On Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgement’​: A Glimpse of Eternity — part two

‘… art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgement also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (i) the content of art, and (ii) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it was in days when art by itself as art yielded full satisfaction. Art invites us to intellectual consideration, and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is’.

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831), ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

In the Germany of Hegel’s day aesthetics was very much under the sway of Immanuel Kant’s, (1724–1804), ‘Critique of Judgement’ wherein he argues, (see my previous article in this series), contrary to utilitarian, (is art useful or beneficial?), hedonistic, (is art solely pleasurable?), and intellectualist, (is art satisfying to the intellect rather than to the emotions?), accounts, that the beautiful gives rise to a disinterested pleasure stemming from the free play of our imagination and it is non-conceptual and it has the form of purposiveness without the representation of the end and it is the ‘object of a universal pleasure’. It arises from the faculty of judgement, (Urteilskraft), in association with feeling, and we import our notion of beauty into a world that is not intrinsically beautiful and we look upon beauty as a symbol of the moral good.

Die Kunst, art, skill, craft, from können, can, to be able, originally had, like the Greek techne, no exceptional connection with beauty, (Schönheit), or with what came to be known in the 18th century as the fine arts, (die schönen Künste), as opposed to the seven medieval liberal arts that included astronomy, mathematics and philosophy, and as opposed to a craft, skill or profession (refined gentlemen and ladies do not get their hands dirty). Kunst, unlike art, has no exceptional association with painting. The concept of fine art, covering architecture, sculpture, music, painting and poetry, extends back at least as far as Plato, (428/427 or 424/423–348/347 BC), but art and beauty were dealt with separately by Plato, beauty in, for instance, the ‘Symposium’, (see my article On Plato’s ‘Symposium’ — The Structure of Desire), and art in, for instance, the ‘Republic’, (see my article On Plato’s ‘Republic’ — Philosopher Kings), and by Aristotle, (384–322 BC), in his ‘Poetics’, (see my articles Probable Impossibilities and Improbable Possibilities, parts one to five). For Plato and Aristotle art when it was not simply a craft involved primarily the imitation of nature and of human affairs. The neo-Platonists, in particular Plotinus, (c. 204–270 AD), first compared the artist to the world-creator (especially the divine demiurge of Plato’s ‘Timaeus’, (see my article On Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ — the World Soul), who embodies the ideas in matter). Hence the artist imitates not the products of nature but nature’s productive activity, in works of art he or she realizes the idea in perceptible material. In the 17th and 18th centuries art was still generally considered as imitation but such a view was dropped by Hegel, and by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (1749–1832), and in particular by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, (1775–1854), who situated the creativity of the artist upon a par with that of nature herself.

Plotinus brought together the concepts of art and of beauty. And on Hegel’s view works of art are essentially schön, beautiful. In earlier writers, for instance Kant especially in ‘Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime’, 1764, and Edmund Burke, (1729–1797), ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful’, 1757, the sublime (das Erhabene) is an aesthetic category corresponding with the beautiful (das Schöne). The sublime first puts in an appearance in an opus of the 1st century AD attributed to Longinus, (c. 213–273 AD), Peri Hypsous, ‘On the Sublime’. However Hegel’s aversion to the intellectually unmanageable and in particular to bad infinity means that sublimity plays a somewhat subdued role in his ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’ and is more or less confined to the aesthetically less satisfactory pre-classical symbolic art in which form and content are not in harmony. And yet schön is a broader term than beautiful, it is to be discovered in such contexts as a fine piece of work and making a good job out of something. Schönheit for Hegel accommodates significant dissonances and even ugliness.

The term aesthetics is from the Greek aisthesis, aisthanesthai, perception, to perceive, and thus literally the study of perception and was first used for the study of sensory beauty, including the beauty of nature, as well as of art, by an adherent of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, (1646–1716), Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, (1714–1762), author of ‘Aesthetica’, 1750. In the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ Kant protested against this usage and to Baumgarten’s aspiration towards ‘bringing the critical assessment of the beautiful under principles of reason, and raising its rules to science’. (See my articles On Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’: Making Honours of Men’s Impossibilities — parts one to seven). He retains the word in its original sense for the study of the conditions of perception yet in the ‘Critique of Judgement’ he uses it in Baumgarten’s sense while still insisting that ‘there is no science of the beautiful, but only a critique, nor beautiful science, but only beautiful art’. Hegel criticizes the term Ästhetik given its emphasis upon the sensory and feeling yet retained it in the title of his lectures on aesthetics, and he rejected another proposed term, Kallistik, ‘the study of beauty’ from the Greek kalos, kallos, ‘beautiful’, ‘beauty’, in virtue of it covering beauty in general and not being restricted to the beauty of art.

After Kant aesthetics moved into centre stage in German philosophy, with Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, (1759–1805), contending, especially in ‘On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters’, 1794, (a work greatly admired by Hegel), that beauty is objective and that the contemplation of it will mend the alienation that afflicts modern humanity, the fissures between human and nature, human and human, and reason and desire. Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s, (1762–1814), doctrine that the phenomenal world is produced solely by the free, and yet necessary activity of the I suggested a parallel with the creative activity of the artist. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, (1775–1854), in particular, developed this parallel and contended, in ‘System of Transcendental Idealism’, 1800, that the key-stone of philosophy is the philosophy of art whereby art mediates mind and nature, in virtue of artistic activity combining the free purposeful creativity of mind with the necessary unconscious creativity of nature.

