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Kant (Prussian [before Germany became a nation state]), 1724-1804)



Notes from Douglas Burnham, An Introduction to Kant's Critique of Judgement

Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000 [note the British spelling]

Rousseau posed a challenge for Kant: how to show that reason was not an artificial and distorting constraint on our good, natural spontaneity [compare Taoism] (4).

There are, of course, differences between the beauties of nature and the beauties in art, but "their commonality goes right to the heart of the experience" (41).

Our enjoyment in repulsive art is on account of some sort of positive value that we find in it (42f)

Beauty is not a distinctive property of an object, but sometimes Kant speaks as if it is.  "Beauty is not a natural property" (57-58).


Kant seeks to unify his philosophy, whose parts are indicated in four primary questions:

What can I know?

What ought I to do? 

What may I hope? 

What is man? 


Kant sees judgement as the unifying link between theoretical and practical philosophy, enabling "philosophy to be unified I its purpose by coordination towards the final or highest purpose of man" (37).


In Kant's logic, "there are four basic formal characteristics that a judgement can have: quantity, quality, relation and modality" (45).


Critique = "an analysis which attempts to establish, for a mental 'power' or 'faculty', the range of applications of that ability which make sense and thus are legitimate." 8


Aesthetics = (1) in the broad sense, regards the sensible aspect of our cognition of nature; (2) in the narrow sense, regards the sensible objects valued as art or as being beautiful (40-41).


Taste = "our ability to judge natural objects or works of art to be beautiful" (42)


Pleasure = "The feeling of an enhancement of life" (43).  Pleasure and pain are the only presentations that one cannot make into a concept (54).


A priori = a philosophical expression that means something is absolutely independent of any 'ordinary' event or thing, that is, independent of any event or thing which can be observed or studied as being either within my conscious mind, or in the world around me." (17)


Transcendental argument = works by showing that if a given concept were not valid according to a principle, then a certain type of experience (which we obviously have) would not be possible) (23).  The "transcendental method . . . seeks to investigate [the faculties of the mind] by showing their role as a priori conditions of any experience" (39).


Judgement = "a mental act which in some way decides whether a thing is this or that.  But there seem to be different types of judgment.  A 'determinate' judgment is one that has a concept in advance and simply applies it to a thing.  And 'indeterminate' judgement is one that creates the concept in the same act as making the judgment.  A judgment of sensual interest works on the basis of m y entirely subjective tastes.  A teleological judgement sees the holism of [e.g.,] a living organism in terms of purposes and not in terms of the straightforward cause and effect relations of natural science.  Finally, an aesthetic judgement judges a thing ( such as an alpine meadow, or a novel) to be of aesthetic value.  The last two types function in peculiar ways: they neither have, nor create, a determining natural concept of the thing; nor are they entirely subjective in their validity.  Judgements with these characteristics (teleological or aesthetic) Kant calls 'reflective'.  [They draw on judgement's own inherent resources, not on concepts derived from outside, so are a reasonable place to seek the apriori legislating principle of judgment.] (30).


"An aesthetic judgment (or judgement of taste) means a judgement which 'connects' a feeling of pleasure to the mere experience of something, and accordingly calls it 'beautiful', or 'sublime'."  (44)


In our presentations of objects are


Our response can be focused on


Disinterested = a quality of aesthetic judgements meaning that they are free of interests pertaining to what is agreeable or to interests pertaining to ethical concerns.  In judgements that are "interested" we care about the existence of the object.


Universality (second moment) = Aesthetic judgements behave universally, that is, they involve an expectation or claim on the agreement of others 'without a concept' (#9).  This universality is distinguished both from the mere subjective evaluation of judgements such as 'I like honey', and from the strict descriptive objectivity of judgements such as 'Honey contains sugar and is sweet'.  Judgements of reflective taste behave as if they were objective; also a universal, they are communicable" (49-50).


