The Practices of the Enlightenment: Aesthetics, Authorship, and the Public (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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Rethinking the relationship between eighteenth-century Pietist traditions and Enlightenment thought and practice, The Practices of Enlightenment unravels the complex and often neglected religious origins of modern secular discourse. Mapping surprising routes of exchange between the religious and aesthetic writings of the period and recentering concerns of authorship and audience, this book revitalizes scholarship on the Enlightenment.
By engaging with three critical categories―aesthetics, authorship, and the public sphere―The Practices of Enlightenment illuminates the relationship between religious and aesthetic modes of reflective contemplation, autobiography and the hermeneutics of the self, and the discursive creation of the public sphere. Focusing largely on German intellectual life, this critical engagement also extends to France through Rousseau and to England through Shaftesbury. Rereading canonical works and lesser-known texts by Goethe, Lessing, and Herder, the book challenges common narratives recounting the rise of empiricist philosophy, the idea of the "sensible" individual, and the notion of the modern author as celebrity, bringing new perspective to the Enlightenment concepts of instinct, drive, genius, and the public sphere.
the Haller and Virgil passage because it allows him to reflect on the advantages of insisting on the strict separation of nature and culture, because his aesthetics and poetics ultimately claims the superiority of poetry over painting, which implies the artificial production of “nature.” According to Lessing, the verbal arts and poetry are graphic or painterly not by simply imitating the visual arts. Unlike painting, poetry does not naturally, or automatically, preside over a repertoire of
however smothered under former negligence, or scattered through the dull dark mass of common thoughts; and collecting them into a body, let thy Genius rise (if a Genius thou hast) as the sun from Chaos; and if I should then say, like an Indian, worship it, (though too bold) yet should I say little more than … Reverence thyself. (53) Young’s advice to acquire self-knowledge does not simply mean that one should become familiar with oneself but also that one must actively seek a difference within
objectivity of the source of her divine inspiration. The fact that husband and wife are receiving these messages simultaneously but separately distinguishes their source from a joint hallucination, a folie à deux. Like the scientist who conducts an experiment that must be repeatable by another subject, her experience of divine inspiration is repeatable by her husband. The identity of their results proves the objectivity and validity of their divinely inspired notes. She and her husband serve as
public that is no longer the emotionally and ideologically homogenized unit that all of these appeals to the fatherland and to patriotism tried to invoke but rather the audience of a publication, where each member has to make up her or his own mind and thus judge and think critically about what they are reading and whether it is fit to circulate in what kind of context. This model of a public, as I shall show in much greater detail in the last chapter on Lessing and Kant, has much in common with
stated, acted, or announced. On the one hand, there are appeals to this “public” as an agent of a critical and fair judgment that is supposed to have an independent position, that is, to provide an objective evaluation of the actions of the speaker. On the other hand, it is an audience or addressee that is being patronized, educated, advised, or warned. In either case this “public” is the creation of specific speech acts by whoever has the privilege of appealing to a larger anonymous group of