That aesthetics is central to Hegel’s philosophical enterprise is not widely acknowledged, nor has his significant contribution to the discipline been truly appreciated. Some may be familiar with his theory of tragedy and his (supposed) doctrine of the “end of art,” but many philosophers and writers on art pay little or no attention to his lectures on aesthetics. The essays in this collection, all but one written specifically for this volume, aim to raise the profile of Hegel’s aesthetic theory by showing in detail precisely why that theory is so powerful. Writing from various perspectives and not necessarily aligned with Hegel’s position, the contributors demonstrate that Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics constitute one of the richest reservoirs of ideas about the arts, their history, and their future that we possess.
Addressing a range of important topics, the essays examine the conceptual bases of Hegel’s organization of his aesthetics, his treatment of various specific arts (architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and tragedy), and several of the most famous issues in the literature—including the “end of art” thesis, the relation between art and religion, and the vexed relationship between Hegel and the romantics. Together they shed light on the profound reflections on art contained in Hegel’s philosophy and also suggest ways in which his aesthetics might resonate well beyond the field of philosophical aesthetics, perhaps beyond philosophy itself.