Feeling and life in Kant’s account of the beautiful and the sublime

Yoon H. Choi*, Alix Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explores what Kant means by “life”, the “feeling of life”, the “feeling of the promotion (or inhibition) of life”, and related notions, such as the idea of a “vital power”, through the contrast between Kant’s account of the beautiful and his account of the sublime. We argue that it is significant that Kant characterizes the feeling of the beautiful as a feeling of the promotion of life but the feeling of the sublime in terms of vital powers. We account for this difference by showing that in experiences of beauty, we are aware of ourselves as rational but embodied human beings, as part of nature. In the feeling of the sublime, by contrast, we are aware of ourselves as pure rational beings. This entails that in the beautiful, we experience nature as deeply life-promoting, while in the sublime, we experience the independence of our supersensible vocation from nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Concept of Drive in Classical German Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationBetween Biology, Anthropology, and Metaphysics
EditorsManja Kisner, Jörg Noller
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783030841607
ISBN (Print)9783030841591, 9783030841614
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2021


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