Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 53 (Edmund Burke)

Burke, Edmund
A Philosophical Enquiry Into the Sublime and Beautiful

Purchased for $3.50 at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall discount book store. Has a remainder mark on the top edge. One of the first courses I took in graduate school was a course with Rodolphe Gasché that was primarily focused on Kant's Critique of Judgment, wherein Kant discusses the sublime and the beautiful at great length. I'll talk more about that when we get to the K's, I guess. Suffice to say that I found Kant's ideas on the sublime and the beautiful to be thought and life-altering (the same is equally true of Gasché's reading of Kant). I remember making a note during class that the concept of the sublime had originated with Burke, and that my memory of having made that note was what caused me to purchase this book when I saw it. It remains unread.

Here's Burke describing the emotion associated with the sublime in nature:

THE PASSION caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that, far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force. Astonishment, as I have said, is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree; the inferior effects are admiration, reverence, and respect.

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