Marta Shcherbakova

English 240

April 28, 2010

Beautiful and Sublime The most two conflicting philosophical versions of the relationship between beautiful and sublime in aesthetic, and touchstone for almost all later philosophical works dealing with the subject, lay in the theories of two legendary philosophers of 18th century, Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant. Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful shows a distinction between what is beautiful (and pleasant) and the sublime, concluding that an experience that might be considered terrible may instead inspire a peculiar sense of pleasure, a delight derived from terror. After about thirty years, Kant in his famous Critique of Judgment thoroughly analyzes the connection between beautiful and sublime by comparing and contrasting these terms but highlights the difference between them by applying the sublime aesthetic to the nature only. In this paper I will compare Burke’s and Kant’s theories about beautiful and sublime, in order to show that there is no standard viewpoint on defining the beautiful and the sublime. The eighteenth century was an active period for investigation of the beauty and the sublimity. In 1757 Edmund Burke, British “political theorist and statesmen”, published one of his famous works Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. He was the first philosopher to argue that the sublime and the beautiful are mutually exclusive. The difference is a contradictory to the same degree as light and darkness. Beauty may be emphasized by light, but either intense light or darkness is sublime to the degree that it can eliminate the sight of an object. Burke's concept of the sublime is an antithetical contrast to the classical notion of the aesthetic quality of beauty as the pleasurable experience. He suggests ugliness as an aesthetic quality in its capacity to instill feelings of intense emotion, ultimately creating a pleasurable experience. According to Burke’s theory, in order to understand these two terms, people have to analyze their causal structures. For instance, the formal cause of beauty is the passion of love; the material cause concerns aspects of certain objects such as smallness,

however. it can only reorder and combine basic sense perceptions. In 1790. Burke's sublime is achieved through a type of indirect or derived terror. He regards them as constituting jointly the aesthetic aspect of nature and essential qualities of fine art.Marta Shcherbakova English 240 April 28. infinity. in order to understand the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful. we must examine the experience of pain and pleasure. etc. the imagination cannot create anything "new". delicacy. Paul. Burke concentrates on the point at which sublime is understandable through people’s senses of feelings and imagination. Its formal cause is thus the passion of fear. fitness. beauty cannot be understood by the traditional bases of beauty: proportion. the third of these three Critiques has remained the darkest of Kant’s published works and the most inaccessible to the philosophical reader. He assumes that all our knowledge comes by way of sense experience. In other words. 1992 (367-394) .” The Cambridge Companion to Kant. When Kant starts to talk about “beautiful. we do not use understanding to 1 Guyer. “To this day. and genius: The aesthetics of nature and art. Burke directly connects imagination to people’s senses of feelings. The sublime also has a causal structure that is unlike that of beauty. combing simple impressions into more complex ones. As Burke states. according to Burke. that in turn can be examine by all human’s senses of feelings. Kant follows the eighteenth-century convention of grouping together the notions of the beautiful and the sublime. etc." Therefore. magnificence. 2010 smoothness. or perfection. Kant finished his critical enterprise with the Critique of Judgment. Cambridge University Press.” he sounds very familiar to Burke by saying that “If we wish to decide whether something is beautiful or not. saying that by "representing at pleasure the images of things in the order and manner in which they were received by the senses" and by "combining those images in a new manner. and according to a different order. “Taste.”1 In this book. So. sublimity. the material cause is an equal aspect of certain objects such as vastness. according to Burke. in which one experiences pleasure in the face of pain or terror.

These two terms both are estimated in judgments of reflection and not cognized in determinant judgments. Even Kant lived during the time when people followed to uniform rules and were too afraid of their authorities to express themselves in any ways. but not as an answer to the need or interest of the person beholding the object. insofar as we present unboundedness. he describes beauty as "an object's form or purposiveness insofar as it is perceived in the object without the presentation of a purpose".Marta Shcherbakova English 240 April 28. At the beginning of the Analytic of the Sublime.” While Kant contrasts beautiful and sublime. serving as a purpose to the object. the gratification in both rests on correspondence of imagination with “faculty of concepts that belongs to understanding or reason. According to Kant. 2010 refer the presentation to the object so as to give rise to cognition. which consists in the object’s being bounded. having taste is not like having an extra sense. and support it with evidences. he claims that “The beautiful in nature concerns the form of the object. we make a judgment.we express our taste. nor like exercising a special intellectual power.” he also mentions the taste. and everyone sees things how he or she wants it to be seen. it is a thing that belongs to the object that is beautiful. beauty is not a thing that happens to us. It is ability to respond with immediate pleasure and crystal vision to the beauty in the world that around us. Therefore. While he compares them. ether as in the object or because the object prompts us to . he understood that the taste is an individual concept. Kant both compares and contrasts the experience of sublimity with that of the beautiful. rather. In today’s society everyone will agree that defining beauty is out of the capability of anyone. meaning that beauty is a property of the object. 505) But then. But the sublime can also be found in a formless object. hence. We argue that some object is beautiful . he finds enough to argue for the inclusion of the judgment on the sublime together with the judgment on the beautiful. due to individuality of every persona and high comprehension of beauty in their own reality. When Kant tries to define “beautiful. we use imagination…” (Norton Anthology.

it’s just a work of a particular person.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2001 (499-535) Leitch. W. W. both philosophers. Vincent B.” (Norton Anthology. “Edmund Burke. Norton & Company. rather it refers to humans’ responses to everything that is too overwhelming to comprehend. because there is nothing overwhelming. and few parts of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. The same concept can be applied to the sublime.” and also because of the fact that people’s just imagination fails to comprehend it.W. from Kant’s perspective would see as a sublime because of its greatness.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. but Kant did more thorough analysis. the beautiful can be related to art or some sensory experience. Some people can consider art as a sublime. When he discussed the term “beautiful. Works Cited Leitch. “Immanuel Kant. Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant made very interesting points. its “power.” he mentioned that there are no rules to which we can appeal to spell out when a thing ought to be judged beautiful. sublime cannot be related to an experience. For example pyramids. 2001 (536-551) . After the reading of the Critique of Judgment. 2010 present it. Vincent B. Critique of Judgment. I think it is very important that Kant also mentioned taste because in today’s society people have their own tastes.” A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. because it is a unique creation. and ideas on perceiving the world. 520) Using more simple language.W.Marta Shcherbakova English 240 April 28. concepts. From my perspective. I just one more time concluded that there is no standard viewpoint on defining the beautiful and the sublime. Norton & Company. Some people might perceive the sublime as something powerful with terror and some might see it just from the point of greatness. and some as a beautiful. while yet we add to this unboundedness the thought of its totality. And I totally agree with him.