The sublime Kant & Burke Essay
The sublime Kant & Burke
In Neil Hertz’s essay, The Notion of Blockage in the Literature of the Sublime, Neil uses the work of William Wordsworth to makes a connection to the very distinguished and particular notion of the mathematical sublime by Immanuel Kant. The mathematical sublime is the perception that reason has this superiority over imagination because reason and logic is boundless whereas imagination is limited to what we have personally experienced through our senses.
When in the presence of something that embodies the overwhelming magnitude of an idea that we cannot comprehend at first glance (the sublime), Kant believes that reason has the upper hand over the senses. By means of reasoning, we as individuals can determine that there is some claim to final totality. When this reasoning comes face to face with an agent of the sublime, our logic is able to understand the failure of our ability to grasp the enormity of something so thought shattering that it eventually leads to the realization that our reason is more reliable than our senses.
The sensory faculty bases its understanding on empirical evidence and in this case would have no influence over our train of thought because we have never experienced anything quite like the sublime. Kant labels this as the blockage and associates it with a negative feeling, this feeling of displeasure stems from the fact that in order to grasp the concept of the sublime the individual must realize that their previous cognitive limits were not developed enough.
Hertz has a different idea about the result of experiencing the mathematical sublime, he believes that it brings us pleasure by means of displeasure but the pleasure and power of overcoming our imagination’s shortcomings bring us a greater satisfaction than we could have experienced without this knowledge. Hertz then applies several excerpts from book 7 of Wordsworth’s The 1805 Prelude. Wordsworth’s literary works reinforce Hertz’s position upon the sublime and his concept of blockage.
Before he begins analyzing the literary works, Hertz lays down the foundation of the sublime and states, with the use of Weiskels argument that “The cause of the sublime is the aggrandizement of reason at the expense of imaginative apprehension of reality and at the expense of reality. ”(Hertz, 51) After attaining this level of consciousness is it easier to assess the effect of the sublime and how it creates a new insight by means of comprehending that the sublime consists of structure and disagreement.
Kant voices a very similar idea as Weiskel just a couple sentences later, “the very moment in which the mind turns within and performs its identification with reason. ”(Hertz, 51) He uses this notion of blockage in relation to Wordsworth’s poems, and how we have difficulty in grasping the concept before we recognize and understand the sublime and how it unites the mind when it is filled with such a grand sensation. Unto myself, “The face of every one That passes by me is a mystery! ” Thus have I looked, nor ceased to look, oppressed By thoughts of what and whither, when and how. … All laws of acting, thinking, speaking man
Went from me, neither knowing me nor known. (Hertz, 58) Wordsworth is making reference to the publication and how everyone is the same but different at the same time, whilst making allusions to the sensory approach and how he does not understand the incident to its furthest degree. He is stuck on the mathematically sublime until he advances in his text analysis and stumbles upon the blind beggar. Or emblem of the utmost that we know Both of ourselves and of the universe, And on the shape of this unmoving man, His fixed face and sightless eyes, I looked, As if admonished from another world.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 June 2017
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