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Theoretical and Practical Conclusions from the Study of Problems in Aesthetics


Understanding the basic laws of the object is both the goal and theoretical result of scientific investigation. The result constitutes its philosophical aspect. Aesthetics is a theoretical and methodological discipline, one of the philosophical sciences. But it too has a generalizing, final department which considers the general laws of aesthetic and artistic activity, and offers typology of aesthetic categories. What are the laws of aesthetics and what is its apparatus of categories which makes it possible to understand these laws? The main aesthetic categories have been described in some detail in the preceding discourse.
Now, by way of summing up, let us try to bring them into a system: to identify the main types, determine the nature of the relationship between them, and the place of the concepts coextensive with them bearing in mind that there are no watertight partitions between aesthetic concepts and categories and that they can be transformed into one another.
Types of aesthetic categories. Every type of category is at the same time the apparatus of a type of analysis of an aesthetic phenomenon, an art work or the artistic process.
The contemporary system of aesthetic categories includes the following types: Metacategory (aesthetic).
Categories of aesthetic activity (the laws of beauty, aesthetic mastering, design, artistic design, aesthetic orientation, taste, ideal, balance) provide the apparatus for the analysis of the aesthetic mastering of the world.
Categories of aesthetic qualities and the relationship between art and reality (the beautiful, the sublime, the tragic, the comic, the ugly and the base) provide the apparatus for the analysis of the aesthetic wealth of reality and art.
Categories of the gnoseology of art (artistic image, method, artistic verity, artistic conception) provide the apparatus for gnoseological analysis which reveals the character of the correspondence of art to reality.
Categories of the sociology of art (class, party, national character, ideological character, the national, the international, the universally human) provide the apparatus for sociological analysis.
Categories of the axiology of art (aesthetic idea, value, artistic quality, masterpiece) provide the apparatus for value analysis.
Categories of the ontology of art (work of art, classic, mass and elitist art, style) provide the apparatus for ontological and stylistic analysis.
Categories of the theoretical history of art (artistic process, trend, interactions within art: tradition, rejection, influence; progress in art) provide the apparatus for comparative analysis.
Categories of the anthropology of art (artist, stages of artistic work, artistic career, life in art) provide the apparatus for biographical analysis.
Categories of the creative genetics of art (conception, sketch, rough draft, variant) provide the apparatus for creative-genetic and textological analysis.
Categories of the psychology of art (ability, talent, genius, inspiration, creative fantasy, artistic imagination) provide the apparatus for psychological analysis of art.
Categories of perception of art (artistic pleasure, artistic perception, catharsis, "the level of expectancy") provide the apparatus for reception analysis.
Categories of the morphology of art (branches: literature, theatre, cinema, painting, etc.; kinds: epic, lyrical poetry, drama, easel painting, monumental painting, etc.; genres: in literature, novel, story, novella, poem, lyrical poem, same in other arts) provide the apparatus for interbranch and historical and cultural analysis.
Categories of the structure of art (art text, context, time, space and colour in art) provide the apparatus for structural analysis.
Categories of the theory of artistic communication and the semiotics of art (addressee, sender, sign, meta-sign, code, artistic communication, intonation) provide the apparatus for semiotic, communicative and intonational analysis.
Categories of the theory and methodology of art criticism (interpretation, evaluation, artistic status of a work; approaches: sociological, concrete-historical, comparative, biographical, creative-genetic, structural analysis, microanalysis, attentive reading) provide the apparatus for critical analysis of an art work.
Categories of aesthetic education (all-round development of the individual, spiritual wealth, aesthetic interests and requirements of the individual) provide the apparatus for the analysis of the aesthetic impact of art.
Categories of the theory and practice of administering artistic culture (engagement, patronage, social order, bonus) provide the apparatus for the analysis of art policy.
