CHAPTER I.

CLASSIFICATION AS THE BASIS OF METHOD IN SCIENCE AND ART

 

Spirit, Matter and their Combination as Sources of Phenomena in Religion Science, and Art-
Limitations of the Present Book-
Why thought must be expressed in terms of matter-
How inaudible and invisible Mental Conceptions come to be represented in language, intonation, writing, carving, and building-
These pass into “the Arts” when they begin to be developed for the sake of the Form-
The Arts represent thought and feeling through elaborating natural forms appealing to the ear and the eye-Illustrations-
The Artist uses for this purpose the same forms that all men do, who before they can understand and use them effectively must, through comparison, “Classify and conquer” them-
This the basis of knowledge in all departments-
Science and philosophy classify effects conditioned upon laws operating underneath natural and mental phenomena: art classifies effects conditioned upon laws operating underneath aesthetic appearances or forms-
An embodied finite mind requires body and definiteness to appeal to its intelligence-
The artist groups phenomena mentally to gain a general conception, then, in a way analogous to classification, groups them materially to impart it-
Connection between these processes, and representing in art both the human mind and-
How the Artist, by classifying the Forms of Nature, represents his own mind-
And how, the forms of nature.

 

ALL the phenomena of life are traceable to two sources-spirit and matter. The respective results of the two, however, are not clearly distinguishable, so that,

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practically, we must always consider, as a third source, a combination of both. Subjects of thought of any importance involve relations to all of the three; but the chief place is assigned to the first source in religion, to the second in science, and to the third in art, the phenomena of which, corresponding to those of life in general, are all traceable to man as the possessor of mind, which is the embodiment of spirit; to nature, which is the embodiment of matter; and to a combination of the effects of mind and nature in a product. Of these, however, it is the latter which, in every case, determines the peculiar character of art as art.   For this reason writers upon the subject usually start with a consideration of the product. Inasmuch, too, as, according to the conditions, this is a combination of effects coming from both man and nature, they are obliged, to some extent, to consider in what ways it has been influenced by both. But the emphasis given to either the one or the other source may cause a wide deviation in the lines of discussion. In the one case the relations of art to the representation of the thoughts and feelings experienced by the man engage the attention; in the other its relations to the appearances and arrangements observed in nature. It is with the latter of these topics, but with it always as necessarily connected somewhat with the former, that this book has to deal. Nor will the whole even of this topic be treated. What is to be discussed is believed to be fundamental in character and comprehensive in results; but nothing more will be undertaken than to show how, the conditions of mind and matter being what they are, those complex products which we ascribe to art have come to be in their material conditions what they are. By a psychologic process, in a case where the

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prevailing and popular historic method will not suffice, an endeavor will be made to trace the sources of the laws of composition, to indicate how they are developed, what they are, why they operate as they do, and how, in all the arts, they operate in the same way.

Let us begin by recalling why it is necessary for the purposes of art, or for any human purposes, that the things that have their source in mind should be connected or combined with the things that have their source in matter. The reason is obvious. Man is a social being, and likes to communicate the results of his mental processes. But others can learn of these only through their material organs of sight and hearing, and his thoughts and feelings in themselves are invisible and inaudible. He must, therefore, connect them in some way with things that are not so, with things that are sufficiently material to produce the desired material effects. These things he can find only in what is termed external nature.

The process that he pursues is like this. He hears sounds coming from waters, forests, beasts, birds, and, instinctively, from himself and other men; and, being endowed with powers of imitation and reflection, he begins, in concurrence with his fellows, to use certain of these sounds for words, embodying conceptions which each sound, in its own way, has suggested to him. Later on he observes certain relations existing between objects signified by the words, and, according to some principle of association or comparison, he compounds them, forming terms like ex-press, up-right-ness, under-standing, and he learns, at the same time, to connect these and all his words grammatically. Finally, through such processes, continued through many years, he comes to be able to convey his conceptions fully in intonations and language.

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Again, he sees forms in nature, and by themselves, or in connection with other forms, they, too, necessarily suggest conceptions to him; and he recognizes soon that these visible forms also, in fulfilment of the same principles of association or comparison, can be made, by being imitated in whole or in part, to represent to his neighbor the conceptions that they have already suggested to himself; and beginning by rude sketches and constructions, leading, by-and-by, to the inventing of ideographic and hieroglyphic writing, and of ornamental designing, he finally comes to use, in order to convey his conceptions, the various methods now in vogue of drawing, carving, and building.

