The Sun is God


Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime: Immanuel Kant

The finer sentiment which we propose to consider here is primarily of two kinds: the sentiment of the lofty or sublime and the sentiment of the beautiful. Being moved by either is agreeable, but in a very different way. A view of a mountain, the snowy peaks of which rise above the clouds, a description of a raging storm or a description by Milton of the Kingdom of Hell cause pleasure, but it is mixed with awe; on the other hand, a view of flower-filled meadows, valleys with winding brooks and the herds upon them, the description of Elysium or Homer’s description of the belt of Venus cause an agreeable feeling which is gay and smiling. We must have a sense of the sublime to receive the first impression adequately, and a sense of the beautiful to enjoy the latter fully. Great oak trees and lovely spots in a sacred grove are sublime. Beds of flowers, low hedges and trees trimmed into shape are beautiful.

The night is sublime while the day is beautiful. Temperaments which have a sense for the sublime will be drawn toward elated sentiments regarding friend ship, contempt for the world and toward eternity, by the quiet silence of a summer evening when the twinkling light of the stars breaks through the shadows of the night and a lovely moon is visible. The glowing day inspires busy effort and a sense of joy. The sublime moves, the beautiful charms. The expression of a person experiencing the full sense of the sublime is serious, at times rigid and amazed. On the other hand, the vivid sense of the beautiful reveals itself in the shining gaiety of the eyes, by smiling and even by noisy enjoyment. The sublime, in rum, is at times accompanied by some terror or melancholia, in some cases merely by quiet admiration and in still others by the beauty which is spread over a sublime place. The first I want to call the terrible sublime, the second the noble, and the third the magnificent. Deep loneliness is sublime, but in a terrifying way.

The sublime must always be large; the beautiful may be small. The sublime must be simple; the beautiful may be decorated and adorned. A very great height is sublime as well as a very great depth; but the latter is accompanied by the sense of terror, the former by admiration. Hence the one may be terrible sublime, the other noble. (1764)

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