New Book | Batteux, The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle

Posted in books by Editor on June 11, 2016

Published last fall by Oxford University Press:

Charles Batteux, The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle, translated by James O. Young (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 208 pages, ISBN: 978-0198747116, $70.

9780198747116The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle (1746) by Charles Batteux was arguably the most influential work on aesthetics published in the eighteenth century. It influenced every major aesthetician in the second half of the century: Diderot, Herder, Hume, Kant, Lessing, Mendelssohn, and others either adopted his views or reacted against them. It is the work generally credited with establishing the modern system of the arts: poetry, painting, music, sculpture and dance. Batteux’s book is also an invaluable aid to the interpretation of the arts of eighteenth century. And yet there has never been a complete or reliable translation of The Fine Arts into English. Now James Young, a leading contemporary philosopher of art, has provided an eminently readable and accurate translation. It is fully annotated and comes with a comprehensive introduction that identifies the figures who influenced Batteux and the writers who were, in turn, influenced by him. The introduction also discusses the ways in which The Fine Arts has continuing philosophical interest. In particular, Young demonstrates that Batteux’s work is an important contribution to aesthetic cognitivism (the view that works of art contribute importantly to knowledge) and that Batteux made a significant contribution to understanding the expressiveness of music. This book will be of interest to everyone interested in the arts of the eighteenth century, French studies, the history of European ideas, and philosophy of art.

James O. Young is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Victoria. He is the author of four books: Global Anti-realism (1995), Art and Knowledge (2001), Cultural Appropriation and the Arts (2008), Critique of Pure Music (2014), and over 50 articles in refereed journals. He has edited the four volume collection, Aesthetics: The Critical Concepts (2005) and (with Conrad Brunk) The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation (2009). Another collection of essays, The Semantics of Aesthetic Judgements, is forthcoming from Oxford. He is Artistic Director of the Early Music Society of the Islands.


Translator’s Introduction
Epistle Dedicatory

Part One: Where we establish the nature of the arts by reference to the genius that produced them
1  Division and origin of the arts
2  Genius is only able to produce the arts by imitation; what imitation is
3  Genius must not imitate reality just as it is
4  The state genius must be in to imitate belle nature
5  On the manner in which the arts imitate
6  Why eloquence and architecture differ from the other arts

Part Two: Where we establish the principle of imitation by reference to nature and the laws of taste
1  What taste is
2  The subject of taste can only be nature
3: Evidence drawn from the history of taste
4  The purpose of the laws of taste is to imitate belle nature
5  Second general law of taste: belle nature must be imitated well
6  There are particular rules for each artwork and taste finds them only in nature
7  Conclusion I. There is only one general type of good taste, but several particular types
8  Conclusion II: Since the arts are imitators of nature, they must be judged by comparison to it
9  Conclusion III: Taste for nature and a taste for the arts being the same, there is only one taste that applies to everything, even to manners
10  Conclusion IV: How it is important to form taste in a timely manner and how we should go about forming it

Part Three: In which the principle of imitation is verified by its application to various arts
Section One: Poetical art consists in the imitation of belle nature
1  Alternatives to the principle of imitation are refuted
2  The divisions of poetry are found in [types of] imitation
3  The general rules of poetical content are contained in the principle of imitation
4  The rules of poetical style are contained in the imitation of belle nature
5  All rules of epic poetry come from the principle of imitation
6  On tragedy
7  On comedy
8  On pastoral poetry
9  On fables
10  On lyric poetry
Section Two: On Painting
Section Three: On Music and Dance
1  Gestures and tones of voice are the keys to understanding music and dance
2  The emotions are the principal subject of music and dance
3  All of music and dance must have a referent and a meaning
4  The expressive qualities that music and dance must have
5  On the union of the fine arts


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