Purposiveness without purpose (third moment) = "Why do we feel pleasure in the beautiful at all?  Pleasure seems to be the result of some attainment of a purpose, but the beautiful has no purpose.  Rather, Kant says, it is the mere purposiveness of the beautiful for cognition in general that serves as if it were a purpose." (Burnham, 72)

            Beauty is without regard to any external purpose whatsoever (e.g., a purpose beyond a thing which it may be intended to serve).  Beauty is either free or dependent (a function of something else's function—the noble deed has a beauty to it that is dependent on the ethical quality of the deed).  Burnham gives a series of examples leading our intuition gradually to an example that enables us to grasp what purposiveness without purpose might be: (1) walking in the woods, we find a typewriter, and immediately observe the purpose behind the manufacture of this artifact; (2) walking further, we come upon a stick that has obviously been carved, but for exactly what purpose, we cannot determine.  (3) The third example is what Burnham offers to help us get the idea of purposiveness without a purpose: coming onto a beach, we find some lines of poetry in the sand; if we can eliminate the possibility that someone has written those lines, and are left with only the possibility that the random action of the waves has done this, then the "words" merely resemble linguistic communication.  What we initially took for poetry we can no longer accept as such, however much we may value it considered as if it had been consciously produced. 

Ideal = the full realization of a thing's purpose—not observed in nature, but theoretically possible for a human being who fully acts in accord with the moral law.

Necessity (fourth moment) = the judgement cannot be otherwise, given the human capacity called "common sense"; the necessity is singular and exemplary [the judgement, strictly speaking applies only to single objects which exemplify beauty, not to classes of things].  [There is no concept which would give people a universal rule under which objects could be subsumed under "beauty" the way rabbits can be subsumed under the empirical concept of "rabbit."] 

Common sense = a feeling for the beautiful shared by humans (an a priori but subjective 'principle' of taste—the principle or rule with which judgement legislates for our mental faculty of feeling); common sense is publicly communicated  (56).  Kant "also suggests that common sense in turn depends upon, or is identical with, the same faculties as ordinary cognition, that is as those features of human beings which make possible any experience whatsoever." (60)



 Table 1 The Faculties of the Mind (p. 10)



Theoretical cognition of nature

    Legislative faculty: understanding, with laws of nature

Subjective association

Aesthetic feeling for nature & art

    Legislative faulty: judgement, with principle of purposiveness

Corporeal feeling

Pure desire in the exercise of freedom

    Legislative faculty: reason, with principle of morality, and of the highest purpose or Good

     Non-legislative faculty: sensibility, especially productive imagination

Corporeal desire


The parts of sensibility

1.  Sensation [Empfindung] Kant understands to be both passive and lower or dependent.  In sensation we are presented with colours, sounds, feelings of warmth, hardness and so on.

2.  Pure intuition [Anschauung] (passive, hier or independent), does not refer to some kind of "sixth sense'.  Rather, the faculty of intuition is Kant's name for the source of our a priori presentations of the form of space and time.  Importantly, Kant argues that this form is quite different from the 'content' of sensation.

3.  Reproductive imagination [Einbindungskraft] (active, lower) is our ability to see things, h ear things, touch things, and so on, when they are no longer there.  Reproductive imagination also allows us to form associations between different things we have experienced at different times.  For example, the colour of this room resembles that of a room in which I once stayed in Paris.

4.  Productive (or sometimes 'free') imagination is both active and independent. . . .  It is not bound to previous sensations or intuitions, or at least not to the laws of association that govern the reproductive imagination.

