chapter  12
Kant goes skydiving: Understanding the extreme by way of the sublime
Pages 19

Some people jump out of airplanes 13,000 feet above the ground, while others leap off the edge of cliffs or launch themselves down impossibly steep mountains on bikes, and yet others run in front of bulls. The obvious question that arises in most people sane enough to remain spectators is: Why do these people engage in these activities that could cost them life and limb? There are many possible explanations, and the protagonists themselves have multifarious reasons that may or may not agree with what psychologists, sportswriters, and others come up with to elucidate such behavior. Rather than presenting a series of personal disclosures or the psychological analyses of these, I want here to answer the question from a conceptual standpoint that finds a common element to all these experiences. And I want to argue that a specific aesthetic canon handed down from the Enlightenment, the sublime, allows us best to understand what is involved when someone pursues a genuinely dangerous activity that is undertaken as divertissement.