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Sublimity and the Ends of Reason: Questions for Deligiorgi

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The sublime has come under severe criticism in recent years. Jane Forsey, for instance, has argued that all theories of the sublime “rest on a mistake” (2007, 381). In her article, “The Pleasures of Contra‐purposiveness: Kant, the Sublime, and Being Human,” Katerina Deligiorgi () provides a rejoinder to Forsey. Deligiorgi argues—with the help of Kant—that a coherent theory of the sublime is possible, and she provides a sketch for such a theory. Deligiorgi makes good progress in the debate over the sublime. But here I raise two questions in relation to her account. The aim of these questions is to help clarify and augment her theory and thus extend the discussion about the tenability and relevance of the sublime. The first question is about the pleasure of the sublime. The pleasure, she claims, comes from our catching a glimpse of ourselves as agents in the world. But, I argue, Deligiorgi's conception of agency is insufficient for explaining the pleasure of sublimity, and this is because she does not take into account what I call (echoing Kant) the “ends of reason,” those ends that matter most to us as agents. The second question pertains to the phenomenology of the sublime. The worry here is that Deligiorgi overcomplicates the subject's experience and, in doing so, greatly restricts the scope of the sublime.
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Document Type: Discussion

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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