The sublime Clara Mather

In Hans Maes (ed.), Portraits and Philosophy. New York: (2019)
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Kant says that there is a close affinity between the sublime and moral feelings of respect. This suggests a relatively unexplored way that aesthetic experience could be morally improving. We could come to respect persons by experiencing them as sublime. Unfortunately, this is not at all our ordinary experience of people, and it’s not clear how one would come to it. In this paper I argue that this possibility is realized in the portraits of Thomas Eakins. Through a handful of specific techniques, Eakins suggests an incomparable psychological depth to the subjects of his portraits, a suggestion that causes the viewer to experience that subject as sublime in a way not unlike their experience of a vast ocean or endless abyss.
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