Chapter 22. "Art is Expression" by Benedetto Croce

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from The Essence and Ęsthetic
The Reading Selection from The Essence and Ęsthetic
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Benedetto Croce Universitį di Pavia

About the author …

When 17 years old, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) was buried and injured in an earthquake which killed his parents and sisters. The family fortune enabled him to spend much of his life in independent historical, critical, and philosophical study as a self-taught philosopher. He studied some law at the University of Rome for a while, but spent most of his life in Naples—a city whose cultural traditions he wove into his books on history and culture. During his time he became influential through founding the journal La critica and offering editorial assistance to the publishing house Laterza. His best known works form four volumes of his systematic "The Philosophy of Spirit":[1] Ęsthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic; Logic as the Science of Pure Concept; Philosophy of the Practical; and History: Its Theory and Practice. In political thought, he strongly opposed Benito Mussolini's fascism, but respect for Croce from the people of Italy kept him from serious harm. Beyond doubt, Croce was a major force in Italian philosophy during much of the twentieth century, and many historians of philosophy consider his work in ęsthetics to be the most important of that century as well.

About the work …

In his The Essence of Ęsthetic,[2] and his Ęsthetic,[3] Croce examines the question of intuition and expression as defining what art is; specifically Croce defines ęsthetics as the "science of expression." He believes art stands on equal footing with the other major divisions of philosophy. Croce holds that knowledge can be either a particular product of intuition, as in art, or a universal product of reasoning, as in logic. Art, itself as a form of knowledge, is independent of what is existent, true, useful, or pleasurable. The intersubjectivity in ęsthetic appreciation reflects a kind of cognitive awareness of an image's ideal or "pure form" via intuition. Croce argues that it is feeling or emotion, as a kind of cognitive awareness or "lyrical intuition," not described by romanticism nor by classicism, that is the basis of the unity of art through its synthesis of both form and content.

Ideas of Interest from The Essence and Ęsthetic

  1. How does Croce define "art"? What theories of art does Croce argue are mistaken?

  2. According to Croce, how are concepts and intuitions related?

  3. Clarify the "vital principle" which Croce believes makes intuition artistic. What is it that gives coherence to the images forming "a genuine work of art"?

  4. How does Croce characterize spiritual activity? In what ways is spiritual activity more that the association of ideas?

  5. What are the bases of the two kinds of knowledge Croce describes?

  6. How does Croce distinguish the varieties of perception and sensation from intuition?

  7. How does Croce distinguish between image and intuitive knowledge?

  8. Explain what Croce means when he defines "intuition" as "expression."



Note the title reflects Hegel's magnum opus.


Benedetto Croce. The Essence of Ęsthetic. Trans. by Douglas Ainslee. London: William Heinemann, 1921.


Benedetto Croce. Ęsthetic As Science of Expression and General Linguistic. Trans. by Douglas Ainslee. London: Macmillan, 1909.