            We can think about the world around us (theoretical cognition), we can have feelings, we can have and act upon desires.  These Kant calls 'faculties' or 'powers' of the mind. . . .  These achievements . . . are made on the basis of certain activities or sources of 'presentations' that Kant calls the 'cognitive powers or faculties'.  There are three kinds of these linked to the above three achievements, respectively: understanding, judgement and reason.  A fourth cognitive faculty is sensibility which includes the imagination.  Each of the above is split into lower and higher parts.  "Lower' means that the faculty is entirely a function of nature and subject to its laws, for example the laws of psychology.  "higher' means that the faculty is independent of natural determination, thus functioning in some way 'prior' to natural laws.  The process of critique, then, requires the investigation of how one cognitive faculty (perhaps together with the others in a merely supporting role) achieves one of the faculties of the mind, and thus also what kind of validity and range of application the result has."  (16)

The Sublime

Anything awesome, including the Great Pyramids in Egypt and the huge cathedrals of Europe, as well as a great storm on the ocean, can engender an experience of the sublime—"the feeling of, or associated with, the overwhelmingness of an object."   "The distinction between the beautiful and the sublime had . . . been made, on similar if not identical grounds, in ancient philosophy.  The sublime occasioned by a natural object or scene has a "strange combination of familiarity and unfamiliarity" (88).  Kant neglects other types of aesthetic experience, tragic, comic, picturesque (89). 

            Two stages can be articulated in the experience of the sublime: the "unpleasant" aspect and then the particular pleasure of the sublime. 

            The mathematical and dynamical sublime.  The mathematical sublime is occasioned by the overwhelmingness associated with something that is extremely extensive in space or time, "outraging" our imagination "because we cannot 'take it all in' at once" (91).  There are two aesthetically interesting moments in coming up with, and trying to apply, a unit of measurement.  First, in coming up with a unit, we must take something we can (physically) experience.  Second, regarding objects that occasion the experience of the sublime, we could not begin to imagine that we could ever possibly encompass the object in question by repeated applications of our unit of measure.  Since we can, however, measure galaxies, we must bracket our intellectual-scientific [or go beyond?] take on things in order simply to experience (as "poets do") how greatly, say, the night sky exceeds the magnitude, say, of my body—"that through which and that with which I sense, and also, equally importantly, that which senses; that is, the sensible aspect of me" (92).  In fact, as a sensible, embodied being, if I try to "construct an intuition of a whole object, this requires sense, memory, and imagination"; in the case of a cat, I cannot master the full detail of the thisness (particularity) of the cat (93).  The sublime is not merely the colossal.  The "absolutely large" object (that (i) overwhelms imagination, or  (ii) frustrates the attempt to grasp it as a whole and as a fully detailed particular, or (iii) is formless) "is presented only in feeling, initially, the feeling of displeasure at the breakdown of sensible cognition" (95).  It is as though a certain counter-purposiveness is at work (96).  In the dynamical sublime, it is the overwhelming power (not magnitude) of the object that occasions the experience of the sublime.  One could potentially be swept away by it, but fear is merely potential or not overriding. 

            In the second stage of the experience, the mathematical sublime arouses the rationality of totality—not exhibited in sensory cognition, the totality of all nature, the totality of the conditions or causes that finally produce what we observe, including the idea of the ground of that totality (God).  The dynamical sublime arouses the rational idea of freedom—transcending natural factors that might be thought to cause or determine one's action to such an extent that one would effectively lose one's freedom.  The mind can  "feel the sublimity, even above nature, that is proper to its [human] vocation."  "The demand of reason for self-transcendence of will is thus related to the demand of reason to obey moral law.  Through it, we are shown to belong to a transcendent 'community' of supersensible beings, created in the very image of God" (100).  The conflict experienced at phase one now becomes welcomed as purposive on account of its driving the mind to such heights, that bring with them their own kind of pleasure.  It is easy to forget, especially, the insight of reason associated with the dynamic sublime, and cultural civilization (with "education, religion, philosophy, and so on") is in fact necessary if humans are to experience it at all (100-10


The Critique of Judgment (instructor's notes)


Some knowledge is empirical, a posteriori (=after experience), e.g., this is caused by that.  Some knowledge is a priori (even before you try to check it out in experience): you know that events have causes.



Beauty (and)


Critique of Pure Reason

There are first given rules or principles or laws which then determine the particulars.  This event must have a cause.

