The Sublime

April 1998
208 pages
21.6x13.8 in
ISBN: 9781580460279
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press

The Sublime

Groundwork towards a Theory

Lap-Chuen Tsang

An important work offering a viable theory for the concept of "Sublime" in philosophy.
This is a work of quite unusual philosophical interest, original and deeply insightful. Dr. Tsang argues on the one hand that sublimity is not a property of objects regarded as sublime, but belongs to our construal of objects, while on the other he also argues that when we so construe an object we are giving expression to some limit to our life, not an external barrier, but a limit internal to it. But what lies at the limit cannot be represented. So the sublime can be evoked by language, but not represented in it. This leads Dr. Tsang on to a philosophical analysis of evocation and of the evocative possibilities of a sublime object. What he says about evocation presupposes and requires for its completion an account of how affective elements are involved in the experience of the sublime and what he claims here is that there is no one feeling or type of feeling involved in the experience of the sublime, but that a wide range of different feelings may be involved on different occasions. The quality of the feeling is closely bound up with the character of the experience of the sublime as a limit-experience. Finally Dr. Tsang considers the cultural and social context of experiences of the sublime, both what is universally recognized as sublime, because bound up with the general conditions of human life, and what is specific to particular cultural and social contexts. He then moves to the conclusion to examine the relationship of the sublime to human willing. As a postscript there is an excellent treatment of Kant's theory of the sublime.

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This is a splendid piece of work...elegant, cogent and clear--a model of analytic thoroughness and masterful intellectual "grip" ...commendable passion and engagement...he shows moral and intellectual courage in deciding to treat a notion considered either religious or esthetic, but not (fashionably at any rate) both at the same time.--Ivan Strenski, University of California at Santa Barbara