Political Aesthetics

Addison and Shaftesbury on Taste, Morals, and Society

Project Description

The principal objective of the project is to re-examine a defining moment in the history of aesthetics. While the theories of taste developed by Joseph Addison and the third Earl of Shaftesbury are generally perceived as preliminary works for modern aesthetic autonomy, this project explores taste as an integral moral part of their vision of a politically stable society. The project

  • Provides a new account of the provenance of aesthetics in the eighteenth century;
  • Presents an innovative analysis of the theories of taste of two of the most important men of letters in the history of aesthetics, Joseph Addison and the third Earl of Shaftesbury;
  • Draws on the whole corpus of Addison’s essays in the Spectator, the Tatler, the Freeholder, as well as private correspondence, and on Shaftesbury’s Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, his Nachlass (the Askêmata notebooks), private correspondence, and works prepared for his unfinished Second Characters;
  • Contributes to a growing body of interdisciplinary works that aims to understand the temporality of British eighteenth-century thought and culture.

A book is expected to be published in 2017.

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About the Project

Project Duration



Originally initiated and funded by the Swedish Research Council (2012–2015), the project is supported throughout 2016 by Åke Wibergs stiftelse, Sven & Dagmar Saléns stiftelse, Magnus Bergvalls stiftelse and Birgit & Gad Rausings stiftelse.