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Burke, Edmund


Burke was born in Dublin where he attended the Trinity College. There he had the possibility to read a treatise on the sublime attributed to Longinus, which inspired his famous enquiry.
We can divided his work into historical and philosophical works.
In all his historical works he emphasized the individuality of each nation.
In the philosophical works we can found an important essay on the aesthetic, entitled “A PHILOSOPHICAL ENQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF OUR IDEAS OF THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL”.


Longinus: the principal document of the classical period was the Greek treatise “de sublimitate” composed in the second century by Longinus. The sublime is what give greatness to art and literature (art is not a representation of exterior reality, but a product of the imagination).
Kant: the “beautiful” is what, in nature or art, give aesthetic pleasure, creating a sense of harmony between the things and ourself.


In his philosophical enquiry Burke doesn’t consider the problem from the philosophical point of view.
He is above all concerned with what may be considered “sublime” in nature, and tries to provide a definition of “sublime” by underlining its causes and effects.
He find the causes in external aspects of nature which may be simultaneously horrible and beautiful.
Then he divided his effects into a major one, the astonishment: the state of the soul in which all the motions are suspended with some degree of horror.
And other lesser one like admiration and respect, concluding that the sublime is always founded on TERROR which he consider “the ruling principle”

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