European Romantic Review 21 (3):391-407 (2010)

Terry Pinkard
Georgetown University
Kant’s conception of nature’s having a “purposiveness without a purpose” was quickly picked by the Romantics and made into a theory of art as revealing the otherwise hidden unity of nature and freedom. Other responses (such as Hegel’s) turned instead to Kant’s concept of judgment and used this to develop a theory that, instead of the Romantics’ conception of the non-discursive manifestation of the absolute, argued for the discursively articulable realization of conceptual truths. Although Hegel did not argue for the “end of art” (although it is widely held that he did just that), he did, curiously enough, claim that it is art and not philosophy which tells us about the “life” of agents. To see how he reconciles that claim with his otherwise entirely discursively oriented philosophy, it is necessary to look at his thesis of the end of art’s “absolute” importance. Hegel’s worries have to do with the impossibility of fully exhibiting the “inner” in the “outer” in modern art and with the newly emerging problem of “fraudulence” in the poet’s voice. This is illustrated by examples drawn from the history of music and the problems besetting the lyric poet in modern life. Because of these problems, we are, Hegel says, now “amphibious animals” having to live in different and seemingly incompatible worlds. Hegel’s student, Heinrich Heine, found that the only satisfactory way of responding to this was for the modern artist to adopt a distinctive type of irony in response to the Hegel’s worries about modern art. This form of irony, it is argued, is itself Hegelian in spirit.
Keywords Hegel, Schelling, Heine, Beethoven, Wagner
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