Critique of Judgment

Judgment subsumes the particular under the universal: this (particular) is a cat (universal [a form in Plato's terms]).  We don't have rules to start with.  We start with particulars and seek the universal (as in Hume).

Critique of Practical Reason

Faculty of cognitive, theoretical knowledge

Feeling of pleasure and pain; lower desires are pre-moral;

Faculty of desire

The higher desires are moral.

Knowledge is gained by applying the rules of the understanding to phenomena that exemplify, e.g., the principle of causation



Reason cannot succeed in achieving knowledge (because it tries to apply the categories of the understanding beyond any possible experience—to God, the soul, and the universe as a whole.

Reflective judgment can never attain knowledge that purpose is manifest in, say, the design of an organism or ecosystem (though we can hardly make sense of an organism's mutually adapted parts and its capacities for growth, self-maintenance, and reproduction without thinking of purpose behind it). 

Reason succeeds in legislating universal moral law (a golden rule upgrade):

Treat all persons as ends, never merely as means.


A purpose is a concept of an object that brings that object into existence.   We see something as purposive when—as far as our understanding can tell—it fits in an order of things that can only be the result of the acts of a mind with a purpose.  (97)


Analytic of the Beautiful

First Moment

Of the Judgment of Taste, According to Quality


#1.  The judgment of taste is aesthetical in the sense that it refers to the pleasure (or pain) in the subject—not to a quality in the object.

#2.  Aesthetic satisfaction is disinterested in the sense that it prescinds from (takes no account of) my appetites or practical interests.  "Disinterested" does not imply "impersonal" or "cool"; nor does it imply any distanced attitude when the person is involved in practical matters.

#3.  If I'm responding to something as pleasant, some interest of mine is being gratified; but to find something beautiful is different from that.

#4.  If I appreciate something as good, whether good as a means to something else or good in itself, I have some interest in it.

#5.  The judgment of taste is contemplative, and is without interest in the existence of its object.  Satisfaction in the beautiful is free in the sense that it is neither caused by a pleasant sensation nor obliged by moral reason.


Second Moment

Of the Judgment of Taste, According to Quantity

#6.  To judge that something is beautiful is not merely to say that I happen to like it (because of some peculiar feature of myself); rather it is to imply that anyone and everyone of taste who beholds it would find it beautiful.

#7.  People are content to find different things pleasant.  We do sometimes speak of taste in matters of what is merely pleasant.  Aesthetic judgment pertains in the first instance to single objects (this flower, this painting), but without setting up a concept from which a universal criterion could be derived.  "There can be no rule according to which anyone is to be forced to recognize anything as beautiful."  Of course one may generalize and say, "Roses are beautiful."  To make a clearly aesthetic judgment, separate off everything belonging to the sensory enjoyment of the pleasant and the moral respect for the good and see what satisfaction is left.  "The beautiful is that which pleases universally without [requiring] a concept."


Third Moment

Of the Judgment of Taste, According to the Relation of the

Purposes Which Are Brought into Consideration in Them


No definite purpose is cognized in the beautiful object, though it is "purposeful" (in conformity to a purpose if we could know that there was an artist whose purpose was to give us this particular kind of satisfaction): to arouse a pleasurable play in our powers of imagination (perception) and understanding (non-cognitive thinking about it).


Fourth Moment

Of the Judgment of Taste, According to Modality


            The judgment of beauty is necessary, since—if a person judges correctly—she judges on grounds that every person has, i.e., the capacities of imagination and understanding.


A colloquial approach to Kant's four qualities of the beautiful

"Ya gotta love it" captures a lot of what Kant wants to say.  I like to take Kant as offering an analysis of language as much as anything.  If A says, "I like it," and B says, "It's not my cup of tea," there's no contradiction between them.  If A says, "It's beautiful," and B says, "It's just a sentimental appeal to emotion," there is a contradiction between them.

"Ya gotta love it": "gotta" implies the necessity of the judgment.  It's not just, "Try it, you might like it"; it's try it, you'll like it." 

