German-speaking aestheticians of the nineteenth century followed various paths of inquiry stimulated by Kant’s Critique of Judgment. One path leads in a formalist direction, through Johann Friedrich Herbart and Robert Zimmermann; the other leads in an empathist direction, from Johann Gottfried Herder’s rejection of Kant through Hegel, Friedrich Theodor and Robert Vischer, Karl Köstlin, and Johannes Volkelt. Eduard Hanslick, in arriving at his own destination, travels some distance on both paths, collecting along the way, on the one hand, Kant’s rigorous focus on the phenomenon and purposive form, eschewing “charms and emotions”; and on the other hand, Hegel’s focus on art’s spirituality, its “ideal content,” in characterizing the specifically musical, which for Hanslick embodies a “full share of ideality.” Clustered ideologically around Kant, Hegel, and Hanslick in closer or more distant orbit are the aforementioned authors whose writings chronicle the fortunes of formalism in the 1800s.
All translations from the German are the author’s unless someone else’s translation is cited.
Lee Rothfarb is professor of music theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His publications include Ernst Kurth as Theorist and Analyst (SMT’s 1989 Outstanding Publication Award) and August Halm: A Critical and Creative Life in Music (2010). He is the founding editor of Music Theory Online.