Beauty or sublimity and ecstasy

The useful is in the hand of the beholder, the pleasant in his organs or powers, the good in his will. Beauty and sublimity are not in anything like this, but follow objectivity as such. A further refinement is necessary: when we call them “objective” we don’t mean this is the sense that object is a correlative of a knowing subject, but in the sense that objectivity is ecstatic, that is, able to stand outside of itself. Again, by speaking of the subject “outside of itself” we do not mean that something is left out, overlooked, or forgotten. Ecstasy is not a sort of ignorance. Ecstasy reveals a fundamental unity of things, and the wall between self and other breaks down. At the same time, things do not homogenize and collapse in this “unity”, so how are we to understand it?

The line between subject and object seems to be drawn by real existence. Existence in this sense is what makes the difference between all that is conceptual or intelligible in X and a real X. If this is right, then the getting outside of oneself in ecstasy might consist simply in knowing existence. This seems almost banal, but I stress that knowledge in the normal sense is what is divided from real existence. Kant was right to say that existence adds nothing to what is intelligible about a thing. Knowing existence, to the extent that we are even capable of doing so, requires an ecstasy from our knowing powers. It is an experience that cannot be understood in terms of the usual account of knowing where an object is in us, or according to the Medieval axiom that the known is in the knower according to the mode of the knower. Nevertheless, this ecstasy is the full flower of knowledge as such, which is not formally the presence of an object in a subject but being another as other.

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