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Howard Caygill

(b Königsberg, Feb 2, 1700; d Leipzig, Dec 12, 1766).

German philosopher. He was the first of the philosophers influenced by Johann Christian von Wolff (1679–1754) to establish a place in Wolff’s system for the fine arts. He attended the universities of Königsberg and Leipzig in the early 1720s, where he wrote theses on Wolffian topics. In 1730 he published his enormously influential Versuch einer critischen Dichtkunst. This essay brings together traditional poetics, the theory of taste and Wolffian philosophy. Although he employed the traditional framework of commenting on Horace’s Ars poetica, Gottsched focused on the relation between taste and perfection: perfection is rational, the unity of a manifold, but may be ‘obscurely perceived’ by taste. His relaxation of the stern rationalism of Wolff was insufficient for the Zurich critics Bodmer and Breitinger, generating a controversy that rumbled on into the 1750s. It was also unacceptable to the later generation of romantic aestheticians, notably Goethe, who found his compromise between the rules of art and the demands of taste still too restrictive....

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Howard Caygill

(b Königsberg [Kaliningrad], Aug 27, 1730; d Münster, June 21, 1788).

German philosopher and theologian. After travels that included sojourns in London and Riga, he based himself in his native city from 1759, occupying minor posts and acting as a Christian gadfly to the German Enlightenment. He separated himself from Kant with the esoteric Sokratische Denkwürdigkeiten (1759), which spurned the philosophy and recondite style of the Enlightenment. His differences were further developed in the first, and perhaps most influential riposte to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, the Metacritik über den Purismum der Vernunft (1784), which questions how it is possible to criticize reason without assuming its validity, and claims that reason was already abstracted from language.

A similar argument informs Hamann’s main work in the philosophy of art, the ‘Aesthetica in Nuce’, one of the Kreuzzuge des Philologen (1762). This essay, subtitled ‘a rhapsody in cabbalistic prose’, attacks the abstract theories of imitation proposed by German ...