domingo, 14 de julho de 2013

Hegelianism For Dummies

No doubt we are intelligent. But far from changing the face of the world, on stage we keep producing rabbits from our brains and snow-white pigeons, swarms of pigeons who invariably shit on the books.
You don’t have to be Hegel to catch on to the fact that Reason is both reasonable and against Reason.
All it takes is a look into your pocket mirror.
You will see yourself wearing a blue gown, spangled with silver stars, and a pointed hood.
For the Hegel Congress we meet in the cellar where our card-file colleagues are buried, unpack our crystal balls and our horoscopes, and go to work, waving our expertise, our pendulum and our research reports.
We make the tables turn, we ask reality How real is it? Hegel is smiling, filled with schadenfreude. We daub his face with an inky mustache. He now looks like Stalin.
The congress is having a ball, but there is
no volcano in sight to dance on. The guards
outside are on their guard. Our psyche
calmly produces pertinent statements,
and we agree that deep down in any given brutal pig
a well-meaning public servant is to be found,
and the other way round. Abracadabra!
Like an enormous handkerchief we unfold our theories. The plainclothes men in their trench coats are modestly waiting in front of the riot-proof seminar shelter.
They smoke, they hardly ever make use of their guns, they keep guard on our faculty roster, our paper flowers and the snow-white pigeon droppings all over the place.


Hans Maguns Enzensberger, The Sinking of the Titanic.


The main tenets of Hegel's philosophy are that ideas underlie all forms of reality, that all events must be perceived in terms of steadily evolving principles, and that the entire histor­ical process is a rational and necessary development leading to the emergence of a self-knowing, divine spirit, hence the labels ‘idealist’ and 'metaphysical' usually applied to the theory. Hegel called the spirit the inner nature and fate of the world, the inner architect of history and the eternal and absolute Idea. It expresses itself as the spirit of the nation (the Volksgeist) and of the age or ‘period (the Zeitgeist), which two together constitute the pageant of history unfolding and moving forward in continuous development.

Since, from this viewpoint, art develops according to an intrinsic logic which is intelligible to the historian, the history of art can be seen as one of the most important ways of understanding the processes of world history. The development of the spirit takes place in three identifiable periods, the symbolic, the classical and the romantic, that is Oriental or Early art, the art of Graeco-Roman antiquity and finally the period of Christian and Germanic romanticism, which is Hegel's own age. While the Graeco-Roman period is the centrepiece and while Hegel uses Greek art to demon­strate what he means by beauty, this sequence of periods does not follow the rise and fall of the biological ‘cycle.


On the contrary, the phase of romanticism transcends the classical period, main­taining the sense of optimism and universal 'progress inherent in the notion of the emergence of the world spirit. Within this framework, however, each art has a beginning, a perfection, and an end, a growth, blossoming and decay. It is as if the cycle employed by Vasari and Winckelmann has become a spiral, or rather a helix, rising in a curve through space.

Along with this highly theoretical base, Hegel also considered a detailed knowledge of individual works of art essential to the study of the subject. He treated the analysis of formal values as indis­pensable, discussing paintings in terms, for example, of the fact that the architectural juxtaposition of figures can produce a sense of unity through the forming of a pyramidal shape. He consequently acknowledged the value of the work of connoisseurs, while criticizing them for limiting themselves to the external aspects of things. (1)

Hegel’s ideas have been immensely influential, with Marx, for instance, transforming the defining spirit into the conditions of production. The main change which Hegelianism undergoes in the work of art historians such as Riegl, Wolfflin and Frankl, is one of secularization, the reduction in importance of the divine aspects of the world spirit and of the idea of'progress, combined with a stress on the belief that social forms are all manifestations of a single essence. Panofsky was both fascinated by the ideas behind Hegel’s scheme and increasingly sceptical about the value of many of their applications. His attitude of qualified admiration is perhaps best summed up in the telling pun in which he described the master as a 'boa constructor'. Hegel’s influence was also acknowledged by Foucault (see 'discourse analysis), while T.J. Clark has considered his approach a fundamental basis for reform (text 21,1974), (2)

1. G.W.F, Hegel, Aesthetics, Lectures on Fine Art, (from the posthumous publication of 1835 ofthe lectures delivered between 1823 and 1829), vol. 2, translated by T.M. Knox, Oxford, 1975, pp. 614 and 1064-5.

2. See E.H. Gombrich, "The Father of Art History": a Reading of the Lectures on Aesthetics of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831)’ (1977), in Tributes: Interpreters of our Cultural Tradition, Oxford, 1984, pp. 51 -69; and Michael Podro, The Critical Historians of Art, New Haven and London, 1982, pp. 17-30; see also Riegl, text 9, 1901; Wolfflin, text 10, 1915; and Frankl, text I 1, 1914.

In: Eric Fernie. Art History and Its Methods: a Critical Anthology. London, 1995. pp. 342-3.


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