The Sublime

Edited by Robert R. Clewis (Gwynedd Mercy University, Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München)
About this topic
Summary

The sublime (sublimity) has been described as an experience, feeling, or judgment. As a positively valenced feeling, it is similar to excitement, astonishment, or awe. The concept become influential in aesthetics through the reception of pseudo-Longinus’s work of rhetoric, On the Sublime, where the sublime referred to that inspiring or overwhelming quality in great literary works or speeches. In the modern period, it became associated more with nature than art, and was distinguished from beauty. It was seen as a positive aesthetic experience in response to vast or powerful (apparently formless) objects such as waterfalls and mountains. As an aesthetic experience, the sublime is distinguished from moral feelings and outright fear. Given its emotional intensity, the sublime is distinguished from wonder and curiosity. 

Key works It was through the reception of Pseudo-Dionysus's work of rhetoric, On the Sublime, and modern translations such as Longinus & Broom 1757, that the concept became influential in rhetoric and philosophy. Burke 1764 and Kant 2005 contributed influential accounts of sublimity.
Introductions Shaw 2006 and Kirwan 2005 provide good introductions.
Related categories
Siblings:See also:History/traditions: The Sublime

190 found
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1 — 50 / 190
  1. Pensées sur l’interprétation de la peinture: On the Interpretation of Painting — An Analysis of the Thought of Denis Diderot.Juliette Christie - manuscript
    If everything in the universe is material, how can master painters create images of nature which enable us to see, to know, beauty more perfect than can ever exist in reality? What materially real thing does the master painter access to portray on canvas? The work of the 18th century French philosopher Denis Diderot responds to this conundrum. Diderot’s answer pulls from his rich scientific thought coupled with the unique form of art criticism he develops. In both cases the role (...)
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  2. The Sublime in the Pedestrian: Figures of the Incognito in Fear and Trembling.Martijn Boven - forthcoming - History of European Ideas.
    This article demonstrates a novel conceptualization of sublimity: the sublime in the pedestrian. This pedestrian mode of sublimity is exemplified by the Biblical Abraham, the central figure of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous Fear and Trembling. It is rooted in the analysis of one of the foundational stories of the three monotheistic religions: Abraham’s averted sacrifice of his son Isaac. The defining feature of this new, pedestrian mode of sublimity is that is remains hidden behind what I call a total incognito. It is (...)
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  3. The Aesthetic Value of the World.Tom Cochrane - forthcoming - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    This book defends Aestheticism- the claim that everything is aesthetically valuable and that a life lived in pursuit of aesthetic value can be a particularly good one. Furthermore, in distilling aesthetic qualities, artists have a special role to play in teaching us to recognize values; a critical component of virtue. I ground my account upon an analysis of aesthetic value as ‘objectified final value’, which is underwritten by an original psychological claim that all aesthetic values are distal versions of practical (...)
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  4. The Compass of Beauty: A Search for the Middle.Lars Spuybroek - forthcoming - In Maria Voyatzaki (ed.), Architectural Materialisms: Nonhuman Creativity. Edinburgh University Press.
    This chapter is a rethinking of my earlier “The Ages of Beauty” which investigated Charles Hartshorne’s Diagram of Aesthetic Values. The argument is placed in a long history of beauty being considered as the middle between extremes. It slowly develops into a structure not merely of aesthetic experience but of existence itself, making it a competitor of Heidegger’s fourfold.
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  5. A Two-Tiered Theory of the Sublime.Sandra Shapshay - 2021 - British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (2):123-143.
    By the start of the twenty-first century, the notion of ‘the sublime’ had come to seem incoherent. In the last ten years or so considerable light has been shed by empirical psychologists on a related notion of ‘awe’, and a fruitful dialogue between aestheticians and empirical psychologists has ensued. It is the aim of this paper to synthesize these advances and to offer what I call a ‘two-tiered’ theory of the sublime that shows it to be a coherent aesthetic category. (...)
