Beauty and Sublimity

Ross Wilson

in The Oxford Handbook of Theology and Modern European Thought

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199601998
Published online June 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Beauty and Sublimity

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This chapter explores the relation of ‘modern’ and ‘secular’ aesthetics to the theological forebears from which it is apparently radically distinct, and investigates the lingering inheritance of and antagonism towards theology in some reflections on the beauty of nature and art, and on the sublime, in modern thought. The analysis focuses on two examples of the relation between aesthetics and the theological. First, it turns to Kant's Critique of Judgement to examine the text often credited, if not with inventing the aesthetic, then with elaborating one of its earliest systematic formulations. Second, the chapter looks at the work of Theodor Adorno, which represents a confrontation with the theological inheritance of aestheticsm – not in the sense that Adorno wishes to purge aesthetics of theology, but rather to argue that aesthetics both is and is not cryptically theological. It also considers Bernstein's elaboration of the specific status of modern aesthetics.

Keywords: aesthetics; theology; Kant; Critique of Judgment; Theodor Adorno

Article.  8117 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Subjects in Art

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