The of the main objectives of Romantics has been

The origins of philosophical romanticism can be found in the
works of Immanuel Kant which has been a source of inspiration for romantic
poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shelly. Romanticism, as we know, has been
developed against the Age of Enlightenment. It considers “emotional
self-awareness” as a necessary requirement for improving both an individual and
a society. For Romantics, scientific civilization fulfills unnatural desires in
man, and seduces him from true nature and freedom. Kant’s Aesthetic concepts
serve as an inspiration for romantic poets of that time. Kant’s Transcendental
Idealism argues that we see “things in themselves”. In other words, we gain an
understanding of the world through human experience. His remarks on the purpose
of nature and art impacts the development of Romantic Aesthetics. This paper
argues that Kant’s remarks on the purposiveness of nature and art marks the
development Aesthetics side of Romanticism. His philosophy discerns
epistemological, ethical, metaphysical and political concerns of Romantic
Aestheticism in the late 19th century. This paper further elaborates
on these concerns on romantic understanding of beauty and art as an essential
part in human life.

From a rationalist perspective, nature has been considered
as a mechanical domain, as meaningless matter that is made of different atoms
and compounds. For a rationalist, reasons serves as the chief source and test of
knowledge. In other words, “Modern Science dissected nature atomistically like
a dead corpse” (Richard 18). As a coherent movement, Romantics challenges rationalist
approach to nature as reductive as they reduce nature to mere matter. Whereas,
Romantics considers nature to have three main characteristics: Holistic Unity,
Self-Organization, and Life. So, Kantian concerns about “unity of consciousness”,
“teleology” and “aesthetics” renounce the reductive approach towards nature which
alienates man from nature through a mechanistic domain.

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Aesthetics is capable of revitalizing nature as it brings
out a different idea of nature which is organic rather than mechanic. One of
the main objectives of Romantics has been to counter threats from rationalist
modern science. This counteract argues that science alienates human beings from
nature. Through the lens of science, nature is viewed as mechanical. Holderlin,
in his preface to Hyperion, states:

We have fallen out with nature, and what was once. One is
now in

conflict with itself, and mastery and servitude alternate on
both sides. It often seems to

us as if the world were everything and we nothing, but often
too as if we were everything

and the world nothing (Nassar 139).

It is clear from this statement that
modernity has divided man from himself through the embodiment of duality
between reason and sensibility. In other words, it has separated man from

For nearly a century, romanticism has been considered as a
reaction against the Enlightenment. Romantics, like Rudolf Haym, have
illustrated the Age of Enlightenment as impoverished and dry. His reflection to
Hegel’s Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit is a prime example. In his
words, “He understands the Hegelian philosophy who has perfectly made himself master
of this Preface” but “It did not and
could not put into effect what it proclaimed as its own aim… It could
not bring to our nation the noble balance of aesthetic” (Haym). The Aesthetics
may seem to agree with this perception because, on this interpretation, the
romantics changed the Enlightenment’s believe in the superiority of reason with
a belief in the superiority of art and nature that are involved in aesthetic
experience. On this conventional interpretation, romanticism can be considered
as against rationalist ideology, in other words, as irrational. But, while the
Romantics’ quest for supremacy of aesthetics marks a break with the
Enlightenment, their consideration of romantic aesthetics as antagonistic/anti-rational
to the core Enlightenment values is unjustified for a number of reasons.

Romanticism believes in the stance of bringing back aesthetic
feeling without compromising the necessity of reason. German romantics have never
tried to replace reason
with the feeling of beauty, instead they have argued to highlight the
passionate nature of reason as a part of a balanced and unified perception of
human life. In this way, regarding Romanticism only as a continuation of free
expression in reaction to the limitations of rationalism would be inappropriate.
For instance, being regarded as one of the main sources of influence on Sturm
und Drang, Schlegel states that “only when striving toward truth and knowledge can
a spirit be called a philosophical spirit” (71). Jacobi considers that the only
way to reclaim our aesthetic beliefs, while challenging the limitations of the
Enlightenment, is to reject reason in favor of faith and sensation. In
his review of Jacobi, Schlegel severely criticizes his believe to replace
reason. So, Romanticism is better understood as an attempt to combine reason
and sensibility.

Aesthetics is central to the Romantics as it is concerned
with re-enchanting nature in the period of scientific reasoning. Here,
Enchanting refers to the process of rendering nature magical or mysterious and
thus inspiring reverence and awe: “the Romantics thus essentially conceived
their program for cultural and aesthetic transformation with the aim of
re-enchanting nature and reconciling humanity with nature” (Stone 7). While
challenging the decisive structure of modern alienation, Enchantment challenges
the threat of detached treatment towards nature. Modern science portrays nature
on the basis of mechanism, as an entity which is devoid of any awe-inspiriting
power. Therefore, romantics change this attitude towards nature by highlighting
the sense of mystery and magic in nature. In the words of Novalis,

Romanticizing is nothing other than a qualitative raising
into higher power…. By giving

a higher meaning to the ordinary, a mysterious appearance to
the ordinary, the dignity of

the unacquainted to that of which we are acquainted, the
mere appearance of infinity to

finite, I romanticize them (Pinkard 147).

