Lebanon, from a few lenses.

“The great controversy in aesthetics hovers over the question whether art and the attitude appropriate to it are separated from other human interests and activities or intimately bound up with them. The empathy-theory appears to have been a reaction against sundering art from life, but a reaction which turned into affirmation and exaggeration of that divorce. This reversal was fated in the initial acceptance of pure abstract form as the essence of art and beauty, in the tradition of Kant. Committed to cold form, the antithesis of life, empathy was to show how form could become the focus of such a lively interest as the fervor of romantic genius. The theory was an attempt to explain how mere form could be expressive. The idea was that form is receptive to activity projected by a subject. But since form for empathy was not a physical, biological, or social object, only a ghostly shape, it could receive only an ectoplasmic emanation from an actual self. Abstract form needed to be animated if it was to be the center of the interest which art seems to have. But the economic man was a human being compared to the thin aesthetic man supposed by the theory of empathy to enter into form. He was deprived of social ties, unsexed, and left with vestiges of senses. This shadow of a self should be satisfied with insertion into empty forms and the excitement of finding sheer unity and variety there.




But Lipps could not let him be content with exploration of geometrical arrangement, since he was invented to illustrate a coincidence of the human with the non-human. He could not remain a wraith. The aesthetic subject had to be lively enough to greet a semblance of humanity in the object. Empathy explained enjoyment of form as pleasure in human qualities, though found outside the shape of man. Man's own shape was said not to be beautiful as a shape, for its geometric regularity would be no more pleasing than if found in an ink spot. On the contrary, "his forms are beautiful because they are human, and bearers for us of human life." Symmetry in the body was beautiful for Lipps simply because of its significance for turning right and left and all the functioning of a human being. In this view the outer beauty of a man was a manifestation of the man within, who was for the observer both a double and modification of himself.” (Meter Ames 490)