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IRichard Glauser

Richard Glauser
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8349.00088 25-54 First published online: 1 July 2002


Shaftesbury’s theory of aesthetic experience is based on his conception of a natural disposition to apprehend beauty, a real ‘form’ of things. I examine the implications of the disposition’s naturalness. I argue that the disposition is not an extra faculty or a sixth sense, and attempt to situate Shaftesbury’s position on this issue between those of Locke and Hutcheson. I argue that the natural disposition is to be perfected in many different ways in order to be exercised in the perception of the different degrees of beauty within Shaftesbury’s hierarchy. This leads to the conclusion that the exercise of the disposition depends, from case to case, on many different cognitive and affective conditions, that are realised by the collaborative functionings of our ordinary faculties. Essential to Shaftesbury’s conception of aesthetic experience is a disinterested, contemplative love, that causes (or contains) what we may call a ‘disinterested pleasure’, but also an interested pleasure. I argue that, within any given aesthetic experience, the role of the disinterested pleasure is secondary to that of the disinterested love. However, an important function of the disinterested pleasure is that, in combination with the interested pleasure, it leads one to aspire to pass from the aesthetic experience of lower degrees of beauty to the experience of higher ones in the hierarchy.

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