The Critique of Judgement. Part I: Critique of Aesthetic Judgement, by Immanuel Kant



BOOK II. Analytic of the Sublime.

§ 23. Transition from the faculty of estimating the beautiful to that of estimating the sublime.

The beautiful and the sublime agree on the point of pleasing on their own account. Further they agree in not presupposing either a judgement of sense or one logically determinant, but one of reflection. Hence it follows that the delight does not depend upon a sensation, as with the agreeable, nor upon a definite concept, as does the delight in the good, although it has, for all that, an indeterminate reference to concepts. Consequently the delight is connected with the mere presentation or faculty of presentation, and is thus taken to express the accord, in a given intuition, of the faculty of presentation, or the imagination, with the faculty of concepts that belongs to understanding or reason, in the sense of the former assisting the latter. Hence both kinds of judgements are singular, and yet such as profess to be universally valid in respect of every subject, despite the fact that their claims are directed merely to the feeling of pleasure and not to any knowledge of the object.

There are, however, also important and striking differences between the two. The beautiful in nature is a question of the form of object, and this consists in limitation, whereas the sublime is to be found in an object even devoid of form, so far as it immediately involves, or else by its presence provokes a representation of limitlessness, yet with a superadded thought of its totality. Accordingly, the beautiful seems to be regarded as a presentation of an indeterminate concept of understanding, the sublime as a presentation of an indeterminate concept of reason. Hence the delight is in the former case coupled with the representation of quality, but in this case with that of quantity. Moreover, the former delight is very different from the latter in kind. For the beautiful is directly attended with a feeling of the furtherance of life, and is thus compatible with charms and a playful imagination. On the other hand, the feeling of the sublime is a pleasure that only arises indirectly, being brought about by the feeling of a momentary check to the vital forces followed at once by a discharge all the more powerful, and so it is an emotion that seems to be no sport, but dead earnest in the affairs of the imagination. Hence charms are repugnant to it; and, since the mind is not simply attracted by the object, but is also alternately repelled thereby, the delight in the sublime does not so much involve positive pleasure as admiration or respect, i. e., merits the name of a negative pleasure.

But the most important and vital distinction between the sublime and the beautiful is certainly this: that if, as is allowable, we here confine our attention in the first instance to the sublime in objects of nature (that of art being always restricted by the conditions of an agreement with nature), we observe that whereas natural beauty (such as is self-subsisting) conveys a finality in its form making the object appear, as it were, preadapted to our power of judgement, so that it thus forms of itself an object of our delight, that which, without our indulging in any refinements of thought, but, simply in our apprehension of it, excites the feeling of the sublime, may appear, indeed, in point of form to contravene the ends of our power of judgement, to be ill-adapted to our faculty of presentation, and to be, as it were, an outrage on the imagination, and yet it is judged all the more sublime on that account.

From this it may be seen at once that we express ourselves on the whole inaccurately if we term any object of nature sublime, although we may with perfect propriety call many such objects beautiful. For how can that which is apprehended as inherently contra-final be noted with an expression of approval? All that we can say is that the object lends itself to the presentation of a sublimity discoverable in the mind.

For the sublime, in the strict sense of the word, cannot be contained in any sensuous form, but rather concerns ideas of reason, which, although no adequate presentation of them is possible, may be excited and called into the mind by that very inadequacy itself which does admit of sensuous presentation. Thus the broad ocean agitated by storms cannot be called sublime. Its aspect is horrible, and one must have stored one’s mind in advance with a rich stock of ideas, if such an intuition is to raise it to the pitch of a feeling which is itself sublime-sublime because the mind has been incited to abandon sensibility and employ itself upon ideas involving higher finality.

Self-subsisting natural beauty reveals to us a technic of nature which shows it in the light of a system ordered in accordance with laws the principle of which is not to be found within the range of our entire faculty of understanding. This principle is that of a finality relative to the employment of judgement in respect of phenomena which have thus to be assigned, not merely to nature regarded as aimless mechanism, but also to nature regarded after the analogy of art. Hence it gives a veritable extension, not, of course, to our knowledge of objects of nature, but to our conception of nature itself-nature as mere mechanism being enlarged to the conception of nature as art-an extension inviting profound inquiries as to the possibility of such a form. But in what we are wont to call sublime in nature there is such an absence of anything leading to particular objective principles and corresponding forms of nature that it is rather in its chaos, or in its wildest and most irregular disorder and desolation, provided it gives signs of magnitude and power, that nature chiefly excites the ideas of the sublime. Hence we see that the concept of the sublime in nature is far less important and rich in consequences than that of its beauty. It gives on the whole no indication of anything final in nature itself, but only in the possible employment of our intuitions of it in inducing a feeling in our own selves of a finality quite independent of nature. For the beautiful in nature we must seek a ground external to ourselves, but for the sublime one merely in ourselves and the attitude of mind that introduces sublimity into the representation of nature. This is a very needful preliminary remark. It entirely separates the ideas of the sublime from that of a finality of nature, and makes the theory of the sublime a mere appendage to the aesthetic estimate of the finality of nature, because it does not give a representation of any particular form in nature, but involves no more than the development of a final employment by the imagination of its own representation.

§ 24. Subdivision of an investigation of the feeling of the sublime.

In the division of the moments of an aesthetic estimate of objects in respect of the feeling of the sublime, the course of the Analytic will be able to follow the same principle as in the analysis of judgements of taste. For, the judgement being one of the aesthetic reflective judgement, the delight in the sublime, just like that in the beautiful, must in its quantity be shown to be universally valid, in its quality independent of interest, in its relation subjective finality, and the latter, in its modality, necessary. Hence the method here will not depart from the lines followed in the preceding section: unless something is made of the point that there, where the aesthetic judgement bore on the form of the object, we began with the investigation of its quality, whereas here, considering the formlessness that may belong to what we call sublime, we begin with that of its quantity, as first moment of the aesthetic judgement on the sublime-a divergence of method the reason for which is evident from SS 23.

But the analysis of the sublime obliges a division not required by that of the beautiful, namely one into the mathematically and the dynamically sublime.

For the feeling of sublime involves as its characteristic feature a mental movement combined with the estimate of the object, whereas taste in respect of the beautiful presupposes that the mind is in restful contemplation, and preserves it in this state. But this movement has to be estimated as subjectively final (since the sublime pleases). Hence it is referred through the imagination either to the faculty of cognition or to that of desire; but to whichever faculty the reference is made, the finality of the given representation is estimated only in respect of these faculties (apart from end or interest). Accordingly the first is attributed to the object as a mathematical, the second as a dynamical, affection of the imagination. Hence we get the above double mode of representing an object as sublime.


§ 25. Definition of the term “sublime”.

Sublime is the name given to what is absolutely great. But to be great and to be a magnitude are entirely different concepts (magnitudo and quantitas). In the same way, to assert without qualification (simpliciter) that something is great is quite a different thing from saying that it is absolutely great (absolute, non comparative magnum). The latter is what is beyond all comparison great. What, then, is the meaning of the assertion that anything is great, or small, or of medium size? What is indicated is not a pure concept of understanding, still less an intuition of sense; and just as little is it a concept of reason, for it does not import any principle of cognition. It must, therefore, be a concept of judgement, or have its source in one, and must introduce as basis of the judgement a subjective finality of the representation with reference to the power of judgement. Given a multiplicity of the homogeneous together constituting one thing, and we may at once cognize from the thing itself that it is a magnitude (quantum). No comparison with other things is required. But to determine how great it is always requires something else, which itself has magnitude, for its measure. Now, since in the estimate of magnitude we have to take into account not merely the multiplicity (number of units) but also the magnitude of the unit (the measure), and since the magnitude of this unit in turn always requires something else as its measure and as the standard of its comparison, and so on, we see that the computation of the magnitude of phenomena is, in all cases, utterly incapable of affording us any absolute concept of a magnitude, and can, instead, only afford one that is always based on comparison.

