The Literary Work of Art as the Creative Power in Man

On the Margin of Roman Ingarden’s Theory Of Literary Discourse
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 77)


In Roman Ingarden’s aesthetic studies devoted to literature, the category of metaphysical qualities appears only from time to time. The few comments that can be found on this subject are in one of the chapters of the Polish phenome-nologist’s great work Das literarische Kunstwerk, in some of the essays in the posthumously published Książeczka o człowieku (Little Book on Man), and in his dissertations on axiology from the sixties.1 Ingarden describes these qualities in an extremely general manner, using language characteristic of the humanities at the end of the nineteenth Century, which today may seem to us rather imprecise. He thus writes: “These ‘metaphysical’ qualities ... are what makes life worth living, and, whether we wish it or not, a secret longing for their concrete revelation lives in us and drives us in all our affairs and days. Their revelation constitutes the summit and the depths of existence....their revelation is a positive value in contrast to gray, faceless, everyday experience” [LWA, 291]. Moreover, in Ingarden’s reflections the term “metaphysical qualities” is sometimes ambiguous: It appears interchangeably with the notion “the idea of the literary work of art,”2 and sometimes even synonymously with “aesthetic value.”3 In these meanings—of the idea and of the aesthetic value— metaphysical qualities function also in some of the understandings of the “truths” of a literary work of art that were distinguished by the philosopher. Metaphysical quality, resp. aesthetic value, resp. idea refers in them to a characteristic cognitive feature of the artistic subject on the one hand, i.e., it defines “truth” in the semantic sense, while on the other, it marks the “real” literary work of art, i.e., it participates in the pragmatic understanding of “truth” which the phenomenologist also linked with the work itself.


