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David Hilbert

Is the melancholy provoked by reflecting on the poor an aesthetic response for Swift? I agree that Swift, quite brilliantly, locates the badness of the situation in the unpleasantness to the observer, rather than the suffering of the poor. But I'm not sure that the unpleasantness is really aesthetic. It could be the inconvenience of being importuned or even the moral uneasiness that many, perhaps even in Swift's time, feel when confronted with the disparity between their personal comfort and the suffering of others. It could even be the kind of melancholy that Berkeley clearly experienced when contemplating the waste of human potential that those not engaged in productive labor represented for him. I don't want to deny that ugliness is part of the package but the question is why think the package is dominated by aesthetic as opposed to all the other elements. What Swift needs is the unpleasantness to the observer and it may not matter what form of unpleasantness it is.

Thanks for getting me to think about how Swift begins the satire.

Eric Schliesser

Fair enough, David. I grant that the exact wording allows for non-aesthetic readings of the causes of melancholy/unpleasantness.

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


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