‘Der Kuss’, 1878, Frank Buchser

Hence we can see with German Idealism an account of art is presented that differs from Kant’s in several significant interconnected respects. First, beauty is objective, it is the revelation of Spirit, the Idea, and the divine in the world of appearance. Second, while Kant was interested only in the subjective judgement of taste, German Idealism takes a greater interest in the artist and his or her products. Third, Kant was as ready to see beauty in nature as in art whereas his successors devalued the beauty of nature. For Schelling, Nature, like Mind, is imbued with Spirit and the Ideal but it is inferior in beauty to art, which unites mind and nature. And for Hegel Spirit evolves out of Nature which is inferior in beauty to the products of Spirit and is only seen as beautiful in the light of such products. Fourth, Kant was indifferent to the history of art and of taste but the Idealists granted a central place to history.

In part Hegel’s account of art brings to fruition a programme that he shared with Schelling and Fichte. In the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ art is treated under the heading not of Spirit but rather of Religion, the religion of art, that is of Greece, appears between natural religion, that is of Persia, India and Egyptm and revealed religion, that is of Christianity. Yet in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ art forms, in addition to religion and philosophy, a part of Absolute Spirit, the spirit, that is, which presupposes the individual psychology of subjective spirit and the social institutions of objective spirit while transcending them both. Art, like religion and philosophy, has a rational, cognitive value, it progressively discloses the nature of the world, of humanity and the relationship between them (the Absolute) in a sensuous form or the form of intuition (Anschauung), while religion does so in the form of figurative representation (Vorstellung), and philosophy in the form of thought or the concept. In the ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’ Hegel combines a systematic account of art with an account of its unfolding over history. Art is divided, first, into three main styles symbolic, classical and romantic and, second, into genres architecture, sculpture and painting, music and poetry.

Historically art falls into three main periods, the ancient Orient, especially Egypt, Greek and Roman antiquity, and Christian modernity. Such divisions and their more detailed subdivisions are intended to be conceptually rather than empirically grounded and to depend ultimately upon the conceptual system presented in the ‘Science of Logic’. And yet Hegel supports them with a richness of empirical material. A genre of art while it occurs in all periods is dominant in one period and is associated with a particular style, architecture, for instance, is the symbolic art-form and was dominant in Egypt, later architecture is transposed into the classical or the romantic style but is not the dominant genre of those periods, does not, that is to say, give to the Absolute the highest artistic expression of which it is capable in those periods. Hegel lived in an age of many fine artists some of whom, for instance, Goethe and Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin, (1770–1843), were his friends, but he denies to art the supreme position that Schelling and many of his other contemporaries granted it. First, art in general expresses the Absolute less adequately than do religion and philosophy given intuition is a medium inferior to conception and thought. Philosophy, for instance, can comprehend art but art cannot comprehend philosophy.

And second, in modern times art cannot express our view of the Absolute as adequately as it expressed the views of earlier times. Greek art expressed the Greek world-view with supreme aptness and elegance indeed more so perhaps than did Greek philosophy, Romantic art can barely express such conceptions as the Trinity, (the three persons of the Christian Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), in so far as it does so, for it transcends the realm of art and forgoes the harmony and beauty of classical art. Schelling concurred that Greek art had not as yet been surpassed or even equalled in modern times, but he expected this to happen in the future, after the creation of a modern mythology comparable to that of Homer (I could bring in James Joyce, (1882–1941), and ‘Finnegans Wake’ here but I am saving that for later). Yet Hegel believed that art could no longer capture the complexity of our world-view, and had no future as a primary vehicle for the expression of the Absolute.

It is therefore important to understand that Hegel’s doctrine of the end of art insofar as he even held such a view in the first place is very much connected with his view of modern society. Both Hegel and Schelling held that art, albeit the immediate product of individuals of talent or genius, is in a broader sense the product of the cultivated society or people (Volk) to which they belong. It is because art does not depend only upon the native talent of the artist that art has a history. Schelling believed that society or the state can and should be a work of art, while Hegel, by contrast, albeit he agreed that Greek society had the harmony and cohesion characteristic of art, did not believe, in his later years, that this aesthetic ideal can be restored in modern society. Modern men and women are too reflective and self-aware and too dispersed in the complex economic life of civil society to constitute an aesthetically coherent whole and great works of art cannot arise in such an unaesthetic environment.

‘Half of Life’

by Friedrich Hölderlin

The earth with yellow pears

And overgrown with roses wild

Upon the pond is bent,

And swans divine,

With kisses drunk

You drop your heads

In the sublimely sobering water.

But where, with winter come, am I

To find, alas, the flowers, and where

The sunshine

And the shadow of the world?

Cold the walls stand

And the wordless, in the wind

The weathercocks are rattling.

‘Hälfte des Lebens’

Mit gelben Birnen hänget

Und voll mit wilden Rosen

Das Land in den See,

Ihr holden Schwäne,

Und trunken von Küssen

Tunkt ihr das Haupt

Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.

Weh mir, wo nehm’ ich, wenn

Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo

Den Sonnenschein,

Und Schatten der Erde?

Die Mauern stehn

Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde

Klirren die Fahnen.

Well, a lot to take on there. I’ll confine the rest of this article to discussing the sublime, an interesting topic in itself but one about which Kant and Hegel held radically different views. Have you ever encountered the sublime? Latin sublimis, a compound of sub-, under, up to, and limin, threshold, so etymologically the sense is of as high as the top of a door, experiencing the sublime, approaching the absolute limit, the sublime. a phenomena constitutive of surpassing wonder and awesomeness. Kant and Hegel inquired into the sublime as a principle feature of aesthetics with the purpose of advancing accounts within their two distinct aesthetic frameworks. For Kant the sublime is part of a broader theory of reflective judgement thereby capturing a subjective phenomenon while for Hegel the sublime is a part of a broader theory of World Spirit being captured in external form thereby constituting an objective phenomenon, and so very differing accounts at the heart of metaphysics, the sublime is subjective for Kant while objective for Hegel, and yet in spite of differences in matters of ontology they concur upon the close connection between the sublime and morality for both accounts contend that the sublime has the potential for directing the individual towards the conduct of a good, moral life, yet how their accounts of the sublime is supposed to fit within their respective frame-works requires some evaluatiob,

