What separates the beautiful from the sublime?
Beautiful things might amaze and rouse us, but the sublime affects us in a more profound way. It’s overwhelming, even frightening, and can leave us with a deep and lasting sense of wonder. But why do potential dangers, such as a foreboding storm on the horizon or the view from the edge of a cliff, exhilarate the human mind? The 18th-century philosopher and writer Edmund Burke thought that the sublime involves the possibility of pain, which triggers feelings of self-preservation – a visceral response that moves from the body to the mind.Support Aeon: make a one-off donation