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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

2 - The judgment of the sublime

Summary

Before we can properly understand how the sublime reveals different senses of freedom, we must carefully examine Kant's account of the sublime. Accordingly, I begin by going over the relation between feeling and judgment in Kantian aesthetic experience (section 2.1.1). I also note that Kant attributes to the sublime the four moments of pure aeshetic judgment. This point is worth recalling when we see in chapter 5 that Kant describes enthusiasm in terms of two of these moments, namely, universality and disinterestedness.

One of the main arguments in this chapter is that there is a third kind of sublimity: the moral sublime. We need to acknowledge that there is moral sublimity in order to account for a disinterested spectator's response to morality as well as for certain morally based affects or mental states (e.g., enthusiasm) that qualify as experiences of the sublime. In my view, then, there are three basic kinds of sublimity: the mathematical sublime, the dynamical sublime, and the moral sublime. The argument for this classification actually takes place over two sections, since I review Kant's familiar accounts of mathematical and dynamical sublime (section 2.2) before turning to the moral sublime (section 2.3).

In the section on the mathematical and the dynamical sublime, I discuss three issues that relate to the sublime in general (section 2.2). The first issue concerns whether or not an object judged to be sublime is formless. This issue merits discussion since in the secondary literature Kant has been interpreted as holding this view.

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