For Kant the sublime lies in a feeling of humanity’s superiority over nature, it is the second type of aesthetic judgement, with the first type of judgement being the beautiful. The sublime divides into the mathematic and the dynamic whereby the mathematically sublime awakens the faculty of reason’s superiority to imagination, as when an individual observes an enormous magnitude in nature and reason’s voice insists that it be comprehended it in its totality:

‘But now the mind hears in itself the voice of reason, which requires totality for all given magnitudes, even for those that can never be entirely apprehended although they are (in the sensible representation) judged as entirely given, hence comprehension in one intuition, and it demands a presentation for all members of a progressively increasing numerical series, and does not exempt from this requirement even the infinite (space and past time), but rather makes it unavoidable for us to think of it (in the judgement of common reason) as given entirely (in its totality).’

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Imagination is the faculty the responsibility of which is to judge empirical magnitudes and so it endeavours to provide this totality, but, it fails, for as it apprehends progressive parts of the object it loses the parts it had previously apprehended, and in virtue of the object’s sheer magnitude, in this present instance an infinite of the sensible world, the imagination loses on one side as much as it gains on the other. Hence imagination is incapable of fulfilling reason’s demand for a totality and the realization of this inadequacy produces displeasure. Yet the inadequacy quickly gives rise to something else, a realization of a super-sensible faculty that can comprehend the infinite. Kant’s proof to put it roughly proceeds as follows. Imagination cannot comprehend an absolutely great magnitude, that is to say, infinity, but I can think of an infinite as a whole, ergo I must have another faculty within me that allows me to comprehend this infinite. And this faculty is reason and we find pleasure in discovering it, the mathematically sublime lies in this discovery, or more specifically the disposition of the mind that results from finding a faculty suitable to infinity:

‘That is sublime in comparison with which everything else is small. Here one readily sees that nothing can be given in nature, however great it may be judged to be by us, which could not, considered in another relation, be diminished down to the infinitely small; and conversely, there is nothing so small which could not, in comparison with even smaller standards, be amplified for our imagination up to the magnitude of a world. The telescope has given us rich material for making the former observation, the microscope rich material for the latter. Thus nothing that can be an object of the senses is, considered on this footing, to be called sublime. But just because there is in our imagination a striving to advance to the infinite, while in our reason there lies a claim to absolute totality, as to a real idea, the very inadequacy of our faculty for estimating the magnitude of the things of the sensible world awakens the feeling of a super-sensible faculty in us; and the use that the power of judgement naturally makes in behalf of the latter (feeling), though not the object of the senses, is absolutely great, while in contrast to it any other use is small. Hence it is the disposition of the mind resulting from a certain representation occupying the reflective judgement, but not the object, which is to be called sublime. Thus we can also add this to the foregoing formulation of the explanation of the sublime: That is sublime which even to be able to think of demonstrates a faculty of the mind that surpasses every measure of the senses’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

This faculty is superior to the imagination for this latter even with all of its boundlessness shrivels into unimportance when juxtaposed to the ideas of reason:

‘Now in the aesthetic judging of such an immeasurable whole, [i.e. the Milky Way, and the immeasurable multitude of such Milky Way systems called nebulae], the sublime does not lie as much in the magnitude of the number as in the fact that as we progress we always arrive at ever greater units; the systematic division of the structure of the world contributes to this, representing to us all that is great in nature as in its turn small, but actually representing our imagination in all its boundlessness, and with it nature, as paling into insignificance beside the ideas of reason if it is supposed to provide a presentation adequate to them’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

It is this mental disposition that constitutes the sublime and not the object of nature that prompts the reflection, for though we loosely speak of the sublime being in nature true sublimity must be sought elsewhere. And as this is Kant where do you suppose that is?:

‘… true sublimity must be sought only in the mind of the one who judges, not in the object in nature, the judging of which occasions this disposition in it. And who would want to call sublime shapeless mountain masses towering above one another in wild disorder with their pyramids of ice, or the dark and raging sea, etc.?’

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Well I would if you add something special into the mix:

‘Goddess Milda (Lithuanian Venus) against the landscape of rough sea’, 1910, Kazimierz Alchimowicz

This mental disposition that constitutes the sublime arouses the proper feeling for practical law and it is compatible with that which the influence of determinate that is to say practical ideas on feeling would create:

‘Thus, just as the aesthetic power of judgement in judging the beautiful relates the imagination in its free play to the understanding, in order to agree with its concepts in general (without determination of them), so in judging a thing to be sublime the same faculty is related to reason, in order to correspond subjectively with its ideas (though which is undetermined), i.e., in order to produce a disposition of the mind which is in conformity with them and compatible with that which the influence of determinate (practical) ideas on feeling would produce’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

This feeling is the feeling of respect and the imagination’s inadequacy produces this respect. Though imagination cannot give us an absolute whole nonetheless an absolute whole that can be given is one prescribed for us by a law of reason:

‘The feeling of the inadequacy of our capacity for the attainment of an idea that is a law for us is respect. Now the idea of the comprehension of every appearance that may be given to us into the intuition of a whole is one enjoined on us by a law of reason, which recognizes no other determinate measure, valid for everyone and inalterable, than the absolute whole’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

We respond with respect, the feeling of inadequacy of our capacity for the attainment of an idea that is a law for us, hence the feeling of the sublime in nature is respect for our recognizing that idea as law, and the dynamically sublime demonstrates our superiority over nature in recognizing that neither internal nor external nature has power over us. An individual is less than pleased to become aware of his or her impotence while confronting the raw power of deep ravines and the turbulent torrents in them:

‘The astonishment bordering on terror, the horror and the awesome shudder, which grip the spectator in viewing mountain ranges towering to the heavens, deep ravines and the raging torrents in them, deeply shadowed wastelands inducing melancholy reflection, etc., is, in view of the safety in which he knows himself to be, not actual fear, but only an attempt to involve ourselves in it by means of the imagination, in order to feel the power of that very faculty, to combine the movement of the mind thereby aroused with its calmness, and so to be superior to nature within us, and thus also that outside us, insofar as it can have an influence on our feeling of well-being’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

And yet displeasure once again gives rise to pleasure in virtue of allowing for the discovery of a capacity of resistance of quite another kind, that is to say, the resistance to nature that is inside of us:

‘Bold, overhanging, as it were threatening cliffs, thunder clouds towering up into the heavens, bringing with them flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder, volcanoes with their all-destroying violence, hurricanes with the devastation they leave behind, the boundless ocean set into a rage, a lofty waterfall on a mighty river, etc., make our capacity to resist into an insignificant trifle in comparison with their power. But the sight of them only becomes all the more attractive the more fearful it is, as long as we find ourselves in safety, and we gladly call these objects sublime because they elevate the strength of our soul above its usual level, and allow us to discover within ourselves a capacity for resistance of quite another kind, which gives us the courage to measure ourselves against the apparent all-powerfulness of nature’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

And this resistance to internal nature is one in which our humanity remains most certainly not down-graded against those things with which we are concerned, goods, health, and life, to which we are nonetheless subjected:

‘In this way, in our aesthetic judgement nature is judged as sublime not insofar as it arouses fear, but rather because it calls forth our power (which is not part of nature) to regard those things about which we are concerned (goods, health and life) as trivial, and hence to regard its power (to which we are, to be sure, subjected in regard to these things) as not the sort of dominion over ourselves and our authority to which we would have to bow if it came down to our highest principles and their affirmation or abandonment. Thus nature is here called sublime merely because it raises the imagination to the point of presenting those cases in which the mind can make palpable to itself the sublimity of its own vocation even over nature’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

‘A young man sketching with a reclining woman reading’, Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer, (1839–1902)

And so the dynamically sublime is again in our mind, insofar as we can become conscious of being superior to nature within us and thus also to nature outside us:

‘.. the irresistibility of its power certainly makes us, considered as natural beings, recognize our physical powerlessness, but at the same time it reveals a capacity for judging ourselves as independent of it and a superiority over nature on which is grounded a self-preservation of quite another kind than that which can be threatened and endangered by nature outside us, whereby the humanity in our person remains undemeaned even though the human being must submit to that dominion’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Nature however is apparently being employed with two different senses. The nature of the deep ravine, and the nature of human inclination, as opposed to, say, duty. To our pleasure we discover in such reflection that if it came down to our highest principles we have the power to reject internal natural inclinations, and this capacity of somewhat another sort in turn gives us the courage to measure ourselves against external nature, the power of the deep ravines:

‘Bold, overhanging, as it were threatening cliffs, thunder clouds towering up into the heavens, bringing with them flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder, volcanoes with their all-destroying violence, hurricanes with the devastation they leave behind, the boundless ocean set into a rage, a lofty waterfall on a mighty river, etc., make our capacity to resist into an insignificant trifle in comparison with their power. But the sight of them only becomes all the more attractive the more fearful it is, as long as we find ourselves in safety, and we gladly call these objects sublime because they elevate the strength of our soul above its usual level, and allow us to discover within ourselves a capacity for resistance of quite another kind, which gives us the courage to measure ourselves against the apparent all-powerfulness of nature’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

The dynamically sublime just like the mathematically sublime establishes a disposition compatible to the demands of practical reason, and the discovery of the capacity to resist nature causes the subject to recognize in him or herself a sublimity of disposition suitable to God’s will. This understanding, Kant observes, separates religion from superstition, for superstition leads to fear and not recognition of this dignity to resist internal and hence external nature, while religion in contrast leads to the good conduct of life:

‘Someone who is genuinely afraid because he finds cause for that within himself, because he is conscious of having offended with his contemptible disposition a power whose will is irresistible and at the same time just, certainly does not find himself in the right frame of mind to marvel at the greatness of God, for which a mood of calm contemplation and an entirely free judgement is requisite. Only when he is conscious of his upright, God-pleasing disposition do those effects of power serve to awaken in him the idea of the sublimity of this being, insofar as he recognizes in himself a sublimity of disposition suitable to God’s will, and is thereby raised above the fear of such effects of nature, which he does not regard as outbursts of God’s wrath. Even humility, as the pitiless judging of one’s own failings, which otherwise, given consciousness of good dispositions, could easily be covered with the mantle of the fragility of human nature, is a sublime state of mind, that of voluntarily subjecting oneself to the pain of self-reproach in order gradually to eliminate the causes of it. In this way alone does religion internally distinguish itself from superstition, the latter not providing a basis in the mind for reverence for the sublime, but only for fear and anxiety before the being of superior power, to whose will the terrified person sees himself as subjected without holding him in great esteem; from which of course nothing can arise but the attempt to curry favor and ingratiate oneself, instead of a religion of the good conduct of life’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Thus sublimity is not contained in anything in nature but only in our mind insofar as we can become conscious of being superior to nature within us and thus also to nature outside us insofar as it influences us and everything that arouses this feeling in us, and which includes the power of nature that calls forth our own powers, is thereby albeit incorrectly designated sublime and only under the presupposition of this notion in us and in relation to it are we capable of arriving at the idea of the sublimity of that being who produces inner respect in us not merely through his power which he displays in nature but even more by the capacity that is placed within us for judging nature without fear and thinking of our vocation as sublime in comparison with it. Hegel takes up the same notion of the sublime as the endeavour to express the infinite:

‘The sublime in general is the attempt to express the infinite, without finding in the sphere of phenomena an object which proves adequate for this representation. Precisely because the infinite is set apart from the entire complex of objectivity as explicitly an invisible meaning devoid of shape and is made inner, it remains, in accordance with its infinity, unutterable and sublime above any expression through the finite’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

Nonetheless as far as Hegel is concerned the infinite is grounded in something external to the subject, the one absolute substance, Spirit, and sublimity for Hegel has an ontological meaning as it is grounded in the one absolute substance in the capacity of the content which is to be represented:

‘This outward shaping which is itself annihilated in turn by what it reveals, so that the revelation of the content is at the same time a supersession of the revelation, is the sublime. This, therefore, differing from Kant, we need not place in the pure subjectivity of the mind and its Ideas of Reason ; on the contrary, we must grasp it as grounded in the one absolute substance qua the content which is to be represented. The classification of The absolute spirit is sub-lime because it transcends adequate representation or expression in finite phenomena’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

Hegel’s sublime comes in context of the three stages of art, the Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic epochs, and each of these stages corresponds with a development of the world Spirit and its fit with phenomenal form. In the symbolic stage, the Spirit is too undetermined to be captured in form, in the Romantic stage the Spirit is too determined to be captured in form, and the classical stage, found in the human statues of the ancient Greeks, produces the apex of art because the Spirit is just developed enough to be perfectly expressed by form. These three stages break down into smaller stages, the sublime constitutes one of the latest stages of the symbolic epoch, and though Eastern art forms approximate the sublime the sublime strictly so-called is found in Hebrew poetry, the Psalms:

‘Furthermore, in sublimity, strictly so-called, as will be shown directly, the best objects and most splendid configurations are used only as a mere adornment of God and serve as a proclamation of the magnificence and glorification of the One, since they are set before our eyes only to celebrate him as the lord of all creation’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

These disclose the sublimity of God in virtue of representing all of existence as completely dependent upon God, and humanity and the rest of the world are a serving accident and a fleeting pageant when contrasted with God’s being and fixity:

‘Now when the power and wisdom of the One is to be represented through the finitude of natural things and human fates, we no longer find here any Indian distortion into the shapelessness of the boundless; on the contrary, the sublimity of God is brought nearer to contemplation by reason of the fact that what exists in the world, with all its splendour, magnificence, and glory, is represented as only a serving accident and a transient show in comparison with God’s being and stability’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

Which is to say that humanity depends upon God for existence and only exists to praise this sustaining power, and Hegel cites ‘Psalm 104’ which depicts God covering Himself with light as a garment and stretching out the heavens like a curtain and nothing, not light nor heaven, exists in or for itself, it is but an external vesture for God:

‘At this stage the human individual seeks his own honour, consolation, and satisfaction in this recognition of the nullity of things and in the exaltation and praise of God. (a) In this connection the Psalms supply us with classic examples of genuine sublimity set forth for all time as a pattern in which what man has before himself in his religious idea of God is expressed brilliantly with the most powerful elevation of soul. Nothing in the world may lay claim to independence, for everything is and subsists only by God’s might and is only there in order, in praise of this might, to serve him and to express its own unsubstantial nullity. While therefore we found in the imagination of substantiality and its pantheism an infinite enlargement, here we have to marvel at the force of the elevation of the mind which abandons everything in order to declare the exclusive power of God. In this connection Psalm 104 is of magnificent power’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

‘Psalm 104’

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.

At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.

Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.

He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.

They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.

By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.

He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.

He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.

Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.

O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.

Advertisement for ‘The Eye of God’, from ‘The Moving Picture World’, 1916. A film in which Olaf is writing his memoirs prior to his execution telling of his life as a struggling farmer when Renie, stranded in the village, stays one night in his home and he falls in love with her. A lost film unfortunately. ‘When a man knows he is to be hanged … it concentrates his mind wonderfully’, said Dr. Samuel Johnson, (1709–1784), referring to a clergyman William Dodd, (1729–1777), executed by hanging at England’s Tyburn prison on June 27, 1777 for the despicable crime of a loan scam. Even by the standards of the day there were some who thought the punishment a bit harsh. Oh I don’t know, speaking as someone who has lost money through being too trusting. I seem to be straying from the sublime here … but, well, knowing you are about to die, especially rather unpleasantly, what must be going through the mind? … ‘As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth’. (Psalm 103:15). Consider what Kant says with regard to feelings of powerlessness that nonetheless do not diminish us .. it is always worthwhile to try to put some flesh upon the bare bones of a theory.

The sublimity represented herein is therefore a negative relationship as God himself cannot be represented by phenomena in virtue of transcending finitude but the complete contrast between this Absolute and the finite can furnish at the very least a negative understanding. The Psalms represent God as the all-powerful, all-wise, eternal creator and everything else ‘is and subsists only by God’s might and is there in order, in praise of this might’. Hence this expression of the sublime is therefore negative, built off the absolute distinction between God and creation. In this distance of the infinitely different God lies the abstraction of Spirit: Hegel introduces the Spirit of the sublime as at least the foundation of the spirit but not yet apprehended as concrete:

‘Now the first decisive purification of the absolute [meaning] and its express separation from the sensuous present, i.e. from the empirical individuality of external things, is to be sought in the sublime. Sublimity lifts the Absolute above every immediate existent and therefore brings about the liberation which, though abstract at first, is at least the foundation of the spirit. For although the meaning thus elevated is not yet apprehended as concrete spirit, it is nevertheless regarded as the inner life, self-existent and reposing on itself, which by its very nature is incapable of finding its true expression in finite phenomena’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

