The Ethics

What Would Kant Think? 

The Garden of Earthly Delights conveys a message of morality determined by humankind’s actions. Within the work, Bosch presents viewers with an overwhelming and imaginative hermetic narrative. The triptych portrays the consequences of succumbing to the immoral temptations induced by humankind’s gluttonous intentions.  

For Kant, we are subjected to moral judgements as beings of reason. Therefore, we make intentional decisions which have motives behind our actions. In Kant’s view, our actions are not accountable for the consequences of such actions. Thus, moral judgements depend on the motives behind the actions in themselves. In addition to reason deriving morality, our reason also determines what is good and what is bad necessitating rationality as our determinant factor. Kant might view Bosch’s Garden as a visual representation of such determinants, do to the fact that the actions of humans in the Garden are irrational, as their motives are driven by the desires of an obscured false prophesy that embraces the lavish freedom of sex and splendor.

Kant’s idea of reason is a key element for the connection between morality and sublimity. If our faculities did not have reason and rational, we would not be able to identify ourselves as moral beings and therefore, could not experience feelings of sublimity. Kant argues that what is actually sublime lies in our own reason. That being said, the sublimity of  The Garden of Earthly Delights does not only exist in the category of [Kant’s] mathematically or dynamically sublime, but the work is also bonded to moral sublimity – especially in connection to the religious context and meaning of the triptych (also closely associated with the dynamically sublime).  Kant suggests that in order to experience the sublime, we must understand ‘moral culture’, more explicitly, the concept and rational understanding of the dimentions of moral judgements are neseccary in order to grasp human freedom, transendence, and ultimately the experience of the sublime.