Somaesthetics in Baumgarten? The Founding of Aesthetics and the Body

Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics 59 (2):103-118 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In the presentation of his project about ‘somaesthetics’, Richard Shusterman claimed that the recurring neglect of the body in aesthetics was disastrously introduced by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–1762) in his first formulation of aesthetics as a discipline in the mid-eighteenth century. In the present essay I aim to call this thesis into question, investigating for the first time the role of the body in Baumgarten’s thought and focusing on its significance for the founding of aesthetics. First, I consider Baumgarten’s doctrine of the body in general and of the human body in particular, in its relationship with the soul. I then turn to discuss Baumgarten’s resumption of the scholastic discipline of ‘somatology’ as a philosophical investigation of the body in both its theoretical and practical – namely, dietetical, side. On these bases, I deal with two examples of dietetic embellishment of the body, one presented by Baumgarten himself (cosmetics) and the other put forward by his pupil and co-founder of disciplinary aesthetics Georg Friedrich Meier (physical exercise and somatic fine arts). Subsequently, I explore the ways in which Meier and Baumgarten use dietetics to foster beautiful thinking. Finally, I conclude that nascent aesthetics is concerned with the aesthetic care of the body both insofar as the body can be a stage of aesthetic value and insofar as the body is a necessary presupposition for beautiful thinking.

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Alessandro Nannini
University of Bucharest

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