If, now, I assert without qualification that anything is great, it would seem that I have nothing in the way of a comparison present to my mind, or at least nothing involving an objective measure, for no attempt is thus made to determine how great the object is. But, despite the standard of comparison being merely subjective, the claim of the judgement is none the less one to universal agreement; the judgements: “that man is beautiful” and “He is tall”, do not purport to speak only for the judging subject, but, like theoretical judgements, they demand the assent of everyone.

Now in a judgement that without qualification describes anything as great, it is not merely meant that the object has a magnitude, but greatness is ascribed to it pre-eminently among many other objects of a like kind, yet without the extent of this pre-eminence being determined. Hence a standard is certainly laid at the basis of the judgement, which standard is presupposed to be one that can be taken as the same for every one, but which is available only for an aesthetic estimate of the greatness, and not for one that is logical (mathematically determined), for the standard is a merely subjective one underlying the reflective judgement upon the greatness. Furthermore, this standard may be empirical, as, let us say, the average size of the men known to us, of animals of a certain kind, of trees, of houses, of mountains, and so forth. Or it may be a standard given a priori, which by reason of the imperfections of the judging subject is restricted to subjective conditions of presentation in concreto; as, in the practical sphere, the greatness of a particular virtue, or of public liberty and justice in a country; or, in the theoretical sphere, the greatness of the accuracy or inaccuracy of an experiment or measurement, etc.

Here, now, it is of note that, although we have no interest whatever in the object, i.e., its real existence may be a matter of no concern to us, still its mere greatness, regarded even as devoid of form, is able to convey a universally communicable delight and so involve the consciousness of a subjective finality in the employment of our cognitive faculties, but not, be it remembered, a delight in the object, for the latter may be formless, but, in contradistinction to what is the case with the beautiful, where the reflective judgement finds itself set to a key that is final in respect of cognition generally, a delight in an extension affecting the imagination itself.

If (subject as above) we say of an object, without qualification, that it is great, this is not a mathematically determinant, but a mere reflective judgement upon its representation, which is subjectively final for a particular employment of our cognitive faculties in the estimation of magnitude, and we then always couple with the representation a kind of respect, just as we do a kind of contempt with what we call absolutely small. Moreover, the estimate of things as great or small extends to everything, even to all their qualities. Thus we call even their beauty great or small. The reason of this is to be found in the fact that we have only got to present a thing in intuition, as the precept of judgement directs (consequently to represent it aesthetically), for it to be in its entirety a phenomenon, and hence a quantum.

If, however, we call anything not alone great, but, without qualification, absolutely, and in every respect (beyond all comparison) great, that is to say, sublime, we soon perceive that for this it is not permissible to seek an appropriate standard outside itself, but merely in itself. It is a greatness comparable to itself alone. Hence it comes that the sublime is not to be looked for in the things of nature, but only in our own ideas. But it must be left to the deduction to show in which of them it resides.

The above definition may also be expressed in this way: that is sublime in comparison with which all else is small. Here we readily see that nothing can be given in nature, no matter how great we may judge it to be, which, regarded in some other relation, may not be degraded to the level of the infinitely little, and nothing so small which in comparison with some still smaller standard may not for our imagination be enlarged to the greatness of a world. Telescopes have put within our reach an abundance of material to go upon in making the first observation, and microscopes the same in making the second. Nothing, therefore, which can be an object of the senses is to be termed sublime when treated on this footing. But precisely because there is a striving in our imagination towards progress ad infinitum, while reason demands absolute totality, as a real idea, that same inability on the part of our faculty for the estimation of the magnitude of things of the world of sense to attain to this idea, is the awakening of a feeling of a supersensible faculty within us; and it is the use to which judgement naturally puts particular objects on behalf of this latter feeling, and not the object of sense, that is absolutely great, and every other contrasted employment small. Consequently it is the disposition of soul evoked by a particular representation engaging the attention of the reflective judgement, and not the object, that is to be called sublime.

The foregoing formulae defining the sublime may, therefore, be supplemented by yet another: The sublime is that, the mere capacity of thinking which evidences a faculty of mind transcending every standard of sense.

§ 26. The estimation of the magnitude of natural things requisite for the idea of the sublime.

The estimation of magnitude by means of concepts of number (or their signs in algebra) is mathematical, but that in mere intuition (by the eye) is aesthetic. Now we can only get definite concepts of how great anything is by having recourse to numbers (or, at any rate, by getting approximate measurements by means of numerical series progressing ad infinitum), the unit being the measure; and to this extent all logical estimation of magnitude is mathematical. But, as the magnitude of the measure has to be assumed as a known quantity, if, to form an estimate of this, we must again have recourse to numbers involving another standard for their unit, and consequently must again proceed mathematically, we can never arrive at a first or fundamental measure, and so cannot get any definite concept of a given magnitude. The estimation of the magnitude of the fundamental measure must, therefore, consist merely in the immediate grasp which we can get of it in intuition, and the use to which our imagination can put this in presenting the numerical concepts: i.e., all estimation of the magnitude of objects of nature is in the last resort aesthetic (i.e., subjectively and not objectively determined).

Now for the mathematical estimation of magnitude there is, of course, no greatest possible (for the power of numbers extends to infinity), but for the aesthetic estimation there certainly is and of it I say that where it is considered an absolute measure beyond which no greater is possible subjectively (i.e., for the judging subject), it then conveys the idea of the sublime and calls forth that emotion which no mathematical estimation of magnitudes by numbers can evoke (unless in so far as the fundamental aesthetic measure is kept vividly present to the imagination): because the latter presents only the relative magnitude due to comparison with others of a like kind, whereas the former presents magnitude absolutely, so far as the mind can grasp it in an intuition.

To take in a quantum intuitively in the imagination so as to be able to use it as a measure, or unit for estimating magnitude by numbers, involves two operations of this faculty: apprehension (apprehensio) and comprehension (comprehension aesthetica). Apprehension presents no difficulty: for this process can be carried on ad infinitum; but with the advance of apprehension comprehension becomes more difficult at every step and soon attains its maximum, and this is the aesthetically greatest fundamental measure for the estimation of magnitude. For if the apprehension has reached a point beyond which the representations of sensuous intuition in the case of the parts first apprehended begin to disappear from the imagination as this advances to the apprehension of yet others, as much, then, is lost at one end as is gained at the other, and for comprehension we get a maximum which the imagination cannot exceed.

This explains Savary’s observations in his account of Egypt, that in order to get the full emotional effect of the size of the Pyramids we must avoid coming too near just as much as remaining too far away. For in the latter case the representation of the apprehended parts (the tiers of stones) is but obscure, and produces no effect upon the aesthetic judgement of the Subject. In the former, however, it takes the eye some time to complete the apprehension from the base to the summit; but in this interval the first tiers always in part disappear before the imagination has taken in the last, and so the comprehension is never complete. The same explanation may also sufficiently account for the bewilderment, or sort of perplexity, which, as is said, seizes the visitor on first entering St. Peter’s in Rome. For here a feeling comes home to him of the inadequacy of his imagination for presenting the idea of a whole within which that imagination attains its maximum, and, in its fruitless efforts to extend this limit, recoils upon itself, but in so doing succumbs to an emotional delight.

At present I am not disposed to deal with the ground of this delight, connected, as it is, with a representation in which we would least of all look for it-a representation, namely, that lets us see its own inadequacy, and consequently its subjective want of finality for our judgement in the estimation of magnitude-but confine myself to the remark that if the aesthetic judgement is to be pure (unmixed with any teleological judgement which, as such, belongs to reason), and if we are to give a suitable example of it for the Critique of aesthetic judgement, we must not point to the sublime in works of art, e.g., buildings, statues and the like, where a human end determines the form as well as the magnitude, nor yet in things of nature, that in their very concept import a definite end, e.g., animals of a recognized natural order, but in rude nature merely as involving magnitude (and only in this so far as it does not convey any charm or any emotion arising from actual danger). For, in a representation of this kind, nature contains nothing monstrous (nor what is either magnificent or horrible)-the magnitude apprehended may be increased to any extent provided imagination is able to grasp it all in one whole. An object is monstrous where by its size it defeats the end that forms its concept. The colossal is the mere presentation of a concept which is almost too great for presentation, i.e., borders on the relatively monstrous; for the end to be attained by the presentation of a concept is made harder to realize by the intuition of the object being almost too great for our faculty of apprehension. A pure judgement upon the sublime must, however, have no end belonging to the object as its determining ground, if it is to be aesthetic and not to be tainted with any judgement of understanding or reason.