Through the influence of Kant, the Romantics considers that
the beauty of nature illustrates the purposiveness of nature without a purpose.
It guides and inspires us in perceiving nature as purposively organized even though
we cannot characterize this structure to any creator, will, or any end-governed

That which reminds us of nature and thus stimulates a
feeling for the infinite abundance

of life is beautiful. Nature is organic, and therefore, the
highest beauty is forever

vegetative; and the same is true for morality and love
(Schlegel 90).

While this perception, the romantics
continue to further evaluate this opinion. Firstly, they are more focused on purposiveness,
real-life features and structure of nature, instead of regular principles for
approaching nature. Secondly, they have used these features to show that nature
is different from creative, self-conscious human beings but only through a
certain extend. In other words, nature is end-governed like human beings. In
particular, it is beauty that inspires this unified understanding. In the words
of Novalis, “Through beauty, nature transforms itself into a human being” (1).  As a unified phenomenon, we would be capable
of seeing nature and humanity when we attend to art and beauty.

Kant’s aesthetics shows a method of “reflective self-awareness”
as a way of being responsive and conscious to aspects of the world. Similarly,
Romantics focuses on a non-discursive, but rational and normatively governed method
of awareness. For both Kant and Romantics, poetry fulfills this purpose as it
is grounded in feeling/sensibility. In the famous words of Wordsworth, “All
good poetry originates in the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Waugh
53). As a break from the rational Neoclassical poetry, Wordsworth shows a new
kind of poetry where emotions are highlighted. He attempts to capture the
intensity of emotions. So, Romantic Poetry seems as an essential device for
both Kant and Romantics.

Eagleton claims that Kant sets ground for our feeling of
sublime within us. For him, Kant’s “aesthetic is virtually synonymous with
ideology” (Wayne 384). We are able to achieve a very precious and convenient
form of inter-subjectivity through aesthetic Judgement. In his words,

For Kant, we find ourselves concurring spontaneously in an aesthetic
Judgement, able to

agree that a certain phenomenon is sublime or beautiful, we
exercise a precious form of

inter-subjectivity, establishing ourselves as a community of
feeling subjects linked by a

quick sense of our shared capacities (Eagleton 54)

Eagleton stress that only Aesthetics
can give human its autonomy during the time of rationalization. It is a
resurrection of the Aesthetic felling from an earlier social order. It gives a
sense of harmony and unity with a transcendental existence.

Eagleton constantly stresses the negative aspect of the Aesthetic,
because it never allows any debate nor questioning. It assumes a mutual harmony
at the basis of our sensibility. In his explanation of the ironical aspect of
the Aesthetic, he states:

Aesthetic inter-subjectivity adumbrates a utopian community
of subjects, united in the

very deep structure of their being…. The cultural domain
… is one of non-coercive

consensus; it is of the essence of aesthetic Judgments that
they cannot be compelled.

(Eagleton 97)

Although, we try to deny and reject the existing social order and try
to find a unity and mutual harmony in the Aesthetic, Aesthetic legitimates and mystifies
real social relations. As a Marxist critic, Eagleton puts emphasis on the
social and economic relations ruling people and focuses on the ironical aspect
of the Romantic aesthetics.

To inform and inspire others, Poetry is most appropriate for
the purpose of romanticizing for a number of reasons. First, it has ability to
de-familiarize the most familiar through its vivid imagery, attention to
detail, and use of non-ordinary language. Second, it has ironic ability to highlight
the limitations of our knowledge to pave way for reverence and awe. Known for
his romantic poetry, Wordsworth shows real sense of responsibility towards
poetry. In his words,

Poetry throw over them a certain coloring of the
imagination, whereby ordinary things

should be presented to the mind in an unusual way; and
further and above all to make

these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in
them (Wordsworth 7).

The use of this language in poetry incorporates
passions of ordinary people with the beautiful forms of nature. Moreover, irony
suggests that there is more beyond our cognitive abilities. Through these
abilities, poetry serves as a device to further the cause of Romantics.

