Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy 2
Thus, for example, beauty is also by no means non-cognitive, as the British tradition had held. Thus, Kant begins to analyze the experience of beauty, in order to ask as precisely as possible the question 'how are judgments about beauty possible'. Kant's initial focus is on judgments about beauty in nature, as when we call a flower, a sunset, or an animal 'beautiful'.
What, at bottom, does such a judgment mean, and how does it take place as a mental act? In order to begin to answer these questions, Kant needs to clarify the basic features of such judgments. On Kant's analysis, aesthetic judgments are still more strange even than ordinary reflective judgments, and must have a number of peculiar features which at first sight look like nothing other than paradoxes. We will now describe those features using Kant's conceptual language. Taking up roughly the first fifth of the Critique of Judgment , Kant discusses four particular unique features of aesthetic judgments on the beautiful he subsequently deals with the sublime.
These he calls 'moments', and they are structured in often obscure ways according to the main divisions of Kant's table of categories See article on Kant's Metaphysics. The First Moment.
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Aesthetic judgments are disinterested. There are two types of interest: by way of sensations in the agreeable , and by way of concepts in the good. Only aesthetic judgment is free or pure of any such interests.
Interest is defined as a link to real desire and action, and thus also to a determining connection to the real existence of the object. In the aesthetic judgment per se , the real existence of the beautiful object is quite irrelevant. Certainly, I may wish to own the beautiful painting, or at least a copy of it, because I derive pleasure from it - but that pleasure, and thus that desire, is distinct from and parasitic upon the aesthetic judgment see sect;9.
The judgment results in pleasure, rather than pleasure resulting in judgment. Kant accordingly and famously claims that the aesthetic judgment must concern itself only with form shape, arrangement, rhythm, etc. Kant is thus the founder of all formalism in aesthetics in modern philosophy. This claim of the disinterestedness of all aesthetic judgments is perhaps the most often attacked by subsequent philosophy, especially as it is extended to include fine art as well as nature.
To pick three examples, Kant's argument is rejected by those Nietzsche, Freud for whom all art must always be understood as related to will; by those for whom all art as a cultural production must be political in some sense Marxism ; by those for whom all art is a question of affective response expressionists. The Second Moment. Aesthetic judgments behave universally, that is, involve an expectation or claim on the agreement of others - just 'as if' beauty were a real property of the object judged.
If I judge a certain landscape to be beautiful then, although I may be perfectly aware that all kinds of other factors might enter in to make particular people in fact disagree with me, never-the-less I at least implicitly demand universality in the name of taste. The way that my aesthetic judgments 'behave' is key evidence here: that is, I tend to see disagreement as involving error somewhere, rather than agreement as involving mere coincidence.
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This universality is distinguished first from the mere subjectivity of judgments such as 'I like honey' because that is not at all universal, nor do we expect it to be ; and second from the strict objectivity of judgments such as 'honey contains sugar and is sweet', because the aesthetic judgment must, somehow, be universal 'apart from a concept' sect;9. Being reflective judgments, aesthetic judgments of taste have no adequate concept at least to begin with , and therefore can only behave as if they were objective.
Kant is quite aware that he is flying in the face of contemporary then and now! Such a belief, he argues, first of all can not account for our experience of beauty itself, insofar as the tendency is always to see 'beauty' as if it were somehow in the object or the immediate experience of the object.
Second, Kant argues that such a relativist view can not account for the social 'behavior' of our claims about what we find beautiful. In order to explore the implications of 'apart from a concept', Kant introduces the idea of the 'free play' of the cognitive faculties here: understanding and imagination , and the related idea of communicability. In the case of the judgment of the beautiful, these faculties no longer simply work together as they do in ordinary sensible cognition but rather each 'furthers' or 'quickens' the other in a kind of self-contained and self-perpetuating cascade of thought and feeling.
We will return to these notions below. The Third Moment. The third introduces the problem of purpose and purposiveness also translated 'end' and 'finality'. An object's purpose is the concept according to which it was manufactured; purposiveness, then, is the property of at least appearing to have been manufactured or designed.
Kant claims that the beautiful has to be understood as purposive, but without any definite purpose.
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A 'definite purpose' would be either the set of external purposes what the thing was meant to do or accomplish , or the internal purpose what the thing was simply meant to be like. In the former case, the success of the process of making is judged according to utility; in the latter, according to perfection.
Kant argues that beauty is equivalent neither to utility nor perfection, but is still purposive. Beauty in nature, then, will appear as purposive with respect to our faculty of judgment, but its beauty will have no ascertainable purpose - that is, it is not purposive with respect to determinate cognition. Indeed, this is why beauty is pleasurable since, Kant argues, pleasure is defined as a feeling that arises on the achievement of a purpose, or at least the recognition of a purposiveness Introduction, VI.