It takes many centuries for such methods to develop into arts like music, poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture. But, after a while they all appear. It is important to notice, too, that the way in which they differ from ordinary and merely natural modes of expression is in the fact that they are not used, or, if so used at first, have ceased to be used for expression's sake alone. A man hums and talks, fulfilling an instinctive prompting of his nature, in order to give vent to certain inward moods. It is when something about the form in which he hums 1-the movement, the tune-attracts his attention, and he begins to experiment or play with it for its


1Compare with this what is said by Herbert Spencer in his “Principles of Psychology” ii, chapter ix.: “Play is….artificial exercise of powers which in default of their natural exercise become so ready to discharge that they relieve themselves by simulated actions in place of real actions. For dogs and other predatory creatures show us unmistakably that their play consists of mimic chase and mimic fighting. It is the same with human beings. The plays of children-nursing dulls, giving tea parties, and so on, are dramatizings of adult activities. The sports of boys, chasing one another, wrestling, making prisoners, obviously gratify in a partial way the predatory instincts….The higher but less essential powers, as well as the lower but more essential powers, thus come to have activities that are carried on for the sake of the immediate gratifications derived, without reference to ulterior benefits; and to such higher powers, aesthetic products yield those substantial activities, as games yield them to various lower powers.”

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own sake, that he begins to develop the possibilities of the musician. In the same way, it is when something about the forms in which a man talks-the metaphors, similes, sounds of the words-attracts his attention and he begins to experiment with them, that he begins to develop the possibilities of the poet.  So with drawing, carving, and building.  A man does more or less of all of these, owing to an instinctive prompting within him; but when something about the outlines, colors, and materials that represent the conditions or relationships of nature attracts his attention, so that he beings to experiment with them-it is then that he begins to develop the possibilities of the painter, the sculptor, or the architect.

While, therefore, the art-product is traceable to an expression of mental thoughts or feelings, the elements of which it is constructed are forms borrowed from nature, and the method of construction, or composition, as it is ordinarily called, is a process of elaboration 1. It is this process which, in the present book, we are to consider; in other words, the methods in the different arts, of elaborating natural forms of expression so as to make them, in a broad sense of the term, artistic.

The natural forms of expression which are thus elaborated include all things that can be heard or seen; for there are none of these which, at certain times, the mind cannot use for the purpose of representing outwardly its


1See the author’s “Poetry as a Representative Art," chapters i., ii., xv., xvi.  

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inward processes. Because it can seldom, if ever, use for the same purpose agencies that appeal to the lower and more physical senses of touch, taste, and smell; from them no arts of the highest class are ever developed. With what we have, however-the sounds and sights of nature,-the range from which the elements of expression can be selected is practically infinite. What a chaos do they suggest in their natural condition, and what a mastery of chaos in the condition in which art, when it has done its work, leaves them! In the realm of sound, nature furnishes effects like the rustling of trees, the rushing of waters, the chirping of birds, the growling of beasts, and the whistling, humming, crying, groaning, scolding, laughing, and talking of human beings. From these, in some way, after centuries of experiments, art produces a Beethoven's “Seventh Symphony” and a Shakespeare's “Hamlet.”  In the realm of sight, nature furnishes shapes like those of clouds, mountains, valleys, streams, trees, flowers, animals, and men. And from these, by and by, in some way, art produces a “Madonna” of Raphael, a “Moses” of Angelo, a “Cathedral of Cologne.”

By what method does art accomplish these results? This is the question before us.  In answer, it is important to notice, first, that the appearances of nature with which the artist has to do are the same as those with which every man has to do. They confront the child the moment that his cars and eyes are opened to apprehend the world about him. As soon as he begins to observe and think and act, these furnish him with his materials-with facts to know, with subjects to understand, with implements to use.

It is important to notice again that men generally-and possibly we may find the same true of artists-before they

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can master the materials about them, must do what is expressed in the old saying, “Classify and conquer.”  When the child first observes the world, everything is a maze; but, anon, out of this maze, objects emerge which he contrasts with other objects and distinguishes from them. After a little, he sees that two or three of these objects, thus distinguished, are alike; and pursuing a process of comparison he is able, by himself or with the help of others, to unite and to classify them, and to give to each class a name.

As soon as, in this way, he has learned to separate certain animals,-horses say, from sheep,-and to unite and classify and name them, he begins to know something of zoology; and all his future knowledge of that branch will be acquired by further employment of the same method.  So all his knowledge, and not only this, but his understanding and application of the laws of botany, mineralogy, psychology, or theology will depend on the degree in which he learns to separate from others, and thus to unite and classify and name certain plants, rocks, mental activities, or religious dogmas. Without classification to begin with, there can be no knowledge, no understanding, no efficient use of the materials which nature furnishes. The physicist is able to recognize, relate) and reproduce effects only in the degree in which he is able to classify the appearances and laws, the facts and forces of material nature. The metaphysician is able to know, and prove, and guide to right action only in the degree in which he is able to classify feelings, conceptions, and volitions with their motives and tendencies as they arise in mental consciousness and manifest themselves in action.

Why should not the same principle apply in the arts?  It undoubtedly does. Just as the physicist classifies effects conditioned upon laws operating underneath phe-

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…-nomena of a physical nature, and the psychologist classifies effects conditioned upon laws operating underneath phenomena of a psychical nature, so the artist classifies effects conditioned upon laws operating underneath phenomena of an artistic nature.  This fact necessitates his considering appearances both as produced in the world without him, and as influencing the mind within him. But not even the double nature of these effects removes the artist from the essential conditions of the comparison just made. As most men use language, they mean by the term scientist not a mere physicist, but one who is also something of a psychologist; and by a philosopher not a mere psychologist, but one who is also something of a physicist. The artist does not differ from others who form classifications, in being influenced from the direction both of mind and matter but, mainly, in the aim which he has in view.  The factors classified and the results attained in science, philosophy and art are different; but in essential regards, the method is the same. It is so because it is the same human mind that applies it.

