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Political Aesthetics: Addison and Shaftesbury on Taste, Morals and Society

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en Limba Engleză Hardback – 22 Aug 2019
Providing a gateway to a new history of modern aesthetics, this book challenges conventional views of how art's significance developed in society.The 18th century is often said to have involved a radical transformation in the concept of art: from the understanding that it has a practical purpose to the modern belief that it is intrinsically valuable. By exploring the ground between these notions of art's function, Karl Axelsson reveals how scholars of culture made taste, morals and a politically stable society integral to their claims about the experience of nature and art. Focusing on writings by two of the most prolific men of letters in the 18th century, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) and the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), Axelsson contests the conviction that modern aesthetic autonomy reoriented the criticism and philosophy originally prompted by these two key figures in the history of aesthetics. By re-examining the political relevance of Addison and Shaftesbury's theories of taste, Axelsson shows that first and foremost they sought to fortify a natural link between aesthetic experience and modern political society.
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ISBN-13: 9781350077751
ISBN-10: 1350077755
Pagini: 280
Dimensiuni: 156 x 234 mm
Greutate: 0.57 kg
Editura: Bloomsbury Publishing
Colecția Bloomsbury Academic
Locul publicării: London, United Kingdom


Draws on a range of source materials, including Addison's essays in the Spectator, Tatler, The Freeholder, their private correspondences, Shaftesbury's notebooks, and his unfinished Second Characters

Notă biografică

Karl Axelsson is Senior Lecturer in Aesthetics at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. He is the author of The Sublime: Precursors and British Eighteenth-Century Conceptions (Peter Lang, 2007) and co-editor of Beyond Autonomy in Eighteenth-Century British and German Aesthetics (Routledge, 2020). Axelsson is also the Swedish translator of the third Earl of Shaftesbury's The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody.


AcknowledgementsNote to the Reader IntroductionRethinking a ProvenanceReading the History of AestheticsAddison and the Body PoliticShaftesbury, Affections, and Society Part I: Addison, Taste, and the Moral Body Politic1.1 The Displacement of Political Authority1.2 The Disposition of Taste1.3 Aurelia and Fulvia1.4 Ethico-Emotive Pleasures1.5 Faith and Political Enthusiasm1.6 Britain and the New Classicism1.7 The Perils of the ForeignPart II: Moved by Affections: Shaftesbury on Beauty and Society2.1 Natural Affections2.2 Self-Knowledge and Disinterestedness2.3 A Disinterested (Aesthetic) Perception2.4 The Work of Art as a Whole2.5 Taste for Society Coda: Reading Addison and Shaftesbury in the Future BibliographyIndex


Political Aesthetics magnificently re-writes the history of early eighteenth century British aesthetic thought. For too long Addison and Shaftesbury's aesthetic speculations have been read in massively distorting ways and contexts, essentially seeing these writings as pre-cursors to Kant. Axelsson demonstrates that they are both more interesting and strange: careful and detailed explorations in the moral and political sinews of aesthetic thought. This intervention will not only re-orient histories of aesthetics it will also provide a substantial basis for thinking the aesthetic in our own time.
Axelsson's Political Aesthetics: Addison and Shaftesbury on Taste, Morals, and Society is a comprehensive and penetrating account of the aesthetics of Addison and Shaftesbury. It offers a wealth of philosophical insight and valuable scholarship on Addison and Shaftesbury in particular and on the history of aesthetics in general. Axelsson shows that Addison and Shaftesbury developed a rich and important view that took aesthetic value to be neither entirely instrumental nor entirely autonomous, a view on which taste becomes an integral moral part of the basis of society.
In this admirably intense engagement, Axelsson questions both content and method in philosophical history. He shows how Addison, Shaftesbury and other writers argued the intrinsic connection between, on one hand, the experience of beauty, taste and art and, on the other, politics, religion and morals. Thus, he points toward a new history of eighteenth-century British aesthetics, more persuasive than one organised to explain Kant.