"Ya" (if said of an indefinitely large group) connotes universalityeveryone's gotta love it.  That's two out of Kant's four defining predicates.

Now if this judgment is about what the speaker takes for beautiful, the speaker is implying that there's some appeal here that's not simply a matter of what happens to satisfy our passions or our practical needs (moral and otherwise).  (Not that there's anything wrong abour our passions or pratical needs—just that beautiful adds something not included in predicates that refer to those satisfactions.)  This is what Kant has in mind with his outdated word, "disinterested."  Don't get hung up on the word.  Get what he's after.  Here is where we find the limit to the usefulness of the phrase, "Ya gotta love it," to help a student get an intuition of what Kant is up to.  "Love" may very well connote a response to what gratifies the appetites or practical needs.  For this reason, I don't want you to use this phrase, "Ya gotta love it" in your papers.  I simply use it as a ladder (pun intended).  Yes, there are problems with Kant's claims, but there is also an important core of intuitive plausibility to the claims, and that's what I'm trying to convey here.  First understand, then criticize.

Last (I'm obviously not following Kant's sequence here), Kant gives voice to a kind of free play that beauty releases.  Don't wrestle with the definitions of "imagination" and "understanding" so much that you fail to pick up intuitively what he's getting at.  You are free from cognitive striving.  You are free from practical effort; therefore you're judgment is disinterested.  You can "simply" enjoy this beauty in your mind.  That's the main thing.




Beautiful and sublime



Both please in themselves, involve a judgment of reflection, do not depend on sensation nor on a definite concept.  The concepts of the beautiful and the sublime are indefinite/ indeterminate/lacking in definition.  Both judgments are about particulars, yet claim validity for everyone.


The beautiful in nature is connected with the form of an object with definite boundaries.


The sublime is found in formless objects that suggest boundlessness.

The undefined concept of the beautiful is a concept of the understanding.


The not-strictly-defined concept of the sublime is a concept of reason or an idea of reason (beyond the limits of the understanding).  Ideas of reason include God, the soul, and the universe as a whole.

Enhances vitality, may be associated with charm (though the charming and the beautiful are different).


Attraction and repulsion are combined, and the feeling is more one of admiration or respect.

The object nicely fits our capacities of appreciation.


The object utterly exceeds our powers.

Even though no purpose is directly perceived or known by the understanding, a natural object that we experience as beautiful may hint at a divine artist and nature as a system expressing purpose.


Often associated with more chaotic and wild scenes.  Does not indicate anything purposive about nature, except perhaps that nature may drive us beyond itself to reason.

That in nature which gives rise to the experience of beauty is something external to ourselves.


That in nature which gives rise to the experience of the sublime derives its character from what surges within us.  Properly speaking, a state of mind is sublime, not an object of nature.




Two types of sublimity:

A. The infinite ("mathematically sublime") suggested by some natural phenomena.

The sublime is what is absolutely great, great beyond all comparison.  This can be quantitative greatness, overwhelming, colossal size, mathematical sublimity.  The understanding measures quantities, but this the sublime surpasses the understanding.  When we find ourselves in the presence of something whose size we could never measure, our feeling of being thus overwhelmed arouses our sense of a higher faculty beyond the understanding (which deals with sensory objects).  The infinite is a concept of a sublime totality, but trying to think this concept is problematic (a progress without limit has come to completeness).  Therefore, rather than trying to think nature as an infinite totality, we shift gears and simply say that nature is sublime in those of its phenomena which, when seen, bring with them the idea of its infinity.

            B. "Nature, considered in an aesthetical judgment as might that has no dominion over us, is dynamically sublime."  [In Greek, dynamis means power.]

