Wednesday, March 18, 2009

from the Miscellany section of Characteristics

Were we in a disinterested view, or with somewhat less selflessness than ordinary, to consider the economies, parts, interests, conditions and terms of life which nature has distributed and assigned to the several species of creatures around us, we should not be apt to think ourselves so hardly dealt with. But whether our lot in this respect be just or equal is not the question with us at present. 'Tis enough that we know "there is certainly an assignment and distribution: that each economy or part is so distributed is in itself uniform, fixed and invariable, and that if anything in the creature be accidentally impaired; if anything in the inward form, the disposition, temper or affections be contrary or unsuitable to the economy or part, the creature is wretched and unnatural.

Judging by google search, the word 'disinterested' doesn't seem to come up in aesthetic contexts in characteristics. Also, Shaftesbury seems far more concerned with theodicy than aesthetics.

Comparing Shaftesbury to the Buddhist nature poems I consider in my essay is interesting. Both works assert that by taking up a selfless frame of mind in the presence of nature, one can attain sacred knowledge. But how they conceive the knowledge is very different, because of the different attitudes toward suffering in the two religions. Shaftesbury sees suffering as part of a just larger order, and links it to punishment of those who do not contribute to the order. The Buddhist view cuts suffering off at the root, so that the selfless person simply ceases to experience suffering.

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