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date: 22 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the relation of ‘modern’ and ‘secular’ aesthetics to the theological forebears from which it is apparently radically distinct, and investigates the lingering inheritance of and antagonism towards theology in some reflections on the beauty of nature and art, and on the sublime, in modern thought. The analysis focuses on two examples of the relation between aesthetics and the theological. First, it turns to Kant's to examine the text often credited, if not with inventing the aesthetic, then with elaborating one of its earliest systematic formulations. Second, the chapter looks at the work of Theodor Adorno, which represents a confrontation with the theological inheritance of aestheticsm – not in the sense that Adorno wishes to purge aesthetics of theology, but rather to argue that aesthetics both is and is not cryptically theological. It also considers Bernstein's elaboration of the specific status of modern aesthetics.

Keywords: aesthetics, theology, Kant, Critique of Judgment, Theodor Adorno

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