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Art and philosophy in Hegel's system

Peters, J.H.; (2009) Art and philosophy in Hegel's system. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

My thesis addresses a puzzle concerning Hegel's notion of the value of beauty. On the one hand, the contemplation of beauty, in particular artistic beauty, has the same status for Hegel as philosophical knowledge, since through both, we come to grasp the absolute truth: the unity of spirit and nature, or of the human individual and the world it lives in. On the other hand, Hegel thinks that the aesthetic unity of spirit and nature is in some way deficient, when compared to the unity we come to grasp through philosophical knowledge. Thus Hegel claims that philosophy and art have the same content, while philosophy is higher than art. I suggest that this puzzle can be dissolved if we consider that beautiful art, for Hegel, is associated with a form of life, in which the aesthetic unity of spirit and nature becomes social and political reality: the ancient Greek polis. Since the social and political structure of the polis inevitably leads to tragic collisions, Hegel concludes that the value of beauty provides no ground for establishing an ultimate unity of the human individual and the world it lives in. In Hegel's view, it is only philosophical reflection, and the social and political institutions which emerge from such reflection, which can provide an adequate ground for ultimate reconciliation. Nevertheless, I argue, the contemplation of beauty remains a perfectly adequate way of grasping, if not establishing, this unity. Hence according to the interpretation I propose, philosophy is higher than art in a twofold sense for Hegel. On the one hand, it serves a critical function with respect to the value of beauty: it points out the limits of beauty, in particular the fact that beauty is incapable of making the unity of spirit and nature concrete and real, by turning it into social and political reality. On the other hand, philosophy redeems the promise which is left unfulfilled by beauty: to establish an ultimate unity of spirit and nature, of human individual and the world it lives in.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Art and philosophy in Hegel's system
Language:English
Additional information:Authorisation for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy

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