Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism

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Nature’s Sublime uses a radical new form of phenomenology to probe into the deepest traits of the human process in its individual, social, religious, and aesthetic dimensions. Starting with the selving process the essay describes the role of signs and symbols in intra and interpersonal communication. At the heart of the human use of signs is a creative tension between religions symbols and the novel symbols created in the various arts. A contrast is made between natural communities, which flatten out and reject ...

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Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism

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Nature’s Sublime uses a radical new form of phenomenology to probe into the deepest traits of the human process in its individual, social, religious, and aesthetic dimensions. Starting with the selving process the essay describes the role of signs and symbols in intra and interpersonal communication. At the heart of the human use of signs is a creative tension between religions symbols and the novel symbols created in the various arts. A contrast is made between natural communities, which flatten out and reject novel forms of semiosis, and communities of interpretation, which welcomes creative and enriched signs and symbols. The normative claim is made that religious sign/symbol systems have a tendency toward tribalism and violence, while the various spheres of the aesthetic are comparatively non-tribal, or even deliberatively anti-tribal. The concept/experience of beauty and the sublime is meant to replace that of religious revelation. The sublime is not merely an internal mode of attunement, contra Kant, but comes from the very depths of nature in the potencies of nature naturing.

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Editorial Reviews

Donald A. Crosby
Robert Corrington continues to refine, develop, and clarify his vision of religious—or what he now prefers to call aesthetic—naturalism. The book’s broad scope includes, among other things, presentation of an ordinal phenomenological metaphysics that contrasts with the phenomenologies of Husserl and Heidegger; analysis of closed and open types of semiotic communities and their respective stultifying and beneficent social effects; description of intrusions of the spirit that supplement the results of biological evolution and stem from the unconscious of nature upwelling into the human unconscious; and defense of the bold thesis that religion can become deeply ethical only when it surpasses itself and becomes sublated into the domain of aesthetic experience, creation, and life—especially to the extent that the aesthetic opens the way to the awesomely disturbing but also healing powers of the sublime. The richly innovative, provocative, and debatable character of Corrington’s claims and arguments in relation to these and other topics will stimulate lively thought and discussion.
Leon Niemoczynski
Robert S. Corrington's tenth book, Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism, marks a major shift in Corringtonian thought to a new, third phase. The major claim of this book is that religion, given its ordinal complexity, is prone to tribalization, moreso than the aesthetic which is its foundation. Expanding upon the Schellingean thesis that art is to crown theology, Corrington links "god-ing" with aesthetic fulfillment, to a sublime that "lives on the other side of all religious revelations with their limiting and limited tribal content." Thus the encounter with art and the sublime is the culminating point of any individuating process - whether personal or communal. This is not to say that religion or theology no longer has any place for Corrington. Instead, within art, Corrington claims, lives the supernatural, understood as the “deeply natural.”
Sigridur Gudmarsdottir
Robert Corrington has sifted his earlier philosophical work of ecstatic naturalism through a new aesthetic sieve with the help of Kant, Reich and Sri Aurobindo among other diverse thinkers. For readers new to Corrington's work the first chapters of the book will serve as a helpful induction to his unique perspective. Those already familiar with his work will find new and exciting angles from which to ponder his complex system of semiotics, psychoanalysis, naturalism, aesthetics and religious experience from the standpoint of ordinal phenomenology. Naturés Sublime is a rare treat indeed, an important landmark in Corrington's intellectual journey.
Religious Studies Review
In order to deliver its central thesis, this book traverses a wide scope of intellectual history—from continental philosophy to classical American to the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Reich, Kohut, Jung, Rank, and Kristeva. Corrington contrasts communities that actively suppress and reject novel forms of semiosis and artistic creation with those communities of interpretation that welcome creative and enriched signs and symbols. ... the book makes particularly cogent contributions on the topic of religion and violence.
Analecta Hermeneutica
The regions of self, community, religion, and nature...are present. But each of these themes are radically recast within an aesthetic approach in mind. The aesthetics that Corrington is interpreting here is one which takes the sublime as its key motif. The sublime, we are told, reveals what is most essential about natura naturans ('nature naturing') and its relationship to 'the human process,' a Buchlerian term designating a 'self' as creative agent in process. The split between nature naturing and nature natured is then taken up with the sublime in mind, and how the human being (or 'human process') relates psychoanalytically and semiotically to the sublime. This is the culminating theme of the book. Overall, those interested in American philosophy and theology, continental philosophy of religion, German idealism and romanticist aesthetics will appreciate this book because it takes on a very unique approach to thinking about religion through art.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739182130
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2013
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert S. Corrington is professor of philosophical theology in the graduate division of religion at Drew University, Madison, NJ. He has published nine previous books as an ongoing project of creating and expanding the philosophical and theological perspective of his ecstatic naturalism. From the beginning his work has been concerned with bringing classical American philosophy into dialogue with Continental thought. As important is his commitment to Post-Freudian psychoanalysis and its correlation to semiotics and metaphysics. He has served on the Boards of the Semiotic Society of America and the Highlands Institute and as president of the Karl Jaspers Society of North America.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Selving
Chapter 2: Communal Variations
Chapter 3: God-ing and Involution
Chapter 4: Genius, Art, and the Sublime

