Hegel’s concept of the “Absolute Idea” claims that there is a universal and ideal standard that is continuously being revealed throughout history, in various forms of human expression. The Absolute Idea can be interpreted as God, nature, spirit, or reality. With art, there is no such thing as “Art for Art’s sake” because art is a manifestation of the unfolding of the Absolute Idea. In Hegel’s Art History, the progression of art is always moving closer to ultimate reality, because spiritual realization is teleological. The Absolute is fully realized when form and content are harmonious and concrete in their depiction of spirit and man. Beauty is dependent upon these things.
For Hegel, the classical period is characterized by the depiction of ideal beauty in the perfect human body in ancient Greek sculpture. However, the concreteness of the human body is later seen as limited for not representing spirit and imagination in a more abstract form. Therefore, Hegel’s ideal of beauty is ever changing according to Art’s development in history, and his terms. In other words, Hegel calls the shots. In contrast to Hegel, Kant’s philosophy of art was a deliberate attempt to remove personal subjectivity. Like Hegel, Kant did believe there was a universal beauty, or Absolute of something, except Kant did not have any references to measure this by.
For Kant, we can only come to know what is really beautiful when one has no agenda, concept, or comparison to measure the object with. From Kant’s perspective, Hegel is attached to all of these things, and therefore he can not really know beauty outside of his own perception. It is an intuitive inner knowing, versus a cognitive knowing. This is significantly different from Hegel’s ideal of beauty, since knowing what is really beautiful can never be answered concretely, but rather intuitively.
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