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  6. Striving: Feeling the Sublime.Stelios Gadris - 2020 - Con-Textos Kantianos 1 (12):358-380.
    In what follows, I will try to show how the sublime reveals a fundamental aspect of the subject as a human being: a striving to comprehend the absolute. Although at first this striving appears to lead to a futile pursuit – we cannot represent the absolute – we ultimately succeed in presenting it, thus re-affirming the fundamental role of intuition for the human being: the need to make our notions, concepts and ideas tangible. The sublime thus appears to be in (...)
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  7. The Sublime Reader.Robert R. Clewis (ed.) - 2019 - London: Bloomsbury.
    The first English-language anthology to provide a compendium of primary source material on the sublime. The book takes a chronological approach, covering the earliest ancient traditions up through the early and late modern periods and into contemporary theory. It takes an inclusive, interdisciplinary approach to this key concept in aesthetics and criticism, representing voices and traditions that have often been overlooked. As such, it will be of use and interest across the humanities and allied disciplines.
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  8. Kantian Beauty, Fractals, and Universal Community.C. E. Emmer - 2019 - Dialogue and Universalism 29 (2):65-80.
    Benoit B. Mandelbrot, when discussing the global appeal of fractal patterns and designs, draws upon examples from across numerous world cultures. What may be missed in Mandelbrot's presentation is Immanuel Kant’s precedence in recognizing this sort of widespread beauty in art and nature, fractals avant la lettre. More importantly, the idea of the fractal may itself assist the aesthetic attitude which Kantian beauty requires. In addition, from a Kantian perspective, fractal patterns may offer a source for a sense of community (...)
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  9. Sensory Force, Sublime Impact, and Beautiful Form.Eli I. Lichtenstein - 2019 - British Journal of Aesthetics 59 (4):449-464.
    Can a basic sensory property like a bare colour or tone be beautiful? Some, like Kant, say no. But Heidegger suggests, plausibly, that colours ‘glow’ and tones ‘sing’ in artworks. These claims can be productively synthesized: ‘glowing’ colours are not beautiful; but they are sensory forces—not mere ‘matter’, contra Kant—with real aesthetic impact. To the extent that it inheres in sensible properties, beauty is plausibly restricted to structures of sensory force. Kant correspondingly misrepresents the relation of beautiful wholes to their (...)
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  10. Pleasure and Transcendence: Two Paradoxes of Sublimity.Tom Hanauer - 2018 - In Lars Aagaard-Mogensen (ed.), The Possibility of the Sublime: Aesthetic Exchanges. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 29-44.
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  11. The Sublime in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy.Woods David - 2017 - British Journal of Aesthetics 57 (2):239-244.
    © British Society of Aesthetics 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.comBefore even opening the pages of Bart Vandenabeele’s The Sublime in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy, it is an encouraging sight to behold. For, there are surprisingly few single-author monographs focused solely on Schopenhauer’s aesthetic philosophy, at least in the Anglophone literature—much less on Schopenhauer’s theory of the sublime in particular, as is rightfully boasted in the blurb (...)
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  12. What's the Big Idea? On Emily Brady's Sublime. Clewis - 2016 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 50 (2):104-118.
    “The sublime is a massive concept,” Emily Brady states in her book’s first sentence. Her lucid study of the sublime should interest scholars from a wide range of disciplines, from environmental philosophy and aesthetics to the history of philosophy, art history, and literary criticism. Although its title refers to modern philosophy, the book examines not only the period typically classified in philosophy as “modern,” but also romanticism and contemporary aesthetics. Brady aims “to reassess, and to some extent reclaim, the meaning (...)
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  13. Finite Agents, Sublime Feelings: Response to Hanauer.Katerina Deligiorgi - 2016 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (2):199-202.
