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History and Moral Exempla in Enlightenment Aesthetics

12 February 2016


This essay proposes a new focus for studies in the relationship between aesthetics and morality in the Enlightenment period. Recent research, especially by Paul Guyer, seems to have established that the traditional question of whether a genealogy for autonomous aesthetics can be traced attending to the concept of disinterestedness in the era can be answered with an unambiguous no. This, however, should only encourage further research into the nature of the way in which the connection between the beautiful and the good was understood. It is argued here that with the gradual erosion of the humanist rhetorical understanding of history from the seventeenth century the specific content of the link between aesthetics and ethics undergoes a fundamental change, making it significantly more abstract and far less specific.


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