This mind is an embodied mind, belonging to a realm not infinite, but finite; and things that appear to be infinite in number or variety are beyond its grasp. A man must analyze, and group, and marshal into order,  and define-in other words, “classify and conquer” the elements of the chaos about him, before they can afford  him any satisfaction, before they can appeal with any force to his intelligence, or be used by him so as to appeal to the intelligence of others. 

It is true that what has been called classification does not in art result merely in mental conceptions of classes, as of horses or oaks in science, or as of materialists or idealists in philosophy. The first result is a mental con

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…-ception; but afterwards, through a further application of precisely the same method, there comes to be an objective external product.  In other words, the artist begins by gaining a general conception of a class in the same way as the scientist and philosopher; but he ends by producing a special specimen of a class.  Even the latter, however, results, as we shall find, from his grouping together for this purpose, according to the methods of classification, like or allied factors.

Before going on to confirm this statement, it seems important to point out that the principle involved in it is not inconsistent with the statement made at the opening of this chapter, namely, that the product of art is due not only to the requirements of the mind, but also to the conditions that are furnished by nature.  To render it clear that what was said there, is in harmony with what has just been said here, it is necessary to show, first, that obtaining a general conception as a result of classification, and embodying this in art, is not inconsistent with the artist's representing himself or his own mind; and, second, that constructing a product as a result of a further application of the methods of classification, is not inconsistent with his representing the forms of nature.

To show the first of these one need only direct attention to the intimate connection that always exists between giving expression to general conceptions, and representing the whole range of the results of observation and thought that together constitute mental character.  Imagine a gardener classifying his roses-as he must do instinctively the moment that he has to deal with any large number of them-and obtaining thus a general conception of the flower.  Then imagine him trying in some artificial way to produce a single rose embodying this

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conception.  This rose will very likely resemble some one rose particularly present to his mind while forming it; yet, probably, because, before starting with his work, he has obtained a conception of roses in general, his product will manifest some rose-like qualities not possessed by the specimen before him, but suggested by others.  That is to say, because of his general conception derived from classifying, he does more than imitate-he represents in that which is a copy of one rose ideas derived from many roses. The same principle applies to all works of art.  Let a man write a story or paint a picture. In nine cases out of ten in the exact degree in which he has observed and classified many like events or scenes, he will add to his product the results of his own thinking or generalizing.  In fact, it is a question whether the chief charm of such works is not imparted by the introduction into them, in legitimate ways, of these kinds of generalizations having their sources not in the particular things described, but in the brains of the describers, who have already been made familiar with many other things somewhat similar. Shakespeare certainly did not get the most attractive features of his historical plays from history, nor Turner those of his pictures from nature.  So, as a rule, even in the most imitative of works, the really great artist, consciously or unconsciously gives form to conceptions that he has derived from an acquaintance with many other objects of the same class as those imitated.  There is no need of saying more to show what is meant by affirming that the mind of the artist that would represent itself in art must start by classifying in order to conquer the forms of nature with which it has to deal.

Now, for the second fact, needing to be shown, namely,

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that a product can be constructed as a result of an application of the methods of classification, and yet represent the forms of nature.  At first thought, classification, and anything resembling imitation appear to necessitate different processes.  But, possibly, they do not.  Suppose that the forms of nature themselves were found to manifest effects like those of classification?  In that case, to imitate them would involve imitating this; and to add to them, as is usually done in art, and to add to them in such a way as to make the added features seem analogous to the imitated ones, and thus to cause the forms as wholes to continue to seem natural, would involve continuing the process of classification. Now, if, with this thought in mind, we recall the appearances of nature, we shall recognize that the condition, which has been supposed to exist there, really does exist. A man, when classifying rocks, puts together mentally those that are alike.  So does nature, grouping them in the same mountain ranges, or at the bottoms of the same streams. He puts together leaves, and feathers, and hairs that are alike.  So does nature, making them grow on the same trees, or birds, or animals.  He puts together human beings that are alike. So does nature, giving birth to them in the same families, races, climates, countries.  In fact, a man's mind is a part of nature and when it works naturally, it works as nature does.  He combines elements as a result of classification, in accordance with methods analogous to those in which nature, or, “the mind in nature,” combines them.   Indeed, he would never have thought of classification at all, unless in nature itself he had first perceived the beginning of it.  He would never have conceived of forming a group of animals and calling them horses, nor have been able to conceive of this unless nature had first made horses

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alike.  To put together the factors of an art-product, therefore, in accordance with the methods of classification, does not involve any process inconsistent with representing accurately the forms that appear in the world.  These forms    themselves are made up of factors apparently put together in the same way, though not to the same extent. 

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