    Tom Hanauer's thoughtful discussion of my article “The Pleasures of Contra-purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human” puts pressure on two important issues concerning the affective phenomenology of the sublime. My aim in that article was to present an analysis of the sublime that does not suffer from the problems identified by Jane Forsey in “Is a Theory of the Sublime Possible?”. I argued that Kant's notion of reflective judgment can help with this task, because it allows us to capture (...)
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  14. Sublimity and the Ends of Reason: Questions for Deligiorgi.Tom Hanauer - 2016 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74 (2):195-199.
    The sublime has come under severe criticism in recent years. Jane Forsey, for instance, has argued that all theories of the sublime “rest on a mistake”. In her article, “The Pleasures of Contra-purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human,” Katerina Deligiorgi () provides a rejoinder to Forsey. Deligiorgi argues—with the help of Kant—that a coherent theory of the sublime is possible, and she provides a sketch for such a theory. Deligiorgi makes good progress in the debate over the sublime. But (...)
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  15. Kantian and Nietzschean Aesthetics of Human Nature: A Comparison Between the Beautiful/Sublime and Apollonian/Dionysian Dualities.Erman Kaplama - 2016 - Cosmos and History 12 (1):166-217.
    Both for Kant and for Nietzsche, aesthetics must not be considered as a systematic science based merely on logical premises but rather as a set of intuitively attained artistic ideas that constitute or reconstitute the sensible perceptions and supersensible representations into a new whole. Kantian and Nietzschean aesthetics are both aiming to see beyond the forms of objects to provide explanations for the nobility and sublimity of human art and life. We can safely say that Kant and Nietzsche used the (...)
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  16. The Cosmological Aesthetic Worldview in Van Gogh’s Late Landscape Paintings.Erman Kaplama - 2016 - Cosmos and History 12 (1):218-237.
    Some artworks are called sublime because of their capacity to move human imagination in a different way than the experience of beauty. The following discussion explores how Van Gogh’s The Starry Night along with some of his other late landscape paintings accomplish this peculiar movement of imagination thus qualifying as sublime artworks. These artworks constitute examples of the higher aesthetic principles and must be judged according to the cosmological-aesthetic criteria for they manage to generate a transition between ethos and phusis (...)
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  17. Humor and Enlightenment, Part I: The Theory.Peter H. Karlen - 2016 - Contemporary Aesthetics 14.
    Part I of this article advances a new theory of humor, the Enlightenment Theory, while contrasting it with other main theories, including the Incongruity, Repression/Relief/Release, and Superiority Theories. The Enlightenment Theory does not contradict these other theories but rather subsumes them. As argued, each of the other theories cannot account for all the aspects of humor explained by the Enlightenment Theory. The discussion is illustrated with examples of humor and explores the acts and circumstances of humor, its literary and artistic (...)
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  18. Sun and Lightning: The Visibility of Radiance.Lars Spuybroek - 2016 - In L. Spuybroek J. Brouwer (ed.), The War of Appearances: Transparency, Opacity, Radiance. Rotterdam, Netherlands: V2_Publishing. pp. 98-127.
    A long chapter for The War of Appearances: Transparency, Opacity, Radiance (V2_Publishing, 2016) building on the findings of “Charis and Radiance,” an essay published two years earlier. It discusses the inherent connection between visibility and radiance within the framework of Plato’s sun model as the source of reality.
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  19. Aesthetics of the Sublime and Moral Education.Youngdon Youn - 2016 - Journal of Ethics: The Korean Association of Ethics 1 (108):31-49.
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  20. “The Place of the Sublime in Kant’s Project”.Robert Clewis - 2015 - Studi Kantiani 28:149-68.
    I emphasize the harmony between the sublime and the underlying concept of the purposiveness of nature, i.e. that the sublime is purposive through its initial contrapurposiveness. One favorable outcome of this reading is that it locates further unity in the Critique of Judgment, e.g. it helps make sense of why, besides historical reasons, Kant may have turned to the sublime in the first place in the “Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgment” (Part One of the CJ). I question some (...)
