Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-mhx7p Total loading time: 0.372 Render date: 2022-05-29T13:13:20.356Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

3 - The Moral Source of the Kantian Sublime

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2015

Timothy M. Costelloe
Affiliation:
College of William and Mary, Virginia
Get access

Summary

We see other worlds in the distance, but gravity forces us to remain on the earth; we can see other perfections in the spirits above us, but our nature forces us to remain human beings.

INTRODUCTION

A distinctive feature of Kant’s account of the sublime is that the term “sublime” does not properly apply to any object in nature: no craggy peak, turbulent sea, or thunderous sky is sublime sensu stricto. Rather, “true sublimity must be sought only in the mind of one who judges, not in the object in nature.” Indeed, no sensible object – be it St. Peter’s or the Matterhorn – is truly sublime. Such a thing may be dubbed “sublime” only by courtesy, just inasmuch as it “awakens a feeling of a supersensible faculty in us” (CJ 5:250). Only a state of mind can truly be sublime (CJ 5:245–6, 257, and 264). Any account of the Kantian sublime must examine and account for this state of mind. Kant likens the sublime state of mind to a “vibration, i.e., to a rapidly alternating repulsion from, and attraction to, one and the same object” (CJ 5:258; see also CJ 5:245). But this clue about the phenomenology of the sublime does not adequately specify this state of mind, because other states of mind, such as weakness of will, might be described in similar terms.

In order to specify the sublime state of mind appropriately, we need to appreciate the significance of the sublime in the broader scope of Kant’s critical project. The received view – which Kant analyzes and corrects rather than dismisses outright – was that the sublime refers to something great or mighty in nature or art that arouses a distinctive pleasure in the subject. The pleasure is distinctive because it is mixed with a measure of pain or fear. In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant explicitly acknowledges Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke traces our enjoyment of the sublime in nature to the “passions” related to self-preservation. Whatever can “excite the ideas of pain, and danger,” he maintains, “… whatever is in any sort terrible, … or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime.”

Type
Chapter
Information
The Sublime
From Antiquity to the Present
, pp. 37 - 49
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

2005
2000
1999
Crowther, PaulThe Kantian Sublime: From Morality to ArtOxfordClarendon Press 1989Google Scholar
Budd, MalcolmThe Aesthetic Appreciation of NatureOxfordOxford University Press 2002Google Scholar
1996
1996
Louden, Robert B.Anthropology, History, and EducationCambridgeCambridge University Press 2007Google Scholar
Wood, Allen W.Kant, Aristotle, and the StoicsCambridgeCambridge University Press 1996Google Scholar
Reath, AndrewsKant’s Theory of Moral Sensibility,Kant Studien 80 1989 284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Merritt, Melissa McBay 2010
2011
Zammito, JohnThe Genesis of Kant’s Critique of JudgmentChicagoUniversity of Chicago Press 1992Google Scholar
4
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×