By Stefanie Toth
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Sidney, A Defence of Poetry, p. 38. Introduction 21 core of Western thinking about art for centuries before the formation of a specialized discipline of aesthetics in the eighteenth century. Then why did such a specialized discipline become necessary at precisely that time? What came to be seen as inadequate in the traditional defense of the arts? This question can be answered historically and sociologically. For centuries, the moving power of literature, visual arts, architecture, and music had been used throughout Europe to communicate the fundamental truths of Christianity and to move people in their behalf.
The vse of this FAINED HISTORY, hath been to giue some shadowe of satisfaction to the minde of Man in those points, wherein the Nature of things doth denie it, the world being in proportion inferiour to the soule: by reason whereof there is agreeable to the spirit of Man, a more ample Greatnesse, a more exact Goodnesse; and a more absolute varietie then can be found in the Nature of things. Therefore, because the Acts or Euents of true Historie haue not that Magnitude, which satisfieth the minde of Man, Poesie faineth Acts and Euents Greater and more Heroicall.
Another influential author who explored our immediate pleasure in the arousal of passion or emotion is Edmund Burke, already mentioned, who, more than a century before Sigmund Freud, founded the two main categories of the aesthetic, the beautiful and the sublime, in our two fundamental drives, the drive for society and especially sexual congress on the one hand and our fear of death on the other, arguing that what we enjoy in beauty is the qualities we find sexually most attractive while without necessarily going on to actual sex, while what we find sublime is precisely that which is ordinarily most threatening to our own safety when it is not in fact so threatening – in both cases, what we enjoy is the arousal of our most powerful emotions without the normally attendant risks or costs.