The sublime is one of the main categories of classical aesthetics, characterizing a complex of non-utilitarian relations between the subject and the object, as a rule, of a contemplative nature, as a result of which the subject experiences a complex sense of admiration, delight, awe and simultaneously fear, horror, sacred flutter in front of an object that exceeds his perception and understanding. At the same time, the subject experiences his deep ontological and energy involvement or the “highest” object, his kinship with him, or the transcendental archetype, the spiritual forces behind him; feels that there is no real danger to oneself, i.e. its internal freedom and spiritual equality in the system of interaction of incommensurable quantities, where it appears as an infinitesimal quantity.
In the implicit aesthetics, the concept of the sublime appeared in Greek antiquity in connection with the concept of enthusiasm (the divine inspiration attributed to the seers, poets, painters, or the ascent to the divine idea of the beautiful – the Platonists), and also in rhetoric, where it meant one of the styles of speech – high, majestic, strict. Pseudo-Longin, characterizing the sublime (τò ὓψος) as one of the main techniques of artistically organized speech, emphasizes his unconscious and emotional impact on the listener when he brings him into a state of ecstasy, amazement, and “like a thunderbolt, overthrows all other arguments”. The speaker for achieving the sublime should not only skillfully master all the technical rules for drawing up figures and speech figures but also be subjectively predisposed to sublime thoughts, judgments, passionate experiences, pathetic attitudes.
In medieval Christian aesthetics, the problem of the sublime was not raised at the theoretical level, but the spirit of the sublime implied the basic components of culture. “In the texts of the Church Fathers, in church poetry, in hagiography, in Byzantine and Old Russian iconography, the transcendent-immanent God appears as an antinomical, unknowable-comprehended, indescribable-described (“superluminous darkness” – Pseudo-Areopagite) object of spiritual contemplation, exalted (horror and delight, trembling and indescribable joy, “ecstasy of thoughtlessness,” etc.). The aesthetic consciousness in the Byzantine-Orthodox area was, as it were, modulated by the phenomenon of the sublime, therefore, categories such as the image, icon, symbol, and sign performing primarily anagagic (erect), ie to the fore, arose in the aesthetics a spiritual-exalting function, and the beautiful was interpreted as a symbol of divine Beauty and the path to God. The art and aesthetic sphere in Byzantium and medieval Orthodox countries functioned in the mode of the sublime. Ascending to the Areopagitics, the anagogic function of art was similar to many thinkers of the Western Middle Ages. Thus, the abbot of Saint-Denis Suggery (12th century) wrote directly that the church art contributed to his ascension to God. Under the sign of the sublime, coupled with the bizarre, was the artistic culture and aesthetics of the Baroque, highly appreciated in the artist “divine inspiration” (furor divinus). In France, the sublime (le sublime) was understood as the highest stage of beauty and meant greatness and refinement.
In explicit aesthetics, the systematic comprehension of the sublime begins with E.Berk’s treatise “Philosophical study of the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful” (1757), in which a comparative analysis of the two main categories of aesthetics is based on the study of emotional and affective effects of the corresponding aesthetic objects. Burke claimed that the beautiful and sublime are of opposite nature. If the beautiful is based on a sense of pleasure, the sublime is based on a feeling of displeasure. The objects that cause them are also opposite. Elevated objects are “huge in size”, rough and carelessly trimmed, angular, dark, gloomy and massive, can even be fetid. Therefore, the sublime is close to the category of ugliness (“ugliness is completely compatible with the idea of the sublime,” especially if it causes intense fear). Everything that arouses horror in a person can, according to Burke, be a source of the sublime.
German philosophers actively received the ideas of the English thinker. M. Mendelson in the treatise On the Sublime and the Naïve in the Fine Arts (1761), in the context of his theory of perception, defines the sublime as something that causes admiration in the beholder, delight, “sweet awe” and thereby leads him to comprehend the suddenly discovered perfection. In art, he distinguished two types of sublime: the admiration for the depicted subject and the admiration for the very image of the object, even a fairly ordinary, not surprising. With the sublime of the first kind, he related the concept of the naive in art, which defined as an artless expression of an idea or an image of objects worthy of admiration. The immediacy and naivety of the image only strengthen, in Mendelssohn’s view, the greatness of the depicted object.
