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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
170 occurrences of ideology
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170 occurrences of ideology
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V

In seventeenth-century Holland, Vossius mentions a
furor as ingenii excitatio for poetry (Bray, 1927). In
late sixteenth-century Germany, Castiglione's ingegno
is translated into German as ingenium (Zilsel, 1926).
German seventeenth-century treatises in Latin use
ingenium in its various meanings (Lipenius, 1682);
“genius” appears only occasionally (Maior, n.d.). The
German term of French origin, Das Genie, has been
known since 1728 (Bertram, 1728), but became of
general use only after J. A. Schlegel's translation of
Batteux (1751). Bodmer still employs grosser Kopf,
grosser Geist
to mean a poetical genius submitted to
rules of nature and of reason only, not to those imposed
by the critics (Grappin, 1952). Ingenium is also trans-
lated, e.g., by Chr. Wolff, as Witz, but in the very
restricted meaning of a power productive of discovery
of similarities or analogies (Baeumler, 1923). For
Baumgarten and Meier ingenium latius dictum, or
Kopf, is a favorable proportion of mental powers pro-
ducing superior performances in science or, as
ingenium venustum, in art; they neither stress the
creative aspect of genius, nor admit irrational elements
into it (Baeumler, 1923; Wolf, 1923; Grappin, 1952;
Tonelli, 1966). Creativity and freedom from the rules
were claimed for artistic genius by Gellert in 1751
(Wolf, 1923). Trescho (1754) considers genius to be an
instinct providentially inborn in all human beings, as
an inclination towards a certain role in life. For
Wieland (1755), genius is connected with freedom of
imagination and with enthusiasm. Sulzer (1757; 1771)
identifies genius with an extraordinary strength of the
whole representative faculty, utilizing all its powers;
it is a gift of nature and, in art, its task is to reach
ideal beauty. The production of genius is partially
unconscious; its sudden manifestation generates enthu-
siasm. Originality (and independency of the rules) is
not always connected with genius, but genius should
pursue it. Resewitz (1759-60) explains genius through
the preponderance over others of a certain aptitude
required by some art (but not required in science). In
general, a genius must be especially predisposed to
intuitive knowledge. For Flögel (1762), genius is a
harmony of powers; it is not opposed to the rules.
Moses Mendelssohn is convinced that genius corre-
sponds to a state of perfection of all mental powers
working in harmony towards a certain aim; if it can
control enthusiasm through reason, it may reach
sublimity in art. Through genius, nature dictates her
own rules; therefore, genius cannot oppose true rules
(Wolf, 1923; Grappin, 1952).

Hamann (1760-61), influenced by Young, breaks with
the rationalist tradition in the explanation of genius.
He regards it as a divine inspiration opposed and supe-
rior to reason; creation is brought about by feeling,
identified with intuition; its thinking is identified with
linguistic expression, and its language is poetry. Genius
is considered sometimes as a kind of divine seizure
(Grappin, 1952). For Klopstock, artistic genius, a bal-
ance of different powers, must be endowed with com-
passion, which can generate emotion along with moral
conscience. It is subject to rules (Grappin, 1952).
Lessing's theory is still more rationalistic; genius is a
natural facility for discovering the true and reasonable
principles of art (Rosenthal, 1933; Grappin, 1952).
Riedel (1767) refers to genius as a facility in intuitive
knowledge, both in science and in art (Riedel, 1783).
Eberhard's interpretation of genius (1776) almost
completely excludes irrational elements (Eberhard,
1786).

Genius for Herder means chiefly national genius.
(Genie as the characteristic of an era or of a nation
was used by other German authors at that time; how-
ever, the term Geist was generally preferred for the
national characteristic.) Herder refuses to analyze the
notion of original genius, but defines it as a natural
force. At first, he is inclined to stress the irrational
elements of genius, but later he restricts their function
(Ernst, 1916; Grappin, 1952). Lavater, in his enthusi-
astic and rather confused exaltation of genius (1778),
stresses its instinctive and extraordinary character
(Ernst, 1916).

Between 1770 and 1780, Kant developed a first
version of his theory of genius. He distinguished genius
from skill or talent, when these are not creative; genius


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is opposed to diligence, but needs instruction, and is
a favorable proportion of four powers: sensibility,
judgment, creative spirit, and taste. Its realm is the
production of new ideas and ideals. Genius, freedom,
and living organisms are elements which cannot be
explained mechanically (Tonelli, 1966).

Thus, a rational explanation of the force of genius
seems to be largely prevalent in Germany in this period,
in spite of the Sturm und Drang previous hit ideology next hit, developing
after 1770: rational elements seem to be prevalent also
in Goethe's early theory of genius (Sudheimer, 1935;
Grappin, 1952).