Literary Character Literary Work Aesthetic Experience Intentional Object Aesthetic Object 
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  1. 1.
    R. Ingarden, Das literarische Kunstwerk. Eine Untersuchung aus dem Grenzgebeit der Ontologie, Logic ind Literaturwissenschaft (Halle: 1931), (Polish translation: M. Turowicz, O dziele literackim. Badania z pogranicza ontologii, teorii języka i filozofii literature [Warsaw: 1960]; English translation, from which the quotations herein are taken: G. G. Grabowicz, The Literary Work of Art. An Investigation on the Borderlines of Ontology, Logic and Theory of Literature [Evanston: 1973]; Ksiazeczka o człowieku (The Little Book on Man), (Krakow: 1972); reflections on the theory of quality are gathered in Studia z estetyki (Studies in Aesthetics), Vol. 3 (Warsaw: 1970); some of them (“Artistic and Aesthetic Values; Aesthetic Experience and Aesthetic Object”) can be found in their English translation in the collection: R. Ingarden, Selected Papers in Aesthetics, ed. by P. J. McCormick (Washington, D.C., Munich, Vienna: 1985).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    I refer here to the following works: Konrad Górski, Poezja jako wyraz (Poetry as an Expression), (Torun: 1946); Tadeusz Drewnowski and Maria Janion, “Zagadnienie fikcji literackiej ze stanowiska socjologicznej teorii literatury” (The Question of Literary Fiction from the Point of View of the Sociological Theory of Literature), Twórczość IV: 2 (1948); Jerzy Kmita, “Podstawy semantycznej definicji rzeczywistości przedstawionej w dziele literackim”, (The Bases of the Semantic Definition of Reality Presented in a Literary Work), Studia filozoficzne 1966, No. 1; Jerzy Pelc, “O istnieniu i strukturze dzieła literackiego” (Concerning the Existence and the Structure of the Literary Work), Studia filozoficzne 1958, No. 3. Ingarden disputed such interpretations of the concept of quasi-judgements and the conclusions drawn from it (see for example, his “A Marginal Commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics” in his Selected Papers in Aesthetics, op. cit.). It is, however, necessary to state here that these interpretations did not come solely from those holding to a sociological and Marxist theory of literature (which can be proved especially by the instance of K. Górski, a follower of Benedetto Croce’s aesthetics) and were not formulated in the language characteristic of that theory only; if the presented examples use that language, this is only owing to a wish to quote the strongest opinions.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Cf. Stefania Skwarczyńska’s reflections: “Uwagi o przedmiocie badania literackiego i jego ujmowaniu filozoficznym. Na marginesie” Wstępu do badań nad dzieł/em literackim “Manfreda Kridla” (Comments on Literary Research and How it is Understood Philosophically. On the Margin of Manfred Kridi’s Introduction to Studies on the Literary Work), Ruch literacki 1937, No. 7-8; Wacław Borowy, “Szkoła krytyków” (The School of Critics), Przegląd Współczesny XVI:2; (1937); “Prawda w poezji” (Truth in Poetry), Glossy 1939, No. 3, and Juliusz Kleiner, “Fikcja intelektualna w literaturze” (Intellectual Fiction in Literature), Przegląd Warszawski 1922. For the interwar discussions on quasi-judgements it is significant that they mainly referred not to Ingarden’s concept but to the version of it proposed by Kridl. If they did refer directly to the original concept, the subject of discussion was usually the Lvov version of O poznawaniu dziela literackiego (The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art) (Lwów: 1937), (reprinted in Studia z estetyki, Vol. 1, op.cit.), and not Das literarische Kuntswerk, which was little known at that time.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    In De interpretatione (17 a 2.) Aristotle wrote that not all sentences are judgements, but only those which may be true or false. This is not always the case. Expressing thirst, for example, is a sentence that is neither true nor false. Such forms belong to rhetoric and poetics. Ingarden undoubtedly knew this concept, as can be observed in his detailed “A Marginal Commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics,” transl. By Helen Michejda, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 (1961/62). Furthermore, the Polish phenomenologist was neither the originator of the theory that sees the references of literary sentences as being specially modified, nor was he its only promotor. In 1923-29, a similar view was expressed by Richards, who treated literary sentences as pseudo-statements (see, for example, Ivor Armstrong Richards, “Science and Poetry,” in Criticism. The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgements ed. Mark Schorer, Josephine Miles and Gordon McKenzie (New York: 1948), and was also expressed with reference to not literary speech acts and others as well by the English and Lvov-Warsaw semanticists. It would be interesting to see to what degree the concepts of poetic language promoted by Ingarden and Richards are genetically dependent on other contemporary tendencies in the analytic philosophy of language and logic. Its influence on the theoretical and literary understanding of the issue of “truth” would point to a solution of nearly thirty years later that is close to both of these views and was formulated by Joseph Margolis, who refers directly to analytic logic (see J. Margolis, The Language of Art and Art Criticism [Detroit: 1965], pp. 149-151).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Such a comparison of the quasi-judgement concept with other contemporary theories on the cognitive function of a literary work was finally carried out by Katarzyna Rosner in O funkcji poznawczej dzieła literackiego, (On the Cognitive Function of the Literary Work) (Wrocław: 1974). It was compared with the theories formulated on the basis of American structuralism and Jurij Maria Lotman’s semiotics. There are, however, no detailed studies on the links between Ingarden’s formulation of the notion with, for example, the reflections of Umberto Eco, Wolfgang Iser or Kendall Walton. This is all the more surprising when one takes into consideration the fact that in world theory of literature it enjoys unfailing interest. There are a few articles from the eighties and nineties comparing Ingarden’s theory with the concepts of the theorists of literature as a speech act (the newest work known to me on this subject is that of Richard van Oort, “Three Models of Fiction: The Logical, the Phenomenological, and the Anthropological. Searle, Ingarden, Gans,” New Literary History 29 (1998). It is necessary to note, however, that, although important, the coincidences here are purely superficial.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See R. Ingarden, “O odpowiedzialności” (“Über die Verantwortung ihre ontischen Fundamente”), in his Książeczka o człowieku, transl. from the German by Adam Węgrzecki (Krakow: 1972); and his Wykłady z etyki (Lectures on Ethics), compiled and introduced by Adam Wegrzecki (Warsaw: 1989).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    J. Pelc, “Zdanie a sąd w dziele literackim. Wartość logiczna i charakter asertoryczny quasi-sadu” (The Sentence and Judgement in the Literary Work of Art. Logical Truth and the Assertational character of the Quasi-Judgement), Estetyka III (1962).Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    What is more, Ingarden also suggested that recognizing the way in which the language of a given statement was used should not go beyond the analysis of its structure. Quite the opposite is so: a literary work should first be read in a certain way (aesthetic or, for example, cognitive) and only later should its language be analysed. In his plans for studying the artistic functions of language, “it is not a matter of... simply studies of the language of certain literary compositions. It concerns special research, the role linguistic compositions play in the literary work through marking or bringing to the foreground special qualitative moments, i.e., aesthetically valuable qualities” [FAJ, 316-317]. Because of this, he criticised Juliusz Kleiner: “While reading Kleiner’s reflections on language or on the verse of Pan Tadeusz (he without a doubt noticed different peculiarities), one sees that this study is, as it were, done in the dark, collecting certain peculiarities whose function in the poem is not known” (ibid., p. 317).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    John Robert Searle, “The Logical Status of the Fictional Discourse,” New Literary History 6 (1975).Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Ingarden very seldom mentioned analytic linguistic philosophy. He usually identified it with “so-called analytic philosophy,” as he called it, not without irony, which for him was neo-positivism. Although Jan Woleński (in his review of: Jerzy Szymura, “Język, mowa, prawda w perspektywie fenomenologii lingwistycznej J. L. Austina,” Studia filozoficzne 1985, no. 7) says that “during his lectures Prof. R. Ingarden spoke approvingly of Austin,” in the volumes of his Dzieła filozoficzne (Philosophical Works) published so far, there is nothing that confirms this.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    See Richard Ohmann, “Literature as Act” in the collection, Approaches to Poetics, ed. Seymour Chatman (New York, London: 1973); and his “Speech Acts and the Definition of Literature,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 4 (1971).Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    For similar conclusions, see Hugh Silverman, “Phenomenology: From Hermeneutics to Deconstruction,” Research in Phenomenology XIV, (1984); Thomas Sheehan, “Derrida and Heidegger,” in Hermeneutics and Deconstruction, ed. H. Silverman and Don Ihde (Albany: 1985); and Richard Seldon, “Phenomenology (Geneva School) and Deconstruction” in his Practising Theory and Reading Literature (New York, London: 1989).Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    This train of thought proposed by Ingarden on the building of meaning and its deconcretization depending on the knowledge, faith and beliefs prevalent in the given epoch in which the reader lives seems extremely close to the concept of fiction as a possible world as it appears in the works of Umberto Eco. See his Lector in fabula. La Cooperazione interprativa nei testi narrativi (Milan: 1979); The Limits of Interpretation, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Interpretation and Overinterpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Barbara Herrstein Smith, On the Margins of Discourse. The Relation of Literature to Language (Chicago and London: 1984), p. 11.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Warsaw UniversityPoland

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