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Shaftesbury on Art: The Rhapsodic Aesthetic Robert W. Uphaus The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 27, No. 3. (Spring, 1969), pp. 341-348, Stable URL htp:/flinks.jstor-org/sicisici=( 121-8529% 28196921 %2927%3A3% 3C341%3ASOATRA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Z. ‘The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism is currently published by The American Society for Aestheties, Your use of the ISTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at hup:/www,jstororglabout/terms.hml. ISTOR’s Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at hutp:/www jstor.org/journals/tasfa him ch copy of any part of'a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the sereen or printed page of such transmission, ISTOR is an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to creating and preserving a digital archive of scholarly journals. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact support @ jstor.org. hupslwww jstor.org/ Fri Aug 11 13:49:30 2006 ROBERT W. UPHAUS Shaftesbury on Art: The Rhapsodic Aesthetic In short, we may as well say, however dogmatically, that when one is in search of an age, one ends with human beings. Gronce Boas, “In Search of the Age of Reason,” Aspects of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Earl R. Wasserman (Baltimore, 1965), p. 18 IN RECENT YEARS a number of books and articles have been devoted, if not ex- lusively, at least in part to Shaftesbury’s writings. Many of these publications in their various ways have attempted to show how Shaftesbury’s thought is characteris tic of eighteenth-century neo-classicism, though in matters of influence the critics seem heavily at odds. Some see Shaftesbury in a Platonic light, some see him basically as an_anti-Hobbesian, and one critic, Er- nest Tuveson,* has argued very forcefully for Lockian influences. If these articles establish anything, it is that Shaftesbury is a man not to be easily categorized. Yet he is a man of his age—if, that is, we grant the existence of contrary strands of thought in a historical age. It will be the purpose of this paper to expose and illuminate the contrary strands in Shaftesbury’s aesthetic speculations, Par- ticularly useful in this instance are Shaftes- Ronear W. Ursavsis assistant profesor of English at ‘Michigan State University and specializes tn early ighteenth.century English literature. He hes writ- ten articles on Thomas Traherne and Viedimir Nabokov bury’s notions of imitation and beauty, which I take to be at the center of his aesthetic conjectures. The term imitation, fof course, has been given various mean. igs depending on the context it finds, and jin many ways imitation can serve as a use- ful reflection of artistic concerns from Plato well into the eighteenth century. Of tentimes, however, when used without pre- jon the term has degenerated into some kind of identification with a tidy worship of classical ideals. To obviate this sort of mistake my paper will proceed in three parts: (1) a brief examination of the notion ‘of imitation in Plato and Plotinus, who oth influence Shaftesbury considerably; @ an examination of Shaftesbury's con: ceptions of imitation and beauty and their relation, generally, to neo-lassicism; (8) a discussion of the relation between imita tion and disinterestedness asa distinct ‘mode of aesthetic perception. First I must go back to Plato's famous, and no doubt simplistic, analogy of the 342 beds which originally appears in the Re- publi, since it is here that Plato frst for- ‘wards a definition of imitation, If you will recall, Plato's analogy asserts the existence; if only for dialectical purposes, of three Kinds of beds—that fashioned by God Which comes to represent divine. form, that fashioned by a carpenter which is @ useful facsimile of its divine counterpart, and that fashioned by the artist, a bed ‘whose existence is barely apparent (as op- posed to real), and whose function is falled into serious question. The first thing to note is that this analogy is built largely around a principle of exclusion, which is to say that as we move away from the ideal bed the objects become correspondingly less real, if such terminology is permitted. Furthermore, this analogy suggests a hier- archy of creation in some way imitative of divine action which corresponds to the kinds of objects created. In short, Plato asserts “that there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which uses, another which makes, a third which imic tates them.”* The reason that the artist finds himseif at the bottom of the hierarchy is that he, first, does not ultimately create, for he imitates objects at a second remove from the ideal, and second, because the ob- ject of his particular creation does not Serve any valuable utilitarian function, as does the carpenter's. Having continually ‘emphasized the importance of the object created, Plato can thus conclude that “the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which nature or the artist has intended them.”® Again, the emphasis is on use or utility. Thus poetic creation, according to the Republic, remains without value be- ‘cause imitation is necessarily defined as the creation of appearances. In the Sophist Plato again defines the artist in terms of the “created object,” and therefore he justifiably concludes “imitation is a kind of creation—of images, however, as we affirm, and not of real things.” * The theme of poetic exclusion remains intact The pivotal work, however, and the one which most aptly demonstrates the ten sions of Plato's thought, is the Symposium. ROBERT W. UPHAUS Here there is considerably less emphasis on exclusion and a much stronger stress on the notion of participation in the divine. This is largely accomplished through the crea- tion of a mediating force—love. (In fact, for Plotinus and later for Shaltesbury love represents their permanent link with Platonic thought.) Plato's ladder of love, an ascent from procreation (associated with the senses) to creation (associated with form) alters the emphasis of creation away from the artistic product to the artistic act. Love becomes a cosmic principle and its ultimate objective is the vision of absolute beauty. Eros is the most manifest symbol of this love, for he represents both the creative act and the created product. It is through love that imitation may earn a participation within the divine, since love ‘encompasses through its unifying act the supposedly third-class objects of imitation, tis only a short step from Plato's Sym- posium to Plotinus’s Tractate on Beauty (Ennead 1). Here, in several respects, the ideal becomes absorbed into the material; love and imitation come together, and we thus have a further softening of the cate- gories. The stress is on participation and unification, leading ultimately to an ego: oriented conception of creation. We ourselves posses Beauty when we are trie to-our own Being: our uglines isin going over to another order; our selEknowledge, that is to say, is our Beauty; in selfignorance we are ely This seems to bridge, at least theoretically, the distinction between the Absolute Here and the Absolute There. Earlier Plotinus says, “This then is how the material thing becomes beautiful—by communicating in the thought that flows from the divine.” * Finally there occurs the seeming negation of any mode of separation: ‘This is not a journey for the feet. ‘order of things you must set aside and see: you must close the eyey and cal ‘upon another vision which isto be waked within you, a vision, the birth-right of all, which few ‘The suggestion is that separation is not a necessary consequence, that it can be ‘overcome, perhaps by an act of will or by an active turning toward self. Shaftesbury