Since whatever is to be a source of pleasure, apart from interest, to the merely reflective judgement must involve in its representation subjective, and, as such, universally valid finality-though here, however, no finality of the form of the object underlies our estimate of it (as it does in the case of the beautiful)-the question arises: What is the subjective finality, and what enables it to be prescribed as a norm so as to yield a ground for universally valid delight in the mere estimation of magnitude, and that, too, in a case where it is pushed to the point at which faculty of imagination breaks down in presenting the concept of a magnitude, and proves unequal to its task?

In the successive aggregation of units requisite for the representation of magnitudes, the imagination of itself advances ad infinitum without let or hindrance-understanding, however, conducting it by means of concepts of number for which the former must supply the schema. This procedure belongs to the logical estimation of magnitude, and, as such, is doubtless something objectively final according to the concept of an end (as all measurement is), but it is not anything which for the aesthetic judgement is final or pleasing. Further, in this intentional finality there is nothing compelling us to tax the utmost powers of the imagination, and drive it as far as ever it can reach in its presentations, so as to enlarge the size of the measure, and thus make the single intuition holding the many in one (the comprehension) as great as possible. For, in the estimation of magnitude by the understanding (arithmetic), we get just as far, whether the comprehension of the units is pushed to the number 10 (as in the decimal scale) or only to 4 (as in the quaternary); the further production of magnitude being carried out by the successive aggregation of units, or, if the quantum is given in intuition, by apprehension, merely progressively (not comprehensively), according to an adopted principle of progression. In this mathematical estimation of magnitude, understanding is as well served and as satisfied whether imagination selects for the unit a magnitude which one can take in at a glance, e.g., a foot, or a perch, or else a German mile, or even the earth’s diameter, the apprehension of which is indeed possible, but not its comprehension in, sit intuition of the imagination (i.e., it is not possible by means of a comprehension aesthetica, thought quite so by means of a comprehension logica in a numerical concept). In each case the logical estimation of magnitude advances ad infinitum with nothing to stop it.

The mind, however, hearkens now to the voice of reason, which for all given magnitudes-even for those which can never be completely apprehended, though (in sensuous representation) estimated as completely given-requires totality, and consequently comprehension in one intuition, and which calls for a presentation answering to all the above members of a progressively increasing numerical series, and does not exempt even the infinite (space and time past) from this requirement, but rather renders it inevitable for us to regard this infinite (in the judgement of common reason) as completely given (i.e., given in its totality).

But the infinite is absolutely (not merely comparatively) great. In comparison with this all else (in the way of magnitudes of the same order) is small. But the point of capital importance is that the mere ability even to think it as a whole indicates a faculty of mind transcending every standard of sense. For the latter would entail a comprehension yielding as unit a standard bearing to the infinite ratio expressible in numbers, which is impossible. Still the mere ability even to think the given infinite without contradiction, is something that requires the presence in the human mind of a faculty that is itself supersensible. For it is only through this faculty and its idea of a noumenon, which latter, while not itself admitting of any intuition, is yet introduced as substrate underlying the intuition of the world as mere phenomenon, that the infinite of the world of sense, in the pure intellectual estimation of magnitude, is completely comprehended under a concept, although in the mathematical estimation by means of numerical concepts it can never be completely thought. Even a faculty enabling the infinite of supersensible intuition to be regarded as given (in its intelligible substrate), transcends every standard of sensibility and is great beyond all comparison even with the faculty of mathematical estimation: not, of course, from a theoretical point of view that looks to the interests of our faculty of knowledge, but as a broadening of the mind that from another (the practical) point of view feels itself empowered to pass beyond the narrow confines of sensibility.

Nature, therefore, is sublime in such of its phenomena as in their intuition convey the idea of their infinity. But this can only occur through the inadequacy of even the greatest effort of our imagination in the estimation of the magnitude of an object. But, now, in the case of the mathematical estimation of magnitude, imagination is quite competent to supply a measure equal to the requirements of any object. For the numerical concepts of the understanding can by progressive synthesis make any measure adequate to any given magnitude. Hence it must be the aesthetic estimation of magnitude in which we get at once a feeling of the effort towards a comprehension that exceeds the faculty of imagination for mentally grasping the progressive apprehension in a whole of intuition, and, with it, a perception of the inadequacy of this faculty, which has no bounds to its progress, for taking in and using for the estimation of magnitude a fundamental measure that understanding could turn to account without the least trouble. Now the proper unchangeable fundamental measure of nature is its absolute whole, which, with it, regarded as a phenomenon, means infinity comprehended. But, since this fundamental measure is a self-contradictory concept (owing to the impossibility of the absolute totality of an endless progression), it follows that where the size of a natural object is such that the imagination spends its whole faculty of comprehension upon it in vain, it must carry our concept of nature, to a supersensible substrate (underlying both nature and our faculty of thought), which is, great beyond every standard of sense. Thus, instead of the object, it is rather the cast of the mind in appreciating it that we have to estimate as sublime.

Therefore, just as the aesthetic judgement in its estimate of the beautiful refers the imagination in its free play to the understanding, to bring out its agreement with the concepts of the latter in general (apart from their determination): so in its estimate of a thing as sublime it refers that faculty to reason to bring out its subjective accord with ideas of reason (indeterminately indicated), i.e., to induce a temper of mind conformable-to that which the influence of definite (practical) ideas would produce upon feeling, and in common accord with it.

This makes it evident that true sublimity must be sought only in the mind of the judging subject, and not in the object of nature that occasions this attitude by the estimate formed of it. Who would apply the term “sublime” even to shapeless mountain masses towering one above the other in wild disorder, with their pyramids of ice, or to the dark tempestuous ocean, or such like things? But in the contemplation of them, without any regard to their form, the mind abandons itself to the imagination and to a reason placed, though quite apart from any definite end, in conjunction therewith, and merely broadening its view, and it feels itself elevated in its own estimate of itself on finding all the might of imagination still unequal to its ideas.

We get examples of the mathematically sublime of nature in mere intuition in all those instances where our imagination is afforded, not so much a greater numerical concept as a large unit as measure (for shortening the numerical series). A tree judged by the height of man gives, at all events, a standard for a mountain; and, supposing this is, say, a mile high, it can serve as unit for the number expressing the earth’s diameter, so as to make it intuitable; similarly the earth’s diameter for the known planetary system; this again for the system of the Milky Way; and the immeasurable host of such systems, which go by the name of nebulae, and most likely in turn themselves form such a system, holds out no prospect of a limit. Now in the aesthetic estimate of such an immeasurable whole, the sublime does not lie so much in the greatness of the number, as in the fact that in our onward advance we always arrive at proportionately greater units. The systematic division of the cosmos conduces to this result. For it represents all that is great in nature as in turn becoming little; or, to be more exact, it represents our imagination in all its boundlessness, and with it nature, as sinking into insignificance before the ideas of reason, once their adequate presentation is attempted.

§ 27. Quality of the delight in our estimate of the sublime.

The feeling of our incapacity to attain to an idea that is a law for us, is respect. Now the idea of the comprehension of any phenomenon whatever, that may be given us, in a whole of intuition, is an idea imposed upon us by a law of reason, which recognizes no definite, universally valid and unchangeable measure except the absolute whole. But our imagination, even when taxing itself to the uttermost on the score of this required comprehension of a given object in a whole of intuition (and so with a view to the presentation of the idea of reason), betrays its limits and its inadequacy, but still, at the same time, its proper vocation of making itself adequate to the same as law. Therefore the feeling of the sublime in nature is respect for our own vocation, which we attribute to an object of nature by a certain subreption (substitution of a respect for the object in place of one for the idea of humanity in our own self-the subject); and this feeling renders, as it were, intuitable the supremacy of our cognitive faculties on the rational side over the greatest faculty of sensibility.