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  21. The Sublime, Ugliness and Contemporary Art: A Kantian Perspective.Mojca Kuplen - 2015 - Con-Textos Kantianos 1:114-141.
    The aim of this paper is twofold. First, to explain the distinction between Kant’s notions of the sublime and ugliness, and to answer an important question that has been left unnoticed in contemporary studies, namely why it is the case that even though both sublime and ugliness are contrapurposive for the power of judgment, occasioning the feeling of displeasure, yet that after all we should feel pleasure in the former, while not in the latter. Second, to apply my interpretation of (...)
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  22. The Acrobatics of the Figure: Piranesi and Magnificence.Lars Spuybroek - 2015 - In Dr J. G. Wallis de Vries (ed.), ARCHESCAPE: The Piranesi Flights. Amsterdam: 1001 Publishers. pp. 5-11.
    An essay, which I wrote for the catalog to the exhibition “ARCHESCAPE: the Piranesi Flights,” organized by the Dutch Piranesi scholar Gijs Wallis de Vries. The text, which is necessarily kept short, uses notions of the magnificent and the tragic that I discovered in Hartshorne’s Aesthetic Diagram as discussed in “The Ages of Beauty.”.
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  23. The Sublime in Art: Kant, the Mannerist, and the Matterist Sublime. Vandenabeele - 2015 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 49 (3):32-49.
    Numerous contemporary artworks are found repellent, even by genuine art lovers, either because they deliberately derange our perception and imagination by an abundance of incoherent representations and stimuli or because they demand that we value seemingly nonsensical objects or all kinds of disgusting materials. Installations, collages, and so-called unassisted ready-mades especially cannot count on too much appreciation, unless the artists in question are sufficiently supported by clever managers who reduce their work to commodities, which then serve merely as illustrations of (...)
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  24. The Most Sublime of All Laws: The Strange Resurgence of a Kantian Motif in Contemporary Image Politics.Emmanuel Alloa - 2014 - Critical Inquiry 41 (2):367-389.
    In recent years, the claim of the unrepresentability of the Shoah has stirred vivid debates, especially following the strong positions taken by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and author of Shoah (1986). This claim of unrepresentability, it can be shown, draws part of its attraction from the fact that it oscillates undecidedly between a claim of logical impossibility (“the Shoah can’t be represented”) and a normative demand (“the Shoah shouldn’t be represented”). This essay analyzes the argumentative structure of the advocates (...)
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  25. The Sublime and Its Teleology Kant- Gwrman Idealism- Phenomenology, Edited by Donald Loose. [REVIEW]Robert R. Clewis - 2014 - Kant Studies Online 2014 (1).
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  26. The Pleasures of Contra‐Purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human.Katerina Deligiorgi - 2014 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (1):25-35.
    Serious doubts have been raised about the coherence of theories of the sublime and the usefulness of the concept. By contrast, the sublime is increasingly studied as a key function in Kant's moral psychology and in his ethics. This article combines methodological conservatism, approaching the topic from within Kant's discussion of aesthetic judgment, with reconstruction of a conception of human agency that is tenable on Kantian grounds. I argue that a coherent theory of the sublime is possible and useful, and (...)
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  27. Second Section: The Sublime and the Charming.Nicolai Hartmann - 2014 - In Aesthetics. De Gruyter. pp. 392-445.
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  28. The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature. By Emily Brady. [REVIEW]Michael R. Spicher - 2014 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 88 (3):598-600.
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  29. Replies to Paul Guyer and Melissa Zinkin.Robert R. Clewis - 2013 - Critique.
  30. Costelloe, Timothy M., Ed. The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press, 2012, Xiii + 304 Pp., 36 B&W Illus., $35.95 Paper. [REVIEW]Tom Cochrane - 2013 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (4):390-392.
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  31. Solitude and the Sublime: The Romantic Aesthetics of Individuation.Frances Ferguson - 2013 - Routledge.
