1902 Encyclopedia > Aesthetics > The Analytical Theorists. Joseph Addison. Lord Kames.

(Part 28)


The Analytical Theorists. Joseph Addison. Lord Kames.

Of the more analytic writers on the effects of the beautiful, [Joseph] Addison deserves a passing mention, less, however, for the scientific precision of his definitions, than for the charm of his style. His Essays on the Imagination, contributed to the Spectator, are admirable specimens of popular aesthetic reflection.

Addison means by the pleasures of imagination those which arise originally from sight, and he divided them into two classes -- (1.) Primary pleasures, which entirely proceed from objects before our eyes; and (2.) Secondary pleasures, flowing from ideas of visible objects. The original sources of pleasure in visible objects are greatness, novelty, and beauty.

This, it may be said, is a valuable distinction, as pointing to the plurality of sources in the aesthetic impression, but the threehold division is only a very rough tentative, and destitute of all logical value, novelty of impression being always a condition of beauty. The secondary pleasures, he rightly remarks, are rendered far more extended than the original by the addition of the proper enjoyment of resemblance, which is at the basis of all mimicry and wit.

Addison recognizes, too, the effects of association in the suggestion of whole scenes, and their accompaniments by some single circumstance. He has some curious hints as to the physiological seat of these mental processes, and seeks, somewhat naively, to connect these pleasures with teleological considerations.

In the Elements of Criticism of Lord Kames, another attempt is made to affiliate aesthetic phenomena to simpler pleasures of experience. Beauty and ugliness are simply the pleasant and the unpleasant in the higher senses of sight and hearing. By "higher" he means more intellectual, and he conceives these two senses to be placed midway between the lower senses and the understanding. He appears to admit no more general feature in beautiful objects than this pleasurable quality.

Like Hutcheson, he divides beauty into intrinsic and relative, but understands by the latter ideas of fitness and utility, which were excluded from the Beautiful by Hutcheson.

He illustrates the English tendency to connect mental processes with physiological conditions, by referring the main elements of the feeling of sublimity to the effect of height in objects in compelling the spectator stand on tiptoe, by which the chest is expanded and muscular movements produced which give rise to the peculiar emotion.

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