That is to say, in understanding only the negative relationship, the difference between God and us, we find no development of Spirit that will come in later stages and which requires a more positive relation. First, this abstract Spirit discloses no human immortality, as yet only the One is Absolute and finitude passes away, and second, we feel unworthiness, pain, and fear before God because of the recognition of our difference, and third, we encounter the potential for immorality and depravity that is counter to the Absolute Spirit. These three points will one supposes develop as Spirit grows more concrete, that is to say, through the Christian God addressing each, human immortality through resurrection, worthiness through reconciliation to God through Christ, and forgiveness and sanctification of evil-doing. At this stage the sublime insofar as it represents a negative relationship is still abstract and hence belongs in the realm of the Symbolic rather than the Classical or Romantic. Notwithstanding that Hegel concludes his discussion of the sublime with room for an affirmative relationship between humans and the sublime spirit:

[… within this nullity man nevertheless gains a freer and more independent position. For on the one hand, along with the substantial peace and constancy of God in respect of his will and its commands for men, there arises the law; on the other hand, in man’s exaltation there lies at the same time the complete and clear distinction between the human and the Divine, the finite and the Absolute, and thereby the judgement of good and evil, and the decision for one or the other, is transferred to the subject himself. Relationship to the Absolute and the adequacy or inadequacy of man thereto has therefore also an aspect accruing to the individual and his own behaviour and action. Thereby in his righteousness and adherence to the law he finds at the same time an affirmative relation to God, and has in general to connect the external positive or negative situation of his existence — prosperity, pleasure, satisfaction, or grief, misfortune, oppression-with his inner obedience to or stubbornness against the law, and therein accept well-being and reward or trial and punishment’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

So on the one hand there is the law that arises from the substantial peace and constancy of God in respect of his will and his commands for men and on the other hand there is a recognition of the complete and clear distinction between the human and the Divine. An individual recognizes he or she is utterly distinct from the Divine in that God sustains him or her and the rest of the world yet he or she also recognizes that the will that sustains the world also wills commands for him or her to follow. And from here he or she discovers an affirmative relation to God insofar as he or she adheres to these commands, God’s laws, and adherence to the laws, that is to say, adherence to the will of the Spirit, is transferred to the individual and each decision for good accrues to the individual to build a positive relationship between the otherwise completely distinct and incommensurable finite and the Absolute.

Hence Kant and Hegel’s notions of the sublime differ at the heart of metaphysics in that whereas for Kant the sublime is a subjective judgement contained within the individual for Hegel,it is grounded in something objective and external to the subject, the absolute Spirit. Kant investigates the question concerning what it means for an individual to judge something as sublime, a question concerning our subjective judgement, whereas Hegel investigates the question concerning the questions what the sublime is, a question about metaphysics, and such a question is not up for discussion in Kant’s framework of cognition which approaches metaphysics from the side of possible human cognition. Hegel by contrast believes the objective side of things is within our grasp and criticizes Kant for falling back once more into the fixed opposition between subjective thinking and objective things:

‘… the beauty of art is one of the means which dissolve and reduce to unity the above-mentioned opposition and contradiction between the abstractly self-concentrated spirit and nature — both the nature of external phenomena and that of inner subjective feeling and emotion. … It is the Kantian philosophy which has not only felt the need for this point of union, but has also clearly recognized it and brought it before our minds. In general, as the foundation alike of intelligence and will, Kant took self-related rationality, freedom, self-consciousness finding and knowing itself as inherently infinite. This recognition of the absoluteness of reason in itself, which has occasioned philosophy’s turning-point in modern times, this absolute starting-point, must be recognized, and, even if we pronounce Kant’s philosophy to be inadequate, this feature in it is not to be refuted. But since Kant fell back again into the fixed opposition between subjective thinking and objective things, between the abstract universality and the sensuous individuality of the will, he it was above all who emphasized as supreme the afore-mentioned opposition in the moral life, since besides he exalted the practical side of the spirit above the theoretical’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

‘Woman on the Balcony’, 1824, Carl Gustav Carus

A broader point of disagreement between the two is the relationship between the form of the sublime and its content or purpose. For Hegel art always requires some correspondence be-tween form and content, a perfect correspondence between the two results in true art, as in the classical epoch, and even when they fail to perfectly match, as is the case in the Symbolic and Romantic the general rule still remains that art requires some correspondence between form and content. Kant on the other hand discovers form and content not only to not correspond, but to directly clash in the sublime:

‘The most important and intrinsic difference between the sublime and the beautiful, however, is this: that if, as is appropriate, we here consider first only the sublime in objects of nature (that in art is, after all, always restricted to the conditions of agreement with nature), natural beauty (the self-sufficient kind) carries with it a purposiveness in its form, through which the object seems as it were to be predetermined for our power of judgement, and thus constitutes an object of satisfaction in itself, whereas that which, without any rationalizing, merely in apprehension, excites in us the feeling of the sublime, may to be sure appear in its form to be contrapurposive for our power of judgement, unsuitable for our faculty of presentation, and as it were doing violence to our imagination, but is nevertheless judged all the more sublime for that’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

That which excites in us the feeling of the sublime may to be sure appear in its form to be contrapurposive for our power of judgement, unsuitable for our faculty of presentation but he continues that this contrapurposiveness does violence to our imagination, but is nevertheless judged all the more sublime for that. In Kant’s subjective system form is the mental representation of an object that resists the purposiveness, or content, of judgement, and the form of the sublime, Kant contends, is particularly unsuited to the purpose.

Albeit Kant and Hegel part company on the nature of the sublime notable similarities in the accounts still emerge. First, though nature is related to the sublime sublimity is no, strictly speaking contained in nature. For Kant the subject’s mental disposition constitutes the sublime and for Hegel the sublime is discovered in the negative relationship between finite nature and infinite Spirit. Subsequently for both Kant and Hegel no sensuous form adequately expresses the sublime, and furthermore both accounts contain a negative moment that leads to something positive, a realization of a noble power within humans that relates to moral law. For Kant the negative moment of realizing the inadequacy of imagination and powerlessness before nature leads to the positive moment of discovering reason and our power over nature, and this positive realization leads to a disposition of the mind compatible with a feeling of respect. In the dynamically sublime we also recognize the capacity within ourselves to resist natural inclinations(and hence obey moral law.

