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M. Anderson

I'm pleased to see that you're back, Eric. I've been missing your history/philosophy of science posts over at New APPS.

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for your kind words.

Miles Rind

Addison forgotten? I'll have you know that the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006) contains an article on Addison! I happen to know this because I wrote it. I confess, though, that it never occurred to me in writing it to make any claim for Addison as a philosopher of science, let alone a proto-blogger.

To describe Spectator 420 as a "start of a philosophy of science" that "emphasizes the role of the imagination in science," though, seems to me backwards, or at least misleading. I would rather say that, as the penultimate in the series of essays on the pleasures of imagination, it is a discussion of the exercise of the imagination in all fields of inquiry, among them what we today call "science" ("natural philosophy" to Addison).

I don't understand your description of the imagination as, in Addison's view, "the empirical faculty" (emphasis in original). I've long had my belly full of "faculty" talk from reading beastly Kant, but at least Kant is pretty good about saying what something is supposed to be the faculty of when he uses the word: without that specification, to call something a "faculty" simpliciter is empty. Do you mean that the imagination is a faculty of empirical ideas, because it reproduces ideas derived from experience (that is, of course, as Addison, following Locke, understands it)?

(I have just found on previewing this that the italic html codes that I inserted into my text do nothing. Pfui!)

Eric Schliesser

I am sad to go without your italics, Miles.
That an expert on 18th century aesthetics (as you are) is aware of Addison, and has written on it is no surprise. But that does not mean that his significance outside this area is understood or even explored. (I plead guilty, too.)
Yes, for Addison the imagination (and this true for most of the early moderns) reproduces and works with ideas derived from experience. (I didn't mean to suggest he was original on this score.)
I do not deny that Spectator 420 is part of the series on the pleasures and workings of the imagination. (I don't ignore these pleasures entirely, by the way--see the last sentence of the post.) It's just that I focus on the relevance of these pleasures to science in the argument of 420. And that relevance is not exclusively aesthetic.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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