Baumgarten's Aesthetica

Review of Metaphysics 37 (2):357 - 385 (1983)

ALTHOUGH the content of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten's Aesthetica seems to be familiar in German philosophical circles, it is relatively unknown outside Germany. Most of us are aware that it was Baumgarten who coined the name "aesthetics" for the new philosophical discipline his Aesthetica was intended to establish; but as for the content of that work, our acquaintance is likely to be indirect, through two remarks of Kant. Explaining his own use of "Transcendental Aesthetic" in the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant criticizes Baumgarten's "abortive attempt... to bring the critical treatment of the beautiful under rational principles and so to raise its rules to the rank of a science". In the Critique of Judgment, it is generally assumed to be Baumgarten Kant has in mind when, arguing that judgments of beauty are not cognitive or "logical" judgments, he criticizes the view that beauty is perfection known confusedly or indistinctly. Combining Kant's remark with Leibniz's view that beauty is--or, more precisely, flows from--perfection, we might conclude that Baumgarten simply lowered beauty from the level of distinct to that of confused concepts and tried to deduce its rules from the concept of perfection. If this was indeed Baumgarten's project, we might well ask to be excused from pursuing the subject further.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632  
DOI revmetaph1983372167
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