REPUBLIC OF BELLES-LETTRES. A COMMENTARY TO UKRAINIAN TRANSLATION OF THE TERMS FROM DAVID HUME’S “OF ESSAY-WRITING”
Keywords:Belle Lettres, Republic of Letters, conversation, taste, essay-writing, essays, David Hume
The article is a commentary to philosophical terms of David Hume’s “Of Essay Writing”, that became necessary in working on its Ukrainian translation. “Of Essay Writing” is an essay on conversation that was published in English in 1742 in the first edition of “Essays, Moral and Political” by D. Hume. The commentary focuses on two concepts that are important for understanding the content and cultural and historical context of an essay. First, the concept of “Republic of Letters” is considered. This Renaissance metaphor was in active use in the XV-XVIII centuries and described the conversational community of European intellectuals, formed by correspondent networks. In the age of Enlightenment, an alternative to correspondence was conversation in the newly formed public sphere of communication, concentrated in salons, clubs and other common social spaces. In his essay, D. Hume contrasts the concept of "Republic of Letters" with the concept of “Empire of Conversation”, emphasizing the difference between the worlds of “learned” and “conversible”, where “learned” use correspondence and “conversible” participate in public conversation. Secondly, this commentary examines the concept of "Belles Lettres" - a term of Renaissance origin, the part of humanists educational project “bonnae litterae”, which revealed the role of “studia humanitatis” (humanities) in shaping the aesthetics of writing (including letter writing). David Hume associate "Belles Lettres" with the concept of “taste”, which is a central category of his empiricist aesthetics. According to Hume, the taste comes from specific experience, the components of which are the humanities. At the same time, “Belles Lettres” requires the experience of conversation, and essay-writing is a means, which D. Hume proposes to use to spread the achievements of the “Republic of Letters” in the community of the “Empire of Conversation”.
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