Similarly in Hegel the representation of the negative relationship between the finite and the divine prompts a recognition of good and evil and our power to obey or resist law, God’s commands, and these decisions accrue to us and begin to constitute an affirmative relation with the giver of these laws. For Hegel, the revelation in the direction of morality is certainly in need of further development and does not play as large a role in his theory, whereas by contrast for Kant the positive moment is a defining characteristic of the sublime. Nonetheless for both the negativity initially apparent in the sublime discloses a positive moment of elevation for human nature that suits the individual to moral conduct.

Perhaps the comparison ends there, after all the two theories operate within a specific aesthetic framework. For Kant the sublime fits in as a type of aesthetic judgement and for Hegel the sublime fits in as a development of Spirit through the epoch of Symbolic art. Kant distinguishes two types of aesthetic judgement, of the beautiful and of the sublime. As Hegel explains:

‘Kant has distinguished the sublime from the beautiful in a very interesting way, and his detailed discussion of this in the first part of the Critique of Judgement .. still always retains its interest despite all prolixity and the premissed reduction of all categories to something subjective, to the powers of mind, imagination, reason, etc. In its general principle, this reduction must be recognized as correct to this extent, that sublimity — as Kant says himself -is not contained in anything in nature but only in our minds, in so far as we become conscious of our superiority to the nature within us and therefore to nature without. In this sense Kant’s view is that ‘the sublime, in the strict sense of the word, cannot be contained in any sensuous form but concerns only Ideas of Reason which, although no adequate representation of them is possible, may be aroused and called to our mind precisely by this inadequacy which does admit of sensuous representation’.’

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

The two partake in the primary marks of an aesthetic judgement for both the beautiful and sublime please for themselves. Unlike a judgement of taste, for instance that a certain wine is tasty, the object of aesthetic judgement offers no satisfaction subject to some kind of salubrious condition, the subject is not interested in the object judged as beautiful or sublime, he or she does not want it as he or she may want the wine. And beautiful and sublime judgements are judgements of reflection rather than of cognition. An individual makes a cognitive judgement by subsuming a particular intuition under a determinate concept. For instance, the specific intuition could be this wine and the concept types of alcohol and the judgement this wine is a type of alcohol constitutes a cognitive judgement in virtue of it requiring a judgement to be made through a concept. In contrast an aesthetic or subjective judgement arises from a relation between subject and an object and hence the sublime therefore does not judge the object of nature to be sublime but judges the mental disposition when viewing nature. Similarly the beautiful judgement does not judge an object as beautiful but judges the human satisfaction from viewing the object. And beautiful and sublime judgements are both necessary and universally valid for everyone. Taste varies from person to person but what is judged as beautiful or sublime must be beautiful or sublime for all. Given these marks of a subjective judgement and the sublime’s fulfillment of said marks the sublime appears to fit well within Kant’s system of aesthetic judgements.

‘Graziella’, 1878, Jules Joseph Lefebvre

But the beautiful and the sublime differ in pivotal respects that emphasise the unique contribution of each aesthetic judgement to morality, and these unique contributions are that beauty forms a symbol of morality itself while the sublime forms the subjective response to morality. Kant writes that a judgement of beauty transports our reflection on one object of intuition, a beautiful object, to another, quite different concept, that of morality, to which perhaps no intuition can ever directly correspond:

‘Our language is full of such indirect presentations, in accordance with an analogy, where the expression does not contain the actual schema for the concept but only a symbol for reflection. Examples are the words ground (support, basis), depend (be held from above), from which flow (instead of follow), substance (as Locke expresses it: the bearer of accidents), and innumerable other nonschematic but symbolic hypotyposes and expressions for concepts not by means of a direct intuition, but only in accordance with an analogy with it, i.e., the transportation of the reflection on one object of intuition to another, quite different concept, to which perhaps no intuition can ever directly correspond’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

That is to say the reflection arising from surveying a beautiful object reflects the reflection that would arise from morality’s object if it had one and hence the beautiful reflection symbolizes the beautiful while on the other hand the sublime highlights the subjective side to morality, that is, the feeling for moral law (respect) and the realization of our power to resist natural inclination in adherence to the law. The sublime relates not to morality itself, but the subjective feeling to morality within each individual and differences between the beautiful and the sublime should thus reflect this difference in relation to morality. Which they do. Beauty and the sublime differ in pleasure, beauty pleases immediately, which, Kant asserts, is similar to the effect of morality:

‘1) The beautiful pleases immediately (but only in reflecting intuition, not, like morality, in the concept). 2) It pleases without any interest (the morally good is of course necessarily connected with an interest, but not with one that precedes the judgment on the satisfaction,but rather with one that is thereby first produced)’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

On the other hand the sublime pleases indirectly through negativity and this negativity affords the respect that disposes our mind for the proper feeling of respect for moral law. They also differ in their suitability to judgement, beauty carries purposiveness in its very form whereas the sublime appears contrapurposive to our power of judgement. Because beauty carries purposiveness in its form, we must seek a ground outside ourselves for the objects judged as beautiful:

‘… the concept of the sublime in nature is far from being as important and rich in consequences as that of its beauty, and that in general it indicates nothing purposive in nature itself, but only in the possible use of its intuitions to make palpable in ourselves a purposiveness that is entirely independent of nature. For the beautiful in nature we must seek a ground outside ourselves, but for the sublime merely one in ourselves and in the way of thinking that introduces sublimity into the representation of the former — ‘

