The relationship between reason and unreason is neatly brought out by the contrast between the beautiful and the sublime, as discussed most famously by Edmund Burke. Burke explained that we enjoy the things which are beautiful since they are pleasing to the senses; beautiful objects are objects which our senses can hold and control. The sublime, on the other hand, is always beyond our grasp; the sublime gives intimations of other worlds ruled by obscure and terrifying forces. Thus while the beautiful can be subject to our reason, the sublime we cannot reason with; instead the sublime is an awesome power which forces us silently to succumb. In terms of these aesthetic categories, the tension between reason and unreason can be understood through the desire for transgression. From the Latin transgredi, to ‘pass over a threshold’, to transgress is to move from one world to another. Most commonly, perhaps, we think of transgression as ‘moral transgression’, but transgressive acts can just as well be social, cultural or political. As our mothers or our teachers will tell us, transgression is wrong, but it is at the same time also tempting – in fact it is tempting because it is wrong. Transgression is liberating, or to be more precise, to imagine yourself as a transgressor is to imagine yourself as free from the social norms which rule your normal existence. This is why people in modern society like to read about transgression, watch films and fantasise about it, and why transgressive acts constantly pop up in our dreams.This explains the temptation of the sublime. By submitting ourselves to the power of the unknown we liberate ourselves from the requirement to make sense. We escape from the tyranny of reason by claiming that we temporarily have been overpowered by forces beyondour control. Yet of course this is only so much hyperbole. The thrill of the sublime is a vicarious pleasure. It excites us since it gives us the sensation of transgressing without actually having to do it. It is a fantasy which never actually comes true. We stay within the realm of reason while pretending to abandon it. Contemporary society is built around this hypocrisy: we constantly see ourselves as escaping modernity while at the same time reaping all the benefits from it. Yet without this hypocrisy, no doubt, modern society would become unbearable.
Blasdelb: this portrayal of assaulting a woman and then sexually assaulting a woman as just a normal thing you would to to test how much like a woman she is.
Or to put it more bluntly, nobody gets to live free of judgment.
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