This volume re-examines traditional interpretations of the rise of modern aesthetics in eighteenth-century Britain and Germany. It provides a new account that connects aesthetic experience with morality, science, and political society. In doing so, the book challenges longstanding teleological narratives that emphasize disinterestedness and the separation of aesthetics from moral, cognitive, and political interests.
The chapters are divided into three thematic parts. The chapters in Part I demonstrate the heteronomy of eighteenth-century British aesthetics. They chart the evolution of aesthetic concepts and discuss the ethical and political significance of the aesthetic theories of several key figures, namely the third Earl of Shaftesbury, David Hume, and Adam Smith. Part II explores the ways in which eighteenth-century German thinkers examine aesthetic experience and moral concerns and relate to the work of their British counterparts. The chapters here cover the work of Kant, Moses Mendelssohn, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, and Madame de Staël. Finally, Part III explores the interrelation of science, aesthetics, and a new model of society in the work of Goethe, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Friedrich Hölderlin, and William Hazlitt, among others.
This volume develops unique discussions of the rise of aesthetic autonomy in the eighteenth century. In bringing together well-known scholars working on British and German eighteenth-century aesthetics, philosophy, and literature, it will appeal to scholars and advanced students in a range of disciplines who are interested in this topic.
Table of Contents
Karl Axelsson, Camilla Flodin, and Mattias Pirholt
Part I: Aesthetic Concepts, Morality, and Society in the British Tradition
1. The Evolution of Aesthetic Concepts 1700–1800
Peter de Bolla
2. Beauty, Nature, and Society in Shaftesbury’s The Moralists
3. Force Makes Right, or Shaftesbury’s Moral-Aesthetic Dynamics
4. Civilization in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Subject for Taste
5. Adam Smith’s Aesthetic Psychology
Emily Brady and Nicole Hall
Part II: British and German Liaisons
6. Aesthetic Autonomy Is Not the Autonomy of Art
7. From Spiritual Taste to Good Taste? Reflections on the Search for Aesthetic Theory’s Pietist Roots
8. Is there a Middle Way? Mendelssohn on the Faculty of Approbation
9. Germaine de Staël and the Politics of Taste
Part III: Science and a New Model of Society around 1800
10. Goethe’s Exploratory Idealism
11. Physics as Art: Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s Construction Projects
12. Hölderlin’s Higher Enlightenment
13. Rethinking Disinterestedness Through the Rise of Political Economy
Karl Axelsson is Senior Lecturer in Aesthetics and Research Fellow in Comparative Literature at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. His most recent book is Political Aesthetics: Addison and Shaftesbury on Taste, Morals and Society (Bloomsbury, 2019). Axelsson is also the Swedish translator of the third Earl of Shaftesbury’s The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody (forthcoming).
Camilla Flodin holds a PhD in Aesthetics from Uppsala University and is currently Lecturer and Research Fellow in Comparative Literature at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. She has published extensively on Adorno’s aesthetics and the art–nature relationship in German Romanticism and Idealism. Flodin is also a contributor to the Oxford Handbook of Adorno (forthcoming).
Mattias Pirholt is a Professor of Comparative Literature at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. His most recent book publications include Grenzerfahrungen: Studien zu Goethes Ästhetik (2018) and Das Abenteuer des Gewöhnlichen: Alltag in der deutschsprachigen Literatur der Moderne (co-edited with Thorsten Carstensen, 2018).