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Symposium

Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 2008

Radu Neculau
Pages 29-43

The Sublimity of Violence
Kant and the Aesthetic Response to the French Revolution

Kant identified in the “spectators’” enthusiastic response to the French Revolution the clear sign of a moral disposition in humankind. Following Hannah Arendt’s classic interpretation, but departing from it in important respects, I attempt to show in this paper that the “spectatorial” account of Kant’s view of the French Revolution makes sense only if it is understood in terms of a subject’s aesthetic response to objects of natural sublimity, and only if this aesthetic experience is instrumentalized for purposes of moral education.

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