The Rational Man and The Intuitive Man

There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic. They both desire to rule over life: the former, by knowing how to meet his principle needs by means of foresight, prudence, and regularity; the latter, by disregarding these needs and, as an “overjoyed hero,” counting as real only that life which has been disguised as illusion and beauty. Whenever, as was perhaps the case in ancient Greece, the intuitive man handles his weapons more authoritatively and victoriously than his opponent, then, under favorable circumstances, a culture can take shape and art’s mastery over life can be established. All the manifestations of such a life will be accompanied by this dissimulation, this disavowal of indigence, this glitter of metaphorical intuitions, and, in general, this immediacy of deception: neither the house, nor the gait, nor the clothes, nor the clay jugs give evidence of having been invented because of a pressing need. It seems as if they were all intended to express an exalted happiness, an OIympian cloudlessness, and, as it were, a playing with seriousness. The man who is guided by concepts and abstractions only succeeds by such means in warding off misfortune, without ever gaining any happiness for himself from these abstractions. And while he aims for the greatest possible freedom from pain, the intuitive man, standing in the midst of a culture, already reaps from his intuition a harvest of continually inflowing illumination, cheer, and redemption-in addition to obtaining a defense against misfortune. To be sure, he suffers more intensely, when he suffers; he even suffers more frequently, since he does not understand how to learn from experience and keeps falling over and over again into the same ditch. He is then just as irrational in sorrow as he is in happiness: he cries aloud and will not be consoled. How differently the stoical man who learns from experience and governs himself by concepts is affected by the same misfortunes! This man, who at other times seeks nothing but sincerity, truth, freedom from deception, and protection against ensnaring surprise attacks, now executes a masterpiece of deception: he executes his masterpiece of deception in misfortune, as the other type of man executes his in times of happiness. He wears no quivering and changeable human face, but, as it were, a mask with dignified, symmetrical features. He does not cry; he does not even alter his voice. When a real storm cloud thunders above him, he wraps himself in his cloak, and with slow steps he walks from beneath it.

Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

The Slow Arrow of Beauty


The slow arrow of beauty. – The noblest kind of beauty is not that which suddenly transports us, which makes a violent and intoxicating assault upon us (such beauty can easily excite disgust), but that which slowly infiltrates us, which we bear away with us almost without noticing and encounter again in dreams, but which finally, after having for long lain modestly in our heart, takes total possession of us, filling our eyes with tears and our heart with longing. – What is it we long for at the sight of beauty? To be beautiful ourself: we imagine we would be very happy if we were beautiful. – But that is an error.

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human

The Ideal Artist

Thus it is that ideas, which grow up within the imagination and appear so lovely to it and of a value beyond whatever men call valuable, are exposed to be shattered and annihilated by contact with the practical. It is requisite for the ideal artist to possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with its delicacy; he must keep his faith in himself while the incredulous world assails him with its utter disbelief; he must stand up against mankind and be his own sole disciple, both as respects his genius and the objects to which it is directed.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Artist of the Beautiful

The Beautiful

I have found a definition of the Beautiful, of my own conception of the Beautiful. It is something intense and sad, something a little vague, leaving scope for conjecture. I am ready, if you will, to apply my ideas to a sentient object, to that object, for example, which Society finds the most interesting of all, a woman’s face. A beautiful and seductive head, a woman’s head, I mean, makes one dream, but in a confused fashion, at once of pleasure and of sadness; conveys an idea of melancholy, of lassitude, even of satiety-a contradictory impression, of an ardor, that is to say, and a desire for life together with a bitterness which flows back upon them as if from a sense of deprivation and hopelessness. Mystery and regret are also characteristics of the Beautiful.

Charles Baudelaire

Beauty Goes Unrecognized

Seek not to discover the deficiencies and imperfections in works of art before you have learned to recognize and find beauty. This memorandum is based on my daily experience of observing that beauty goes unrecognized by the majority of people because they wish to play the critic before they have begun to be students. They are like schoolboys who are all clever enough to discover the weaknesses of the schoolmaster. Our vanity will not allow us to pass by with only an idle gaze, and our self-complacency wants to be flattered; therefore we seek to pass judgment. But just as it is easier to make a negative statement than a positive one, so imperfections are much more easy to observe and detect than perfection; and it takes less effort to judge others than it takes to improve ourselves.


The Eyes of People

I like so much better to paint the eyes of people than to paint cathedrals; for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing it may be; a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or a woman of the street, is more interesting.

I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. If what one is doing looks out upon the infinite, and if one sees that the work has its vital principle and continuance beyond, one works with more serenity.

Van Gogh

Works of Art Are of an Infinite Solitude

Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. – Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

What is a Poet?

What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd about the poet and say to him: “Sing for us soon again”; that is as much as to say: “may new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; for the cries would only frighten us, but the music is delicious.” And the critics come, too, and say: “quite correct, and so it ought to be according to the rules of aesthetics.” Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair; he only lacks the suffering in his heart and the music upon his lips. Lo, therefore, I would rather be a swineherd from Amager, and be understood by the swine, then be a poet and be misunderstood by men.


“What is Life?”

Not merely philosophy but also the fine arts work at bottom toward the solution of the problem of existence. For in every mind that once gives itself up to the purely objective contemplation of the world, a desire has been awakened, however concealed and unconscious, to comprehend the true nature of things, of life, and of existence. For this alone is of interest to the intellect as such, in other words, to the subject of knowing that has become free from the aims of the will and is therefore pure; just as for the subject, knowing as mere individual, only the aims and ends of the will have interest. For this reason the result of every purely objective, and so of every artistic, apprehension of things is an expression more of the true nature of life and of existence, more an answer to the question, “What is life?” Every genuine and successful work of art answers this question in its own way quite calmly and serenely. But all the arts speak only the naive and childlike language of perception, not the abstract and serious language of reflection; their answer is thus a fleeting image, not a permanent universal knowledge. Thus for perception, every work of art answers that question, every painting, every statue, every poem, every scene on the stage. Music also answers it, more profoundly indeed than do all the others, since in a language intelligible with absolute directness, yet not capable of translation into that of our faculty of reason, it expresses the innermost nature of all life and existence. Thus all the other arts together hold before the questioner an image or picture of perception and say: “Look here; this is life!” However correct their answer may be, it will yet always afford only a temporary, not a complete and final satisfaction. For they always give only a fragment, an example instead of the rule, not the whole that can be given only in the universality of the concept. Therefore it is the task of philosophy to give for the concept, and hence for reflection and in the abstract, a reply to that question, which on that very account is permanent and satisfactory for all time. Moreover we see here on what the relationship between philosophy and the fine arts rests, and can conclude from this to what extent the capacity for the two, though very different in its tendency and in secondary matters, is yet radically the same.

Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Inner Nature of Art