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Baumgarten, Alexander G(ottlieb) (1714–1762)


Subject Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art » Aesthetics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405169226.2009.x


German philosopher and logician; a significant influence on Kant's aesthetics. The “father” of aesthetics and the first to employ the term in a distinctly philosophical context; his pseudonym was Aletheophilus, “friend of truth.” Baumgarten's principal doctrines were: 1  that aesthetics comprises a science of sensitive knowing (scientia cognitionis sensitivae) ; 2  that such knowing is not, as Spinoza and Leibniz believed, solely subordinate to logical knowledge but possesses an autonomy of its own; 3  that aesthetic knowledge exhibits its own perfection, here understood in the eighteenth-century manner as a specific activity achieving its fruition (per-facere) . Baumgarten accordingly conceived of the task of aesthetic knowing as the translation of an obscure sensuous manifold into a clear perceptual image. A professor of philosophy at Frankfurt and Halle, Baumgarten was known as a formidable logician, theological hermeneuticist, astute critic, and a follower of the rationalist Christian Wolff. Rather unjustly, Baumgarten is remembered solely for his definition of aesthetics as “the science of sensitive knowing” (Aesthetica §1), a science that touches neither on the nature of art per se nor on its social import but on the direct sensuous apprehension of its actuality. The context and purpose of his argument is, regrettably, hardly remembered. But given the vehement contemporary ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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