Hegel's End-of-Art Revisited: The Death of God and the Essential Finitude of Artistic Beauty

Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 1 (48):77-101 (2020)
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Abstract

The article re-visits the different scholarly approaches to Hegel's end-of-art scenario, and then proposes a new reading whereby ending and finitude are presented as essential features of beautiful art. The first and most determinant of art's endings is the death of the Christly art object, not representations of Christ, but the actual death of (the son of) God himself as the last classical artwork. The death of God represents the last word in Greco-Roman art, the accomplishment of the beautiful individuality and its failure to present the Absolute in a singular, naturally infected, lively, human (made) form. The ending of art brings about a new form of the sacred: the representational language of revelatory religion. The ongoing production of modern artistic forms is a feature of actuality ("Wirklichkeit") and as such is condemned to an infinite approximation of what has been. Such actuality nonetheless "ends" in the ironic discourse of contemporary artistic expression, which Hegel qualifies as a "Vereitelung". The final realization of the beautiful art form, as a human-informed singularity embodying absolute content, may well be the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, whose performative iteration takes place in the form of "worship" practiced in the modern, state university.

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Jeffrey Reid
University of Ottawa

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