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Chapter 6 examines how later stories about artistic competition, related by al-Maqrizi, Mustafa ‘Ali, and Qadi Ahmad, consider painting in the context of deceptive rhetoric in pursuit of truth, as advocated in Plato’s Phaedrus. The chapter concludes by comparing this understanding of painting with that rooted in a similar story, the competition of Zeuxis and Parrhasius. Adopted from antiquity by German Enlightenment thinkers as the paradigm for representation and the disinterested observer, this story establishes paradigms of artistry and mimesis in the Western tradition that cannot account for opposite premises established in Islamic discourses. The comparison between the two narratives underscores the antique tradition as part of a shared Islamic and European heritage diverging through distinct histories of interpretation. Comparison with European theorization of the image uncovers the bias inherent to normative art-historical premises about the social and psychological functions of the image that obscure alternative modes of perception, whether in cultures whose alterity is determined by being in the past or by being elsewhere. The story of the competition of the artists outlines an alternative paradigm, rooted in spiritually trained subjectivity rooted in the heart and resisting the rationalist exteriority of representation presumed in dominant modern models.
Since the days when the interest of historians was principally focused on forms of government the age of absolutism has been a label commonly attached to the period of European history between 1660 and 1789. Mercantilism as practised on the continent of Europe was an essential concomitant of absolutism and developed in every state pari passu with the growth in the monarch's power. To the Germans, mercantilism seems an integral part of the Enlightenment because of the rational and secular nature of its thinking. The Cameralism or mercantilism of central Europe was distinguished from its French counterpart because the study of its doctrines constituted an academic discipline which was obligatory for all the holders of administrative posts, and because the rulers themselves were its most receptive students. Civilization in the age of absolutism rested on a peasant base. In the major continental countries the Physiocrats' gospel appealed most strongly to the governments that found themselves in difficulties.
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