The main differences between Roman Ingarden’s and Nicolai Hartmann’s strata-systems

Essay, 1990

16 Pages



Although both designed strata-models for various kinds of art and especially for literature, the philosophers Nicolai Hartmann and Roman Ingarden never entered into any kind of dialogue. Also in secondary literature there is no exact comparison of their systems to be found.

For that reason, the two strata systems are compared here for the first time and their resp. advantages and deficiencies are being pointed out.

Amongst other things, the following topics are being discussed: 1. In what way Hartmann's "Real Foreground" ("Realer Vordergrund") is more specifically subdivided in Ingarden's system, - 2. How, on the other hand, Ingarden's "Stratum of Depicted Objects" ("Schicht der dargestellten Gegenständlichkeiten") was more thoroughly subdivided by Hartmann, - 3. Why there cannot be found in Hartmann's system a corresponding stratum for Ingarden's "Stratum of Schematized Aspects" ("Schicht der schematischen Ansichten") - and 4. Why Hartmann's two strata of the "Irreal Background" ("Irrealer Hintergrund") are consolidated by Ingarden and expressly not seen as a stratum.

The strata-models for the literary work of art designed by Ingarden(1) and Hartmann(2) were roughly contemporaneous, following each other by only two years (1931 and 1933). The question of priority is therefore irrelevant. The two philosophers surely could not plagiarize each other's insights. Unfortunately, they hardly ever responded to each other's views, and when they did, then only in passing.(3) Their systems have a lot in common, however, but they also differ in important respects. The following table is designed to afford a first orientation. It is composed solely of designations, which the authors themselves used for their strata (4) (in my translation).

From this table it can be deduced that 1. Hartmann's "Real Foreground" ("realer Vordergrund", also called "Realschicht", "Stratum of Reality") is again subdivided by Ingarden into "Sound Structures" ("Lautgebilde") and "Units of Meaning" ("Bedeutungseinheiten"), 2. On the other hand, Ingarden's "Stratum of Depicted Objects" ("Schicht der dargestellten Gegenständlichkeiten") is more thoroughly subdivided by Hartmann, 3. There is no correspondence in Hartmann's system for Ingarden's "Stratum of Schematized Views" ("Schicht der schematisierten Ansichten"), and 4. Hartmann's two strata of the "Irreal Background" ("Irrealer Hintergrund") are consolidated by Ingarden and expressly not seen as a stratum. - We shall examine those four differences separately.

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Ingarden as well as Hartmann differentiate a really given foreground from an appearing background in depictive art. In a painting, the really given foreground would consist of the canvas and the color pigments on it. In sculpture, it would be stone, metal or some other matter. In music and literature it could be sounds or writing and print of notes and words, However, Ingarden takes issue with Hartmann occasionally designating the former as the "lowest stratum" of the work of art(5) In the last analysis, this seems to be merely a semantic quarrel, since Hartmann, as well as Ingarden, maintain that "depicted objects" (Ingarden) appear within or behind the "real foreground" (Hartmann) of the work of art (not in music, of course). We might also say that with respect to the appearing background the real foreground "becomes transparent." And without doubt the foreground determines all the background-strata.

Naturally, the "real foreground" (in a portrait, canvas and pigment) is heterogeneous with respect to the "irreal foreground" (in our example the depicted face), and the latter again heterogeneous with respect to the "irreal background" (e. g. the "idea" or "Weltanschaung" expressed in and through the depicted face). Since the former according to Hartmann represents the most concrete stratum of the work of art, or - according to Ingarden - constitutes its "ontic basis" ("ontisches Fundament"), it cannot determine the formation of a still "lower" or more concrete stratum. Similarly, Hartmann's "irreal background" (“irrealer Hintergrund"), which corresponds to Ingarden's "metaphysical qualities" ("metaphysische Qualitäten") does not "support" a further stratum, simply because it is the last one.

