Jonathan Posted March 2, 2011 Share Posted March 2, 2011 (edited) I want to take a shot at this and have stood back because (1) I am developing my own theory of art (including an epistemological notion I am clunkily calling "story concept" for now), and (2) I have not yet read Kant's Critique of Pure Judgment, nor Hicks's Explaining Postmodernism, both of which I have and are on my "to read" list.That being said, I suspect Rand's aesthetics are identical to Kant's with respect to logical derivation from the premise, but her concept of "sublime" is totally different.I don't know that Rand had a concept of the Sublime, at least in the philosophical/aesthetic sense. She may have casually used the word "sublime" in a layman's sense to mean something like "grand," "lofty" or "elevated," but I'm not aware that she ever commented on the Sublime (I've taken to capitalizing the word when using it in the philosophical sense). It's possible that she may not have known anything about the concept or its long history.I suspect that she didn't actually read the Critique of Judgment, but only perhaps read a few snippets here and there taken out of context, and that maybe she was misinformed by someone in her circle who had read it with the same hostility and disregard for historical context that Newberry brought to reading it. I'd guess that maybe Peikoff, one of the Blumenthals, or Mary Ann Sures was reading it and telling Rand about all of the evil that they imagined they were finding in it.In her world, sublime holds reason--especially volitional conceptual human consciousness--as a fundamental component and Kant's does not (I presume).Kant's ideas on the Sublime are about reason and volition. To Kant, the experience of the Sublime is our enjoyment of having our capacity to reason stimulated, to feel our will to resist whatever incomprehensible or powerful forces man or nature may throw at us, and to adhere to our highest chosen principles.This makes it easy for Kant's version to logically arrive at modern art and hers to arrive at imitation stylized reality (with respect to visual arts).The problem is that, regardless of what Rand may or may not have believed about Kant or his concept of the Sublime, or of any previous thinkers' concepts of the Sublime, her novels are still great examples of Kantian Sublimity. Her fiction presents objects of magnitude and terror which allow her heroes, as well as her readers, to enjoy feeling their rational capacity being stimulated in an effort to comprehend, to feel their will to resist, and to adhere to their highest principles, etc. As I said earlier, her novels are the ultimate examples of Kantian Sublimity. I know of no better examples.Anyway, I don't know if guessing at Rand's views on the Sublime is relevant. The only reason that the subject of the Sublime is being discussed is because Newberry (and then later Hicks) went out looking to vindicate Rand, misunderstood Kant's concept of the Sublime (Newberry somehow took it to be about valuing incomprehension/terror rather than valuing rising above it), thought that he had found the smoking gun, and proceeded to present his flimsy case. We don't know if Rand would have disagreed with Kant's ideas on the Sublime. All we know is that Newberry and Hicks dislike the concept (without actually understanding it), and that they seem to want to believe that their disliking it is taking them in the direction of vindicating Rand's comments on Kant being the evil "father of modern art." I don't think that we should confuse their views with Rand's. They do not represent her or her ideas just because they think they're defending her.The fundamental premise that leads to the different results is not the aesthetics per se, but the metaphysics and epistemology underlying it.Well, Rand didn't refer to Kant's writings on epistemology as the cause of modern art, but specifically to his Critique of Judgment. If someone wants to make an epistemological case that Kant caused modern art, I'd be eager to hear it, but keep in mind that I'd then also expect to hear an explanation of why artists such as Cozens were experimenting with abstract art concepts before Kant.And I believe Rand admirers go ballistic when you suggest a similarity between their aesthetics--rather than go off in a direction like I just did--because Rand attacked Kant and they are continuing the good fight.Right, to certain people it's not about reality and truth, but about vindicating Rand and expressing rage at anyone who points out that she and her defenders have been mistaken.As I said, I am shooting in the dark right now, but from the discussions I have read up to this point, my understanding seems to be the case.At any rate, I believe your concept is worth looking into rather than dismissing it outright.Well, look into it deeper. Read Kant, and, more importantly, read previous thinkers on the same subjects. I think you'll see that I, along with Johnson and Vacker (as quoted above), am right in identifying Rand's novels as being steeped in Kantian Sublimity.J Edited March 2, 2011 by Jonathan Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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