The Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences

The SublimAE project (October 2018 – August 2023) is an interdisciplinary project funded by the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche). It aims at developing a new cognitive account of the sublime, which is bound to throw light on the relationship between the sublime, aesthetic experiences, and self-awareness. In the light of recent psychological and neuroscientific studies, we claim that the sublime gives rise to an aesthetic experience that, contrary to the experience of the beautiful, involves a diminished sense of the self. More precisely, sublimity experiences are immersive and blur the experiential boundary between the self and the rest of the world. Our claim has implications for a vexed question about the sublime, namely whether it is restricted to natural scenes or extends to artworks. We suggest that in favourable conditions, art can elicit sublimity experiences. We then offer a roadmap to test our claim within an experimental setting, with special focus on music and virtual reality devices to deal with the immersive character of sublimity experiences.

Photo by: Margherita Arcangeli