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

The grounding of morality lies outside of us and in contrast, the sublime appears contrapurposive to our judgement and the contrapurposiveness form does violence to our imagination and so discloses the faculty of reason, an internal power. Hence the ground for the sublime we find merely in ourselves and in the way of thinking, a mental power within the subject, a point on contrapurposiveness running counter to Hegel’s notion that content and form should correspond even if imperfectly. But in virtue of Kant’s contrapurposiveness giving way to purposiveness on the face of it the pleasure that arises from discovering reason may afford Hegel the better understanding of the relationship between form and content. For Kant form may initially oppose content but the two ultimately match because form leads to purposiveness, the discovery of reason. Furthermore the match is not just any match but one of perfect correspondence as the subject’s own incapacity discloses the consciousness of an unrestricted capacity of the very same subject and the mind can aesthetically judge the latter only through the former.:

‘The quality of the feeling of the sublime is that it is a feeling of displeasure concerning the aesthetic faculty of judging an object that is yet at the same time represented as purposive, which is possible because the subject’s own incapacity reveals the consciousness of an unlimited capacity of the very same subject, and the mind can aesthetically judge the latter only through the former’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

In virtue of the arrival to consciousness of reason happening only through the initial contrapurposiveness this match appears to be when all is said and done an instance of form perfectly matching content, for the form that initially resists judgement through the imagination is ultimately the only grounds through which this content can be brought about. Hence Hegel demonstrates a better understanding than Kant of content and form corresponding in aesthetics. His aesthetic system traces the Spirit’s development from abstraction to concretion, in the epoch of the Symbolic, Spirit is too abstract to find adequate expression in phenomenal form. The height of the symbolic is found in Egyptian art which predates sublime art. An independent spirit, notably manifest through ideas of the afterlife, appears in Egyptian art, and yet it is still indeterminate and even the Egyptians do not fully understand it. This abstraction makes Egyptian art the paradigm case for Symbolic art, in symbolism, the shape was the principle factor that was taken to have a meaning albeit without being able to express it perfectly:

‘In the symbol the shape was the chief thing. The shape was supposed to have a meaning, yet without being able to express it perfectly. In contrast to this symbol and its obscure content there is now the meaning as such and its clear intelligibility; and the work of art thus becomes the outpouring of the pure Being as the meaning of all things — but of the Being which establishes the incongruity of shape and meaning, implicitly present in the symbol, as the meaning of God himself, a meaning present in the mundane and yet transcending everything mundane [and this is incongruous]; and therefore the Being becomes sublime in the work of art which is to express nothing but this absolutely clear meaning’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

That is to say Egyptian art in its form obscurely points to or symbolizes something outside itself. Symbolism proper can no longer capture Spirit when it develops into the stage of the sublime, one of the final stages of Symbolism. The sublime differs from the strictly symbolic in two ways. First, there is no adequate configuration in something external, and thus far the strictly symbolic character disappears:

‘Now the first content which the meaning gains here is this, that in contrast to the totality of appearance it is the inherently substantial unity which itself, as a pure thought, can be apprehended only by pure thought. Therefore this substance is now no longer able to have its configuration in something external, and thus far the strictly symbolical character vanishes’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

In virtue of the sublime so utterly transcending finite form no trace of a fit between the symbol and the content remains. Furthermore the negative relationship is demonstrated without ambiguity, thus in contrast to symbol and its obscure content there is now the meaning as such and its ‘clear intelligibility’.

‘Here on the whole the content, in its fundamental meaning, is still more restricted than it is in the symbol proper which does not get beyond striving after the spiritual, and in its reciprocal relations [between spirit and nature] affords a wide extension of spirit’s transformation in natural productions and nature’s transformation in echoes of the spirit’.

- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’

A symbol proper does not get beyond striving after the spiritual, that is, a truly symbolic representation only obscurely points to Spirit. In virtue of the contrast between the finite and infinite being so clear symbolism of the sublime lacks the vague striving, or pointing after, character of true symbolism. And Hegel’s theory of the sublime fits for the Symbolic at the point at which the negative relationship turns positive albeit the epoch of the Symbolic with all its stages is categorized by the indetermination of Spirit. Spirit, I contend, remains adequately abstract by the time it reaches the sublime, doubts concerning this may arise through a consideration of Hebrew poetry, say, as dissimilar to Eastern or Egyptian art forms in that it expresses the spirit of the true Spirit, God. Over development was safeguarded against through a negative understanding of Spirit and human spirit and the revelation of the sublime emphasized the finitude of man and the incommensurable God albeit if the sublime can lead to the start of an affirmative relationship that relates to the moral nature of man the spirit involved sounds more like concrete spirit.

And in any case even if you object to that reading the end of each stage already begins to resemble the face of the next and there are further developments of Absolute Spirit for instance immortality that justify the claim that the sublime still lacks determinacy. Kant and Hegel both develop theories of the sublime with substantial metaphysical differences which nonetheless overlap in a press towards elevating the subject towards morality and both integrate the notion of the sublime with success into their aesthetic frameworks, (as far as that goes but the Kantian framework is rather a flimsy and rickety affair in comparison to the Hegelian), for Kant in supplying an aesthetic judgement related to morality in a way distinct from a beautiful judgement and for Hegel in supplying a necessary step in the progression of Spirit still adequately undeveloped through the epoch of Symbolic art.

‘Death of Sappho’, 1881, Miguel Carbonell Selva

‘No More for Lycus’

Alcaeus of Mytilene, (c. 625/620 — c. 580 BC)

Raise a song for her, O Muse!

The violet-crownèd maiden,

And praise her soft throat’s changing hues,

Her low voice, laughter-laden.

Sing yet again her thousand charms,

Her eyes entrancing splendour,

Her swarthy cheeks and supple arms

And bosom dark and tender.

Yea, sing forevermore of her,

My mistress soft-beguiling,

Fairest of all who are, or were,

My Sappho, sweetly-smiling.

To be continued …

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David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.

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David Proud

David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.