati, 1996, pp. 109-128. [1995]. Id. Note sulla fenomenologia dell'estetico, Milano, I.S.U.-Univ. Cattolica, 1996, pp. 211.
Diodato, Roberto Immagine dell'assente. Vermeer, Spinoza, Milano, Il Melograno, 1994, pp. 67. Id. L'animale animato. Opinioni e contrasti sull'anima degli animali. Da Rorarius a Leibniz, in «Notiziario dell'ordine dei medici veterinari della Provincia di Bergamo», IX, 3, ott. 1993, pp. 65-69 Dolezel, Lubomír Occidental Poetics. Tradition and Progress, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln-London, 1990
Fanizza, Franco Ritorno a Narciso. Estetica e modernità, Bari, Palomar, 1993, pp. 230. Id. (editor) Modernità e coscienza estetica, Napoli, Tempi moderni, 1986, pp. 351
Ferraris, Maurizio Nascita dell'estetica e nascita dell'oriente, in Estetica '93 a cura di Stefano Zecchi, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993, pp. 227-259 . Id. Analogon rationis, in: «Pratica filosofica», 6, Milano, CUEM, novembre 1994, pp. 5-126 [1994a]. Id. Nota sulla immaginazione come idealizzazione intraestetica nella Critica della ragion pura, in «Rivista di estetica», XXXII, 42, febbraio 1994, pp. 55-67 [1994b]. Id. La nascita dell'estetica tra sensibilità e riflessione, in Maurizio Ferraris - Sergio Givone, - Federico Vercellone, Estetica, in La filosofia a c. di Pitro Rossi, vol. III, Torino, Utet, 1995, pp. 3-36 [1995a]. Id. Origini della immaginazione trascendentale, in Annuario filosofico, Milano, Mursia, 1995 [1995b]. Id. L'immaginazione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1996, pp. 157.
Franzini, Elio Le leggi del cielo. Arte, estetica, passioni, Milano, Geurini, 1990, pp. 222. Id. Arte e mondi possibili. Estetica e interpretazione da Leibniz a Klee, Milano, Guerini, 1994, pp. 256. Id. L'estetica del Settecento, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1995, pp. 200
Franzini, Elio - Mazzocut-Mis, Maddalena Estetica. I nomi, i concetti, le correnti, Milano, Bruno Mondadori, 1996.
Garroni, Emilio Estetica. Uno sguardo-attraverso, Milano, Garzanti, 1992, pp. 274. Id. Questione estetica e domanda fondamentale. in: «Archivio di Filosofia, LVII, 1-3, 1989, pp. 21-49. Id. Senso e paradosso. L'estetica, filosofia non speciale, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1986, pp. 322
Givone, Sergio Storia dell'estetica, Bari, Laterza, 1988, pp. 278 Lexicon der Ästhetik, Hrsg. von Wolfhart Henckmann und Konrad Lotter, München, Beck, 1992, pp. 280
Kivy, Peter (editor) Essays on the history of aesthetics, Rochester, University of Rochester Press, 1992
Kobau, Pietro La disciplina dell'anima. Genesi e funzione della dottrina hegeliana dello spirito soggettivo, Milano, Guerini, 1993. Id. La fondazione dell'estetica filosofica, in: «Pratica filosofica», 6, Milano, CUEM, novembre 1994, pp. 127-173 [1994a]. Id. Baumgarten, l'estetica dei tropi, in «Rivista di estetica», XXXII, 42, 1994, pp. 91-110 [1994b]
Jung, Werner Von Mimesis zur Simulation. Eine Einfürung in die Geschichte der Ästhetik, Hamburg, Junius, 1995, pp. 258
Modica, Massimo Cos'è l'estetica. Filosofia, poetiche e teorie delle arti: storia, problemi, confini, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 1987, pp. 172
Nicolino, Franco L'animale storico. Aperçus su polarità egemoni sull'animalità in: «Notiziario dell'ordine dei medici veterinari della Provincia di Bergamo», IX, 3, ott. 1993, pp. 107-124
Piselli, Francesco Alle origini dell'estetica moderna, Milano, Vita e Pensiero 1991, pp. 252. Id. (editor) Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten Meditazioni filosofiche su alcuni aspetti del poema. Edizione italiana a cura di Francesco Piselli, Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 1992, pp. 119 [1992a]. Id. (editor) Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten Estetica, edizione italiana di Francesco Piselli, Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 1992, pp. 392 [1992b]. Id. Mundus poetarum, Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 1993, pp. 150. Id. Suono lontano, Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 1994, pp. 96. Id. Scenari di estetica e cosmologia, Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 1995. Statuto dell'estetica, Atti del Convegno «Lo Statuto dell'Estetica. L'Estetica tra Filosofia e Scienze dell'uomo», Reggio Emilia, 3/6 novembre 1982, Modena, Mucchi, 1986
Otabe, Tanehisa (editor) A. G. Baumgarten: Metaphysica §. 504-623, in «The Bulletin of the Faculty of Letters», Kobe University, 17, 1990, pp. 1-45. Id. Possible Worlds and the Analogy of Creation. Prehistory of the Modern Concept of `Artistic Creation' in Leibniz-Wolffian Philosphy, in: «Aesthetics» Edited and Published by The Japanese Society for Aesthetics, 6 march 1994, pp. 35-46. Id. Transformation of the `ars analogi rationis'. A Study of a Principle in German Aesthetics in the Eighteenth Century, in: «The Annual Reports of Humanities and Social Science», Kobe University, Vol. 14, 1995, pp. 35-47. Id. Zur Entstehung des Verhältnisse "Künstler - Kunstwerk - Rezipient": Eine Innovation der Ästhetik durch Mendelssohn, in «Journal of the Faculty of Letters», The University of Tokyo, Aesthetics, Vol. 20, 1995, pp. 99-111. Id. From "Clothin" to "Organ of Reason": An Essay on the Theories of Metaphor in German Philosophy in the Age of Enlightenment, in Zdravko Radman (editor) From a Metaphorical Point of Wiew. A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Cognitive Content of Metaphor, Berlin - New York, Walter de Gruyter, 1995, pp. 7-25. Id. Shôchô no Bigaku (in Japanese with German summary: Transformation der Ästhetik von Baumgarten bis Hegel. Versuch einer Begriffsgeschichte des Symbols, pp. 35-42), Tokyo, University of Tokyo Press, 1995. Id. From "Representation" to "Sympathy": The Genesis of the Artist in Burke's Theory of the Sublime, in «The Bulletin of the Faculty of Letters», Kobe University, 23, 1996, pp. 23-38.
