The Crimson Bookshelf
THE AESTHETIC THEORY OF BERGSON (Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Prize Essay, 1937), by Arthur Szathmary, '37.
The interpretation of a philosopher is an hazardous task. This is especially so when the interpreter undertakes to extend the notions of the philosopher into a field which the thinker himself has only touched. Mr. Szathmary has accomplished this task and produced a small volume which is altogether remarkable.
The author's plan is simple and firmly executed. He first prepares the reader with an accurate account of Bergson's theory of knowledge and with this as a background leads the reader into an extension of Bergson's basic notion of "intuition" beyond the realms of ordinary perception into aesthetic experience.
For the student of philosophy in general the first part alone of this undertaking makes the volume an important contribution to sound interpretations of the French philosopher. Conscious of the vagueness which surrounds the use of the word "intuition" in contemporary literature, Mr. Szathmary carefully delineates the meaning of this term in Bergson's philosophy: "In the act of intuition there is an internal response, which arises from the direct feeling of the qualities of an object."
Students of the philosophy of Professor Whitehead will find the work especially interesting. Similar to Professor Whitehead's view is Bergson's insistence that a discussion of aesthetic "feeling" is fundamental to metaphysics. This view finds its most extreme expression in Bergson's philosophy.
The second part of the work, called "A Theory of Art", is the transference of the general notion of intuition into the domain of aesthetic experience. Art in the "means of revealing directly felt presentations". "The artist 'seeks beneath' to bring the aesthetic discovery to the surface." (p. 71). Mr. Szathmary's discussion shows very clearly that this conception of aesthetic experience, closely connected as it is with Bergson's distrust of analysis, can do little more than point out that such experience exists.
A theory of art, if it is to give any conception of what the aesthetic experience is, must be analytic of that experience itself. There are suggestions in Bergson which might be employed in this direction.
Mr. Szathmary writes with accomplished smoothness and has not only succeeded in writing about aesthetic theory but has created a work of beauty as well. "The Aesthetic Theory of Bergson" is an undergraduate masterpiece.