Though not every thing that arouses fear is sublime, everything in nature that gives rise to the experience of the sublime in nature has overwhelming power so as to rouses some fear; but fear is transcended when the mind is not swamped by our being immediately physically carried off by the tornado, tsunami, hurricane, Niagra Falls, and we can feel the soul powers mobilize their sublime dignity that shall not be overwhelmed by the power of natural forces.  (Cf. in religion: a faithful believer does not fear even an omnipotent God whose power he has no occasion to resist.)  "Bold, overhanging, and as it were threatening rocks; clouds piling up in the sky, moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals; volcanoes in all their violence of destruction; hurricanes with their track of devastation; the boundless ocean in a state of tumult; the lofty waterfall of a mighty river, and such like—these exhibit our faculty of resistance as insignificantly small in comparison with their might.  But the sight of them is the more attractive, the more fearful it is, provided only that we are in security; and we willingly call these objects sublime, because they raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height and discover in us a faculty of resistance of a quite different kind, which gives us courage to measure ourselves against the apparent almightiness of nature."



           As a first approximation to the sublime, imagine someone saying, "Awesome!"  (I'm not going to insist on the technical point that Kant mentions and then sets aside, that sublimity is about the human response, not about the, e.g., colossal or dynamic-powerful natural phenomenon.)  The sublime is lofty in a special way.  It overwhelms our sense of what is great; it may threaten us, but it does so in such a way that rouses a sublime resistance within us: our dignity is higher than what the forces of nature can bring against us.  The human paradox is that we are a part of nature and we, in some measure, transcend nature. 

One variety of stimulus to the experience of the sublime—e.g., the starry sky above me—staggers the imagination, leads the mind toward the notion of infinity.

Another variety of the sublime manifests power, dynamism, that would overwhelms the human scale of resistance; though in a moment of sublimity we are in fact not picked up and carried off by the tornado, but able to feel the stirring of that within us which is, in its way, even greater than a very big wind.



Exercise: Read Bullough's description in the long paragraph on the middle of p. 459.  Which Kantian classification would be more apt here—beautiful or sublime?  Why?


Note: to understand Lyotard's identification with the sublime and his political critique of integrated, "beautiful" totality, it helps to know of the thought of his contemporary, the French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-95).  Expressing convictions from his Jewish heritage in the concepts of philosophy, Levinas criticized the tendency of European philosophy as a quest for total comprehension, including total comprehension of the Other [the person], who, as infinite, has a [sublime] height of dignity that compels our utter respect and is always beyond our ability to comprehend.  The tendency to dominate the Other, who breaks through our self-satisfaction, culminated in National Socialism.  The face of the Other is not an object, nor a representation for thought.


Recommended: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-aesthetics/


Hans-Georg Gadamer, excerpt from Truth and Method, is excellently summarized in Stephen David Ross's introductory paragraphs preceding the selection.  There is a social-historical-shared-human dimension essential to art that Kant's abstract approach mostly misses, which enables understanding across cultural historical space when we become aware of one another's presuppositions (it's not possible to interpret anything without bringing some assumptions, "prejudices," "bias," some pre-comprehension, into play).  On the topic of genius, we'll try reading a distinguished secondary source this time before reading Kant.

Main ideas: The purposiveness without purpose (Zweckmässigkeit ohne Zweck) that characterizes a natural beauty is this: the flower has no purpose or intention to please by setting our cognitive powers into play, but it, as it were, conforms to such a purpose (Zweckmässigkeit is translated purposiveness—or finality—but it really means being measured or trimmed to . . . it's as if there were a purpose shaping it).  Teleological judgment cannot pretend to know what the first Critique concluded that it is impossible to know—that "nature" or, in another word, more to the point in this context, God has arranged nature as a purposive system whose sole end in itself is man as a rational being.  Since natural beauty indicates our status as ends, it is a symbol of morality; this is because moral reason, the capacity for rational self-governance, is what lifts us beyond the realm of mere nature, being determined by the chains of causes and effects. 

The function of Kant's doctrine of genius in his philosophic system is to keep art within the realm of nature, since genius is a natural gift, whose "rule" can never be set forth by the understanding as a law or an algorithm for the production of beautiful works.


Finality=purposiveness (Greek, telos, = Latin, finis, end, goal).

