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Inventing the Aesthetic: A Historic-Theoretical Approach


By “the aesthetic” I mean a radically modern phenomenon emerging in the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries, and not an adjective referring to the common set of philosophies (metaphysics) of beauty and / or theories of (fine) arts in general. I rather consider it as a new perspective, sensibility or attitude without precedent in Antiquity or even the Renaissance, which plays a constitutive part in the formation of modern European culture (manners, communication, education, institutions, etc), and which, by virtue of its ever close connections to social and moral issues, also has a great and profound political relevance. This new perspective makes a special experience possible in which transcendence can be grasped through the indispensable sensual; and this new form of experience can and does reconfigure and shape both the “nature” of transcendence, and the self of the beholder. I am pursuing my research into its genealogy in the period between the 1630s and the 1730s. My aim is not to create a new European history of aesthetics; I am attempting to distinguish the relevant discourses (including the discovery of new texts and authors still not integrated into this subject), to reconstruct
intellectual models and spiritual attitudes on the basis of and through the interpretation of mainly theoretical texts written during that 100-year span. The main threads of new aesthetic discourse are of quite different natures — incorporating theology, rhetoric, natural science, moral and social philosophy, philosophical anthropology, epistemology, conversational literature in general, and, to an extent, theories of visual arts and literary criticism, too —, even as they influenced and mutually fertilized each other. The intellectual historical reconstruction of the process of invention is quite a complicated and still unaccomplished task I endeavour to complete. During my fellowship I will publish a monograph summarizing the results of my research.

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King's College Regent Walk
AB24 3FX Aberdeen
United Kingdom

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Susan Hastings (Mrs.)
EU contribution
€ 309 235,20