Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art

Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art

Language: English

Pages: 268

ISBN: 0521431069

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This collection of essays explores the rise of aesthetics as a response to, and as a part of, the reshaping of the arts in modern society. The theories of art developed under the name of 'aesthetics' in the eighteenth century have traditionally been understood as contributions to a field of study in existence since the time of Plato. If art is a practice to be found in all human societies, then the philosophy of art is the search for universal features of that practice, which can be stated in definitions of art and beauty. However, art as we know it - the system of 'fine arts' - is largely peculiar to modern society. Aesthetics, far from being a perennial discipline, emerged in an effort both to understand and to shape this new social practice. These essays share the conviction that aesthetic ideas can be fully understood when seen not only in relation to intellectual and social contexts, but as themselves constructed in history.

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nature" (249). And this foundational community of sentiment among men both justifies and is justified by the alleged fact that certain works have been "universally found to please in all countries and in all ages" (236). The standard of taste is thus recommended as a universal and natural one, ultimately free from social difference and determination; any distortions of taste imposed by social pressure and prejudice "will yield at last to the force of nature and just sentiment" (249). Kant employs

critics should be seen as "applying to anyone" at all. If I have the five qualities on my own, Carroll continues, "then what reason should I have to consult a group of critics? I could argue for the worth of the work of art on the basis of my own good sense, my own delicacy of taste, my own practice, my own use of comparisons, and my own lack of prejudice." Carroll realizes that the idea that everyone can "be a critic such that everyone can consult themselves about their assessments seems

described the artistic avantgarde as attached to the capitalist ruling class "by an umbilical cord of gold/7 at the same time characterized the cultural opposition to that avant-garde as the commercialism to which he gave the German name of kitsch. 2 The ideological importance of this conception of art can be seen in the almost reflex action taken to turn aside any threat to it, as when Warhol's Brillo Boxes are taken by aestheticians to exemplify the very distinction between art and mundane

many objects. Hence "the trifling beauties that make the works of Dutch painters 43 44 45 46 Ibid., pp. 43, 57. Reynolds's remarks on Dutch (and Flemish] painting in his Journey to Flanders and Holland frequently pays homage to their masterly skill, while reminding us that "it is to the eye only that the works of this school are addressed," not to the mind {The Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, ed. H. W. Beechey [London: Bohn, 1851], II, p. 205). Reynolds, Discourses on Art, p. 69. J.

fullest development at the end of the eighteenth century. For Schiller too "the character of our age" is established by way of "an astonishing contrast between contemporary forms of humanity and earlier ones, especially the Greek." With the development of the division of labor, the unified human personality of the ancients has been split into fragments, so that "we see not merely individuals, but whole classes of men, developing but one part of their potentialities, while of the rest, as in

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