Kurt also actively relied on the treatise of Burke in the early work of “Observing the feeling of the beautiful and sublime” (1766) and in “The Critique of Judgment” (1790). If in the first treatise he largely follows Burke, then in Critic he goes much further than him. Reasoning about the sublime Kant builds, constantly building on his concept of beauty. If the concept of beauty in nature is primarily associated with the form of the object, its orderly limitation, i.e., refers to its quality, then the feeling of the sublime excites, as a rule, objects that are formless, unlimited, incommensurable with a man, i.e., the main emphasis is shifted to quantity. Fine “is taken to represent an indefinite concept of understanding, and the sublime – to represent an indefinite concept of mind” (Critique of Judgment, § 23). Both things give pleasure to the subject, although different; pleasure from the sublime is a special antinomical pleasure-displeasure, “negative pleasure.” Sublime like “because of their opposition to the interest (external) feelings, while the beautiful like” without any interest. ” The sublime “is an object (of nature), the idea of which prompts the soul to think of the inaccessibility of nature as an image of ideas” (§ 29). The sense of the sublime is based, therefore, on a certain negativity, in principle inadequate and impossible; leads to a sense of transcendence of ideas behind the object of aesthetic perception. The sublime appears as an instant grasp or a shock from the direct perception of the impossibility of a sensuous representation of these ideas with the maximum irrational approximation to them in the act of perception itself; and it is that “one possibility of thought about what already proves the capacity of the soul, exceeding any scale of [external] feelings” (§ 25). One of the main differences between the main categories of aesthetics, Kant sees in the fact that beauty nature “concludes in its form expediency”, i.e. has ontological character and “in itself constitutes an object of pleasure”; the object that evokes in us a sense of the sublime, in form “may seem to be our judgment ability inappropriate, disproportionate to our imageability”, as if forcibly imposed on the imagination (§ 23). It can not be called unlike the beautiful elevated in the proper sense of the word; The sublime “only concerns the ideas of the mind”; its center of gravity is in the subject, and not in the object, as in the case with the beautiful. “The basis for the beautiful in nature we must search outside of us, for the sublime – only in us and in the form of thoughts, which brings the sublime into the conception of nature.” The sublime arises in the confrontation of the experience of nature with the experience of freedom; This is not an empirically-individual, but subjectively-universal feeling. Kant distinguished two kinds of sublime: mathematically sublime and dynamically sublime. The first kind is connected with the idea of the magnitude of the object, which draws the human imagination into infinity. The second – with threatening forces of nature (a raging ocean, a thunderstorm with thunder and lightning, an active volcano, etc.), when a person contemplates them from a safe place, feels an increase in his mental strength in the process of contemplation and enjoys the realization of “the ability resistance “them. The soul of the perceiver begins to “feel the elevation of his purpose in comparison with nature” (§ 28).
Kant’s ideas were concretized, shifting some of the accents, Schiller in two articles “On the Sublime” (1793, 1801). The sublime is interpreted by him as an object, “in the representation of which our sensuous nature feels its limitations, the rational nature is its superiority, its freedom from all restrictions; object in the face of which we, ie,:, find ourselves in a disadvantageous physical position, but morally, i.e. through the medium of ideas, we rise above it “(cited in: Schiller, F., Articles on Aesthetics, M.-L., 1935, p. 138). The feeling of the sublime “combines suffering, sometimes reaching a degree of terror, and joy, which rises to delight; not being in the proper sense of pleasure, they are preferred by sensitive souls to the simple enjoyment of the beautiful. Exalted by a sudden shock gives our spirit a way out of the sensory world, while beauty is chained to it. ” Schiller distinguished “contemplative-exalted forces” and “pathetically-exalted”.
Schiller’s ideas were based on his lectures “The Philosophy of Art” (1802-03, published in 1859) by Schelling. He distinguished the sublime, in art and the “soul structure,” and defined it as the endowment of the infinite into the finite. For the sublime, he believed, the merely physical or force incommensurability with human scales is not enough. The aesthetic “contemplation of the sublime” takes place only when the “sensually infinite” (for example, the real revelry of the elements) acts as a symbol of “truly infinite” (absolute ideal infinity). The Infinite, as such, destroys the form of the sensually infinite; symbol. Therefore absolute formlessness as “the highest absolute form in which the infinite is expressed by the finite” and is the symbol of the infinite as such, i.e., is perceived as sublime. And the identity of absolute form and formlessness is the original chaos as the potency of all forms. Therefore, through “the contemplation of chaos, reason reaches the general knowledge of the Absolute, whether in art or science.” Hence “chaos – the main contemplation of the sublime,” according to Schelling (“The Philosophy of Art,” 65). Between the sublime and the beautiful there is no essential antithesis, but only quantitative. This understanding of the sublime has been inspired by more than one generation of German Romantics; it is close to the theorists and practitioners of some art trends of the 20th century.
