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No philosopher has held a higher opinion of art than Hegel, yet nor was any so profoundly pessimistic about its prospects - despite living in the German golden age of Goethe, Mozart and Schiller. For if the artists of classical Greece could find the perfect fusion of content and form, modernity faced complicating - and ultimately disabling - questions. Christianity, with its code of unworldliness, had compromised the immediacy of man's relationship with reality, and ironic detachment had alienated him from his deepest feelings. Hegel's Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics were delivered in Berlin in the 1820s and stand today as a passionately argued work that challenged the ability of art to respond to the modern world.

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