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Senior Member
US (English)
Does 'sublimate' have a figurative meaning?

What does it mean to say:

"A supreme show of deference, he sublimates even his language to the king's."

Does it have the sense of suppressing? I have seen a few examples of 'self-sublimation,' as if cloaking oneself typically for a larger cause. Does it have the sense of sacrifice, e.g. he even sacrificed his language in devotion to the king?

Sure appreciate any thoughts.
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Can you provide an instance of this sublimation or describe it? How does he change his language?

    Deference implies or suggests a modification of one's behavior, which could be seen as self-sacrificing.


    Senior Member
    US (English)
    Thanks a lot, bibliolept.

    Here's what I'm fooling with:

    A supreme show of deference and self-obscuration (i.e. cloaking), Augustine throughout the text forgoes self-expression, instead allowing Paul's words to articulate his personal sentiments and experiences. [background: To interpret many of his life experiences, Augustine just inserts Paul's language, implying Paul's expression is sufficient and better than his own expression.]

    I'm trying to get the sense of 'cloaking' oneself, voluntarily allowing oneself to (sort of) disappear behind another, come under something /someone greater, deferring to their language, judgment, perspective, etc.

    So, I wondered if "sublimation" captured that sense.

    Could we say: A supreme show of deference and self-sublimation..."

    Or: A supreme show of deference, Augustine forgoes self-expression, instead sublimating his expression to Paul's by using Paul's words to articulate personal sentiments and experiences.

    The idea of 'cloaking' is what I'm trying to get at, in any case, but don't think that's easily understood.

    Thanks again.


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    First, "self-obscuration" sounds peculiar to me, though its meaning is immediately apparent.

    Would "submit" or "yield" be suitable? Sometimes we say things like "bow to someone's greater wisdom/experience."

    "Self-sublimation" or "willing submission/sublimation" would also be understandable, though not idiomatic.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Mpatricksweeney, are you thinking of "abnegate" (or "subjugate") rather than "sublimate"?


    English USA
    Loob said it.:) Subjugate seems the correct word in this passage. Perhaps that is what the author was thinking of. Sublimate indeed has a figurative meaning, that of redirecting one's sexual energy into other activities. Just my thoughts.
    Sublimate indeed has a figurative meaning, that of redirecting one's sexual energy into other activities.
    I am probably biased because of my psychology background, but this is the only meaning I could even think of (apart from the chemical one, obviously). I think this one is pervasive, especially within arts/lit crit/social sciences even that using sublimate in any other meaning would be confusing.


    Senior Member
    US (English)
    Many thanks, all. These were helpful suggestions. Guess I was thinking of 'subjugation,' but hoped there may have been a word without all its conotations, e.g. exploitive, overpowering-- something more voluntary. Maybe 'yield,' as biblio suggested.

    Anyhow, thanks again.


    Senior Member
    France/USA French/English
    It seems to me that "to sublimate" can mean "to surpass", "to go more towards the sublime". "Self-sublimation" is the idea that to become more sublime, or divine, one has to repress one's earthly aspects, hence the confusion with subjugation. It would make sense that to make one's language more resemble the king's it would have to surpass itself, and divine right would make approaching royalty akin to approaching divinity...


    New Member
    "sublimation of self" can be viewed as a transcendant release of ego and "self" for the benefit of others...i practice this concept primarily in conflict resolution...hope this helps
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