Beauty, Freedom and the Absolute: Hegel on the Ends of Art

Connor Tannas

Dimanche, UdeM – 10h à 10h45

My presentation would be a reworking of a paper I submitted for a graduate seminar on Hegel’s philosophy of art. In my presentation, I would discuss two different senses of ‘end’ in Hegel’s philosophy of art: the ideal of beauty, as an end at which art aims, and the more controversial thesis that art has come to an end. I argue against accounts of Hegel’s philosophy of art which would seek to disentangle the latter thesis from Hegel’s broader theory of aesthetic intelligibility, showing how systematic concerns relating to the nature of human rationality, freedom, metaphysics, and the ontology of artworks lead Hegel to conclude that the role played by art is necessarily limited in a post-Reformation culture for whom a high degree of self-consciousness and self-reflexivity has been attained. The first four sections reconstruct Hegel’s account of aesthetic intelligibility and the way in which art manifests both a form of truth as well as a form of freedom, understood as non-alienation. I interpret Hegel as taking up certain Kantian commitments regarding the spontaneity of conceptual thinking to establish that artworks display a uniquely aesthetic form of intelligibility comparable to the intelligibility of certain events as actions and certain bodies as living, which amounts to what Hegel calls ‘seeing the inner in the outer.’ I then argue that this hylomorphic theory of rational intelligibility leads to Hegel’s hylomorphic theory of beauty, the details of which illuminate the necessity of a time when a certain end at which art aims is no longer possible for a culture. I conclude by considering the contemporary relevance of Hegel’s thesis, and whether the most striking objections we might raise about the limited nature of Hegel’s ‘Ideal of Beauty’ dissolve under closer consideration of the ‘End of Art’ thesis.