Teleology=the doctrine explicating a purposive system.

Sensus communis=common sense

Transcendental=in this selection, it refers to Kant's systematic, philosophic enterprise; he sought the conditions of the possibility of true scientific judgments (first Critique), the conditions of the possibility of an unconditional moral command (second Critique), and the conditions of the possibility of discerning reflective judgment (third Critique).  In his terminology, asking how something is possible is a "transcendental" inquiry.  The term is not to be confused with "transcendent," as in the concept of a transcendent God beyond creation.

Idea=an idea of Reason; it's beyond a concept of the understanding, which can be experienced as a phenomenal appearance in space and time.  Examples of Ideas are God, the freedom of the immortal soul, the cosmos as a whole, and history as an evolutionary process leading toward an advanced planetary civilization.

Spirit=Geist, mind or spirit (in German, French [esprit], and some other languages, there is just one term for these two concepts which are significantly differentiated.  Do not automatically assume any religious overtones; the term can also mean culture; it tends to have social connotations.



            The aesthetic judgment of taste can take examples from nature as well as from art.  What's crucial is "the playful facility of one's mental powers, the expansion of vitality which comes from the harmony between imagination and understanding, and  invites one to linger before the beautiful" (354).


The beautiful in nature

The beautiful in art

Better for illustrating the consonance of the thing represented with our cognitive faculty

More direct expression of the moral

Possess no significance of content; manifests the judgment of taste in its unintellectualised purity

Art=the beautiful representation of a thing.

A [great] work of art should not seem artificial, but natural; art must be able "to be looked at as nature," i.e., please without betraying the constraint of rules.

Able to arouse an immediate moral interest, if a person has already developed his interest in the morally good; natural beauty points us to the ultimate goal of creation [not as something known; this is merely an Idea of reason], to our 'moral destiny'

Art objects, unlike natural objects, exist only to address us in this way (rousing our moral interest).

Art aims to present aesthetic ideas (of reason) as well as to set the conceptual powers of the understanding and imagination in play.

In nature there are no ends [i.e., no final ends, or "ends in themselves"], therefore nature gives no standards in terms of which natural things can be judged in terms of their approximation to perfection; therefore Kant rejects perfection-aesthetics.  [For Plato there are eternal patterns; "time is the moving shadow of eternity."]

Genius is the favorite of nature; through genius, nature gives art its rules.

Nature alone can perform the key role in Kant's philosophical system of a bridge between nature and freedom.  The first Critique banished the ambition of classical teleological cosmology; judgment finds room for teleology, and for the Idea of free agency—the Creator and the rational, moral creature.




OK, Kant, now prove it!

[I.  The warm up.]

#31.  How in the world can it be possible for a judgment of taste to require the necessary accord of everyone else?  A sufficient answer will come from comparing the structure of aesthetic judgments ("Yosemite Valley is beautiful" with the structure of objective judgments ("Yosemite Valley is in California").

#32.  The judgment of taste is like objective judgments in demanding the assent of everyone.  And we must judge for ourselves, not merely imitate others' judgments, though we follow and build on others' achievements.

#33.  The judgment of taste, like subjective judgments, cannot be proven.  Someone's taste cannot be compelled by any consensus of authorities or any reasoning from principles or rules.  The judgment of taste is singular: "Niagara Falls is beautiful," not the universal ("logical") judgment, "All waterfalls are beautiful."

#34.  Since I must immediately feel something as beautiful, not follow a line of reasoning to discover it to be so, no objective principle of taste is possible, though critics can contribute many interesting things—see the rich, second paragraph!

#35.  Free, playful perception ("imagination") alongside thinking with concepts (connected as they logically are, "lawfully" are)—in general—is what is essentially involved in (the "principle" of) taste.  The essential aesthetic pleasure is precisely the pleasure we feel in the play of these two "powers" or "faculties."

