TRUTH AND ART by Albert Hofstadter


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When we speak of closet-drama, we mean something not readily actable; when we speak of Professor Hofstadter's discussion of esthetics, a discussion we might call closet-philosophy, we mean something approaching intellectual claustrophobia. This is not disparagingly meant; it is merely to forewarn readers of the professor's style, producing at certain points the following: ""No hearing of a pattern of tensions and resolutions of feeling is the same as the hearing of grief. There is one and only one way to hear grief, and that is to hear it as such and not as something else. It is to hear the grief that is moaned...In hearing the cry of pain, we hear a piece of self-world being. When man speaks, we hear man spoken."" Those acquainted with Wittgenstein, Husserl, Heidegger (and perhaps Miss Stein) will see here something similar at work; others will scratch their heads. Apart from this, the central question appears to be ""whether there is a kind of truth that enables us to break the chain of our own unlimited positing of the ought, i.e. a kind of truth by virtue of which the person can give measure to his intrinsically unlimited will."" Thus the professor takes us on a complex journey through various historical reactions to and creations of the esthetic experience, through the subjective and objective realms, phenomenology and idealism, form and content, being and spirit. In the end art is seen to be a limited truth restricting itself to the universe of the symbol, yet therein lies its glory. A work into which a great deal of knowledge, meditation and insight has been poured, and no art at all.

Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press