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Inventing the Aesthetic: A Historic-Theoretical Approach

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Emergence of a modern aesthetic

An EU team has conducted research focused on modern European experience in the period between 1630 and the 1730s, using a unique approach to the aesthetic.


INVENTING AESTHETIC (Inventing the aesthetic: A historic-theoretical approach) was an EU-funded project aiming to reconstruct intellectual models and spiritual attitudes based on the interpretation of theoretical texts. The second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries are known as the prehistory of modern aesthetics. The research explored the aesthetic as a radically modern phenomenon rather than the traditional sense of the term that is used to refer to philosophies of beauty and theories of fine art. The argument is that the emerging modern aesthetic is something that needed to be invented, developed and manifested into a philosophical discipline. This occurred while modernity in Europe emerged. The invention was multinational and multidisciplinary, and was connected to theology, moral philosophy, natural sciences, rhetoric, epistemology (psychology), philosophical anthropology and conversational literature. The aim was to reclaim harmony between the human and the divine and between the individual and society. How the concept of gustus spiritualis (spiritual taste) was interpreted and applied during this period was one major scope of the work. Some theological concepts were transformed into aesthetic ones in Europe by a broadly secularizing process. This led to a reconstruction of new attitudes to sensual transcendence. Additionally, the research considered essays by Joseph Addison, which helped to connect the theoretical potentials of the emerging aesthetic. This provides new viewpoints that help to clarify the connection between the new aesthetic and the traditional poetic or rhetorical. Finally, INVENTING AESTHETIC also considered the work of F. Hutcheson, which differs from the mainstream in the scholarship, as a theoretical alternative. Results of the research were disseminated at six conferences and workshop talks as well as in three articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. They will be especially useful to academic studies in the field of aesthetics.


Modern aesthetic, INVENTING AESTHETIC, modernity, Europe, gustus spiritualis

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