The feeling of the sublime is, therefore, at once a feeling of displeasure, arising from the inadequacy of imagination in the aesthetic estimation of magnitude to attain to its estimation by reason, and a simultaneously awakened pleasure, arising from this very judgement of the inadequacy of the greatest faculty of sense being in accord with ideas of reason, so far as the effort to attain to these is for us a law. It is, in other words, for us a law (of reason), which goes to make us what we are, that we should esteem as small in comparison with ideas of reason everything which for us is great in nature as an object of sense; and that which makes us alive to the feeling of this supersensible side of our being harmonizes with that law. Now the greatest effort of the imagination in the presentation of the unit for the estimation of magnitude involves in itself a reference to something absolutely great, consequently a reference also to the law of reason that this alone is to be adopted as the supreme measure of what is great. Therefore the inner perception of the inadequacy of every standard of sense to serve for the rational estimation of magnitude is a coming into accord with reason’s laws, and a displeasure that makes us alive to the feeling of the supersensible side of our being, according to which it is final, and consequently a pleasure, to find every standard of sensibility falling short of the ideas of reason.

The mind feels itself set in motion in the representation of the sublime in nature; whereas in the aesthetic judgement upon what is beautiful therein it is in restful contemplation. This movement, especially in its inception, may be compared with vibration, i.e., with a rapidly alternating repulsion and attraction produced by one and the same object. The point of excess for the imagination (towards which it is driven in the apprehension of the intuition) is like an abyss in which it fears to lose itself, yet again for the rational idea of the supersensible it is not excessive, but conformable to law, and directed to drawing out such an effort on the part of the imagination: and so in turn as much a source of attraction as it was repellent to mere sensibility. But the judgement itself all the while steadfastly preserves its aesthetic character, because it represents, without being grounded on any definite concept of the object, merely the subjective play of the mental powers (imagination and reason) as harmonious by virtue of their very contrast. For just as in the estimate of the beautiful imagination and understanding by their concert generate subjective finality of the mental faculties, so imagination and reason do so here by their conflict-that is to say they induce a feeling of our possessing a pure and self-sufficient reason, or a faculty for the estimation of magnitude, whose preeminence can only be made intuitively evident by the inadequacy of that faculty which in the presentation of magnitudes (of objects of sense) is itself unbounded.

Measurement of a space (as apprehension) is at the same time a description of it, and so an objective movement in the imagination and a progression. On the other hand, the comprehension of the manifold in the unity, not of thought, but of intuition, and consequently the comprehension of the successively apprehended parts at one glance, is a retrogression that removes the time-condition in the progression of the imagination, and renders coexistence intuitable. Therefore, since the time-series is a condition of the internal sense and of an intuition, it is a subjective movement of the imagination by which it does violence to the internal sense-a violence which must be proportionately more striking the greater the quantum which the imagination comprehends in one intuition. The effort, therefore, to receive in a single intuition a measure for magnitudes which it takes an appreciable time to apprehend, is a mode of representation which, subjectively considered, is contra-final, but objectively, is requisite for the estimation of magnitude, and is consequently final. Here the very same violence that is wrought on the subject through the imagination is estimated as final for the whole province of the mind.

The quality of the feeling of the sublime consists in being, in respect of the faculty of forming aesthetic estimates, a feeling of displeasure at an object, which yet, at the same time, is represented as being final-a representation which derives its possibility from the fact that the subject’s very incapacity betrays the consciousness of an unlimited faculty of the same subject, and that the mind can only form an aesthetic estimate of the latter faculty by means of that incapacity.

In the case of the logical estimation of magnitude, the impossibility of ever arriving at absolute totality by the progressive measurement of things of the sensible world in time and space was cognized as an objective impossibility, i.e., one of thinking the infinite as given, and not as simply subjective, i.e., an incapacity for grasping it; for nothing turns there on the amount of the comprehension in one intuition, as measure, but everything depends on a numerical concept. But in an aesthetic estimation of magnitude the numerical concept must drop out of count or undergo a change. The only thing that is final for such estimation is the comprehension on the part of imagination in respect of the unit of measure (the concept of a law of the successive production of the concept of magnitude being consequently avoided). If, now, a magnitude begins to tax the utmost stretch of our faculty of comprehension in an intuition, and still numerical magnitudes-in respect of which we are conscious of the boundlessness of our faculty-call upon the imagination for aesthetic comprehension in a greater unit, the mind then gets a feeling of being aesthetically confined within bounds. Nevertheless, with a view to the extension of imagination necessary for adequacy with what is unbounded in our faculty of reason, namely the idea of the absolute whole, the attendant displeasure, and, consequently, the want of finality in our faculty of imagination, is still represented as final for ideas of reason and their animation. But in this very way the aesthetic judgement itself is subjectively final for reason as source of ideas, i.e., of such an intellectual comprehension as makes all aesthetic comprehension small, and the object is received as sublime with a pleasure that is only possible through the mediation of a displeasure.


§ 28. Nature as Might.

Might is a power which is superior to great hindrances. It is termed dominion if it is also superior to the resistance of that which itself possesses might. Nature, considered in an aesthetic judgement as might that has no dominion over us, is dynamically sublime.

If we are to estimate nature as dynamically sublime, it must be represented as a source of fear (though the converse, that every object that is a source of fear, in our aesthetic judgement, sublime, does not hold). For in forming an aesthetic estimate (no concept being present) the superiority to hindrances can only be estimated according to the greatness of the resistance. Now that which we strive to resist is an evil, and, if we do not find our powers commensurate to the task, an object of fear. Hence the aesthetic judgement can only deem nature a might, and so dynamically sublime, in so far as it is looked upon as an object of fear.

But we may look upon an object as fearful, and yet not be afraid of it, if, that is, our estimate takes the form of our simply picturing to ourselves the case of our wishing to offer some resistance to it and recognizing that all such resistance would be quite futile. So the righteous man fears God without being afraid of Him, because he regards the case of his wishing to resist God and His commandments as one which need cause him no anxiety. But in every such case, regarded by him as not intrinsically impossible, he cognizes Him as One to be feared.

One who is in a state of fear can no more play the part of a judge of the sublime of nature than one captivated by inclination and appetite can of the beautiful. He flees from the sight of an object filling him with dread; and it is impossible to take delight in terror that is seriously entertained. Hence the agreeableness arising from the cessation of an uneasiness is a state of joy. But this, depending upon deliverance from a danger, is a rejoicing accompanied with a resolve never again to put oneself in the way of the danger: in fact we do not like bringing back to mind how we felt on that occasion not to speak of going in search of an opportunity for experiencing it again.

Bold, overhanging, and, as it were, threatening rocks, thunderclouds piled up the vault of heaven, borne along with flashes and peals, volcanos in all their violence of destruction, hurricanes leaving desolation in their track, the boundless ocean rising with rebellious force, the high waterfall of some mighty river, and the like, make our power of resistance of trifling moment in comparison with their might. But, provided our own position is secure, their aspect is all the more attractive for its fearfulness; and we readily call these objects sublime, because they raise the forces of the soul above the height of vulgar commonplace, and discover within us a power of resistance of quite another kind, which gives us courage to be able to measure ourselves against the seeming omnipotence of nature.

In the immeasurableness of nature and the incompetence of our faculty for adopting a standard proportionate to the aesthetic estimation of the magnitude of its realm, we found our own limitation. But with this we also found in our rational faculty another non-sensuous standard, one which has that infinity itself under it as a unit, and in comparison with which everything in nature is small, and so found in our minds a pre-eminence over nature even in it immeasurability. Now in just the same way the irresistibility of the might of nature forces upon us the recognition of our physical helplessness as beings of nature, but at the same time reveals a faculty of estimating ourselves as independent of nature, and discovers a pre-eminence above nature that is the foundation of a self-preservation of quite another kind from that which may be assailed and brought into danger by external nature. This saves humanity in our own person from humiliation, even though as mortal men we have to submit to external violence. In this way, external nature is not estimated in our aesthetic judgement as sublime so far as exciting fear, but rather because it challenges our power (one not of nature) to regard as small those things of which we are wont to be solicitous (worldly goods, health, and life), and hence to regard its might (to which in these matters we are no doubt subject) as exercising over us and our personality no such rude dominion that we should bow down before it, once the question becomes one of our highest principles and of our asserting or forsaking them. Therefore nature is here called sublime merely because it raises the imagination to a presentation of those cases in which the mind can make itself sensible of the appropriate sublimity of the sphere of its own being, even above nature.

