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The Croce-Collingwood Theory of Art

  • John Hospers (a1)

It is not my intention in this brief essay to give an exhaustive critical analysis of the theory of art championed by Croce and his follower Collingwood; I intend only to point out certain confusions in and misunderstandings of their theory, and to make a few critical comments in the light of them. Nor do I wish to imply that the theories of Croce and Collingwood are identical; but although they diverge on some points, and although each develops views that the other discusses only briefly, they are so substantially alike on all important points (at any rate, on any that will be discussed in this essay) that, as reviewers were quick to point out on the appearance of Collingwood's The Principles of Art, the two can for all practical purposes be considered as one theory.

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page 191 note 1 Cf.Manchester Guardian, May 27, 1938; The Nation, Jan. 21, 1939; New York Times, July 17, 1938; London Times Literary Supplement, August 13,1938.

page 292 note 1 Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic, page 9.

page 292 note 2 Op. cit., page 10.

page 295 note 1 It would even be possible for the extenalization to be completed at the same moment as the final artistic intuition. This might happen if the artist's intuitions grew on him as he continued to apply paint to the canvas, and when he laid down his brush he realized that he would have to change nothing-that the earlier parts of the externalizing process would not have to be changed to accommodate his subsequent intuitions, and that the extenalization just completed rendered his artistic intuition exactly.

page 297 note 1 R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art, Chapter 14.

page 298 note 1 Croce, Aesthetic, page II.

page 298 note 2 What it means to say that one “has expressed his emotions in the musical medium” is indeed a large question, but it is no part of the subject of this paper. See my paper, “The Concept of Artistic Expression,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1954–5.

page 298 note 3 There is a possible confusion even in saying that according to the Croce Collingwood theory there are no mute inglorious Miltons. In the most important sense this is true: unless the artist's intuitions are conceived in an artistic medium, he has no artisticintuitions at all; the artistic intuition is always mediumistic. But in another sense he may be a Milton and yet mute: namely, if he can create Miltonic lines “in his head” but for some reason or other he chooses to refrain from communicating them to other men by writing them down. For him to be a Milton it is enough that he carry Miltonic stanzas in his head which he can write down, whether he actually does so or not.

page 300 note 1 It is, I hope, apparent that whereas on the theory the process of the builder is one of craft, the process of the architect is one of art (whether good or bad). The architect has the ideas (intuitions) for the completed building, and the builder (a craftsman) builds to the architect's specifications. And the end-result of the process of getting architectural intuitions is no more known in advance to the architect than is the end-result of the process of getting musical intuitions to the composer.

page 305 note 1 But if intuition is(on the theory) expression, how can we say that Poe's is a case of arousing emotion? Doesn't ‘aroused’ mean ‘not expressed,’ and doesn't this (on the theory) mean ‘not intuited’? And yet you don't deny that Poe had intuitions.”

The answer is, of course, that arousing and expressing do not really turn out to be exclusive of each other. The terminus of the expression-intuition process is (1), while that of arousal is (3). Thus Poe was still expressing, for he did not know the nature of the poem in advance and had to “intuit” his way toward the completed poem; but at the same time he was also arousingemotion because he had his eye on (3) during the entire process.

page 306 note 1 It does not matter here whether we consider the product to be the physical artifact or the completed intuition in the artist's mind. Both are here opposed to the processleading up to their existence. (If the product is taken to be the intuition in the artist's mind, we have of course the practical difficulty of knowing exactly what that was; therefore it is probably more practicable to take “product” to mean “artifact.”)

page 307 note 1 If noreference to its esthetic value is intended in calling it art, then of course the answer is Yes, but it amounts only to a tautology: If an art-product is whatever results from the art-process, then it is true but tautological to say, “Everything that results from the art-process is a work of art (i.e. a result of the art-process).”

page 308 note 1 Herbert Dingle, Science and Literary Criticism, page 37.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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