Ingarden, within Hartmann's "real foreground", is differentiating more finely by separating within poetry "concrete sound-material" ("konkretes Lautmaterial") from "word-sound" ("Wortlaut" or "wortlautliches Material"). The former differs from recitation to recitation by various speakers and, therefore, cannot be a stratum of the literary work of art. The latter only is literature's "first and basic stratum". The "concrete sound material" serves only as "ontic basis” for this “stratum of linguistic sound structures" ("sprachlautliche Schicht" or "Schicht der sprachlichen Gebilde").

Ingarden's as well as Hartmann's habit of using various designations for their strata can cause confusion, especially in view of the similarity of their concepts and terms. We have to watch out, for instance, how the two philosophers use the terms "material" ("Material") and "matter" ("Materie"). If Hartmann writes(6) "... the (basic) matter (of poetry) is words”, he is obviously referring to one stratum, the lowest. - If Ingarden writes about the "differences in the material ... of the various strata"(7) or about the "material of each stratum”(8), the concept obviously refers to more than one stratum. On another occasion, however, Ingarden uses the term "material" in the same way Hartmann uses "matter", e. g speaking about the "concrete sound material”(9) (or "wortlautliches Material”)(10) of the literary work of art. In order to avoid misunderstanding, we shall employ the term "matter" (“Materie") only in the sense of "basic component of an entity", that is to say, in reference to only one (the lowest) stratum. In contrast, we can differentiate in all strata their "material" from their "formation" ("Formung") or "effect" ("Wirkung") etc. We face the same kind of problem, when we talk later of "formation" or "structuring" of the real foreground. Are we referring to phenomena within one stratum, or to those applying to more than one stratum? It is one of the most important insights of strata-theory, that the "form" of a work of art is itself stratified or that it consists of the formation of all strata. And also by others(11) the observation has been made, that the "structure" of a work of art is established by factors of contents, meaning and form together, that is to say (with Ingarden) by the "polyphony" of its strata. In order not to confuse the reader unduly, we shall speak of “formation" and "structuring" of individual strata and of "form" and "structure" of the work of art as a whole, the latter being the result of the cooperation of the former. Whenever we have to cite another use of these terms by our two authors, we shall do so in quotation marks.

If "concrete sound-material" is considered to be the "ontic basis" of spoken or heard poetry, paper and ink and print in general could be seen as ontic base of written or printed poetry. In music, sound waves would take a corresponding role and in painting the electromagnetic waves sent out by pigments would have a similar function.(12) All of these are unique, being distinct physical qualities; in each moment we experience art, differing in various acoustical and light conditions. They cannot be exactly repeated. The work of art, however, can be transferred (e. g. from an original to a good print) and repeated (e. g. a work of music in various performances and recordings). Therefore, the strata-sequence of a work of art starts only with color and sound as potential or - as Ingarden would say - intentional qualities. They can be called that way, since the irreal foreground has been structured in such a way that the recipient will experience color or sound roughly according to the "intention" of the author of the work, though never exactly in the same way. These qualities are coordinated in "fields" (Felder) to each other, as well as to other possible sound and color qualities. Ingarden and Hartmann had this in mind when they described the work of art as an "intentional" object ("intentionalen Gegenstand") with "spots of indeterminacy" ("Unbestimmtheitsstellen"), which has to be "realized" ("realisiert") or "concretized" ("konkretisiert") by the recipient, who is filling out these spots of indeterminacy. This is only possible because of the art work's double mode of existence, based on concretely and potentially given foreground. Only this differentiation of "ontic basis" and "lowest stratum" of the work of art can solve the problem of "matter" and "material" as the basis of a work of art. As "matter" - sound, color, stone, etc. - the "ontic basis" supports the work of art, makes its existence possible, but is different in each performance or repetition of the "reproducible" arts (literature, music, painting) and, therefore, does not truly belong to their stratification. As "material" for the subsequent and more abstract strata, however, sound and color are given as "intentional" configurations in relationship to each other and to other possibilities. As such they are transferable and repeatable and present the first and lowest stratum of the work of art.


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The main differences between Roman Ingarden’s and Nicolai Hartmann’s strata-systems
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Dr. Wolfgang Ruttkowski (Author), 1990, The main differences between Roman Ingarden’s and Nicolai Hartmann’s strata-systems, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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