This estimation of ourselves loses nothing by the fact that we must see ourselves safe in order to feel this soul-stirring delight-a fact from which it might be plausibly argued that, as there is no seriousness in the danger, so there is just as little seriousness in the sublimity of our faculty of soul. For here the delight only concerns the province of our faculty disclosed in such a case, so far as this faculty has its root in our nature; notwithstanding that its development and exercise is left to ourselves and remains an obligation. Here indeed there is truth-no matter how conscious a man, when he stretches his reflection so far abroad, may be of his actual present helplessness.

This principle has, doubtless, the appearance of being too far-fetched and subtle, and so of lying beyond the reach of an aesthetic judgement. But observation of men proves the reverse, and that it may be the foundation of the commonest judgements, although one is not always conscious of its presence. For what is it that, even to the savage, is the object of the greatest admiration? It is a man who is undaunted, who knows no fear, and who, therefore, does not give way to danger, but sets manfully to work with full deliberation. Even where civilization has reached a high pitch, there remains this special reverence for the soldier; only that there is then further required of him that he should also exhibit all the virtues of peace-gentleness, sympathy, and even becoming thought for his own person; and for the reason that in this we recognize that his mind is above the threats of danger. And so, comparing the statesman and the general, men may argue as they please as to the pre-eminent respect which is due to either above the other; but the verdict of the aesthetic judgement is for the latter. War itself, provided it is conducted with order and a sacred respect for the rights of civilians, has something sublime about it, and gives nations that carry it on in such a manner a stamp of mind only the more sublime the more numerous the dangers to which they are exposed, and which they are able to meet with fortitude. On the other hand, a prolonged peace favours the predominance of a mere commercial spirit, and with it a debasing self-interest, cowardice, and effeminacy, and tends to degrade the character of the nation.

So far as sublimity is predicated of might, this solution of the concept of it appears at variance with the fact that we are wont to represent God in the tempest, the storm, the earthquake, and the like, as presenting Himself in His wrath, but at the same time also in His sublimity, and yet here it would be alike folly and presumption to imagine a pre-eminence of our minds over the operations and, as it appears, even over the direction of such might. Here, instead of a feeling of the sublimity of our own nature, submission, prostration, Aristotle’s remarks on Courage, in the utter helplessness seem more to constitute the attitude of mind befitting the manifestation of such an object, and to be that also more customarily associated with the idea of it on the occasion of a natural phenomenon of this kind. In religion, as a rule, prostration, adoration with bowed head, coupled with contrite, timorous posture and voice, seems to be the only becoming demeanour in presence of the Godhead, and accordingly most nations have assumed and still observe it. Yet this cast of mind is far from being intrinsically and necessarily involved in the idea of the sublimily of a religion and of its object. The man that is actually in a state of fear, finding in himself good reason to be so, because he is conscious of offending with his evil disposition against a might directed by a will at once irresistible and just, is far from being in the frame of mind for admiring divine greatness, for which a temper of calm reflection and a quite free judgement are required. Only when he becomes conscious of having a disposition that is upright and acceptable to God, do those operations of might serve, to stir within him the idea of the sublimity of this Being, so far as he recognizes the existence in himself of a sublimity of disposition consonant with His will, and is thus raised above the dread of such operations of nature, in which he no longer sees God pouring forth the vials of the wrath. Even humility, taking the form of an uncompromising judgement upon his shortcomings, which, with consciousness of good intentions, might readily be glossed over on the ground of the frailty of human nature, is a sublime temper of the mind voluntarily to undergo the pain of remorse as a means of more and more effectually eradicating its cause. In this way religion is intrinsically distinguished from superstition, which latter rears in the mind, not reverence for the sublime, but dread and apprehension of the all-powerful Being to whose will terror-stricken man sees himself subjected, yet without according Him due honour. From this nothing can arise but grace-begging and vain adulation, instead of a religion consisting in a good life.

Sublimity, therefore, does not reside in any of the things of nature, but only in our own mind, in so far as we may become conscious of our superiority over nature within, and thus also over nature without us (as exerting influence upon us). Everything that provokes this feeling in us, including the might of nature which challenges our strength, is then, though improperly, called sublime, and it is only under presupposition of this idea within us, and in relation to it, that we are capable of attaining to the idea of the sublimity of that Being Which inspires deep respect in us, not by the mere display of its might in nature, but more by the faculty which is planted in us of estimating that might without fear, and of regarding our estate as exalted above it.

§ 29. Modality of the judgement on the sublime in nature.

Beautiful nature contains countless things as to which we at once take every one as in their judgement concurring with our own, and as to which we may further expect this concurrence without facts finding us far astray. But in respect of our judgement upon the sublime in nature, we cannot so easily vouch for ready acceptance by others. For a far higher degree of culture, not merely of the aesthetic judgement, but also of the faculties of cognition which lie at its basis, seems to be requisite to enable us to lay down a judgement upon this high distinction of natural objects.

The proper mental mood for a feeling of the sublime postulates the mind’s susceptibility for ideas, since it is precisely in the failure of nature to attain to these — and consequently only under presupposition of this susceptibility and of the straining of the imagination to use nature as a schema for ideas — that there is something forbidding to sensibility, but which, for all that, has an attraction for us, arising from the fact of its being a dominion which reason exercises over sensibility with a view to extending it to the requirements of its own realm (the practical) and letting it look out beyond itself into the infinite, which for it is an abyss. In fact, without the development of moral ideas, that which, thanks to preparatory culture, we call sublime, merely strikes the untutored man as terrifying. He will see in the evidences which the ravages of nature give of her dominion, and in the vast scale of her might, compared with which his own is diminished to insignificance, only the misery, peril, and distress that would compass the man who was thrown to its mercy. So the simpleminded, and, for the most part, intelligent, Savoyard peasant, (as Herr von Sassure relates), unhesitatingly called all lovers of snow mountains fools. And who can tell whether he would have been so wide of the mark, if that student of nature had taken the risk of the dangers to which he exposed himself merely, as most travellers do, for a fad, or so as some day to be able to give a thrilling account of his adventures? But the mind of Sassure was bent on the instruction of mankind, and soul-stirring sensations that excellent man indeed had, and the reader of his travels got them thrown into the bargain.

But the fact that culture is requisite for the judgement upon the sublime in nature (more than for that upon the beautiful) does not involve its being an original product of culture and something introduced in a more or less conventional way into society. Rather is it in human nature that its foundations are laid, and, in fact, in that which, at once with common understanding, we may expect every one to possess and may require of him, namely, a native capacity for the feeling for (practical) ideas, i.e., for moral feeling.

This, now, is the foundation of the necessity of that agreement between other men’s judgements upon the sublime and our own, which we make our own imply. For just as we taunt a man who is quite inappreciative when forming an estimate of an object of nature in which we see beauty, with want of taste, so we say of a man who remains unaffected in the presence of what we consider sublime, that he has no feeling. But we demand both taste and feeling of every man, and, granted some degree of culture, we give him credit for both. Still, we do so with this difference: that, in the, case of the former, since judgement there refers the imagination merely to the understanding, as a the faculty of concepts, we make the requirement as a matter of course, whereas in the case of the latter, since here the judgement refers the imagination to reason, as a faculty of ideas, we do so only under a subjective presupposition (which, however, we believe we are warranted in making), namely, that of the moral feeling in man. And, on this assumption, we attribute necessity to the latter aesthetic judgement also.