The categoric apparatus of aesthetics is enlarged, first by fixing the results of theoretical description of artistic phenomena and processes (for example, the categories of realism, romanticism, sentimentalism); second, by borrowing terms from other fields of culture. Thus the rhetorical term-the sublime-in time acquired a general aesthetical meaning; philosophy has provided such categories as method (artistic), conception (artistic), psychology, the category of perception (artistic); third, by expanding the usage of terms of art criticism: from the cinema, aesthetics has borrowed the concepts of montage and long, medium and close-up shots; from musicology, the concepts of intonation, rhythm, melody and polyphony; from painting, colour, etc.; fourth, as a result of interaction and synthesis of traditional categories (for example, the tragicomic); fifth, by drawing on the tradition of theoretical interpretation of artistic phenomena existing among different peoples; sixth, by correct use of the categories of new scientific disciplines (structuralism, semiotics, the theory of mass communications, scientology, axiology, hermeneutics, etc.).
The expansion of the categories available to aesthetics makes it possible to understand art in all its complexity and diversity and to give a more precise and flexible formulation of the laws of aesthetic and artistic mastering of the world.
Art is simultaneously a form of social consciousness and a type of aesthetic activity, a specific sphere of aesthetic activity. Accordingly, it is governed not only by the laws common to all forms of social consciousness (it depends on economics, possesses a relative autonomy, is socially and historically conditioned in its evolution, exerts an active reciprocal influence on reality) but also by the meta-laws of aesthetics and the specific laws of artistic activity proper.
The last two groups of laws, revealing the essential and necessary relationships arising in the process of aesthetic activity and artistic creation, social existence, perception and development of art come within the sphere of aesthetics.
The meta-laws of aesthetic activity characterize the essence of the process of aesthetic mastering of the world. They are as follows: 1) The aesthetic qualities of reality arise because man in the process of his activity includes the phenomena of the world within the sphere of his practice and invests them with a certain value relationship to mankind; the degree to which man has mastered these phenomena at a given historical period and the degree of his freedom are revealed.
2) Aesthetic activity a) is carried out in accordance with the inner measure of the object and the ideals of man; b) seeks to create an in transient universally human value; c) has an anti-alienating social effect inasmuch as the result of artistic creation is the sphere of freedom of the creative artist and the consumer of the aesthetic product.
The highest form of aesthetic mastering of the world is art which, in addition to the meta-laws, has its own specific laws. Among these are the laws of artistic creation, social exitence of art, artistic perception and artistic process.
The laws of artistic creation reveal essential and necessary relationships of the "genetics", "anthropology" and gnoseology of art.
Artistic creation a) is carried out by an artistically gifted individual or collective; b) on the basis of a certain artistic method; c) takes the form of image thinking; d) in the process of creation a unique and original artistic world is created, which e) reflects reality and the personality of the author.
The laws of the social existence of art reveal the essential and necessary morphological, semiotic and communicative relationships pertaining to the ontology and sociology of art.
1) The form of the existence of art is a) an art work which b) is determinate in terms of type, genus and genre, and style; c) is realized in a material object (sign) which, in the field of culture and artistic tradition and in the field of public opinion shows its communicative qualities and conveys to people a certain conception possessing aesthetic value.
2) Art a) is humanistically oriented; distortion of the humanistic orientation of art distorts and destroys its nature; b) seeks through its hedonistic function (artistic pleasure) to assert the individual and his intrinsic value, and c) to socialize man (foster socially significant qualities in him) through its cognitive, educational and aesthetic functions.
The laws of artistic perception reveal the essential and necessary relationships of art appreciation. The process of perception of art a) is private, intimate, takes place in the depth of man's consciousness, is creatively active (the recipient is a co-author, co-creator, performer of the art work for himself); b) includes an interpretation and evaluation of the work depending on the reception group to which the person belongs and in keeping with his personal experience of culture; c) the "spread" of interpretations and evaluations of a work depends on its accessibility in terms of reception, to different historical periods and groups of readers (spectators, listeners); the limits of the spread are set by the invariant, stable programme of artistic perception built into the art work; d) gives aesthetic pleasure which stimulates the creative activity of perception; e) the intensity of aesthetic delight depends on the orderliness and complexity of the structure of the art work.
