All this to say that the very elements that make Addison’s essays on “The Pleasures of the Imagination,” seem like common sense today were the very elements that made them revolutionary at the time they were written. Furthermore, this emphasis on the imagination being based on sensual experience had implications far beyond aesthetics. The sense of individual subjectivity that was founded on this philosophy became foundational to the political and social changes that occurred over the rest of the 18th century.
Joseph Addison's theory of taste resides principally in thework Addison refers to as his “essay on the pleasures of theimagination” (Addison and Steele 1879, nos. 409 and 421). Itcomprises eleven papers—nos. 411 through 421—appearing in the journal TheSpectator on successive days during the summer of 1712. The timingof the essay's publication raises questions about its relation toShaftesbury's Characteristics, which had appeared oneyear earlier. But it is difficult to detect even a hint ofShaftesbury's theory of taste in Addison's. That the twotheories deeply oppose one another might suggest that Addison'sis a reaction against Shaftesbury's. But Addison does not engageShaftesbury: rather he tends simply to assume what Shaftesbury simplydenies and vice-versa. Moreover Addison understood himself to beundertaking something “entirely new” in advancing a theoryof taste (Addison and Steele 1879, no. 409). It seems best to conclude,therefore, that there are two original British theories of taste. Whileit would be hard to say which was more influential, it is easy to saythat each was greatly so: every subsequent British theory of taste, atleast until the close of the Eighteenth Century, shows the stronginfluence of the one, or the other, or both.
Mark akenside the pleasures of imagination analysis essay
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