In this modality of aesthetic judgements, namely, their assumed necessity, lies what is for the Critique of judgement a moment of capital importance. For this is exactly what makes an a priori principle apparent in their case, and lifts them out of the sphere of empirical psychology, in which otherwise they would remain buried amid the feelings of gratification and pain (only with the senseless epithet of finer feeling), so as to place them, and, thanks to them, to place the faculty of judgement itself, in the class of judgements of which the basis of an a priori principle is the distinguishing feature, and, thus distinguished, to introduce them into transcendental philosophy.

General Remark upon the Exposition of Aesthetic Reflective Judgements.

In relation to the feeling of pleasure an object is to be counted either as agreeable, or beautiful, or sublime, or good (absolutely), (incundum, pulchrum, sublime, honestum).

As the motive of desires the agreeable is invariably of one and the same kind, no matter what its source or how specifically different the representation (of sense and sensation objectively considered). Hence in estimating its influence upon the mind, the multitude of its charms (simultaneous or successive) is alone revelant, and so only, as it were, the mass of the agreeable sensation, and it is only by the quantity, therefore, that this can be made intelligible. Further it in no way conduces to our culture, but belongs only to mere enjoyment. The beautiful, on the other hand, requires the representation of a certain quality of the object, that pern-fits also of being understood and reduced to concepts (although in the aesthetic judgement it is not reduced), and it cultivates, as it instructs us to attend to, finality in the feeling of pleasure. The sublime consists merely in the relation exhibited by the estimate of the serviceability of the sensible in the representation of nature for a possible supersensible employment. The absolutely good, estimated subjectively according to the feeling it inspires (the object of the moral feeling), as the determinability of the powers of the subject by means of the representation of an absolutely necessitating law, is principally distinguished, by the modality of a necessity resting upon concepts a priori, and involving not a mere claim, but a command upon every one to assent, and belongs intrinsically not to the aesthetic, but to the pure intellectual judgement. Further, it is not ascribed to nature but to freedom, and that in a determinant and not a merely reflective judgement. But the determinability of the subject by means of this idea, and, what is more, that of a subject which can be sensible, in the way of a modification of its state, to hindrances on the part of sensibility, while, at the same time, it can by surmounting them feel superiority over them-a determinability, in other words, as moral feeling-is still so allied to aesthetic judgement and its formal conditions as to be capable of being pressed into the service of the aesthetic representation of the conformity to law of action from duty, i.e., of the representation of this as sublime, or even as beautiful, without forfeiting its purity-an impossible result were one to make it naturally bound up with the feeling of the agreeable.

The net result to be extracted from the exposition so far given of both kinds of aesthetic judgements may be summed up in the following brief definitions:

The beautiful is what pleases in the mere estimate formed of it (consequently not by intervention of any feeling of sense in accordance with a concept of the understanding). From this it follows at once that it must please apart from all interest.

The sublime is what pleases immediately by reason of its opposition to the interest of sense.

Both, as definitions of aesthetic universally valid estimates, have reference to subjective grounds. In the one case the reference is to grounds of sensibility, in so far as these are final on behalf of the contemplative understanding, in the other case in so far as, in their opposition to sensibility, they are, on the contrary, final in reference to the ends of practical reason. Both, however, as united in the same subject, are final in reference to the moral feeling. The beautiful prepares us to love something, even nature, apart from any interest: the sublime to esteem something highly even in opposition to our (sensible) interest object.

The sublime may be described in this way: It is an object (of nature) the representation of which determines the mind to regard the elevation of nature beyond our reach as equivalent to a presentation of ideas.

In a literal sense and according to their logical import, ideas cannot be presented. But if we enlarge our empirical faculty of representation (mathematical or dynamical) with a view to the intuition of nature, reason inevitably steps forward, as the faculty concerned with the independence of the absolute totality, and calls forth the effort of the mind, unavailing though it be, to make representation of sense adequate to this totality. This effort, and the feeling of the unattainability of the idea by means of imagination, is itself a presentation of the subjective finality of our mind in the employment of the imagination in the interests of the mind’s supersensible province, and compels us subjectively to think nature itself in its totality as a presentation of something supersensible, without our being able to effectuate this presentation objectively.

For we readily see that nature in space and time falls entirely short of the unconditioned, consequently also of the absolutely great, which still the commonest reason demands. And by this we are also reminded that we have only to do with nature as phenomenon, and that this itself must be regarded as the mere presentation of a nature-in-itself (which exists in the idea of reason). But this idea of the supersensible, which no doubt we cannot further determine so that we cannot cognize nature as its presentation, but only think it as such-is awakened in us by an object the aesthetic estimating of which strains the imagination to its utmost, whether in respect of its extension (mathematical), or of its might over the mind (dynamical). For it is founded upon the feeling of a sphere of the mind which altogether exceeds the realm of nature (i.e., upon the moral feeling), with regard to which the representation of the object is estimated as subjectively final.

As a matter of fact, a feeling for the sublime in nature is hardly thinkable unless in association with an attitude of mind resembling the moral. And though, like that feeling, the immediate pleasure in the beautiful in nature presupposes and cultivates a certain liberality of thought, i.e., makes our delight independent of any mere enjoyment of sense, still it represents freedom rather as in play than as exercising a law-ordained function, which is the genuine characteristic of human morality, where reason has to impose its dominion upon sensibility. There is, however, this qualification, that in the aesthetic judgement upon the sublime this dominion is represented as exercised through the imagination itself as an instrument of reason.

Thus, too, delight in the sublime in nature is only negative (whereas that in the beautiful is positive): that is to say, it is a feeling of imagination by its own act depriving itself of its freedom by receiving a final determination in accordance with a law other than that of its empirical employment. In this way it gains an extension and a might greater than that which it sacrifices. But the ground of this is concealed from it, and in its place it feels the sacrifice or deprivation, as well as its cause, to which it is subjected. The astonishment amounting almost to terror, the awe and thrill of devout feeling, that takes hold of one when gazing upon the prospect of mountains ascending to heaven, deep ravines and torrents raging there, deep shadowed solitudes that invite to brooding melancholy, and the like-all this, when we are assured of our own safety, is not actual fear. Rather is it an attempt to gain access to it through imagination, for the purpose of feeling the might of this faculty in combining the movement of the mind thereby aroused with its serenity, and of thus being superior to internal and, therefore, to external, nature, so far as the latter can have any bearing upon our feeling of well-being. For the imagination, in accordance with laws of association, makes our state of contentment dependent upon physical conditions. But acting in accordance with principles of the schematism of judgement (consequently so far as it is subordinated to freedom), it is at the same time an instrument of reason and its ideas. But in this capacity it is a might enabling us to assert our independence as against the influences of nature, to degrade what is great in respect of the latter to the level of what is little, and thus to locate the absolutely great only in the proper estate of the subject. This reflection of aesthetic judgement by which it raises itself to the point of adequacy with reason, though without any determinate concept of reason, is still a representation of the object as subjectively final, by virtue even of the objective inadequacy of the imagination in its greatest extension for meeting the demands of reason (as the faculty of ideas).

Here we have to attend generally to what has been already adverted to, that in the transcendental aesthetic of judgement there must be no question of anything but pure aesthetic judgements. Consequently examples are not to be selected from such beautiful, or sublime objects as presuppose the concept of an end. For then the finality would be either teleological, or based upon mere sensations of an object: (gratification or pain) and so, in the first case, not aesthetic, and, in the second, not merely formal. So, if we call the sight of the starry heaven sublime, we must not found our estimate of it upon any concepts of worlds inhabited by rational beings, with the bright spots, which we see filling the space above us, as their suns moving in orbits prescribed for them with the wisest regard to ends. But we must take it, just as it strikes the eye, as a broad and all-embracing canopy: and it is merely under such a representation that we may posit the sublimity which the pure aesthetic judgement attributes to this object. Similarly, as to the prospect of the ocean, we are not to regard it as we, with our minds stored with knowledge on a variety of matters (which, however, is not contained in the immediate intuition), are wont to represent it in thought, as, let us say, a spacious realm of aquatic creatures, or as the mighty reservoirs from which are drawn the vapours that fill the air with clouds of moisture for the good of the land, or yet as an element which no doubt divides continent from continent, but at the same time affords the means of the greatest commercial intercourse between them-for in this way we get nothing beyond teleological judgements. Instead of this we must be able to see sublimity in the ocean, regarding it, as the poets do, according to what the impression upon the eye reveals, as, let us say, in its calm a clear mirror of water bounded only by the heavens, or, be it disturbed, as threatening to overwhelm and engulf everything. The same is to be said of the sublime and beautiful in the human form. Here, for determining grounds of the judgement, we must not have recourse to concepts of ends subserved by all: all its and members, or allow their accordance with these ends to influence our aesthetic judgement (in such case no longer pure), although it is certainly also a necessary condition of aesthetic delight that they should not conflict with these ends. Aesthetic finality is the conformity to law of judgement in its freedom. The delight in the object depends on the reference which we seek to give to the imagination, subject to the proviso that it is to entertain the mind in a free activity. If, on the other hand, something else-be it sensation or concept of the understanding-determines the judgement, it is then conformable to law, no doubt, but not an act of free judgement.