    As interest in aesthetic experience evolved in the eighteenth century, discussions of the sublime located two opposed accounts of its place and use. Ferguson traces these two positions - the Burkean empiricist account and the Kantian formalist one - to argue that they had significance of aesthetics, including recent deconstructive and New Historicist criticism.
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  32. A Arte Moderna Como Historicamente-Sublime Um Comentário Sobre o Conceito de Sublime Na Teoria Estética de TH. Adorno.Verlaine Freitas - 2013 - Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy 54 (127):157-176.
    O objetivo do texto é propor uma interpretação do conceito de sublime na Teoria estética de Theodor Adorno, partindo do confronto com leituras significativas de outros comentadores, de modo a fornecer uma concepção que associe o movimento de transcendência e alteridade da forma estética à dinâmica histórico-processual das obras. The objective of this paper is to propose an interpretation of the concept of sublime in the Aesthetic Theory of Theodor Adorno, starting with the confrontation with meaningful readings of other commentators, (...)
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  33. The Sublime : Process and Mediation.Liza McCosh - 2013 - In Estelle Barrett & Barbara Bolt (eds.), Carnal Knowledge: Towards a 'New Materialism' Through the Arts. I.B. Tauris.
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  34. A Sense Sublime.Richard Quinney - 2013 - Borderland Books.
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  35. Contemporary Environmental Aesthetics and the Neglect of the Sublime.S. Shapshay - 2013 - British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (2):181-198.
    Discussion of sublime response to natural environments is largely absent from contemporary environmental aesthetics. This is due to the fact that the sublime seems inextricably linked to extravagant metaphysical ideas. In this paper, I seek to rehabilitate a conception of sublime response that is secular, metaphysically modest and compatible with the most influential theory of environmental aesthetics, Allen Carlson’s scientific cognitivism. First, I offer some grounds for seeing the environmental sublime as a distinctive and meaningful category of contemporary aesthetic experience (...)
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  36. The Distinct Basic Good of Aesthetic Experience and Its Political Import.Michael R. Spicher - 2013 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 87 (4):711 - 729.
    To protect art under the First Amendment, John Finnis claims that art is simply the expression of emotion. Later, to protect aesthetic experience from subjectivity, Finnis claims that aesthetic experience is just a form of knowledge. However, neither of these claims adequately accounts for the nature of their objects nor fully protects them. The expression of emotion—intrinsic to art in Finnis’s view—is not always clear or even present, yet people can still appreciate the work. Equally problematic, aesthetic experience is not (...)
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  37. Reassessing Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature in the Kantian Sublime. Brady - 2012 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 46 (1):91-109.
    The sublime has been a relatively neglected topic in recent work in philosophical aesthetics, with existing discussions confined mainly to problems in Kant's theory.1 Given the revival of interest in his aesthetic theory and the influence of the Kantian sublime compared to other eighteenth-century accounts, this focus is not surprising. Kant's emphasis on nature also sets his theory apart from other eighteenth-century theories that, although making nature central, also give explicit attention to moral character and mathematical ideas and generally devote (...)
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  38. The First American Sublime.Chandos Michael Brown - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press.
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  39. Religion and the Sublime.Andrew Chignell & Matthew C. Halteman - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    An effort to lay out a kind of taxomony of conceptual relations between the domains of the sublime and the religious. Warning: includes two somewhat graphic images. -/- .
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  40. The Emotional Experience of the Sublime.Tom Cochrane - 2012 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):125-148.
    The literature on the venerable aesthetic category of the sublime often provides us with lists of sublime phenomena — mountains, storms, deserts, volcanoes, oceans, the starry sky, and so on. But it has long been recognized that what matters is the experience of such objects. We then find that one of the most consistent claims about this experience is that it involves an element of fear. Meanwhile, the recognition of the sublime as a category of aesthetic appreciation implies that attraction, (...)
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  41. The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present.Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.) - 2012 - Cambridge University Press.
