systematic action were ascribed, but actual personality. Nature was “non artificiosa solum, sed plane artifex.” “That which in the works of human art is done by hands, is done with much greater art by Nature, that is, by a fire which exercises an art and is the teacher of other arts.” This conception of Nature as an all-generating fire, and at the same time as a personal artist both teaching and including in her own activity all the human arts, on the one hand may be said, with Polixenes and J. S. Mill, to merge Art in Nature; but on the other hand it finds the essence of Nature in the resemblance of her operations to those of Art. “It is the proprium of art,” according to the same system, “to create and beget,” and the reasoning proceeds—Nature creates and begets, therefore Nature is an artist or Demiurgus. A kindred view is set forth by Sir Thomas Browne in the Religio Medici, when he declares that “all things are artificial; for Nature is the Art of God.”
But these modes of thought, according to which, on the one hand, the processes of Art are included among processes of Nature, or on the other the processes of Nature among the processes of Art, are exceptional. In ordinary use the two conceptions, each of them somewhat vague and inexact, are antithetical. Their antithesis was what Dr Johnson had chiefly in his mind when he defined Art as “the power of doing something which is not taught by Nature or by instinct.” But this definition is insufficient, because the abstract word Art, whether used of all arts at once or of one at a time, is a name not only for the power of doing something, but for the exercise of the power; and not only for the exercise of the power, but for the rules according to which it is exercised; and not only for the rules, but for the result. Painting, for instance, is an art, and the word connotes not only the power to paint, but the act of painting; and not only the act, but the laws for performing the act rightly; and not only all these, but the material consequences of the act or the thing painted. So of agriculture, navigation and the rest. Exception might also be taken to Dr Johnson’s definition on the ground that it excludes all actions of instinct from the genus Art, whereas usage has in more languages than one given the name of Art to several of those ingenuities in the lower animals which popular theory at the same time declares to be instinctive. Dante, for instance, speaks of boughs shaken by the wind, but not so violently as to make the birds forgo their Art—
|“Non però dal lor esser dritto sparte|
Tanto, che gl’ augelletti per le cime
Lasciasser d’ operar ogni lor arte.”
And Fontenelle, speaking in the language not of poetry but of science:—“Most animals—as, for instance, bees, spiders and beavers—have a kind of art peculiar to themselves; but each race of animals has no more than one art, and this one has had no first inventor among the race. Man, on the other hand, has an infinity of different arts which were not born with his race, and of which the glory is his own.” Dr Johnson might reply that those properties of variety and of originality or individual invention, which Fontenelle himself alleges in the ingenuities of man but not in those of the lower animals, are sufficient to make a generic difference, and to establish the impropriety of calling a honeycomb or a spider’s web a work of Art. It is not our purpose to trespass on ground so debateable as that of the nature of consciousness in the lower animals. Enough that when we use the term Art of any action, it is because we are thinking of properties in the action from which we infer, whether justly or not, that the agent voluntarily and designedly puts forth skill for known ends and by regular and uniform methods. If, then, we were called upon to frame a general definition of Art, giving the word its widest and most comprehensive meaning, it would run thus:—Every regulated operation or dexterity by which organized beings pursue ends which they know beforehand, together with the rules and the result of every such operation or dexterity.
Here it will be well to consider very briefly the natural history of the name which has been given to this very comprehensive conception by the principal branches of civilized mankind. Our own word Art the English language has taken, as all the Romance languages of modern Europe have taken theirs, directly from the Latin. The Latin ars, according to the prevailing opinion of philologists, proceeds from a root AR, of which the primitive signification was to put or fit things together, and which is to be found in a large family of Greek words. The Greek τέχνη, the name both for arts in the particular and art in the abstract, is by its root related both to τέκ-των and τέκ-νον, and thus contains the allied ideas of making and begetting. The proprium of art in the logic of the Stoics, “to create and beget,” was strictly in accordance with this etymology. The Teutonic Kunst is formed from können, and können is developed from a primitive Ich kann. In kann philology is inclined to recognize a preterite form of a lost verb, of which we find the traces in Kin-d, a child; and the form Ich kann thus meaning originally “I begot,” contains the germ of the two several developments,—können, “to be master,” “to be able,” and kennen, “to know.” We thus see that the chief Indo-European languages have with one consent extended a name for the most elementary exercise of a constructive or productive power, till that name has covered the whole range of the skilled and deliberate operations of sentient beings.
In proportion as men left out of sight the idea of creation, of constructing or producing, “artificiosum esse ad gignendum,” which is the primitive half of this extended notion, and attended only to the idea of skill, of proceeding by regular and disciplined methods, “progredi via,” which is the superadded half, the whole notion Art, and the name for it, might become subject to a process of thought which, if analysed, would be like this:—What is done by regular and disciplined methods is Art; facts are observed and classified, and a systematic view of the order of the universe obtained, by regular and disciplined methods; the observing and classifying of facts, and obtaining a systematic view of the order of the universe, is therefore Art. To a partial extent this did unconsciously take place. Science, of which the essence is only in knowledge and theory, came to be spoken of as Art, of which the essence is all in practice and production. Cicero, notwithstanding his citation of the Stoical dictum that practice and production were of the essence of Art, elsewhere divides Art into two kinds—one by which things are only contemplated in the mind, another by which something is produced and done. (“Quumque artium aliud eiusmodi sit, ut tantummodo rem cernat; aliud, ut moliatur aliquid et faciat.”—Acad. ii. 7.) Of the former kind his instance is geometry; of the latter the art of playing on the lyre. Now geometry, understanding by geometry an acquisition of the mind, that is, a collected body of observations and deductions concerning the properties of space and magnitude, is a science and not an art; although there is an art of the geometer, which is the skill by which he solves any given problem in his science, and the rules of that skill, and his exertion in putting it forth. And so every science has its instrumental art or practical discipline; and in as far as the word Art is used only of the practical discipline or dexterity of the geometer, the astronomer, the logician, the grammarian, or other person whose business it is to collect and classify facts for contemplation, in so far the usage is just. The same justification may be extended to another usage, whereby in Latin, and some of its derivative languages, the name Art came to be transferred in a concrete sense to the body of rules, the written code or manual, which lays down the discipline and regulates the dexterity; as ars grammatica, ars logica, ars rhetorica and the rest. But when the word is stretched so as to mean the sciences, as theoretical acquisitions of the mind, that meaning is illegitimate. Whether or not Cicero, in the passage above quoted, had in his mind the science of geometry as a collected body of observations and deductions, it is certain that the Ciceronian phrase of the liberal arts, the ingenuous arts, both in Latin and its derivatives or translations in modern speech, has been used currently to denote the sciences themselves, and not merely the disciplines instrumental to them. The trivium and the quadrivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric—geometry, astronomy, music and arithmetic) have been habitually called arts, when some of them have been named in that sense in which they mean