Joseph Addison's (1672-1719) essays in The Spectator occupy contradictory positions in the history of aesthetics. While they are generally considered central to the institution of aesthetics as a scholarly discipline, their reception has throughout history entailed a strong questioning of their philosophical and scholarly importance. In the following paper, the author considers this dual feature as regards reception, and set out to clarify how this has come about. A re-examination of the arguments advanced by Addison makes clear that his role is not that of a philosopher, but that of a public educator. As such he aims to raise the standard of general education of the British 'middling orders' in the early eighteenth century, and by using art for didactic purposes he seeks to contribute to the shaping of morally accomplished individuals.