Edmund Burke on the sublime

2 minutes

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.

Video by BBC Radio 4

Script: Nigel Warburton

Animation: Andrew Park

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