The Pornographic, the Erotic, the Charming, and the Sublime

Alex Neill

in Art and Pornography

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609581
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746260 | DOI:
The Pornographic, the Erotic, the Charming, and the Sublime

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This chapter explores a largely unremarked corner of Schopenhauer's aesthetic theory, his treatment of what he labels the ‘charming’, which might also be rendered as the ‘attractive’ or the ‘seductive’. Schopenhauer regards this as the opposite of the sublime: whereas the sublime presents the will with something that fascinates at the same time as it terrifies, threatening the will's very existence, the charming presents the will with something that fascinates more directly, in promising the will's most immediate and complete satisfaction. The differences between the sublime and the charming account for why for Schopenhauer the former is a possible object of aesthetic experience while the latter is not. The chapter draws connections between Schopenhauer's discussion of the charming and contemporary discussion of the pornographic, and in so doing provides partial support for Levinson's position on the inherent tension, perhaps amounting to incompatibility, between the artistic regard and the pornographic regard. But the chapter also argues, pace Schopenhauer, that in the guise of the erotic the charming does admit of aesthetic appreciation, much as does the terrifying in the guise of the sublime, thus restoring a parallel between the charming and the terrifying which Schopenhauer might well have acknowledged.

Keywords: Schopenhauer; sublime; charming; erotic; aesthetic appreciation; desire

Chapter.  5464 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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