Spinoza, Kant and the sublime

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In this article, I draw out the implications of understanding Kant’s influential analysis of the sublime through Spinoza’s framework. By delineating different stages in the sublime experience, I map Kant’s description of the dynamic and mathematical sublime, with their associated pleasure in pain, onto Spinoza’s analysis of our encounter with any (art) object. Both describe experiences that start with imagination and sad passions turning to joyful affects with our employment of reason. In addition to joyful affects, both describe experiences that hold deeper implications for our self-understanding in relation to God/Nature. However, the meanings of these terms and the conceptual frameworks are radically different. From Spinoza’s position, experience of the Kantian sublime would prompt superstition and diminish us, reducing our power and virtue. I then consider what would be the equivalent of the sublime experience for Spinoza that would be associated with joy. Finally, I draw on both Spinozist and feminist critique to rethink the Kantian tradition of the sublime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-857
Number of pages19
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • feminist aesthetics
  • Kant
  • Spinoza
  • sublime

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