Croce (1866-1952): Guide to Aesthetics



Summarized by Szu-Hsien Lee



I. Aesthetics is as the science of expression.

Croce is the only Italian philosopher whose work in the 20th-century has achieved international reorganization. Before him, Baumgarten (1714-1762) has coined the term Aethetica and used it to connote a 'special science.' He used it to signify a science subordinate to logic, a special science dealing with the "inferior knowledge" of the senses. Unlike Baumgarten, Croce identifies that

aesthetics as the 'science of expression.' He claims that the subject matter of aesthetics is neither inferior nor superior to the subject matter of logic, but just as valuable philosophically.



II. Croce's theory of intuition




1. The coexistence of intuitive and conceptual form of human knowledge

Croce develops his own theory of aesthetics as 'logic of intuition' or 'representation' side by side with the 'logic of ntellect.' He believes that there are two relatively autonomous forms of knowledge, the simple or intuitive form and the complex or conceptual form. Human knowledge manifests itself in these two 'distinct' forms. Man not only lives by reasoning, but also lives by

intuiting, the projecting images. Thus, theoretically, knowledge may be projected either as particulars (images) which are the products of intuition (art), or as universals (concepts) which are the products of reasoning (logic). This concept about the coexistence of the two forms of universal (cosmic)/particular, reasoning/intuition, or concept/image is the first principle of Crocian aesthetic of intuition.

Croce comparatively further accents on the 'intuitive universality' of art. According to him, art is vision or intuition. The artist produces an image or picture. The person who enjoys art turns his eyes in the direction, which the artist has pointed out to him, and reproduces in him the artist's image. The bridge between them is the same concept or to the same set of concepts, namely, a sign ofuniversal consent.


2. An extended interpretation of his theory of intuition/concept: the form of economic and ethic

Correspondingly, in the practically play, man lives not only by moral promptings, but also by economic incentives. Hence, humanconduct may have as their objectives either the satisfaction of needs, which are particular (economics), or the satisfaction of those,which are universal (ethics).


3. Artistic intuition is between reality and unreality. Artistically beautiful is what is well expressed.

Crocian intuition is restricted to the realm of art, where the distinct between reality and appearance, true and false in the ordinary sense, possible truth and actual truth, is irrelevant. According to Croce, art is considered have nothing to do with the useful, or with pleasure and pain. A picture may be beautiful but its figure represents abominable to our soul. Or the picture itself, which we

approve as beautiful may provoke later a fit of rage and envy. Our practical interest, with their correlative pleasures and pains, are

blended and confused. Our aesthetic interest never becomes united with the practical one then. Therefore, the artistic or aesthetic

intuitionism puts intuition in its 'pure' form as 'artistic imagery.'

Croce treats the artistic intuition as a criterion for distinguishing good art from poor art. What an art expresses is no right or wrong. However, what is artistically true (or beautiful) is what is well expressed, and what is artistically false (or ugly) is whatever is poorly expressed.

Intuition refers to the lack of distinction between reality and unreality. Croce clarifies that his theory is a rehabilitation of the no logical character of art, and it's the most difficult and important of the arguments implicit in the formula of art-as-intuition.


4. Intense feeling is the principle upon which intuition arises.

Intense feeling lends coherence and unity to intuition. Vise versa, intuition expresses intense feeling, and arise on when intense feeling is its source and basis. It is not idea but intense feeling to confer upon art the ethereal lightness of the symbol.



III. Croce's Intuitionism vs. German Idealism

Croce's aesthetic is close to German idealists, especially Kant, in a manner of his attitude taken against the traditional

'Metaphysics.' However, Croce is definitely neo-Hegelian since he claims that the essence of art not only lies in its form, but also the transformation of any emotional state or content. The Crocian resolution of the debate between formal and content-domain rests on

the assumption that every genuine work of art is a concrete 'synthesis' of both form and content in the abstract.