Kant: on being reclusive
A further comment is needed. It is true that our liking for both the beautiful and the sublime not only differs recognizably from other aesthetic judgments by being universally communicable, but by having this property it also acquires an interest in relation to society (where such communication may take place). Yet we also regard isolation from all society as something sublime, if it rests on ideas that look beyond all sensible interest. To be sufficient to oneself and hence have no need of society, yet without being unsociable, i.e., without shunning society, is something approaching the sublime, as is the case of setting aside our needs. On the other hand, to shun people either from misanthropy because we are hostile toward them or from anthropophobia (fear of people) because we are afraid they might be our enemies is partly odious and partly contemptible. There is, however, a different (very improperly so-called) misanthrophy, the predisposition to which tends to appear in the minds of many well-meaning people as they grow older (my emphasis). This latter misanthrophy is philanthrophic enough as regards benevolence [Wohlwollen], but as the result of long and sad experience it has veered away from a liking [Wohlgefallen] for people. We find evidence for this in a person’s propensity toward reclusiveness, in his fanciful wish that he could spend the rest of his life on a remote country estate, or for that matter (in the case of young people) in their dream of happily spending their lives with a small family, on some island unknown to the rest of the world–all of which novelists and writers of the Robisonades use so cleverly. Falseness, ingratitude, injustice, whatever is childish in the purposes that we ourselves consider important and great and in the pursuit of which people inflict all conceivable evils on one another, these so contradict the idea of what people could be if they wanted to, and so conflict with our fervent wish to see them improved, that, given that we cannot love them, it seems but a slight sacrifice to forgo all social joys to avoid hating them. This sadness, which does not concern the evils that fate imposes on other people (in which case it would be caused by sympathy), but those that they inflict on themselves (a sadness that rests on an antipathy involving principles), is sublime, because it rests on ideas, whereas the sadness caused by sympathy can at most count as beautiful …. This comment is intended only as a reminder that even grief (but not a dejected kind of sadness) may be included among the vigorous affects, if it has its basis in moral ideas. If, on the other hand, it is based on sympathy, then it may indeed be lovable, but belongs merely to the languid affects. My point is to draw attention to the fact that only in the first case is the mental attunement sublime.
–Kant, Critique of Judgment