Restaino, Franco Storia dell'estetica moderna, Torino, Utet, 1991, pp 340. Russo, Luigi Una storia per l'estetica, Palermo, «Aesthetica Preprint», 19, marzo 1988, pp. 170. Id. Croce, Tatarkiewicz e la storia dell'estetica, Palermo, «Aesthetica Preprint», 39, 1993 [1993a]. Id. Tatarkiewicz e la storia dell'estetica, in: W. Tatarkiewicz Storia di sei idee, Palermo, Aesthetica, 1993, pp. 423-437 [1993b]
Was das Schöne sei. Klassische Texte von Platon bis Adorno, Hrsg. von Michael Hauskeller, München, Deutscher Tasch. Ver, 1994, pp. 423.
Woodmansee, Martha Toward a Genealogy of the Aesthetic: The German Reading Debate of the 1790s, in «Cultural Critique», Wint 1988, 11. Id. The author, art, and the market: rereading the history of aesthetics, New York : Columbia University Press, 1994.
* Paper read at the «XIIIth International Congress of Aesthetics "Aesthetics in Practice"», Lahti, Finland, August 1-5, 1995. Quotations are made by abbreviation that can be expanded in bibliography.
1 I am thinking, for example, of Shaftesbury's «Virtuoso» or of Baumgarten «aestheticus felix»; on the former see De Caro 1995, on the latter Piselli 1991.
2 Wolff 1724, Ad §. 374. §. 117; Wolff 1732, §. 506; Wolff 1734, §. 765. See also Wolff 1720, §. 374-377 and §.872; Wolff 1724, Ad §. 872. §. 326.
3 Whereas reason, which is able to connect truth, is peculiar to human being; see Wolff 1720, §. 368.
4 Wolff says that «analogum rationis» derives from the Scholastic philosophy; Wolff 1724, Ad §. 374. §. 117.
5 So the entry in Goclenio 1613, where it means the knowledge of details typical of animals.
6 In the original: «le tracce aggregate consentono una previsione […] che, pur essendo di origine empirica, assicura un'anticipazione che mima l'a priori» Ferraris 1994a, p. 12.
7 In the original: «dall'analogo alla ragione non si arriva per progressione, ma per iterazione (la ragione non sarebbe che l'iterazione dell'analogo, cosí come l'analogo non è che l'iterazione-idealizzazione della sensazione). […] Come mediazione tra sensibile e intelligibile, l'immaginazione è allora la sede dell'analogo, in base al principio per cui la traccia (sensibile), nel suo conservarsi nella memoria, diviene ideo facto intellegibile». The passage goes on as follow: «The trace persists as a merely passive function: nevertheless by this way it prepares itself for active functions: idealization, association of ideas (passive function but already idealized), expectations of similar cases (which make active the association of ideas)»; in the original: «La traccia permane, come funzione puramente passiva: per questa via, nondimeno, si predispone a funzioni attive: idealizzazione, associazione di idee (funzione passiva ma già idealizzata), attesa di casi simili (che rende attiva l'associazione di idee).» Ferraris 1994a, p. 12.
8 Piselli 1991, §. 129.
9 Baumgarten 1735, §. XCII.
10 See Baumgarten 1750, §§. 610-612.
11 However fancy has already quite an active character, since it can draw from the darkness what, once sensitively present, had fallen into the «fundus animae»; see Baumgarten 1750, §§. 557, 559. It is interesting to notice that in the edition I (1739) of Metaphysica the «facultas fingendi» was discussed in the long section dealing with «phantasia».
12 The «facultas fingendi» is so called in: Baumgarten 1750, §. 589.
13 Baumgarten 1750-58, §.1.
14 Herder 1769, IV, 4.
15 Sulzer, 1771-74, I, 47 b.
16 Kant, 1789, §. 11 and Kant 1790.
17 Kant 1781, §.1 footnote; Kant 1800, Einl., V; see Amoroso 1996, 28-37.
18 Kant 1798, Vorrede.
19 I refer to the question of the «Deduktion der reinen Kategorien» (especially §. 24, on which see Ferraris 1995b), and of the «Schematismus der reinen Verstandbegriffe» in Kant 1787 and 1781.
20 That, according to Kant, is a «Kritik des Geschmacks»; see Kant 1781, §. 1 footnote.
21 See Kobau 1993.
22 The debate on aesthetic historiography and on the question of modernity or ancientness of aesthetics is still alive in Italy; here I am just referring the studies quoted in the following bibliography: Amoroso 1991, Antico e moderno 1989, D'Angelo 1990, De Caro 1994a, Garroni 1986, 1989, 1992, Modica 1987, Rossi 1990, Russo 1988, 1993a, 1993b.