If Kant's theory of the sublime is to be reworked into a viable form and developed in the direction of its full potential, then this reconstructive task should be located within a more general theory of aesthetic judgements, of which the experience of the sublime will form one distinctive variety. To outline such a theory in the requisite detail would involve a major study in itself. However, by reworking Kant's account of the judgement of taste, we will at least have the plausible basis of some general criteria of the aesthetic, which can then be shown to encompass judgements of sublimity.
As a starting-point, we will remember that Kant characterizes pure aesthetic judgements in terms of their disinterestedness, universality, subjective finality, and necessity. For the purposes of reconstruction I will concentrate on the first and third of these—since they concern the grounds of our aesthetic responses, rather than their more general epistemological status. First, then, the notion of disinterestedness.
For Kant, our judgements of taste have this characteristic in so far as they are 'apart' from any definite concept, and are indifferent to the 'real existence' of the object. Kant's claims here can, I would suggest, be read independently of the overall Critical system in the following way. To appreciate the formal qualities of an object (i.e. the relationships of such features as line, mass, density, shape, and texture) is to appreciate the structural aspects of the way it is presented to the senses alone. Hence, our enjoyment of such qualities does not presuppose that we know anything about the object—not even such basic facts as what it is, what functions it serves, or whether or not it is anything more than a mere appearance. Of course, characteristically we will in fact know a great deal about