Introduction to Cosmological Aesthetics: The Kantian Sublime and Nietzschean Dionysian

By Erman Kaplama.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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This paper is founded on a close reading of Kant’s Opus Postumum in order both to explore the essential motivation that drove Kant to write a last comprehensive magnum opus (after having completed his critical philosophy) and, by doing so, to show the essential link between his aesthetics and the idea of Übergang, the title of this last work. For this work contains not only his dynamical theory of matter defining motion as preliminary to the notions of space and time, and the advanced version of his philosophy of natural science, but also his arguments for the phenomenal validity of the metaphysical foundations (or the essential unity of the theoretical and practical reason), his teachings on the aesthetic human faculties of judgment and Anschauung (sense-intuition), and the discernment of the transcendental philosophy from Platonic idealism carrying it to a cosmological level, i.e. Kant’s insertion of the concept of cosmotheoros. Since the process of transition is an aesthetic process based on human senses, intuitions and judgments, the argument will follow that in order to explicate Übergang, we need to reconcile cosmology, as the oldest branch of philosophy dealing with the interactions between the cosmic forces and the ways they affect human life, with aesthetics, as the youngest branch of philosophy dealing with how we sense, intuit and judge the form and motion of matter. Therefore, in the last analysis, Übergang becomes rather a cosmologic-aesthetic principle similar to the Heraclitean logos. Another building block of the paper is the fruitful comparison between the Kantian sublime and Nietzschean Dionysian, which are going to be construed as the aesthetic theories on human understanding representing the transition from nature to art. For they are not only conceptual – aesthetic but also dynamic – cosmological theories due to their reference both to nature and to human nature.

Keywords: Kant, Nietzsche, Aesthetics, Heraclitus, Ancient Greek Philosophy and Tragedy

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.69-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 700.182KB).

Erman Kaplama

PhD Candidate, Humanities and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck College, University of London, London, UK

Erman Kaplama is a final year PhD student at the London Consortium, a unique transdisciplinary programme collaborated by the department of Humanities and Cultural Studies at University of London’s Birkbeck College, Tate (London’s major art museum), Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Science Museum. He holds an MSc degree in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and BA degree in Political Science from Bilkent University (Ankara-Turkey). He also works as a private tutor of philosophy, politics and humanities in general for London’s leading tuition companies. During his undergraduate years, he was writing and editing articles for Turkish Foreign Policy Institute’s web-journal from 2003 to 2006. He is preparing to be a lecturer in the 18th and 19th century Aesthetics and Political Philosophy (mainly Kant and Nietzsche) and pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, cosmology and tragedy. The title of his PhD is “Cosmological Aesthetics through the Kantian Sublime and Nietzschean Dionysian”. Versions of this paper have been presented in two other conferences in Europe and United States this year and won the best paper award in one of them.


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