Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2018)

James Shelley
Auburn University
18th-century British aesthetics addressed itself to a variety of questions: What is taste? What is beauty? Is there is a standard of taste and of beauty? What is the relation between the beauty of nature and that of artistic representation? What is the relation between one fine art and another? How ought the fine arts be ranked one against another? What is the nature of the sublime and ought it be ranked with the beautiful? What is the nature of genius and what is its relation to taste? Although none of these questions was peripheral to 18th-century British aesthetics, not all were equally central. The question on which the others tended to turn was the question concerning the nature of taste. But this question was not simply how best generally to define taste. Everyone seems to have been in at least rough agreement with Joseph Addison’s early definition of taste as “that faculty of soul, which discerns the beauties of an author with pleasure, and the imperfections with dislike” (Addison and Steele 1879, no. 409). But agreeing with Addison meant agreeing only to use “taste” to refer to that faculty and to acknowledge that such discerning has something of the phenomenology of sensation. The central question was how to think of taste so defined. Is taste a higher, cognitive faculty, akin perhaps to reason, with objects of a primarily intellectual nature? Or is it a lower, bodily faculty, more akin to the five bodily senses, and with objects of a primarily material nature? The major theories that arose in response to this question can be grouped into three main lineages: (a) internal-sense theories, of which the theories of Shaftesbury (1711), Hutcheson (1725), Hume (1739–40, 1751, and 1757) and Reid (1785) are representative; (b) imagination theories, of which theories of Addison (1712) and Burke (1757/59) are representative; and (c) association theories, of which the theories of Gerard (1757) and Alison (1790) are representative.
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A Dialogue Concerning Aesthetics and Apolaustics.Timothy M. Costelloe & Andrew Chignell - 2011 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 9 (1):v-xvi.

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