Beauty and the Sublime
What is beauty and what is sublime?
Kant and Burke can be very perplexing on this subject.
On the one hand beauty is defined as having a particular form with identifiable boundaries. The sublime is associated with pain or terror or with that which is boundless. Yet, what does this have to do with aesthetic judgements?
For example, let’s take beauty. We find something to be beautiful because it corresponds with our concept of beauty and not because of the sensible qualities associated with the object (i.e. “I love the fragrance of a flower or the taste of a lemon pie). The object is beautiful because of the inherent universality in our judgment. If we rely on our senses to determine that something is beautiful, we then find the object to be not beautiful but “agreeable.”
The sublime is tricky, especially when it comes to art. For example, we find something to be sublime because there is nothing in the sensible world that corresponds with the concept of boundlessness. In art, however, the situation is reversed. Because art involves artistic production, its sublimity is defined, not by the concept, but by the lack of available concepts that correspond to the paintings boundlessness or inherent sublimity. In a modern sense, painting strives to become a “pure idea” rather than relying on a pure idea for its own purposiveness. Hmmm. Maybe I need to give this some more thought.
Museum Educator and Tech Blogger