s materialistic critique of Hegel's philosophy of right in general and of history in particular, and Fukuyama's thesis of the end of history.
Aesthetics - Hegel This "end of art" thesis is puzzling in somewhat the same way that his "end of history" thesis itself is puzzling.
Some of these works of independent architecture have regular inorganic,geometrical shapes (such as the temple of Bel described by Herodotus)(see Herodotus, 79–80 [1: 181]); some are clearly embodiments ofthe organic “force of life in nature” (such as the phallusand the lingam) (Aesthetics, 2: 641); and some even have ahuman form, albeit one that is abstract and colossal (such as theEgyptian Memnons of Amenhotep III). In Hegel's view, however, allsuch constructions have a symbolic significance for those who builtthem. They were not built simply to provide shelter or security forpeople (like a house or a castle), but are works of symbolic art.
As was noted above, however, this does not mean that art as awhole comes to an end in the early nineteenth century. Art, inHegel's view, still has a future: “we may well hope,” hesays, “that art will always rise higher and come toperfection” (Aesthetics, 1: 103). For Hegel, thedistinctive character of genuine art in contemporary(and future) modernity—and thus of genuinely modern art—istwofold. On the one hand, it remains bound to give expression toconcrete human life and freedom; on the other hand, it is no longerrestricted to any of the three art-forms. That is to say, it does nothave to observe the proprieties of classical art or explore theintense emotional inwardness or heroic freedom or comfortableordinariness that we find in romantic art. Modern art, for Hegel, candraw on features of any of the art-forms (including symbolic art) inits presentation of human life. Indeed, it can also present human lifeand freedom indirectly through the depiction of nature.
Poetry, for Hegel, is not simply the structured presentation of ideas,but the articulation of ideas in language, indeed in spoken(rather than just written) language. An important aspect of the art ofpoetry—and what clearly marks it off from prose—is thusthe musical ordering of words themselves or“versification.” In this respect, Hegel claims, there areimportant differences between classical and romantic art: the ancientsplace more emphasis on rhythmic structure in their verse, whereas inChristendom (especially in France and Italy) greater use is made ofrhyme (PKÄ, 201–4).
The third fundamental form of romantic art depicts the formal freedomand independence of character. Such freedom is not associated with anyethical principles or, indeed, with any of the formal virtues justmentioned, but consists simply in the “firmness”(Festigkeit) of character (Aesthetics, 1: 577;PKÄ, 145–6). This is freedom in its modern, secularform. It is displayed most magnificently, Hegel believes, bycharacters, such as Richard III, Othello and Macbeth, in the plays ofShakespeare. Note that what interests us about such individuals is notany moral purpose that they may have, but simply the energy andself-determination (and often ruthlessness) that they exhibit. Suchcharacters must have an internal richness (revealed through imaginationand language) and not just be one-dimensional, but their main appeal istheir formal freedom to commit themselves to a course of action, evenat the cost of their own lives. These characters do not constitutemoral or political ideals, but they are the appropriate objects ofmodern, romantic art whose task is to depict freedom even in its mostsecular and amoral forms.
Romantic art, for Hegel, takes three basic forms. The first is that ofexplicitly religious art. It is in Christianity, Hegelcontends, that the true nature of spirit is revealed. What isrepresented in the story of Christ's life, death and resurrectionis the idea that a truly divine life of freedom and love is atthe same time a fully human life in which we are willing to“die” to ourselves and let go of what is most precious tous. Much religious romantic art, therefore, focuses on the sufferingand death of Christ.
In comedy individuals also undermine their own endeavors in some way,but the purposes that animate them are either inherently trivial onesor grand ones which they pursue in a laughably inappropriate way. Incontrast to tragic characters, truly comic figures do not identifythemselves seriously with their laughable ends or means. They can thussurvive the frustration of their purposes, and often come to laugh atthemselves, in a way that tragic figures cannot. In this respect, Hegelclaims, characters in many modern comedies, such as those byMolière, are frequently ridiculous, but not genuinelycomic, characters: we laugh at Molière'smiser or Shakespeare's Malvolio, but they do not laughwith us at their own foibles. Truly comic figures are foundby Hegel in the plays of the ancient Greek dramatistAristophanes. What we encounter in such plays, Hegel maintains, is“an infinite light-heartedness and confidence felt by someoneraised altogether above his own inner contradiction and not bitter ormiserable in it at all: this is the bliss and ease of a man who, beingsure of himself, can bear the frustration of his aims andachievements” (Aesthetics, 2: 1200). Modern equivalentsof such Aristophanic light-heartedness may be found inVerdi's Falstaff (1893) and in the unrivalled comic genius ofHomer Simpson, both of which, of course, were unknown to Hegel.
Hegel's aesthetics has been the focus of—often highlycritical—attention since his death from philosophers such asHeidegger, Adorno and Gadamer. Much of this attention has been devotedto his supposed theory of the “end” of art. PerhapsHegel's most important legacy, however, lies in the claims thatart's task is the presentation of beauty and that beauty is amatter of content as well as form. Beauty, for Hegel, is not just amatter of formal harmony or elegance; it is the sensuous manifestationin stone, color, sound or words of spiritual freedom and life.Such beauty takes a subtly different form in the classical and romanticperiods and also in the different individual arts. In one form oranother, however, it remains the purpose of art, even inmodernity.
Classical art, Hegel contends, fulfills the concept of art in that itis the perfect sensuous expression of the freedom of spirit. It is inclassical art, therefore—above all in ancient Greek sculpture(and drama)—that true beauty is to be found. Indeed, Hegelmaintains, the gods of ancient Greece exhibit “absolute beautyas such”: “there can be nothing more beautiful than theclassical; there is the ideal” (PKÄ, 124, 135;see also Aesthetics, 1: 427).
In the 1820s, Hegel gave his popular lectures on aesthetics, in which he famously announced the end of art. This announcement can only be made sense of in light of Hegel’s conception of history. History is to be understood as the development of spirit, or human intellectual activity as a whole, which is at any time trying to find a way to express itself. At a certain stage of human history, art is the most important form of expression for spirit. Art provides a sensuous representation of spirit, allowing consciousness to experience itself as external idea. By the 19 th century however, this role is no longer available to art because art cannot express the abstract thought that characterizes the spirit of high modernity. By the time Hegel is giving his lectures, religion has freed itself from its dependence on its physical representation in artworks, and in fact even religion has been surpassed as the highest mode of self-reflection for Spirit: religion is replaced by science, that is Hegel’s own philosophy – a logic which does not need a synthesis with something material or representational outside of itself. In the future, people will find their spirit expressed in this science, and art – from the perspective of the grand narrative of spirit – is passé. Hegel does not deny that artworks will continue to be made, but their role will be far less important: they will be objects of pleasure and entertainment, and perhaps a source of reflection for the individual; however, “art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life…”