The Aesthetics of the Invisible: George Berkeley and the Modern Aesthetics

Endre Szécsényi* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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George Berkeley is usually not discussed in the canonical histories of modern aesthetics. Similarly, Berkeley scholars do not seem to have paid attention to his possible contribution to modern aesthetics. Berkeley exploited certain theoretical potentials of the emerging aesthetic experience that was invented and formulated especially by his contemporaries like Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Lord Shaftesbury. He applied these elements in shaping a theologico-aesthetic language in the very same period when Francis Hutcheson and Alexander Baumgarten wrote their widely acclaimed first aesthetic theories in Europe. At the same time, Berkeley advances the linguistic and religious aspects of the modern aesthetic experience not in his theoretical, but in his pragmatical and popularizing writings. Instead of relying on a purely rational theology or a negative theology, he offers an ‘aesthetic’ one based on the model of the (always visible) beautiful and the (mysteriously invisible) sublime. Aesthetically, this meant a re-interpretation and re-configuration of the duality of the beautiful and the sublime – decades before Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-743
Number of pages13
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number6
Early online date8 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Aesthetics
  • history of aesthetics
  • George Berkeley


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