Review of The Origin of Art

The Origins of Art: A Psychological and Social .Inquiry. By YRJO HIRN. New York . The Macmillan Co., 1900. Pp, xi + 326. $3.25.

MR. HIRN is a colleague of Westermarck, in the University of Fin-land, and his book, like Westermarck's History of Human Marriage, is a very fascinating inquiry into a sociological question from the genetic standpoint; and the polyglot powers of these two scholars lend them-selves equally to the treatment of subjects demanding reference to writers in many tongues.

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Mr. Hirn argues, in opposition to the Spieltrieb theories of art, that play never develops of itself into art, and that all immediate or secondary emotional manifestations give us no information on artistic manifestations. On the other hand, the instinctive tendency to express overmastering feeling, to enhance pleasure, to seek relief from pain, forms the most deep-seated motive of all human activity. And the fundamental hypothesis of the work is to show that the distinctive qualities of artistic production are derived from this impulse, by proving that art is better able than any other kind of mental function to serve and satisfy the requirements which arise from this impulse. Incidentally the writer does a very important piece of work in showing in some detail that interests which find their characteristic or most striking expression in art were not originally aesthetic but utility interests.

To the possible criticism that his book offers no guidance for the artist in producing works of art, nor for the student in appreciating them, the author claims that his book has simply aimed to give an answer to the question, How did art originate ? and it is his opinion that the loss would be greater than the gain if theories of and judgments based on philosophical considerations were allowed to influence either the production or the enjoyment of art.



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