Introduction to Europe and the Arts

by Carl Schmitt
1943

In this essay, the arts and Europe have been considered from an approach which is in the main more intuitive than factual.

In our scientific age, which is also one of extreme specialization, an exhaustive body of facts is available. Countless students and scholars have given us the results of their thorough research into the history of art; and all the details are set before us of the lives of the composers, creators or performers in each separate art. The same is true of the organism of Europe. Her history is familiar to all, and the curious will find the most specialized information upon any phase of her life or activities.

Now there is only one object in placing less stress upon this interesting factual world with its confusion of information, and focusing the attention rather upon the understanding. That object is design. Common sense wants to know what it is all about: it would like even a hint. One wants not only to know the facts: one wishes to go beyond rational knowledge if possible, to see if there may not be something at the core to unite and inform all this scattered and seemingly unrelated effort of Western mankind.

For intuition abhors disorder. She is hierarchic and seeks to find some sort of pattern even in chaos and anarchy.

Upon the most superficial examination of the arts as a whole, one thing is outstandingly evident: that there is such design: that the arts are held together somewhat like say a bunch of grapes, or to choose a better image, they function much as does the human body in its organic unity.

It is true that the spirit (and culture) seems to have departed from the body of Europe. We have not been here concerned with that. Europe has, before this been mortally ill—so much so in fact that apparently only a miracle could restore her. But re-arise she did, to the surprise of all, as she undoubtedly will arise once again.

The fine arts have been chosen for direct consideration, rather than the spiritual life or the politics of Europe, because they are a kind of index of all other activities. In fact there exists no better barometer of the spiritual life of a people than their arts.

© Copyright 2012 Carl Schmitt Foundation