I’d heard of but never really had any drive to read Edmund Burke before your post on him, and now I’m closing in on the end of his treatise on aesthetics. I’m not going to give a full summary of it, but I did want to point up one of the more interesting bits so far.
Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful‘s first book offers an Aristotelian account of artistic and literary “taste,” making it a subset of intellectual virtue and thus neither inherent in the human mind nor entirely a function of consumer choice. (I know that “consumer choice” is an anachronism, but I think the concepts are close enough.) As an English teacher, Burke’s treatise articulates concisely what my literature courses try to be about, namely developing the capacities of mind to behold an artifact and to make intelligent judgments of it. In the face of most freshmen’s rather weakly articulated “it’s all good” opinions of art, I’ve now discovered that I’ve been trying to make Burkeans of them all these years.
I’ll likely start book two, his discussion of the Sublime, later on this week (no doubt on the city bus), but I figured I’d go ahead and offer some kudos to Jared and encourage everyone to check out Burke’s clear prose, clever language, and good ideas.
Jared and Edmund might just make a real conservative of me yet.