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The Aesthetic Will: Time, Transcendence and the Transcendental Imagination in Romantic and Existential Thought

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis, argues for the theological viability of Coleridge’s ontological insight into artworks and natural phenomena as aesthetically intimative of transcendence. However this finding is dependent on a critical analysis of Coleridge’s work, separating poetical insights from a systematic context which works against their theological promise. This Coleridgean analysis is in turn dependent, philosophically, upon a critical examination of a variety of Kantian and post-Kantian texts, through which is derived an account of pre-conceptual imaginative process, as related to a Bergsonian account of time considered as an organically non-calculable structure, in light of a Kierkegaardian theological norm. I discern a tension running through Coleridge’s work between the insights of the poet and the ambitions of the post-Kantian metaphysician. I argue that this tension is subversive of Coleridge’s underlying religious and poetic motivations. Through an analysis of Coleridge’s thought in both its systematic and less formal, aesthetic tendencies, I extricate his claim for the aesthetic intimation of transcendence through nature and art from the post-Kantian systematic conceptuality through which Coleridge is often led to distort it, in a countervailing drive towards systematically complete explanation. The thought of Kierkegaard will serve to illumine the ethico-aesthetic dynamics of Coleridge’s account of the appropriation of transcendent insight, conceived as an event of the dawning of religious truth as a conceptually indeterminate imaginative process, which as such, is only accessible to an imaginative and participative receptivity on the part of the aesthetic subject. A similar, imaginative ethos is discerned in the aesthetic positions of Coleridge and Kierkegaard; an attentive humility in openness to the potential manifestation of genuinely creative alterity. Through this thesis, the theological claim is advanced, in a new way, that in
Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Jul 2013

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