|Aesthetica Preprint, 26 (December 1989)
The work of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), together with that of G. E. Lessing, marked one of the most significant steps forward in the history of modern aesthetics. Dismissed in the past as a preparation and heralding of Kant's aesthetics, Mendelssohn's speculation is instead one of the most important theoretical links between the Leibniz-Wolff tradition, represented in aesthetics by A. G. Baumgarten and by his disciple and popularizer G. F. Meier, and the psychologistic empirical aesthetics of G. Sulzer and the Berlin academics. With Mendelssohn the history of aesthetics underwent a first «Copernican revolution», transforming the theory of «sensibility» (Sinnlichkeit) into a specific and autonomous science of the experience of the Beautiful. Having brilliantly resolved the questions of the system (Batteux), dismissed the reductive trend of the theory of imitation (Nachahnung) and emancipated aesthetics from its logicalmetaphysical shackles, Mendelssohn prepared this discipline for its postKantian and Romantic successes. In particular, the essay on The Fundamental Principles of Fine Arts (Über die Hauptgrundsatze der schönen Kunste und Wissenschaften), published in 1757 in the prestigious "Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und freyen künste" edited by Mendelssohn himself and F. Nicolai, is the most problematic testimony to this transformation in eighteenth century aesthetics and is an inexhaustible supply of themes for speculation drawn on by the Romantic generation, from Schiller to Schlegel, from Herder to Kant himself, whose aesthetic speculation owes not a little to his friend and Jewish Berlin rival.
This Italian translation, which in its critical apparatus takes into account the different versions of the essay in relation to Mendelssohn's aesthetics, from his apprenticeship under Baumgarten to the reading of Burke's essay on the sublime, is a first attempt to restore to Mendelssohn the role which belongs to him not only as a «forerunner» of Kant but as an original and autonomous interpreter of fundamental questions in eighteenth century aesthetics.