Home » On the Sublime: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste by Edmund Burke
On the Sublime: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste Edmund Burke

On the Sublime: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful with an Introductory Discourse Concerning Taste

Edmund Burke

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A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime & Beautiful is a 1757 treatise by Edmund Burke. It attracted the attention of such as Diderot & Kant. According to Burke, the Beautiful is what is well-formed &MoreA Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime & Beautiful is a 1757 treatise by Edmund Burke. It attracted the attention of such as Diderot & Kant. According to Burke, the Beautiful is what is well-formed & esthetically pleasing, whereas the Sublime is what has the power to compel & destroy. The preference for the Sublime over the Beautiful was to mark the transition from the Neoclassical to the Romantic era.For Burke, the origins of ideas of the beautiful & the sublime can be understood by means of causal structures. According to Aristotelian physics & metaphysics, causation can be divided into formal, material, efficient & final causes. The formal cause of beauty is the passion of love- the material cause concerns aspects of certain objects such as smallness, smoothness, delicacy etc.- the efficient cause is the calming of our nerves- the final cause is Gods providence. What is most peculiarly original to Burkes view of beauty is that it cannot be understood by the traditional bases of beauty: proportion, fitness or perfection. The sublime also has a causal structure that is unlike that of beauty. Its formal cause is the passion of fear (especially of death)- the material cause is equally aspects of certain objects such as vastness, infinity, magnificence etc.- its efficient cause is the tension of our nerves- the final cause is God having created & battled Satan, as expressed in Miltons Paradise Lost. Burkes was the 1st complete philosophical exposition for separating the beautiful & the sublime into their own respective rational categories.