Wolff and the Birth of Aesthetic Rationalism

Frederick C. Beiser

in Diotima's Children

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199573011
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722202 | DOI:
Wolff and the Birth of Aesthetic Rationalism

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This chapter focuses on Christian Wolff's contributions to the German aesthetic tradition. Virtually every aspect of Wolff's system — his metaphysics, ethics, psychology, and logic — were foundational for aesthetic rationalism. Wolff was among the first to conceive and advocate a philosophy of the arts. He bases his theory of the arts and beauty upon his psychology, which he first sketches in his Metaphysik (1719) and then elaborates in his Psychologia empirica (1732) and Psychologia rationalis (1734). The core of Wolff 's theory of beauty consists in a few short paragraphs of his Psychologia empirica. Though his discussion is brief, its influence was great. Gottsched, Baumgarten, Meier, Sulzer, and Mendelssohn made Wolff's discussion the starting point for their own aesthetics.

Keywords: Christian Wolff; aesthetic rationalism; the arts; psychology; theory of beauty; neo-classicism

Chapter.  12853 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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