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A Philosophical Enquiry Into The Origin Of Our Ideas Of The Sublime And Beautiful: Edmund Burke

1611 words - 7 pages

To talk about the Enlightenment taking current times into consideration, and more specifically to talk about an enlightened aesthetic, may seem unusual as the concept “enlightened” is usually identify with political regimes and scientific systems. But the truth is a return to the meaning of the concept of enlightenment and its aesthetic has never been so necessary for understanding the world that surrounds us as now. At a time in which "cultural marketing" and culture industries and their products are spreaded, it is inevitable to put back on scene the aesthetic reflection that accompanies the Enlightenment movement of the 18th century. For them, one of the great aesthetic categories ...view middle of the document...

It is a completely ambiguous and subjective feeling of pleasure and pain. It is understood as a particular form of aesthetic feeling, which today is still be questioned as a variety of beauty or as an opposite to this character.
Without doubt, the notions of the beautiful and sublime are the most fundamental of all the aesthetic theory. In the case of the beautiful we have from Plato one of the most profound and nuanced reflections that influenced all the aesthetic thought of antiquity and the Middle Ages. In contrast, the notion of the sublime was less broached, even though there were certainly important considerations in the Middle Ages like St. Augustine, it was not a relevant topic. The use of the term is not reintroduce in the aesthetic vocabulary until Boielau translated the “Treaty of the sublime” by Longinus in 1964, although initially with very restrictive applications and limited in the sphere of rhetoric and literature. Longinus only considered the sublime in the context of excellence and perfection of speech, but without really analysing its nature or essence. In his opinion, the term was delimited to the high and noble style of writing. Later the French critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also referred to the term sublime, but limiting its application to Greek rhetoric. In the tradition of aesthetics and the English critics, Burke is the first to formulate the difference between the sublime and beautiful, ahead of all his contemporaries by the recovery of both ideas without breaking the similarity to some of the specific traits that characterize the sublime of Longinus, although it is possible that in the theoretical formulation of the aesthetic sense who more have influenced Burke is Milton, whose work was made widely known from 1688. For Burke, Milton is who best illustrates with his metaphors and poetic visions the idea of the sublime, so he quotes him continuously throughout the text. But it was not until Kant when the notion of the sublime becomes a role protagonist in the aesthetic discussion, mainly due to its contribution to divide this aesthetic feeling following the categories of this theoretical thought. And if we go further back, the fragments of his treatise “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime”, provide important reflections on literature and nature. These contributions and distinctions have remained in force even after the systematization of aesthetic notions that are carried out in modern times.
As it can be appreciated, the history of the sublime is as ancient as philosophy. But ultimately the art is which gives life to the sublime: an art that is manifested not only in the great works but also in the phenomena of the sensible world, as well as in the proposals and in the behaviour of others. For this reason the vicissitudes of the sublime theory are linked to the different conceptions of art. Greeks and Romans developed notably architecture and sculpture, but they favoured...

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