British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (2):123-143 (2021)

Sandra Shapshay
Hunter College (CUNY)
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. On this theory, sublime experiences begin in an ‘awe response’ and might, with the additional element of temporally-extended reflection, turn into a ‘thick sublime’ response. Building on accounts of the sublime as a species of ‘aesthetic awe’ I aim to show that this two-tiered theory helps to explain why sublime experiences seem to have a basic, primordial core, but also seem to be historically and culturally quite variable. On this model, the cultural and historical variability comes in largely at the point of the temporally-extended reflection characteristic of the thick sublime, due to the cognitive stock that the subject brings to the encounter. Thus, sublime experiences really lend themselves to being interpreted quite variously by the subject of these experiences, as, for example, affording insight into the Divine, our moral vocation, or our metaphysical unity with the entire universe, among other lofty thoughts.
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayaa047
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References found in this work BETA

Civilization and its Discontents.Sigmund Freud - 1952/1930 - In John Martin Rich (ed.), Readings in the Philosophy of Education. Belmont, Calif., Wadsworth Pub. Co..
Aesthetics as Philosophy of Perception.Bence Nanay - 2016 - Oxford University Press UK.

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Citations of this work BETA

Why the Sublime Is Aesthetic Awe.Robert R. Clewis - forthcoming - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.
What Is the Monumental?Sandra Shapshay - 2021 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 79 (2):145-160.

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