In the years around 1900, Theodor Lipps, a philosopher and psychophysiologist, transformed empathy into a generalized theory of experience based on the idea that all activity is an objectification of the self. For Lipps, objects resulted from two conditions: something sensuously given and human activity, material, and form; and he considered form to be always "the being-formed-by-me," necessarily and self-evidently permeated by the life of the observer. "Empathy means that when I grasp an object... I experience a kind of self-activity as an attribute of the object."28
Within Lipps's general psychology, empathy in art provided a special case, for the work of art immerses the observer in an ideal world, in whose depth it is possible to glimpse and illuminate what usually escapes the observation of reality. And, in a thought that intersects with the conception of modernity first articulated by Charles Baudelaire, he proposed that, through the work of art, insight may be gained into what is positive, vital, and active, within the negative, distracting, and odious.
28. Theodor Lipps, Ästhetik. 1 : Psychologie der Schönen und der Kunst (1903). 2: Die ästhetische Betrachtung und die bildende Kunst (1914) (Leipzig: Leopold Voss, 1920, 1923). Quotations are from Theodor Lipps, "Empathy and Aesthetic Pleasure," originally in Die Zukunst LIV (1905), Karl Aschenbrenner, trans., in Karl Aschenbrenner and Arnold Isenberg, eds., ,i>Aesthetic Theories (Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 403-412.