The laws of the artistic process reveal the essential and necessary relationships of the dialectics of art with the historical development of mankind's artistic culture. The artistic process a) is carried out through the emergence and struggle of different art trends, b) through typologically different intra- and international artistic contacts at the level of individual authors, art trends and schools and entire art periods and cultures; c) follows the way of progress which means passing to more developed types of artistic thought, enriching the structure of works and adding new cultural-stylistic layers to them; d) at the same time, preserves the intransient significance of earlier values which remain the eternal companions and contemporaries of people at all historical periods; e) artistic consciousness corresponds to historically concrete forms of the individual's activity, his type and mode of life.


Aesthetic education is aimed at shaping an all-round creative individual, embracing the intellectual, emotional, volitional and value-orientation sides of the individual. It permeates all the spheres of man's activity, i.e. the depth of his thinking, the refinement of feelings, the selectivity, and the initial assumptions. Aesthetic education imparts aesthetic knowledge. It is all-embracing and shapes not only the mind but the character of a person. In the process of aesthetic education aesthetics is not only assimilated by a man as a body of knowledge but becomes part of his personality. The individual is moulded by the combined influence of: 1) aesthetic theory; 2) nature and society; 3) works of art; 4) aesthetic activity which covers the perception of the first three components (aesthetic and artistic values), and creative activity according to the laws of beauty.
Aesthetic education presupposes a unity of the individual's aesthetic beliefs and his intuitive orientations and self-manifestations in all forms of activity. And that requires not only aesthetic training but also enlightenment, conviction and polished character. The particular value of aesthetic education stems from the fact that it assists self-knowledge and self-development of the individual, and is the highest form in which man communicates with humanity, the highest form of the socialization of man.
The strong point of aesthetic education is its freedom from didacticism. Influence on the individual is not geared to selfish purposes and is exerted unobtrusively and without pressure. The goals of aesthetic education are so broad that direct utility is absent, while the process has broad social significance.
While moral education aims to endow a person with social qualities desirable in a given society, aesthetic education has in mind not only the given society but, in the final count, the whole mankind as the field and the criterion for the life activity of the individual. Aesthetic education develops a person's creative abilities and teaches him to take a truly humane attitude to the world. This guarantees the present relevance and future expansion of the sphere and significance of aesthetic education.
Aesthetic education polishes the aesthetic part of consciousness, i.e. aesthetic taste, value orientations, ideals, attitudes and criteria, but in fact the individual as a whole comes under its influence. The desired result of aesthetic education is an all-round, harmonious, intrinsically and socially valuable creative individual possessing a high level of individual aesthetic culture which enables the person to live a humane life and to act with conviction and purpose, selectively, productively, practically and relevantly in universally human terms. The only indicator of the level of aesthetic education of the individual is his creative individual actions, their humane character, a noble kind of behaviour, manners and appearance, matched with a developed taste.
Art is the nucleus and chief instrument of aesthetic education, which also includes design, aesthetic aspects of sport and other forms of activity carrying an aesthetic element.
A specific aspect of aesthetic education is the hedonistic effect: the personality is formed through the experience of aesthetic pleasure, which makes the process spontaneous and joyful. Aesthetic education takes place in "a play situation": a person's thoughts and feelings are polished in a situation of selflessness, the process involves a vigorous inner work of the consciousness. The person is not expected to act immediately in a certain way under given conditions; aesthetic education prepares him for life and for behaving in a wide range of future real situations.
Along the way aesthetic education plays a compensatory role by distracting a person from sad life experiences and preparing him to struggle for a better world and for improving his position in it. It also has an enlightenment-heuristic value helping the individual to enrich himself with new knowledge and aesthetic experience. Other functional features of aesthetic education are: artistic quality: polishing the sensibilities, tastes, appearance and behaviour; value orientation effect: developing the habit of evaluating life and artistic phenomena, arranging a hierarchy of values and choosing a direction of activity in accordance with that hierarchy; creativeness: awakening the artist in man, developing the need and capacity for creative perception of the world and art, and for creative activity.
Art in the 20th century has advanced the concept of a constantly growing man. But the directions and results of such growth can be controversial. Shellig, the American science fiction writer, in his story "Wonder Kid" forecasts a continuous and fast growth of an individual that leads to gruesome results. Dr. Elliot in that story has invented a biological and mental growth stimulator which he offers to his friends to test on their child: the child would develop rapidly, which would save a lot of trouble to parents. The offer is accepted. The results are fabulous: at the age of six weeks the child can feed itself and talk, and at the age of two years it reads books. At last Dr. Elliot reveals the true "advantages" the wonder kid has and the benefits of his fast growth. It is to develop egotism and cruelty, the only way for a child to survive in the conditions of tough competition which tends to grow a thousand times tougher.