#36.  The effort to demonstrate the possibility or legitimacy of the aesthetic judgment as set forth here is part of a larger project of showing how synthetic a priori judgments are possible.  A priori judgments are ones whose truth does not depend on anything empirical (e.g., every event has a cause).  Synthetic judgments are ones whose predicate (in this case, "beautiful") is not already implied in its components (the perception of the flower, the particular concept(s) (concepts, say, of vitality, gracefulness, evanescence, lush extravagance) that may happen to be in play in a particular aesthetic experience).

#37.  The judgment of the beautiful is about individual things, not classes of things, since aesthetic pleasure does not come from a concept.   


[II.  The proof]

#38.  If the (pure case of the) aesthetical enjoyment of beauty judges the object not in terms of its sensuous qualities but only in terms of its form, which sets into play faculties which everyone has, then the judgment of taste can require universal assent—which is what we needed to show.

Remark.  The fact that we may readily err in judging something beautiful does not compromise our result, any more than making a mistake in logic brings logical principles into question.



#46.  Definition: "Genius is the innate mental dispoition through which nature gives the rule to art."  It is "a talent for producing that for which no definite rule can be given"—originality; (2) its products must be models, i.e., exemplary (not imitation); (3) the genius produces not merely at will or by a method, but without being able to say how he did it [cf. Socrates' flattery of Ion]; (4) the genius, in this sense, specifically makes beautiful art.

#47.  "Art stands still at a certain point; a boundary is set to it beyond which it cannot go, which presumably has been reached long ago and cannot be extended further." [The idea of the end of art is a side-comment, picked up by Hegel and much discussed in the 20th century].  There is no production of beautiful art by rule, but "the rule must be abstracted from the fact" [cf. Hume].  In any beautiful art, however, there is some "mechanical element that can be comprehended by rules and followed accordingly," something that can be taught in a school.  Artistic creation must be purposive.  (Savor Kant's humorous polemic against chaotic and pretentious fakes.)

#48.  Definition: "Artificial beauty is a beautiful representation of a thing."  Judging a thing according to the perfection of its fulfillment of its maker's purpose in bringing it into existence is not a judgment of aesthetic taste, but we do use it, e.g., in valuing the effective artistry of the Creator.  Art may show genius without taste or taste without genius.

#49.  Genius has spirit [Geist], the animating principle of the mind.

            Definition: An aesthetical idea is a "representation of the imagination which occasions much thought, without however any definite thought, i.e., any concept, being capable of being adequate to it; it consequently cannot be completely compassed and made intelligible by language."  This is "a counterpart to a rational idea, a concept to which no intuition or representation of the imagination can be adequate" [e.g., God, the free and immortal soul, the idea of history with its destiny in an advanced civilization, and the cosmos].  Examples of poetic imagination are representations of heaven and hell, angels, and the like.  Imagination=Einbildungskraft, the power of forming an image [whether by perceptually synthesizing the data given in sensation or by in the way that we normally would call "imagination"—as a productive faculty]

#56.  There are disputes about taste, but no cognitive, conceptual grounds [in the understanding] for such.  How can this be?

#57.  The fact that judgments taste can claim universal validity points to their basis in a different kind of concept: a concept of a "supersensible substrate of humanity"—it transcends anything we can grasp by the senses (to which we may apply our empirical concepts [green, parrot] and our categories [thing ("substance"), event]).  This is a concept that we can't use to gain the knowledge that the understanding is good at seeking (Newton's physics and ordinary understanding of things and causes); it's a concept of something we share as humans that forms the basis of judgments of taste.

#58.  We use symbols to illustrate certain concepts (e.g., God is our father or "a monarchical state is represented by a living body if it is governed by national laws, and by a mere machine . . . if governed by a [despot]").  "The beautiful is the symbol of the morally good."  In making a judgment of taste, we call for universal agreement, thus appealing beyond what happens to attract or charm someone on, appealing on a sensuous level; the beautiful addresses something higher in us—and that's why it's a symbol of the moral, and why we use terms for character qualities to express what we find beautiful.



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