Our concept of art in light of the strata theory

Unser Kunstbegriff im Lichte der Schichtentheorie

Essay, 1996

11 Pages




Dieser Aufsatz ist eine Fortsetzung der schichtenästhetischen Arbeiten des Autors, die in deutscher Sprache erschienen sind. Es wird versucht, ein "synthetisches Modell" der stratologischen Kunstkonzepte von Nicolai Hartmann und Roman Ingarden für einen onto!ogischen Vergleich von vier ganz verschiedenen Gegenständen zu nutzen: einen Gebrauchsgegenstand, ein kunstgewerbliches Objekt, sowie für je ein Kunstwerk der Literatur und der Musik. Die dabei gewonnenen Einsichten über die besondere Daseinsstruktur von Kunst lassen überraschende und in ihrer philosophischen Begründung neue Aufschlüsse über Grenzen der Wirkungsmöglichkeit "moderner" Kunstarten zu. Der Aufsatz beginnt und endet mit Reflexionen über die zeitliche Begrenztheit und eingeschränkte Gültigkeit unserer Kunstkonzepte überhaupt.

Comparisons of literature with other kinds of art, particularly music, are nothing new. They extend from scattered poetic apercus, e.g. by Shakespeare, to scholarly essays, which are dedicated exclusively to this theme.[1] Indeed, a modern genre of the lyric, the so-called "Concrete Poetry", justifies its existence primarily via parallels with music.[2] Above all, the trend in painting of our century, which we usually classify as "Abstract Expressionism", attempts to justify itself theoretically from the ontological categories of music.[3]

None of these "poetic" as well as "theoretical" attempts are supported by an all-encompassing, philosophically founded theory. Here, therefore, I wish to deal with this theme briefly by asking: Has there, up to now, come into existence a philosophically sound theory, which permits us to make a productive comparison of the arts, - and, if so, what can be learned from it?

Of course, one can hardly say anything fundamental about "the arts" (and their reciprocal elucidation) without entering into the difficult question of what "art as such" is. We shall see, that one should first examine the essence of art up to the beginning of our century and, of course, its more traditional continuations. Only then should the categories thus gained be put to the test for a few of the latest developments.

After aesthetics had relinquished discussions of historically limited definitions - equating art with "the beautiful", "objectified pleasure", "imaginative wish fulfillment", "experience", "social communication", "harmony", "unity in multiplicity", or "organism" - it focused its attention on the phenomenological and ontological analysis of the work of art and its relation to man. Since then it seems that only the analysis of stratification (Schichtentheorie) is equipped to define the special character of art as compared to other human creations, - but also of artistic types amongst themselves.

This has not crept as widely into the general consciousness as it deserved. One reason is that the works of Nicolai Hartmann and Roman Ingarden,[4] in which this kind of description of the work of art was attempted for the first time, were published when one could hardly expect a world-wide resonance for them, namely shortly before and after the last world war. Secondly, these books are no "slight fare". Even in English translation,[5] it is difficult for the foreign reader to assimilate the profound analyses thoroughly. Above all, however, the two main authors never attempted to reconcile their systems with one another or, at least, to distinguish clear demarcation lines. Thus, the confused reader may be led to believe that these two magnificent attempts at an ontology of the work of art refute and invalidate each other.[6]

In order to clarify and illustrate the character of and relationship amongst strata, let us first turn to a concrete example (see scheme) and briefly compare a commodity, e.g. a chair, with an art object in the broadest sense of "applied arts", e.g. a vase. Let us further compare two art objects in a more narrow sense: a novel, as an example of literature as well as of the particularly complex representative arts, to which also painting belongs, and a sonata as an example of the special position of music.

1. All four are dependent on MATERIAL, by which they are, so to speak, "anchored to the concrete world", enabling them to "appear" in it - in contrast to abstract concepts, for instance scientific ones. The material of the first two imagined objects, wood and clay, is given in a simple manner, and the same applies to the tones (sounds) of music. The material of the novel, however, is not paper and ink, but rather words with their meanings. Language itself is, as Scheler[7] would say, "objectified intellect", that is multistratified. Thus the relationship of strata in the literary work of art is more complex than in all other kinds of art.

2. But we encounter material only in a particular ORDER, especially in objects designed by human beings. Material is shaped[8] toward the appearance of the next stratum. Its shape depends on both neighboring strata, the potential of the material - e.g. with iron one cannot achieve the effect of transparency - and the intention of the third stratum. Since the latter can appear only in a particular order of the material, we must view order as a stratum (the second) of its own - and not just as a quality of the first stratum (of the material).[9]


[1)] Already some seventy years ago the famous book by Oskar Walzel, Gehalt end Gestalt im Kunstwerk des Dichters (Handbuch der Literaturwissenschaft, Potsdam Wildpark, 1923; Darmstadt, 1957), in which the slogan "mutual elucidation of the arts" (wechselseitige Erhellung der Künste) was used for the first time; - more recently Jost Hermand 's study Literaturwissenschaft und Kunstwissenschaft. Methodische Wechselbeziehungen seit 1900 (Stuttgart: Slg. Metzler 41, 1965; 2. ed. 1971).

[2)] For instance in Movens. Dokumente und Analysen zur Dichtung, bildenden Kunst, Musik, Architektur (ed. Franz Mon, 1960) or in Eugen Gomringer's series konkrete poesie - poesia concrete (since 1960).

[3)] The most famous statements are probably those of Kandinsky in the Blue Rider Almanac ( Der Blaue Reiter) that are still being piously parroted as the gospel of modern art (German Reprints, München: Piper 1953 and 1965; Engl. in: The Docu ­ ments of 20th Century Art, London-New York, 1974).

[4)] Nicolai Hartmann. Ä sthetik (Berlin, 1953); Roman Ingarden. Das literarische Kunstwerk (Tübingen, 1931; 1965); Untersuchungen zur Ontologie der Kunst (Tübingen, 1962); Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks (Darmstadt, 1968).

[5)] Roman lngarden. The Literary Work of Art (Tr. G.W. Grabowicz, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973).

[6)] If for instance, Ingarden claims that music is "one-leveled" while Hartmann differentiated at least three strata in it, one must first know the prerequisites of both authors in order to be able to reconcile their analyses. Already in 1974 in an article, "Die Schichtenfolge in der Dichtung" (Zeischrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, XIX/2, pp.159-169) and later more detailed in my book, Typen end Schichten: Zur Einteilung des Menschen end seiner Produkte (Berne-München: Francke Verlag, 1978), I compared Hartmann's and Ingarden's systems, and at the same time I attempted to combine their critical insights into one "synthetic model", which is being used here for my brief exemplification of the working of strata-categories.

[7)] Max Scheler. Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik (Halle-Bern: 1966).

[8)] This order of the material must not be confused with the form of each individual stratum. More about the latter in Hartmann's book.

[9)] Neither Hartmann nor Ingarden saw this. A more thorough explanation of this (most difficult) aspect of my strata-model can be found in my above-mentioned book.

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Our concept of art in light of the strata theory
Unser Kunstbegriff im Lichte der Schichtentheorie
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Unser, Kunstbegriff, Lichte, Schichtentheorie
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Dr. Wolfgang Ruttkowski (Author), 1996, Our concept of art in light of the strata theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/82652


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