A Theology of the Sublime

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Taylor & Francis, Jan 4, 2002 - Religion - 160 pages
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A Theology of the Sublime is the first major response to the influential and controversial Radical Orthodoxy movement.
Clayton Crockett develops a constructive radical theology from the philosophy of Immanuel Kant - a philosophy attacked by Radical Orthodoxy - to show Kant's relevance to postmodern philosophy and contemporary theology.

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as three new unities; rather, the highest Idea (God) at the same time has to express the
absolute unity of the conditions of all objects of thought in general and the unity of the Ideas
as such
. (In the Kritik der praktischen Vernunft and his Opus Postumum Kant argues that the
existence of God needs to be postulated because there is the law (the categorical imperative).)
As we saw, since we are dealing with an Idea, we should realize that when Kant speaks about
God in this context, this Idea does not designate an object beyond experience that can be
known with our faculties of cognition. There is no direct representation of this Idea. (This
means that the limit designated by this Idea is a border that one cannot pass, a limit that one
cannot transgress because there is no presentation (delimitation or imagination) possible
beyond the limits of experience. As we will see more generally when discussing the sublime,
it presupposes an Unvermögen of the imagination to present when the impossibility of
comprehending marks the end of form or of the image.23 However, this end is not simply a
negation (death) of the image, but also its final end,24 the Sein-zum-Tode of the image (as
Derrida stated), to which it has been directing itself; or as Kant said, an Idea is a focus
imaginarius (KRV, A644/B672). To speak of the end of the image (perhaps also in the sense
of the focus imaginarius), then, means that the limit presented in the image withdraws the
imagining from the presented image of which Kant seemed aware when he formulated that
the schematism is a “hidden art” of which we are only seldom aware.) The (subjective)
deduction of the Ideas starts off with human knowledge from the paralogisms of pure reason,
and proceeds by way of the antinomies of pure reason to the ideals of pure reason (cf. KRV,
B396n). We will focus here on the paralogisms, for our concern is rational psychology.
The term ‘paralogism’ designates a certain type of formally fallacious syllogism. The
syllogism is a paralogism when one deceives oneself by it. And a transcendental paralogism
involves a transcendental ground, which results in a formally invalid conclusion. Instead of
deceiving others, the transcendental paralogism is self-deception grounded in reason itself. It
is reason itself that causes this deception concerning itself. Subsequently, Kant turns to the
transcendental concept of the subject: I think, the transcendental apperception, which
constitutes all transcendental concepts. According to Kant, the ‘I think’ is “the sole text of the
rational psychology, from which it [i.e., rational psychology, JvG] will develop its entire
wisdom” (KRV, A343/B401). Hence, rational psychology is first of all concerned with the ‘I
think’. This concept is the vehicle of all concepts, without which any thought could not be my
thought. Because of the transcendental apperception, all thoughts are introduced as belonging
to one consciousness. Kant knew the difficulty and complexity of this matter, witness the fact
that he rewrote a large part of the chapter on the paralogisms in the Transcendental Dialectic.
We will return to this in Chapter 3 (§3.1). However, the problem of the transcendental
apperception is introduced earlier in the text – and this part has also been changed in the
second version – when Kant deals with the a priori synthesis by the imagination of the
manifold of intuition into the unity of thought: “Now no cognitions can occur in us, no
23 Crockett underscores that Kant’s rewritten transcendental deduction reduces the number of syntheses to two:
the figurative and the intellectual synthesis. Because of this, the role of the imagination is, according to Crockett
(in which he seems to follow Heidegger), reduced to mere sensibility, and understanding can carry out the
intellectual synthesis alone “without any imagination” (KRV, B152). According to Crockett, this gives Kant the
possibility to use the distance between the imagination and the understanding for a free play of

References to this book

The Aesthetic in Kant
James Kirwan
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About the author (2002)

Clayton Crockett is Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Religious Thought at the College of William and Mary, USA. He is the editor of Secular Theology: American Radical Theological Thought, also published by Routledge, and is managing editor of the online Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory.

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