A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful
Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Sublime
In his aesthetic treatise <i>A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful</i> (1757), Edmund Burke (1729-1797) proposes his concept of the sublime. Although several eighteenth-century commentators had attempted the same thing, Burke’s <i>Enquiry</i> far exceeds the others in both scope and intellectual acuity. The sublime has a long history, dating back to the first century C.E. when the Greek critic Longinus first presented his concept of the sublime in his aesthetic treatise <i>On Sublime</i> (</i>Peri hypsous</i>). The root word is the Latin <i>sublimis</i>, an amalgamation of “sub” (up to) and “limen” (literally, the top piece of a door).
According to Tom Furniss, the central task of Burke’s <i>Enquiry</i> is to develop a set of theoretical principles to demonstrate that the sublime and the beautiful are extremely repugnant to each other. This idea leads to the conventional distinction between pleasure and pain. Burke also makes another significant and controversial distinction between pleasure and delight; he characterizes the former as the enjoyment of some “positive” stimulus of the senses, while the latter...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 861 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6546 literature essays, 1773 sample college application essays, 268 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in