    Machine generated contents note: 'The sublime'. A short introduction to a long history Timothy M. Costelloe; Part I. Philosophical History of the Sublime: 1. Longinus and the ancient sublime Malcolm Heath; 2...And the beautiful? revisiting Edmund Burke's 'double aesthetics' Rodolphe Gasche; 3. The moral source of the Kantian sublime Melissa Meritt; 4. Imagination and internal sense: the sublime in Shaftesbury, Reid, Addison, and Reynolds Timothy M. Costelloe; 5. The associative sublime: Kames, Gerrard, Alison, and Stewart Rachel Zuckert; 6. The 'prehistory' (...)
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  42. The (Bio)Technological Sublime.Jos de Mul - 2012 - Diogenes 59 (1-2):32-40.
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  43. The Digital Sublime: Lessons From Kelli Connell's Double Life. Huang - 2012 - Journal of Aesthetic Education 46 (4):70-79.
    The concept of the “sublime” has been discussed by a few philosophers. According to German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), the sublime refers to something “absolutely great,”1 such as the vast Sahara Desert or an earthquake, that surpasses one’s ability to comprehend with one’s reason. The sublime brings a mixture of anxiety and pleasure to those experiencing it: anxiety from the conflict between reason and imagination, and pleasure from the awareness of the supremacy of human reason. While Kant focuses on sublime (...)
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  44. Magnificence and the Sublime in Medieval Aesthetics: Art, Architecture, Literature, Music. [REVIEW]Catherine Karkov - 2012 - The Medieval Review 2.
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  45. Životaschopnosť Jedného Prístupu. Poznámky Ku Kantovskej Línii Interpretácie Kategórie Vznešeného.Adrián Kvokačka - 2012 - Espes 1 (1):17-23.
    This paper pursues transformation of Kant's definition of the category sublime in post-Kantian aesthetic reflexion. Finding this line of thinking allows not only present relevant approaches to the whole history of the aesthetic category, but also to show the platform for new thinking not only in aesthetic discourse, but wherever the sublime enter today at the core of interest.
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  46. Storia Del Sublime: Dallo Pseudo Longino Alle Poetiche Della Modernità.Giuseppe Panella - 2012 - Clinamen.
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  47. The Technological Sublime.Ken-Ichi Sasaki - 2012 - Diogenes 59 (1-2):32-40.
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  48. The Ages of Beauty: Revisiting Hartshorne's Diagram of Aesthetic Values.Lars Spuybroek - 2012 - In A. Mulder (ed.), Vital Beauty: Reclaiming Aesthetics in the Tangle of Technology and Nature. pp. 32-63.
    This long essay was published in Vital Beauty, a collection including Wendy Steiner and Tim Ingold, which investigates the possibility of new ways toward beauty. This is my first encounter with Hartshorne’s Diagram of Aesthetic Values, a mandala-like structure explaining the relations between aesthetic experiences. The essay looks into the awkward history of the diagram in Hartshorne’s philosophy, its connection to Max Dessoir’s work, to Whitehead’s chapter on beauty in Adventures of Ideas and the notion of creativity in Schelling.
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  49. Gerard, Kames, Alison, and Stewart.Rachel Zuckert - 2012 - In Timothy M. Costelloe (ed.), The Sublime: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press. pp. 64.
    This essay concerns the theories of the sublime proposed by Alexander Gerard, Henry Home (Lord Kames), Archibald Alison, and Dugald Stewart. All four thinkers, I argue, aim to provide a philosophical account of the unity of the concept of the sublime, i.e., to respond to the question: what might all objects, art works, etc. that have been identified as sublime (or “grand”) in the philosophical, literary, art-theoretical, and rhetorical tradition have in common? Yet because they find the objects called “sublime” (...)
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  50. The Kantian Sublime and the Revelation of Freedom by Clewis, Robert.Stefan Bird-Pollan - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (3):348-350.
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