But the six-year-old child, who grows up as a competitive egoist, is increasingly alienated from other people. Such are the results of the continuous growth of the individual if that growth is not illuminated by humanistic ideas, if the person is focused on himself and has no goals in society outside himself. An accelerated and continuous development of character on an egoistic basis ends in utter degradation of the human elements in man. Man must give himself to other people and be necessary to other people; otherwise the egotistic isolation deprives life of meaning, makes it absurd.
The growth of the individual outside its humanistic value and the growth of society contrary to the interests of the individual are equally unprogressive in their essense. A beautiful type of man can only be formed in a society based on truly humanistic foundations.
However, humanism has not fared well in history, as symbolized by the story of the little shepherd in Cervantes's Don Quixote. The master whipped the boy for the slightest misdemeanour. Don Quixote, a noble seeker after justice, intervenes on the side of the poor boy and threatens to make short shrift of the master if he continued to be unjust and cruel. But as soon as the knight rode away, the master gave the little shepherd an even sounder battering than before. When the knight returned to those parts the boy begged him not to step in for him. The search for good turned out to bring more evil. Perhaps it is true that violence should not be resisted by violence? Or perhaps Don Quixote's methods of resisting violence were wrong?
Social, scientific and technical progress are vector values, i.e. they always have a direction. Throughout the history of mankind every technical breakthrough has brought not only benefits but also misfortunes to men. Schwarz, a medieval monk, invented a powder for fireworks. But the powder became a means of destruction and killing. The electric magneto with the help of which neofascist "ultras" tortured people is as much a child of technological progress as the refrigerator. The atomic blast in Hiroshima was also a result of technological progress. There is no true progress of society without humanism, and there is no true humanism without progress of society.
What then is the role of art in the present world?
Dostoyevsky in his time proclaimed that "beauty will save the world". But why has it not yet done so? Have there been not enough art masterpieces in the history of mankind? After the publication of Gulliver's Travels Swift expected the world to reform, to be rid of evil and injustice.
And the great satirist was chagrined that ten years after the publication of his novel the world still did not mend its ways. What grounds are there for believing in the social effectiveness of art if the experience of history is so sad?
Gogol's Government Inspector did not eliminate bribe-takers and bureaucrats. Shakespeare did not rid the world of Jago, Pushkin of Salieri, or Moliere of misanthropes and hypocrites. Gleb Uspensky told the story of how Venus helped a downtrodden man crippled by life to rise. But how many people have remained crippled and crushed in the same world where there are Venus and Raphael's Sistine Madonna. Many fascist guards at concentration camps were lovers of music and even organized bands of prisoner musicians. The musicians brought beauty to the overseers and the overseers brought death to the musicians. It was not music but the force of arms and the heroism of men and women that saved the world from the "brown plague".
Beauty and art is just one of the many forces at work in society. Beauty is capable of "saving the world" but only if the socially destructive actions of other forces do not nip in the bud everything that creates art.
Art fulfils its social role most effectively when the entire social, scientific and technological progress is directed towards asserting harmony between man and humanity, i.e. in a sense serves the goals of beauty. The supreme aim of science is to give people knowledge. The supreme aim of technology is to use the knowledge obtained by science to satisfy the material and cultural requirements and interests of people. The supreme goal of art is all-round development of a socially significant and intrinsically valuable individual.
That is why art is capable of spiritualizing scientific and technological progress, of illuminating it with the ideals of humanism.
Harmony between the individual and society is in principle possible: where social progress ensures the happiness of the individual and where the individual is free of egoistic isolation every step forward need not turn out to be a new unfreedom. Man develops and improves through society, in the name of other people, and society develops through man and in the name of the individual. This is the dialectics of man and humanity and the essence of history. The all-round development of the individual, the individual's harmony with society and humanity is the supreme humane mission of art.