Kant and the Sublime

The sublime is at the heart of Kant’s aesthetic philosophy.

Kant defines sublime as that is beyond all comparison (that is absolutely) great, either mathematically in terms of limitless magnitude, or dynamically in terms of limitless power. This is the standard meaning, derived from Kant.

The term ‘sublime’ is used to designate natural objects that inspire a kind of awed terror through sheer immensity.

In the 18th century, it was common to consider asthetic experience under the paired concepts of the beautiful and the sublime. The sublime was held to be satisfying either, as for Edmund Burke, in virtue of of the pleasurable nature of the terror that it arouses, or, as for Kant, in virtue of its intimation of a capacity of the mind to apprehend the limitless or indeterminable.

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