Research / Projects

Reassessing the Rise of Aesthetics. Aesthetic Heteronomy from Shaftesbury to Schelling (RJ)

The 18th century is traditionally regarded as the Grand Siècle of modern aesthetic autonomy. A longstanding diachronic narrative holds that such autonomy originated in British early 18th-century theories on disinterestedness and was fulfilled by the German Romantics. The project aims to reassess the validity of such a narrative, by charting the intellectual topography of the aesthetic heteronomy that distinguished the British and German 18th-century discourse on ideal disinterestedness and works of art. The project focuses on how critics and philosophers inscribed aesthetic experiences of works of art in discourses on political society and natural science. Recent developments in digital humanities have radically transformed the conditions for historical research through the digitalization of historical data, by the emergence of research databases such as Eighteenth-Century Collection Online and Deutsches Textarchiv. The project, collaborating with the Cambridge Concept Lab (CCL), will study the inner historical conceptual construction and network connections of the development of such ideal experience and concept of disinterestedness. In addition to the computer-based investigations, close readings of especially influential texts will substantiate and qualify the findings made in the digitalized material. The project is divided into three intersected subprojects: (1) the ambition of Shaftesbury at the dawn of the 18th century to incorporate ethico-theological ideas on disinterestedness and works of art as organic wholes, in an ongoing debate about the structure of modern political society; (2) the notion of the work in German aesthetics and the wish to pursue, but also alter, the Shaftesburyan legacy, by introducing the scientific conception of organic nature; and (3) the romantic and idealist effort to develop the analogy between work of art and organism into a new model of ideal society by criticizing a mechanistic conception of nature in natural science.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury

Workshop on Shaftesbury

The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody (1709) by the third earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713) holds a central position in the history of aesthetics. Shaftesbury’s dialogue will be published in a Swedish translation in 2018 and on 15 May Södertörn University organizes a workshop on the topic “The Moralists and the Birth of Aesthetics.” Professor Lawrence E. Klein (University of Cambridge), author of the standard work Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness and the editor of Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times participates in the workshop. For further information, please contact Karl.Axelsson[at]sh.se

 

News

Camilla Flodin will present her paper “The Unity of Diversity – on Tied to Tide” at the workshop “Collaborations with Nature: The Environmental Public Art of Turpin+Crawford” at the University of Sydney in March. In her paper Flodin explores ideas on the exemplary unity of the artwork, and in particular the analogy between artwork and organism in German romanticism and idealism, in an effort to interpret the site-specific artwork Tied to Tide by artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford.

Mattias Pirholt will present a paper on "Symbolic Stimuli and the Philosophy of Action. The Impact of Herder’s Concept of the Symbol on Nineteenth-Century Thinking, from Schelling to Simmel" at the International Herder Conference in Turku, Finland, June 2018.

 

Earlier activities

Mattias Pirholt held a lecture on the theme "Nature, nature! Shakespeare and the Concept of Nature in Wieland, Goethe, Herder, and Tieck" at the symposium Shakspeare and Philosophy at Södertörn University, April 21 2017.

Camilla Flodin was invited to hold a lecture on Adorno and Schelling at a workshop at the University of Essex, September 11 2017

The project was presented at the Seminar for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Uppsala University, December 6 2017, 4-6 PM

Publications

In: Lychnos. Göteborg : Lärdomshistoriska Samfundet, 2017. 11-26.

One of the most original voices in British post-revolutionary philosophy belongs to the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713). Rather than supporting the Hobbesian and Lockean idea of modern political society as an artificially formed creation, Shaftesbury perceives society as a beneficial outcome of nature and natural rationality. Shaftes­bury’s understanding of natural society is furthermore entwined with aesthetic mat­ters. The aim of the following article is twofold. First, due to the fact that Shaftesbury’s ideas rarely are analysed in any detail by Swedish scholars, it offers an introduction to Shaftesbury’s take on the complex relation between society and poetry to readers of eighteenth-century intellectual history in general, and readers of the history of literature in particular. Second, given that Shaftesbury is frequently regarded as the first modern advocate of aesthetic autonomy, I wish to problematize such an account by showing how Shaftesbury opposes the idea that poetry holds an instrumental value for society, while he simultaneously maintains the inseparability of poetical truth, artistic whole, and political naturalism. As this article shows, the Promethean myth of creativity is central for Shaftesbury’s understanding of the relation between society and poetry.

AuthorPublishing yearSubject
Karl Axelsson

Research linked to the Baltic region and Eastern Europe

No
2017

School/Centre

School of Culture and Education
Comparative Literature

Research area for doctoral studies

-

In: Retracing the Past. Santa Cruz, California : International Association for Aesthetics, 2017. 29-41.

AuthorPublishing yearSubject

Camilla Flodin

Karl Axelsson

Research linked to the Baltic region and Eastern Europe

No
2017

School/Centre

School of Culture and Education
Comparative Literature

Research area for doctoral studies

Critical and Cultural Theory

Status

Started

Project Manager

Mattias Pirholt
Senior Lecturer, Professor
School of Culture and Education

People linked to the project

FD Karl Axelsson, Uppsala universitet

FD Camilla Flodin, Uppsala universitet

More information

Project start: 2017
Project end: 2020

Financier: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ)

Research linked to the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: No

Information på svenska

Subjects to which the project is linked

School/centre to which the project is linked

Research area for doctoral studies to which the project is linked