I had a good time teaching a class about Kant and Burke today. I found myself talking about how you could argue that the contradictions between capitalism and democracy, or between environmentalism and ecology, or between consumerism and religion, is also an aesthetic debate between Burke and Kant. We've been living in these guys' heads for two hundred plus years!
Burke sees the sublime embodied in some empirical X: a big mountain, a terrifying monarch. Bushco's “Shock and Awe” is the Burkean sublime—as long as you watch it on your TV and are not underneath it when the bombs start falling. An opponent of revolutions (unless they were happening at a safe distance across the Atlantic), Burke appealed to the weight of tradition as a sublime authority to which we should submit.
For Kant on the other hand, all such X's can only ever be triggers for the real experience of the sublime, which is inner freedom, total, unconditional, scary. The sublime is inner space. You're in a library: what's weird is, you're surrounded by infinities, universes of inner space.
Now for Kant this is part of the democracy virus (the other part is beauty) that he's trying to install in the European psyche.
WHEREAS consumerism embodies the sublime in some X: an SUV for instance is an experience of safe power on so many levels: you can just visualize the ad of the SUV driving through some wilderness, the occupants “safe” from the rigors of actually living in it (which would stop it being experienced as wilderness) and “powerful” as they take in the mighty grandeur. The SUV occupants are virtual version of us, the couch potatoes. An SUV is basically a huge sofa on wheels with a windshield TV screen.
LET IT BE KNOWN THAT ecology without nature sides with the Kantian sublime. It's not about preserving the abstract wilderness. It's about Freddie, the polar bear (let's give him a name), a real person who is really living on a shrinking piece of ice. It's not even about polar bears in the abstract. It's about this polar bear, this unique one here, and his inner space.
All I did to get there was to extend inner space to non-human sentient beings.
Then OOO extends inner space to non-sentient objects. Whoah.