Hence to speak of intellectual beauty or sublimity is to use expressions which, in the first place, are not quite correct. For these are aesthetic modes of representation which would be entirely foreign to us were we merely pure intelligences (or if we even put ourselves in thought in the position of such). Secondly, although both, as objects of an intellectual (moral) delight, are compatible with aesthetic delight to the extent of not resting upon any interest, still, on the other hand, there is a difficulty in the way of their alliance with such delight, since their function is to produce an interest, and, on the assumption that the presentation has to accord with delight in the aesthetic estimate, this interest could only be effected by means of an interest of sense combined with it in the presentation. But in this way the intellectual finality would be violated and rendered impure.

The object of a pure and unconditioned intellectual delight is the moral law in the might which it exerts in us over all antecedent motives of the mind. Now, since it is only through sacrifices that this might makes itself known to us aesthetically (and this involves a deprivation of something — though in the interest of inner freedom-whilst in turn it reveals in us an unfathomable depth of this supersensible faculty, the consequences of which extend beyond reach of the eye of sense), it follows that the delight, looked at from the aesthetic side (in reference to sensibility) is negative, i.e., opposed to this interest, but from the intellectual side, positive and bound up with an interest. Hence it follows that the intellectual and intrinsically final (moral) good, estimated aesthetically, instead of being represented as beautiful, must rather be represented as sublime, with the result that it arouses more a feeling of respect (which disdains charm) than of love or of the heart being drawn towards it-for human nature does not of its own proper motion accord with the good, but only by virtue of the dominion which reason exercises over sensibility. Conversely, that, too, which we call sublime in external nature, or even internal nature (e.g., certain affections) is only represented as a might of the mind enabling it to overcome this or that hindrance of sensibility by means of moral principles, and it is from this that it derives its interest.

I must dwell while on the latter point. The idea of the good to which affection is superadded is enthusiasm. This state of mind appears to be sublime: so much so that there is a common saying that nothing great can be achieved without it. But now every affection12 is blind either as to the choice of its end, or, supposing this has been furnished by reason, in the way it is effected for it is that mental movement whereby the exercise of free deliberation upon fundamental principles, with a view to determining oneself accordingly, is rendered impossible. On this account it cannot merit any delight on the part of reason. Yet, from an aesthetic point of view, enthusiasm is sublime, because it is an effort of one’s powers called forth by ideas which give to the mind an impetus of far stronger and more enduring efficacy than the stimulus afforded by sensible representations. But (as seems strange) even freedom from affection (apatheia, phlegma in significatu bono) in a mind that strenuously follows its unswerving principles is sublime, and that, too, in a manner vastly superior, because it has at the same time the delight of pure reason on its side. Such a stamp of mind is alone called noble. This expression, however, comes in time to be applied to things-such as buildings, a garment, literary style, the carriage of one’s person, and the like-provided they do not so much excite astonishment (the affection attending the representation of novelty exceeding expectation) as admiration (an astonishment which does not cease when the novelty wears off)-and this obtains where ideas undesignedly and artlessly accord in their presentation with aesthetic delight.

12There is a specific distinction between affections and passions. Affections are related merely to feeling; passions belong to the faculty of desire, and are inclinations that hinder or render impossible all determinability of the elective will by principles. Affections are impetuous and irresponsible; passions are abiding and deliberate. Thus resentment, in the form of anger, is an affection: but in the form of hatred (vindictiveness) it is a passion. Under no circumstances can the latter be called sublime; for, while the freedom of the mind is, no doubt, impeded in the case of affection, in passion it is abrogated.

Every affection of the STRENUOUS TYPE (such, that is, as excites the consciousness of our power of overcoming every resistance [animus strenuus]) is aesthetically sublime, e.g., anger, even desperation (the rage of forlorn hope but not faint-hearted despair). On the other hand, affection of the LANGUID TYPE (which converts the very effort of resistance into an object of displeasure [animus languidus] has nothing noble about it, though it may take its rank as possessing beauty of the sensuous order. Hence the emotions capable of attaining the strength of an affection are very diverse. We have spirited, and we have tender emotions. When the strength of the latter reaches that of an affection they can be turned to no account. The propensity to indulge in them is sentimentality. A sympathetic grief that refuses to be consoled, or one that has to do with imaginary misfortune to which we deliberately give way so far as to allow our fancy to delude us into thinking it actual fact, indicates and goes to make a tender, but at the same time weak, soul, which shows a beautiful side, and may no doubt be called fanciful, but never enthusiastic. Romances, maudlin dramas, shallow homilies, which trifle with so-called (though falsely so) noble sentiments, but in fact make the heart enervated, insensitive to the stem precepts of duty, and incapable of respect for the worth of humanity in our own person and the rights of men (which is something quite other than their happiness), and in general incapable of all firm principles; even a religious discourse which recommends a cringing and abject grace-begging and favour-seeking, abandoning all reliance on our own ability to resist the evil within us, in place of the vigorous resolution to try to get the better of our inclinations by means of those powers which, miserable sinners though we be, are still left to us; that false humility by which self-abasement, whining hypocritical repentance and a merely passive frame of mind are set down as the method by which alone we can become acceptable to the Supreme Being-these have neither lot nor fellowship with what may be reckoned to belong to beauty, not to speak of sublimity, of mental temperament.

But even impetuous movements of the mind be they allied under the name of edification with ideas of religion, or, as pertaining merely to culture, with ideas involving a social interest no matter what tension of the imagination they may produce, can in no way lay claim to the honour of a sublime presentation, if they do not leave behind them a temper of mind which, though it be only indirectly, has an influence upon the consciousness of the mind’s strength and resoluteness in respect of that which carries with it pure intellectual finality (the supersensible). For, in the absence of this, all these emotions belong only to motion, which we welcome in the interests of good health. The agreeable lassitude that follows upon being stirred up in that way by the play of the affections, is a fruition of the state of well-being arising from the restoration of the equilibrium of the various vital forces within us. This, in the last resort, comes to no more than what the Eastern voluptuaries find so soothing when they get their bodies massaged, and all their muscles and joints softly pressed and bent; only that in the first case the principle that occasions the movement is chiefly internal, whereas here it is entirely external. Thus, many a man believes himself edified by a sermon in which there is no establishment of anything (no system of good maxims); or thinks himself improved by a tragedy, when he is merely glad at having got well rid of the feeling of being bored. Thus the sublime must in every case have reference to our way of thinking, i.e., to maxims directed to giving the intellectual side of our nature and the ideas of reason supremacy over sensibility.

