The Taste of Sublime at Montesquieu and Burke

Baldine Saint Girons


Admiring the paper of Montesquieu On the Taste, published in 1757 in L’Encyclopédie, Edmund Burke translated the main part of it in his own review, The Annual Register or a View of the History, Politics and Literature. And he added to the second edition of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1759) an Introduction on Taste which was inspired by Montesquieu.
In spite of undeniable differences, a community of thought appears between these two great thinkers, both enthusiasts of law and parliamentary. The one ended its career and the other began it with reflections concerning the principles and the statute of aesthetics. Both granted a central significance to the experiment of the sublime and studied its links with theory of knowledge, moral and policy. Both wanted to compete with the greatest genius. But Burke wanted to emulate Longinus and was above all interested in poetry whereas Montesquieu was emulating Michelangelo and had an architectural ambition.


Montesquieu; Burke; Taste; Aesthetics; Sublime

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.2421-4124/5312


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