The concept of disinterestedness in eighteenth-century british aesthetics

British writers of the eighteenth century such as Shaftesbury and Hutcheson are widely thought to have used the notion of disinterestedness to distinguish an aesthetic mode of perception from all other kinds. This historical view originates in the work of Jerome Stolnitz. Through a re-examination of the texts cited by Stolnitz, I argue that none of the writers in question possessed the notion of disinterestedness that has been used in later aesthetic theory, but only the ordinary, non-technical concept, and that they did not use this notion to define a specifically aesthetic mode of perception or a specifically aesthetic mode of anything else. The nearest thing that they had to the Stolnitzian conception of “the aesthetic” was their conception of taste, which differs from the former in some essential respects.
Keywords Addison  Burke  Hutcheson  Alison  Shaftesbury  Stolnitz
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2002.0017
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