Wordsworth’s expression of nature is perhaps the most
powerful awe-inspiring depiction of nature in his romantic poetry. One example
is Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”. He
depicts his encounter with the countryside along the bank of the River Wye. He
gives an insight into nature. This highly philosophical poem is an illustration
on the role of nature in human life:

A sense sublime 
Of something far more deeply interfused, 
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 
And the round ocean, and the living air, 
And the blue sky, in the mind of man, 
A motion and a spirit, that impels, 
All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
And rolls through all things. 
I, so long 
A worshipper of Nature, hither came, 
Unwearied in that service: rather say 
With warmer love, oh! With far deeper zeal 
Of holier love. 
(Wordsworth 96, 103)

To advance the aesthetic agenda, these
lines illustrate nature as alive and a locus of Spirit. Nature speaks to us as
we speak to it and to each other instead of being an unknown force.

In his introduction to the Critique of Judgement, Kant states that “pleasure is the feeling
that can never become an element of cognition at all” (187). So, it could be
perceived that feelings are devoid of any kind of rationality, but Kant argues
that feeling can be rational as it is a part of universal mental state that
highlights our ability to judge. From both Kant’s and Romantics, rationality is
irreducible to cognition. Feeling does not govern any actual property that the object
has of subjectivity. In fact, feeling is the response to the interaction
between a subject and an object. Respectively, Aesthetic pleasure reflects on
the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity.

Kant further analyzes both the object (nature) and the
subject (morality) in his works while arguing the outcome of interaction
between the two. He considers that nature and morality are not independent, but
interrelated in order to highlight moral freedom. In Critique of Judgement, he states:

Now even if an immeasurable gulf is fixed between the
sensible realm of the concept of

nature and the supersensible realm of the concept of freedom,
so that no transition is

possible from the first to the second (by means of the
theoretical use of reason), just as if

they were two different worlds of which the first could have
no influence upon the

second, yet the second is meant to have an influence
upon the first. … There must,

therefore, be a ground of the unity of the
supersensible, which lies at the basis of nature,

with that which the concept of freedom practically contains.
(Kant 107)

In other words, the harmonization
between nature and freedom is possible through Judgement, in which the purpose
imposed by the laws of freedom is harmonized with the realm of nature. Kant
finds the purpose imposed by the laws of freedom in the beautiful and the sublime.
While analyzing the beautiful, Kant argues that Judgement of taste is

In order to distinguish whether anything is beautiful or
not, we refer the presentation, not

by the understanding to the object for cognition, but by the
imagination (perhaps in

conjunction with the understanding) to the subject and its
feeling of pleasure or pain. The

Judgement of taste is therefore not a Judgement of
cognition, and is consequently not

logical but aesthetical. (Kant 38)

For Kant, Beauty seems to be an
indefinite notion of understanding. Contrary to his believe on the beautiful,
the sublime revolves around negative pleasure rather than positive. This
feeling of the sublime is explained as repulsive. Kant further states:

The beautiful in nature is connected with the form of the
object, which consists in having

boundaries. The sublime, on the other hand, is to be found
in a formless object,

so far as in it or by occasion of it boundlessness is
represented, and yet its totality is also

present to thought (23)

In short, sublime is the representation
of a formless object. It is a concept that belongs to the reason. These ideas
about the beautiful and the sublime seem to have an influence on Coleridge’s
theory of Imagination.

Coleridge represents a beautiful image of unification
between the subject and the object. It is obvious that Kant’s Critique of
Judgement has a significant and profound impressions on Coleridge’s
understanding of the Romantics. In his poem Kubla
Khan, he expresses twin streams of imagination and being through his mind.
In his own words,  

I have read of two rivers passing through the same lake, yet
all the way preserving their

streams visibly distinct. If I mistake not, the Rhone and
the Adar, through the Lake of

Geneva. In a far finer distinction, yet in a subtler union
… are the streams of knowing and

being. The lake is formed by the two streams in man and
nature as it exists in and for

man; and up this lake the philosopher sails on the junction-line
of the constituent streams

(Guite 107).

The lake made through “two streams
of knowing and being” is a perfect representation of unification of the subject
and the object. Here, it is also clearly expressed the philosopher’s desire to
achieve his goal: “to sail up this lake”. Kant is one of the philosophers who
sailed up this lake before Coleridge. But, Coleridge, on the other hand, seems
to have carried on from Kant.

The sublime links with the expression of the poet’s feeling.
It is produced in front of Mount Blanc in Coleridge’s “Hymn Before Sun-rise, in
the Vale of Chamouni.”.  As the sublime
is the representation of a formless object, the pleasure experienced by the
poet in this poem “arises only indirectly” and “is produced by the feeling of a
momentary checking of the vital powers and consequent stronger outflow of them”
(83). This poem is an excellent example of the poetic expressions of the

O dread and silent Mount! I gazed upon thee,

Till thou, still present to the bodily sense,

Didst vanish from my thought: entranced I’ll prayer

I worshipped the invisible alone.

Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,

So sweet, we know not we are listening to it,

Thou, the meanwhile, wast blending with my


Yea, with my Life and Life’s own secret JOY:

Till the dilating Soul, enrapt, transfused,

Into the mighty vision passing-there

As in her natural form, swelled vast to Heaven!

In these lines, the expressions,
such as “gazed upon” and “dread and silent Mount”, exactly match with Kant’s definition
of the feeling of sublime and its pleasure. The poet expresses the feeling of
stronger outflow of the vital powers. Here, the poet calls his own soul and
heart to be awaken. He calls several aspects of sublime in nature with the
notes of exclamation. This invigoration of the poet’s soul appears to be more
interesting when it is viewed through Kant’s explanation of the sublime:

The sight of them is the more attractive, the more fearful
it IS, provided only that we are

in security; and we willingly call these objects sublime,
because they raise the energies of

the soul above their accustomed height and discover in us a
faculty of resistance of a

quite different kind, which gives us courage to measure
ourselves against the apparent

almightiness (101).

The sublimity of the Mount felt by
the poet seems to be more understandable, especially when it is viewed in
conjunction with Kant’s analysis of the sublime. It is clear that Romantics,
like Coleridge, have been from Kant’s ideas.

Being viewed as one of the famous figure in the period of 19th
century Romanticism, John Keats is regarded as a pioneers for pursuing “Art for
Art’s Sake”. He creates an eternal world for beauty and truth in his poems. For
a long time, his poetic world is against the unsatisfactory social reality. In
other words, he acts as a promoter for tranquility, peace and ever-lasting
beauty. Aesthetic value of his poetry lies in his astonishing portrayal of the
beautiful things in nature through his ability of imagination and fancy. Further,
his poetry leads to vivid demonstration of the relationship between nature and man.
In other words, he explores man’s senses, the ability of art to make reality
eternal, and the sublimity of man’s mind and soul. Moreover, Keats’s poems
transcend the limitations of senses. Through the charm of its beauty, it
touches the very core of man’s spiritual world. To compare their ideal concerns
regarding aesthetic beauty, both Keats Kant highlight their viewpoints about
beauty, the human senses, the relationship between man and nature.

Kant refers to Aesthetic as something that is concerned with
experiences of individual senses rather than something that is specifically artistic
(Leitch 503). Instead of artistic production, he focuses on the individual’s
response. Kant argues that it makes no difference whether the object is human-made
or natural. In fact, he is more concerned with protecting art’s freedom by aligning
it with beauty against the absolute world of science. According to Kant, “Subjective
Universality” renders people taste for beauty. The experience of beauty can increase
the coherence within our dual human nature as free and physical being. As an
Aesthetic device, “Poems exist in words, not in direct sensations, and its true
role is not to outdo the vividness of the world of sense impression, but to
provide us with something else” (Brooks and Warren 68). For Keats, the beauty is
experienced and pursued through poetry.

In his poem Sleep and Poetry, he shows that Poetry portrays
a wide heaven, yet he is not a glorious citizen of its realm. Through poetry,
his young spirit can follow the morning sunbeams to the great Apollo. He portrays
many beautiful and fanciful scenes which are made possible through writing
poems. In Ode to a Nightingale, Keats portrays poetry as more powerful
than any power which can only bring joy to our senses. For example, the power
of wine god Bacchus. In the words of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s, “Poetry is a
language that tells us, through a more or less emotional reaction, something
that cannot be said” (Beaty 1235). With the viewless wings of Poesy, the poet
can fly with the nightingale to the solemn forest, the beautiful and mysterious
land, leaving behind all the weariness, the fever and the fret. This kind of poetry
represents true poetry; a representation of beauty which feeds upon the negativity
in life. So, only true poets can experience true beauty, and compose true
poems. The poets have their souls on earth and also souls in heaven, and they
can have a double life.

It seems odd that Romantics call to poeticize nature and
science, but it has prominent relevance today. The Romantic aesthetics, which
Kant and Coleridge have prioritized, surely revolves around the irony. It has
the ability to reproduce and mystify the social order that has been opposed and
denied by many. Kant and Coleridge revolves around freedom, human dignity, faith
and harmony. This shows that they have been the offspring of their society and age.
Whereas the poetic expression in Keats’s romantic perception is a
representation of true beauty through true poetry. It can be taken into the
real society as well. Keats enjoys a high reputation for his profoundness and beauty
embedded in his poetry. In other words, he seeks for eternal beauty and truth
in his poetry. It is clear from these Romantics that poetry is central for
Romantics, as it involves reaction against prevailing Enlightenment ideas. Romantic
Poetry aims to convey the essential truth about the Age of Enlightenment. Romantic
poets try to capture truth about human life, but they are neither mimetic nor
rational. In Romantic Poetry, The study of Aesthetic features is of great
significance as these features have a capability to show significant impact on the
contemporary as well as comparative studies. 


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