We must remember the state of things in the investigation of truth which reached its culmination in Socrates, in order to see clearly why investigations of the nature of art were forced into the troubled channels in which they have traditionally found themselves. For, although Socrates recognized the mental process which took place in those who endeavored by means of thought to find certainty in the uncertainty of knowledge and demonstrated that process in the dialectic method, he failed to recognize a similar process in artistic work. He did not realize that artistic activity was nothing less than an attempt to free oneself from the uncertainty of perception and to attain the certainty of conscious possession. Hence the false position in which art was placed and in which it has remained ever since. We had to have recourse to strained hypotheses in order to give art a significance which nonetheless lay close at hand, clear and simple. All the statements which insist that the artist must penetrate to the contemplation of the primal significance of nature, in order that he may construct his work according to its design, are therefore tortuous byways in which we along as best we can, because we have missed our straight path. Now, however, we must retrace our steps to Socrates in order to find that point from which we can get back on the right path again.


The problem of art can be understood only by those who have recognized that visible nature is unstable, that it is something not at all real in the usual sense of the word, just as the problem of cognition can be comprehended only by those who realize that actuality is not lasting; that, on the contrary, only the form which the actual assumes through us is lasting.

Konrad Fiedler, “On the Theory of Cognition”, in Nine Aphorisms from the Notebooks of Konrad Fiedler, translated by George Kreye