Nicole Hall (Postdoctoral researcher, Philosophy, Texas A&M University) on “On the Cusp of the Sublime: Environmental and Artistic Sublimity”

November 2020, Monday 16th, 1:00pm to 3:00pm

Venue: BigBlueButton room

Abstract: Paradigm cases of the sublime relate to the natural environment. Is the natural environment its only domain, or is it possible to experience the sublime in works of art? I argue that the sublime originates in the natural environment, but that some works of art overcome the difficulty of its non-representational structure and provide indirect access to sublime experience. The sublime is a case in which pleasure’s motivational profile may be understood differently from that of beauty. The motivational profile of the sublime in the natural environment is one of perceptual frustration, due to perception’s limited capacity for representing it in its entirety. Even as far back as the Longinian tradition, we learn that the artistic sublime finds its source in the natural sublime. I argue that while the sublime originates in the natural environment, the question about whether we experience it in art hinges on the role of the imagination in the experience of the sublime. While it might be thought that experiencing beauty in imagination is less vibrant than experiencing it in perception, I argue that the sublime manifests itself primarily in the imagination, allowing for the possibility of experiencing it in some artworks. I will end with some more general remarks on ethical implications of the sublime for the natural environment.


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