Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
The Fusion of Aesthetics With Ethics in the Work of Shaftesbury and its Romantic Corollaries
In this paper, I am trying to reconstruct Shaftesbury’s views on natural beauty, writing and painting. Thus, the term ‘aesthetics’ I am using refers to both aesthetic experience and artistic creativity, to both natural and artistic beauty. As, however, in Shaftesbury’s work aesthetics cannot be considered irrespective of his overall philosophy, I am obliged to examine in parallel with aesthetics Shaftesbury’s ontology and moral theory. It is the concern for this last one that gave the occasion for the emergence of an aesthetic theory in Shaftesbury’s work. My argument is that Shaftesbury’s view on natural beauty and his deep appreciation of natural scenery opened extremely fertile prospects for aesthetics, prospects that were meant to give their seeds both in enlightenment and in romanticism The concepts of disinterestedness, of natural sublimity and genius, for example, are some of Shaftesbury’s main contributions to the newborn discipline of aesthetics that were to have great future in the relevant conversation. In the case of writing, while the paradigm Shaftesbury uses comes undoubtedly from Horace and his advice to the poets to study philosophy, the place reserved for the true poet, his apotheosis indeed, anticipated the romantic appreciation of artists. The analysis of painting, finally, retains the strong link between art and morality and is based mainly on the Aristotelian concepts of unity and probability. It is thus undoubtedly a typical example of neoclassical analysis. It remains, however, a strong testimony of Shaftesbury’s pertinent commitment to empiric reality against those views that would present him as a high-flown Neoplatonist metaphysician.