The Founding of Aesthetics in the German Enlightenment: The Art of Invention and the Invention of Art
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When, in 1735, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten added a new discipline to the philosophical system, he not only founded modern aesthetics but also contributed to shaping the modern concept of art or 'fine art'. In The Founding of Aesthetics in the German Enlightenment, Stefanie Buchenau offers a rich analysis and reconstruction of the origins of this new discipline in its wider context of German Enlightenment philosophy. Present-day scholars commonly regard Baumgarten's views as an imperfect prefiguration of Kantian and post-Kantian aesthetics, but Buchenau argues that Baumgarten defended a consistent and original project which must be viewed in the context of the modern debate on the art of invention. Her book offers new perspectives on Kantian aesthetics and beauty in art and science.
distinct motives of the higher faculty. These changes reflect Baumgarten’s contribution to the Enlightenment claim for autonomy and the ability of subjects individually to ‘think for themselves’ (Selbstdenken). While Baumgarten does not yet contest the philosopher’s moral superiority over his fellow citizen, he nonetheless shakes the philosopher’s absolute authority as a guide to mankind by clarifying the conditions under which a human subject can intuit and understand practical truths. T h e mor
this methodical reconstruction. The latter’s aesthetic pleasure, for Wolff, is intrinsically creative: he perceives aesthetic pleasure, or finds an object beautiful, whenever he succeeds in recognizing a purpose in it, or in putting himself in the inventor’s shoes, reconstructing the process or order of its invention (either the order in which the object was actually invented, or an order in See for example Wolff, Psychologia empirica, §544. 18 60 Wolff on the pleasure of invention
This is neither the place nor yet the moment, however, to determine the difference between the two and to quote examples of the rules. Nonetheless, other men may explore these and other things which remain to be developed.41 Wolff illustrates this view by quoting the example of geometrical figures or fictions. In other passages, he establishes a link between the ars fingendi and the ars mnemonica. He refers to the mathematician Joannes Wallis as a case of the human capacity for exercising the
combinatoria, enables invention and the making of new discoveries. According to the Wolffians’ poetic heuristics, the poet imitates or discloses unknown aspects of nature. However, as Wolff’s disciples were the first to point out clearly to their interlocutors in the epistemological debate, the poet’s concern is with images, not with symbols. In their eyes, poetry forms a particular ars inveniendi, a ‘logic of the imagination’, parallel to and yet different from the mathematical ars combinatoria.
homiletics at the beginning of Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, and Meier’s active engagement in both debates (see in particular Georg Friedrich Meier, Gedanken vom philosophischen Predigen, 2nd edn, Halle, 1754). For Baumgarten’s relation to Pietism, see also Simon Grote, ‘Pietistische Aisthesis und moralische Erziehung bei A. G. Baumgarten’, in Aichele and Mirbach, Aufklärung, pp. 175–198; and Clemens Schwaiger, ‘Baumgartens Ansatz einer philosophischen Ethik-Begründung’, in Aichele and Mirbach,