Lectures on Aesthetics

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel delivering a lecture at the Berlin University in 1828 (sketch after nature and lithograph by Franz Kugler)

Lectures on Aesthetics (LA; German: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik) is a compilation of notes from university lectures on aesthetics given by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in Heidelberg in 1818 and in Berlin in 1820/21, 1823, 1826 and 1828/29. It was compiled in 1835 by his student Heinrich Gustav Hotho, using Hegel's own hand-written notes and notes his students took during the lectures, but Hotho's work may render some of Hegel's thought more systematic than Hegel's initial presentation.[1]

Hegel's Aesthetics is regarded by many as one of the greatest aesthetic theories to have been produced since Aristotle.[2] Hegel's thesis of the "end of art" influenced several thinkers like Theodor W. Adorno, Martin Heidegger, György Lukács, Jacques Derrida and Arthur Danto. Hegel was himself influenced by Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Heidegger calls Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics "the most comprehensive reflection on the essence of art that the West possesses".[3]


The lectures are presented under three broad headers.

  1. The first part is devoted to the general notions of beauty and ideal.
  2. The second part examines this ideal as it realizes itself in three stages, the "particular forms of art", each respectively represented "in full" by Egyptian architecture (which displays its aporetical nature under the guise of a Sphinx), the representation of the gods in classical Greek statuary and the Passion of Christ (taken as the content of representation):
    1. symbolic art
    2. classical art
    3. romantic art
  3. The third and final part concerns itself with the examination of each of the five major art forms in ascending order:
    1. architecture
    2. sculpture
    3. painting
    4. music
    5. poetry

Hegel's exposition is faithful to his dialectical method, showing how the various forms art has taken are dissolved and give place to "higher" forms through the work of the negative, i.e. the internal contradictions these forms each bear in their time.

Hegel documents the rise of art from symbolic architecture, classical sculpture and romantic poetry. At the time it was noted for the wealth of pictures included with it. In Hegel's discussion of sculpture he outlined his ideas on human beauty. Most notably, these lectures famously included Hegel's pronouncement of the "death of art" (i.e., the notion that art could no longer be a proper vehicle for humanity's comprehension of its own essence).


  • Vorlesung über Ästhetik. Berlin 1820/21. Eine Nachschrift, ed. H. Schneider. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1995.
  • Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Kunst, ed. A. Gethmann-Siefert. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2003.
  • Philosophie der Kunst oder Ästhetik. Nach Hegel. Im Sommer 1826. Mitschrift Friedrich Carl Hermann Victor von Kehler, eds. A. Gethmann-Siefert and B. Collenberg-Plotnikov. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2004.
  • Philosophie der Kunst. Vorlesung von 1826, eds. A Gethmann-Siefert, J.-I. Kwon and K. Berr. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2004.

English translations

  • Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T.M. Knox, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.


  1. G. W. F. Hegel, Aesthetics. Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.
  2. Houlgate, 2009
  3. Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, vol. 5, Frankfurt, 1977, p. 68.


  • Houlgate, Stephen (ed.), 2007, Hegel and the Arts. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.

Further reading

  • Adorno, Theodor W., 2004, Aesthetic Theory, Continuum International Publishing Group.
  • Bungay, Stephen, 1984, Beauty and Truth. A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Danto, Arthur Coleman, 1986. The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. Columbia University Press.
  • Danto, Arthur C., 1998, After the End of Art, Princeton University Press.
  • Derrida, Jacques, 1987, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoffrey Bennington & Ian McLeod. Chicago & London: Chicago University Press.
  • Desmond, William, 1986, Art and the Absolute. A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics. Albany: SUNY Press.
  • Gethmann-Siefert, Annemarie, 1984, Die Funktion der Kunst in der Geschichte. Untersuchungen zu Hegels Ästhetik. Bonn: Bouvier (in German language).
  • Gethmann-Siefert, Annemarie, Einführung in Hegel's Ästhetik, Wilhelm Fink (German).
  • Geulen, Eva, 2006, The End of Art. Readings in a Rumor after Hegel, trans. J. McFarland. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Lukács, György, 2002, Hegel's Aesthetics, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, vol. 23, Nr 2, 87-124.
  • Maker, W. (ed.), 2000. Hegel and Aesthetics. New York.
  • Olivier, Alain P., 2003. Hegel et la Musique. Paris (French).
  • Pippin, Robert, 2009. "The Absence of Aesthetics in Hegel’s Aesthetics", The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy , New York [1].
  • Roche, Mark-William, 1998. Tragedy and Comedy. A Systematic Study and a Critique of Hegel. Albany. New York.
  • Wyss, Beat, 1999, Hegel's Art History and the Critique of Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Winfield, Richard Dien, 1996. Stylistics. Rethinking the Artforms after Hegel. Albany, Suny Press.

External links