Hegel in Lectures on Aesthetics (1818-29, published in 1835-42), relying on Kant, but polemicizing with his accentuation of the subjective nature of the sublime, connects him with the sphere of expression of the “substantial one”, the infinite unreasonable spirit, or God, in the final, in individual phenomena, in particular in works of art. “The sublime is in general an attempt to express the infinite without finding an object in the realm of phenomena that would be suitable for this purpose”; the desire to show, to show “absolute above any immediate existence,” which inevitably leads to a dialectical removal of the concrete form of expression by a fundamentally incompatible content in it-substantial meaning. “This is a formation that is itself destroyed using what it interprets so that the interpretation of content is revealed as the removal of the very interpretation – this formation is sublime.” According to Hegel, the sublime ontological is a certain content rooted in a single absolute substance, or in God, to be embodied and removes in the process of this embodiment any particular form of embodiment. The sublime in art manifests itself in the infinite striving of art to express the divine substance, and since it far exceeds all forms of external expression, this must become the subject of expression-the incommensurability of the meaning and the image of its expression; “The existence of the internal beyond the outer.” Hegel calls such an “art of the sublime” Hebrew “holy art as such, holy art mainly, because it rewards only God” (Aesthetics, vol. 2). This kind of sublime he saw primarily in Jewish sacred poetry. Fine arts, in his opinion, are not able to express the sublime, although Raphael partially did this in depicting the infant Christ in the Sistine Madonna. In architecture, the most sublime is expressed in the Gothic. These ideas of Hegel had a significant impact on the fundamental principles of the aesthetics of romanticism and symbolism. Romantics and symbolists have made unsuccessful attempts to create sublime works in poetry, music, painting. Representatives of German classical philosophy gave almost an exhaustive understanding of the sublime.
In the materialistic aesthetics of the 19th-20th centuries. in many ways, the original aesthetic meaning of the sublime is lost. Many aesthetics simply exclude it from their categorical arsenal; others treat it extremely one-sidedly. Psychological aesthetics (Lips, Folkert) understood him as “feeling”, as a projection of sublime feelings on the subject of aesthetic perception; while Folkelt distinguished five types of the sublime. Marxist-Leninist aesthetics connected it with the concepts of pathetic and heroic, manifested in a socially or ideologically engaged person – an unselfish fighter for certain progressive ideals of a particular class (or party). From the mid-20th century in aesthetics, there is an increasing interest in this category. Attempts are being made to modernize the experience of understanding the sublime German classical philosophy, primarily Kant. The Greek aesthetist P.A. Mikheelis proposes to extend the aesthetic approach to the history of art and, in particular, examines it in the light of the categories of the sublime and beautiful. In the art of antiquity and the Renaissance, he sees the dominance of the principle of beauty, while Byzantine art seems to him in the mode of exclusively the category of the sublime. Adorno, coming back on a new level to Kant’s ideas (in particular, about the “negativity” of the sublime) and Schiller, understands the sublime as the triumph of the human spirit (not amenable to external manipulation) over the phenomena of nature, social being, even artistic expression that surpass human possibilities (eg. , in avant-garde music). Lyotard in Lectures on the Analytic of the Sublime (Leçons sur l’analytique du sublime, 1991) and other works seeks to rethink the theory of sublime Kant in a poststructuralist-postmodernist spirit, declaring an aesthetic criterion in post-nonclassical knowledge.
Sublime, in its interpretation, arises as an event of an unexpected transition, a conflict (différend) between two types of discourse that do not have common rules of organization or judgment, incommensurable in one plane of consideration. Sublime – the emotional expression (experience) of this conflict, a testimony of “non-negotiability”, absolute silence. In the field of art, the sublime is most clearly manifested in avant-garde art – in abstract painting, abstract expressionism, in Klee, Malevich, in the modern theater and other works of postmodernism, where the flows and pulsations of libidinal energy find the most adequate and concentrated expression, the numinous-absolute reaches its limit of intensity. In the 2nd part of the 20-century interest in the notion of the sublime and in connection with the social struggle (including in the sphere of postmodern art practices and art actions) for the prevention of ecological and nuclear disasters begin to manifest itself. A specific role is played here by this kind of modern art, such as land art.