Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern): Adam Smith on Artistic Imitation and Beauty

Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern): Adam Smith on Artistic Imitation and Beauty

12th December 2018 - 4:15 pm,


Abstract

In the eighteenth century, there was an upsurge in philosophical interest in the arts and aesthetic values such as beauty. Indeed with this upsurge of interest came a redefinition of art: by contrast to the prior European tradition, which had defined art as imitation, for eighteenth-century thinkers beauty (not imitation) is the primary, defining purpose of art. In this paper, I discuss a marvellous, but little-known, posthumously published essay by Adam Smith, “Of the Nature of that Imitation which takes place in what are called The Imitative Arts.” I argue that Smith in this essay explicitly contributes to this conceptual transformation in a way tacitly called for, but not elsewhere accomplished by his colleagues: Smith reinterprets artistic imitation itself as a form of “beauty.”


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