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted September 10, 2013

    Corrington's Nature's Sublime is a unique and thoroughly origina

    Corrington's Nature's Sublime is a unique and thoroughly original offering in a growing body of literature that might best be categorized under the broad heading of "religious naturalism." Corrington fits loosely into this category since he seeks to explore, along with other religious naturalists, the possibilities for deep spiritual fecundity and potency within the complexes of nature itself, rejecting supernatural explanations for such spirituality in favor of the assumption that "nature," broadly conceived, is all that there is.  But Corrington’s work is also intended to serve as a critique of the notion that such fecundity and potency in nature is best understood as a “religious” quality. Religion, for Corrington, is too narrow a term in that it represents an innately tribal phenomenon that puts strict boundaries around community identities and thus limits and tames a community’s response to nature’s more universal depth dimensions. This is why Corrington prefers the term “aesthetic naturalism” in this work (a development of his earlier theory of “ecstatic naturalism”), which places a higher value on aesthetic experience (which seems to peak in genius-originated works of art) as the means by which sublime beauty irrupts and bursts into the human process. 

    The world that Corrington illustrates for his readers is an adventurous and colorful one, where pulsing energies, spirits, and deities, along with theories of karma and reincarnation, are re-imagined within a robust naturalist framework guided by what Corrington calls the principle of “ordinality.” Ordinality, when applied to phenomenology and psychoanalysis (Corrington’s preferred modes of operandi), dissolves all metaphysical hierarchies and locates our various interpretations and experiences of the world as part of an innumerable and infinite series of possibilities, neither one more “real” than any other. To be “ordinal” in one’s perspective is to detach oneself from fixations on particular metaphysical, phenomenological, or psychoanalytic interpretations, allowing a wider clearing for the potencies of nature’s depths to blow through. Nature’s Sublime seeks to apply this ordinal perspective to all of the dimensions of the human process, whether they are processes of individual selving or communal formation, and whether they involve evolutionary adaptation or what Corrington calls the “involutionary” growth of one’s own spiritual capacity for ecstatic experience. 

    Corrington, as he does throughout his entire corpus of work, continues to define himself as one of the most creative and out of the box thinkers within American philosophy today. His ideas are provocative, his claims are controversial, and his method (blending and weaving together phenomenology, ontology, and psychoanalysis like nobody else writing today) is dizzying and requires patience along with a willingness to reorient one’s expectations. But there is great reward to joining him on this trip down the rabbit hole, which casts the great mystery that is Nature’s Sublime in a fantastical and mesmerizing new light. 

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