Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 63 (4):719 - 750 (2001)

Bart Vandenabeele
University of Ghent
This article discusses Kant's and Schopenhauer's analyses of the feeling of the sublime. The focus is on the relationship between their ethics and aesthetics. It is argued that the kantian-schopenhauerian analysis of the sublime reveals an insurmountable fissure at the heart of subjectivity. This points out that a dialectical interpretation of kantian-schopenhauerian aesthetics, that reduces the sublime feeling to a kind of bridge or passage (Übergang) from the beautiful to the good is not without complications. Although this is not always explicitly acknowledged by Kant and Schopenhauer, some of their remarks show that the sublime feeling confronts the subject affectively with the impossibility to coincide with itself. In the first section, it is shown that the sublime in Kant cannot be fully explained by interpreting it merely as the (preparatory) feeling of a kind of ethical superiority. Moreover, in the light of recent developments in art history (which offers sundry examples of the extremely sublime to the abject), the ethical mediation of sublime communicability as it is offered by Kant and Schopenhauer (section 2) can no longer be defended as valid alternatives. As is claimed in section 3, a deep tragic heterogeneity manifests itself in an exemplary way in the affective ambivalence typical of the sublime feeling, which cannot be ethically or dialectically recuperated
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