We have no reason to fear that the feeling of the sublime will suffer from an abstract mode of presentation like this, which is altogether negative as to what is sensuous. For though the imagination, no doubt, finds nothing beyond the sensible world to which it can lay hold, still this thrusting aside of the sensible barriers gives it a feeling of being unbounded; and that removal is thus a presentation of the infinite. As such it can never be anything more than a negative presentation-but still it expands the soul. Perhaps there is no more sublime passage in the Jewish Law than the commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven or on earth, or under the earth, etc.” This commandment can alone explain the enthusiasm which the Jewish people, in their moral period, felt for their religion when comparing themselves with others, or the pride inspired by Mohammedanism. The very same holds good of our representation of the moral law and of our native capacity for morality. The fear that, if we divest this representation of everything that can commend it to the senses, it will thereupon be attended only with a cold and lifeless approbation and not with any moving force or emotion, is wholly unwarranted. The very reverse is the truth. For when nothing any longer meets the eye of sense, and the unmistakable and ineffaceable idea of morality is left in possession of the field, there would be need rather of tempering the ardour of an unbounded imagination to prevent it rising to enthusiasm, than of seeking to lend these ideas the aid of images and childish devices for fear of their being wanting in potency. For this reason, governments have gladly let religion be fully equipped with these accessories, seeking in this way to relieve their subjects of the exertion, but to deprive them, at the same time, of the ability, required for expanding their spiritual powers beyond the limits arbitrarily laid down for them, and which facilitate their being treated as though they were merely passive.

This pure, elevating, merely negative presentation of morality involves, on the other hand, no fear of fanaticism, which is a delusion that would will some VISION beyond all the bounds of sensibility; i.e., would dream according to principles (rational raving). The safeguard is the purely negative character of the presentation. For the inscrutability of the idea of freedom precludes all positive presentation. The moral law, however, is a sufficient and original source of determination within us: so it does not for a moment permit us to cast about for a ground of determination external to itself. If enthusiasm is comparable to delirium, fanaticism may be compared to mania. Of these, the latter is least of all compatible with the sublime, for it is profoundly ridiculous. In enthusiasm, as an affection, the imagination is unbridled; in fanaticism, as a deep-seated, brooding passion, it is anomalous. The first is a transitory accident to which the healthiest understanding is liable to become at times the victim; the second is an undermining disease.

Simplicity (artless finality) is, as it were, the style adopted by nature in the sublime. It is also that of morality. The latter is a second (supersensible) nature, whose laws alone we know, without being able to attain to an intuition of the supersensible faculty within us-that which contains the ground of this legislation.

One further remark. The delight in the sublime, no less than in the beautiful, by reason of its universal communicability not alone is plainly distinguished from other aesthetic judgements, but also from this same property acquires an interest in society (in which it admits of such communication). Yet, despite this, we have to note the fact that isolation from all society is looked upon as something sublime, provided it rests upon ideas which disregard all sensible interest. To be self-sufficing, and so not to stand in need of society, yet without being unsociable, i.e., without shunning it, is something approaching the sublime-a remark applicable to all superiority to wants. On the other hand, to shun our fellow men from misanthropy, because of enmity towards them, or from anthropophobia, because we imagine the hand of every man is against us, is partly odious, partly contemptible. There is, however, a misanthropy (most improperly so called), the tendency towards which is to be found with advancing years in many right minded men, that, as far as good will goes, is no doubt, philanthropic enough, but as the result of long and sad experience, is widely removed from delight in mankind. We see evidences of this in the propensity to recluseness, in the fanciful desire for a retired country seat, or else (with the young) in the dream of the happiness of being able to spend one’s life with a little family on an island unknown to the rest of the world-material of which novelists or writers of Robinsonades know how to make such good use. Falsehood, ingratitude, injustice, the puerility of the ends which we ourselves look upon as great and momentous, and to compass which man inflicts upon his brother man all imaginable evils-these all so contradict the idea of what men might be if they only would, and are so at variance with our active wish to see them better, that, to avoid hating where we cannot love, it seems but a slight sacrifice to forego all the joys of fellowship with our kind. This sadness, which is not directed to the evils which fate brings down upon others (a sadness which springs from sympathy), but to those which they inflict upon themselves (one which is based on antipathy in questions of principle), is sublime because it is founded on ideas, whereas that springing from sympathy can only be accounted beautiful. Sassure, who was no less ingenious than profound, in the description of his Alpine travels remarks of Bonhomme, one of the Savoy mountains: “There reigns there a certain insipid sadness.” He recognized, therefore, that, besides this, there is an interesting sadness, such as is inspired by the sight of some desolate place into which men might fain withdraw themselves so as to hear no more of the world without, and be no longer versed in its affairs, a place, however, which must yet not be so altogether inhospitable as only to afford a most miserable retreat for a human being. I only make this observation as a reminder that even melancholy, (but not dispirited sadness), may take its place among the vigorous affections, provided it has its root in moral ideas. If, however, it is grounded upon sympathy, and, as such, is lovable, it belongs only to the languid affections. And this serves to call attention to the mental temperament which in the first case alone is sublime.

The transcendental exposition of aesthetic judgements now brought to a close may be compared with the physiological, as worked out by Burke and many acute men among us, so that we may see where a merely empirical exposition of the sublime and beautiful would bring us. Burke, who deserves to be called the foremost author in this method of treatment, deduces, on these lines, “that the feeling of the sublime is grounded on the impulse towards self-preservation and on fear, i.e., on a pain, which, since it does not go the length of disordering the bodily parts, calls forth movements which, as they clear the vessels, whether fine or gross, of a dangerous and troublesome encumbrance, are capable of producing delight; not pleasure but a sort of delightful horror, a sort of tranquility tinged with terror.” The beautiful, which he grounds on love (from which, still, he would have desire kept separate), he reduces to “the relaxing, slackening, and enervating of the fibres of the body, and consequently a softening, a dissolving, a languor, and a fainting, dying, and melting away for pleasure.” And this explanation he supports, not alone by instances in which the feeling of the beautiful as well as of the sublime is capable of being excited in us by the imagination in conjunction with the understanding, but even by instances when it is in conjunction with sensations. As psychological observations, these analyses of our mental phenomena are extremely fine, and supply a wealth of material for the favourite investigations of empirical anthropology. But, besides that, there is no denying the fact that all representations within us, no matter whether they are objectively merely sensible or wholly intellectual, are still subjectively associable with gratification or pain, however imperceptible either of these may be. (For these representations one and all have an influence on the feeling of life, and none of them, so far as it is a modification of the subject, can be indifferent.) We must even admit that, as Epicurus maintained, gratification and pain though proceeding from the imagination or even from representations of the understanding, are always in the last resort corporeal, since apart from any feeling of the bodily organ life would be merely a consciousness of one’s existence, and could not include any feeling of well-being or the reverse, i.e., of the furtherance or hindrance of the vital forces. For, of itself alone, the mind is all life (the life-principle itself), and hindrance or furtherance has to be sought outside it, and yet in the man himself consequently in the connection with his body and melting

But if we attribute the delight in the object wholly and entirely to the gratification which it affords through charm or emotion, then we must not exact from any one else agreement with the aesthetic judgement passed by us. For, in such matters each person rightly consults his own personal feeling alone. But in that case there is an end of all censorship of taste-unless the afforded by others as the result of a contingent coincidence of their judgements is to be held over us as commanding our assent. But this principle we would presumably resent, and appeal to our natural right of submitting a judgement to our own sense, where it rests upon the immediate feeling of personal well-being, instead of submitting it to that of others.

Hence if the import of the judgement of taste, where we appraise it as a judgement entitled to require the concurrence of every one, cannot be egoistic, but must necessarily, from its inner nature, be allowed a pluralistic validity, i.e., on account of what taste itself is, and not on account of the examples which others give of their taste, then it must found upon some a priori principle (be it subjective or objective), and no amount of prying into the empirical laws of the changes that go on within the mind can succeed in establishing such a principle. For these laws only yield a knowledge of how we do judge, but they do not give us a command as to how we ought to judge, and, what is more, such a command as is unconditioned-and commands of this kind are presupposed by judgements of taste, inasmuch as they require delight to be taken as immediately connected with a representation. Accordingly, though the empirical exposition of aesthetic judgements may be a first step towards accumulating the material for a higher investigation, yet a transcendental examination of this faculty is possible, and forms an essential part of the Critique of Taste. For, were not taste in possession of a priori principles, it could not possibly sit in judgement upon the judgements of others and pass sentence of commendation or condemnation upon them, with even the least semblance of authority.

Deduction of Pure Aesthetic Judgements

NOTE: §§ 30-54, Deduction of Pure Aesthetic Judgements, is omitted.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56