The Art of Travel


Alain De Botton

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A term that denotes the feeling of awe people experience when they encounter vast, awe-inspiring power like that of certain natural landscapes. Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, perhaps the most prominent theorist of the sublime, argued that beautiful things are often pleasant and diminutive, weaker than and therefore subject to the human will, but sublime things evoke a sense of human insignificance and impotence by putting the human subject in contact with a force that vastly exceeds them. This experience often inspires faith in God and allows people to more easily accept their failures and inadequacies, which is why 18th century critics often conceived of the sublime as both pleasurable and morally good.

The Sublime Quotes in The Art of Travel

The The Art of Travel quotes below are all either spoken by The Sublime or refer to The Sublime. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Chapter 6 Quotes

The value of landscapes would henceforth be decided not solely on the basis of formal aesthetic criteria (the harmony of colours, for example, or the arrangement of lines) or even economic or practical concerns, but rather according to the power of places to arouse the mind to sublimity.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), Edmund Burke
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

The world may appear illogical to you, but it does not follow that it is illogical per se. Our lives are not the measure of all things: consider sublime places for a reminder of human insignificance and frailty.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), God, Job
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is to wish to hold on to it, to possess it and give it weight in one’s life. There is an urge to say, “I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.”

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), William Wordsworth, John Ruskin
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sublime Term Timeline in The Art of Travel

The timeline below shows where the term The Sublime appears in The Art of Travel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: On the Sublime
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
...their reactions to “precipices and glaciers, night skies and boulder-strewn deserts” as a sense of the sublime . (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
After an ancient Greek treatise on the sublime was retranslated into English in 1712, writers began taking an interest in it as “an... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Why, de Botton asks, do people seek out the sublime and derive pleasure from it? He first responds that “not everything that is more powerful... (full context)
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Indeed, many early theorists of the sublime saw it as proof of God’s existence, and de Botton sees a connection between the... (full context)
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
De Botton thinks that God’s answer to Job also holds value for secular people, for the sublime can still lead them to see that certain problems are insurmountable and certain events inexplicable... (full context)