Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime

Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime

Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime

Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime

Synopsis

Kant's only aesthetic work apart from the "Critique of Judgment, "Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime gives the reader a sense of the personality and character of its author as he sifts through the range of human responses to the concept of beauty and human manifestations of the beautiful and sublime. Kant was fifty-eight when the first of his great Critical trilogy, the "Critique of Pure Reason, was published. "Observations offers a view into the mind of the forty-year-old Kant.

Excerpt

Immanuel Kant is known largely for the three great works that each beat the name of Critique--that is, the Critique of Pure Reason of 1781, the Critique of Practical Reason of 1788, and the Critique of Judgement of 1790. Because of the intent of each volume, signaled by the word Critique in each title, the doctrine of these books is called Kant's Critical philosophy. The first of them was published when the author was fifty-eight years of age. All of Kant's works appearing before the first of the Critiques are called his pre-Critical writings, perhaps an unfortunate term if it has seemed to judge adversely of their worth. Since this pre-Critical period extended for roughly forty of Kant's most active years, we are justified, I think, in being curious about what was going on in his mind all that time. The book that is the epitome of Kant's pre-Critical thought has the title, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime.

One of the techniques of literary criticism is to refer to the biography of an author in order to come to an understanding of his writings. Factual data concerning his life are thought to be of great, if not necessarily definitive, aid in apprehending the true nature and worth of his message. This technique is shunned by scholars of philosophy, or at least so they profess, since not the man but the thought is what is important. Yet we are all familiar with the accounts of the lives of the great philosophers which are reproduced in the histories of philosophy, and we generally concede their value in enlivening the subject matter of philosophy for the classroom student who does not as yet perceive the relevance of the problems or solutions of philosophy at first sight.

In many of these biographic accounts we derive a commonly held picture of the chief luminary of the German Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant. He is a little man, stooped and stunted by a deformity from birth. He is a bachelor, and is not known ever to have had a love affair. He shuns any intimacy with women, and does not see even his own sister from year's end to year's end. He lives in a house purchased with the savings scrimped together through many years of austere living. He is unemotional; he indulges in no vices nor luxuries. Having been brought up in strict piety, he has not the capacity for the trivial pleasures of the fancy or the imagination. He is known for punctuality in his regimen, serving neighboring housewives as a timepiece with his regular departures for his lecture hall or his constitutional walk. He is the most eminent figure in the University of Königsberg. He has achieved renown throughout Germany. His philosophy has been published not only in several lesser works but in the great Critical trilogy, the Critique of Pure Reason on the nature of knowledge, the Critique of Practical Reason on ethics, and the Critique of Judgment . . .

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