The purposiveness of art is more complicated. Although such works may have had purposes behind their production the artist wished to express a certain mood, or communicate a certain idea , nevertheless, these can not be sufficient for the object to be beautiful. As judges of art, any such knowledge we do have about these real purposes can inform the judgment as background, but must be abstracted from to form the aesthetic judgment properly. It is not just that the purpose for the beauty of the beautiful happens to be unknown, but that it cannot be known. Still, we are left with the problem of understanding how a thing can be purposive, without having a definite purpose.
The Fourth Moment. Here, Kant is attempting to show that aesthetic judgments must pass the test of being 'necessary', which effectively means, 'according to principle'. Everyone must assent to my judgment, because it follows from this principle. But this necessity is of a peculiar sort: it is 'exemplary' and 'conditioned'. By exemplary, Kant means that the judgment does not either follow or produce a determining concept of beauty, but exhausts itself in being exemplary precisely of an aesthetic judgment. With the notion of condition, Kant reaches the core of the matter.
He is asking: what is it that the necessity of the judgment is grounded upon; that is, what does it say about those who judge? Kant calls the ground 'common sense', by which he means the a priori principle of our taste, that is of our feeling for the beautiful. Note: by 'common sense' is not meant being intelligent about everyday things, as in: 'For a busy restaurant, it's just common sense to reserve a table in advance. Similarly, Kant wants to claim that the universal communicability, the exemplary necessity and the basis in an a priori principle are all different ways of understanding the same subjective condition of possibility of aesthetic judgment that he calls common sense.
As we shall see, on the side of the beautiful object, this subjective principle corresponds to the principle of the purposiveness of nature. Thus Kant can even claim that all four Moments of the Beautiful are summed up in the idea of 'common sense' CJ sect. Kant also suggests that common sense in turn depends upon or is perhaps identical with the same faculties as ordinary cognition , that is, those features of humans which as Kant showed in the Critique of Pure Reason make possible natural, determinative experience.
Here, however, the faculties are merely in a harmony rather than forming determinate cognition. Overview: There are two aspects to Kant's basic answer to the question of how aesthetic judgments happen. First, some of Kant's earlier work seemed to suggest that our faculty or ability to judge consisted of being a mere processor of other, much more fundamental mental presentations.
These were concepts and intuitions 'intuition' being Kant's word for our immediate sensible experiences - see entry on 'Kant's Metaphysics'.
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Everything interesting and fundamental happened in the formation of concepts, or in the receiving of intuitions. But now Kant argues that judgment itself, as a faculty, has an fundamental principle that governs it. This principle asserts the purposiveness of all phenomena with respect to our judgment. In other words, it assumes in advance that everything we experience can be tackled by our powers of judgment. Normally, we don't even notice that this assumption is being made, we just apply concepts, and be done with it.
But in the case of the beautiful, we do notice. This is because the beautiful draws particular attention to its purposiveness; but also because the beautiful has no concept of a purpose available, so that we cannot just apply a concept and be done with it. Instead, the beautiful forces us to grope for concepts that we can never find. And yet, nevertheless, the beautiful is not an alien and disturbing experience - on the contrary, it is pleasurable. The principle of purposiveness is satisfied, but in a new and unique way.
Asking what this new and unique way is takes us to the second aspect. Kant argues that the kinds of 'cognition' i. The faculties of the mind are the same: the 'understanding' which is responsible for concepts, and the 'sensibility' including our imagination which is responsible for intuitions. The difference between ordinary and aesthetic cognition is that in the latter case, there is no one 'determinate' concept that pins down an intuition.
Instead, intuition is allowed some 'free play', and rather than being subject to one concept, it instead acts in 'harmony' with the lawfulness in general of the understanding. It is this ability of judgment to bring sensibility and understanding to a mutually reinforcing harmony that Kant calls 'common sense'.
This account of common sense explains how the beautiful can be purposive with respect to our ability to judge, and yet have no definite purpose. Kant believes common sense also answers the question of why aesthetic judgments are valid: since aesthetic judgments are a perfectly normal function of the same faculties of cognition involved in ordinary cognition, they will have the same universal validity as such ordinary acts of cognition. The idea of a harmony between or among the faculties of cognition is turning out to be the key idea.
For such a harmony, Kant claims, will be purposive, but without purpose. Moreover, it will be both universal and necessary, because based upon universal common sense, or again, because related to the same cognitive faculties which enable any and all knowledge and experience. Lastly, because of the self-contained nature of this harmony, it must be disinterested.
So, what does Kant think is going on in such 'harmony', or in common sense for that matter, and does he have any arguments which make of these idea more than mere metaphors for beauty? Up to now, we have had no decent argument for the existence of common sense as a principle of taste. At best, common sense was plausible as a possible explanation of, for example, the tendency to universality observed in aesthetic judgments.
Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy 2 | Jacques Derrida, Translated by Jan Plug and Others
As Kant admits in sect. Such a demand for universality could be accounted for nicely if we assumed an a priori principle for taste, which might also explain the idea of universal communicability. This argument, however, is rather weak. Kant believes he has an ingenious route to proving the case with much greater certainty.
Throughout the Four Moments of the Beautiful, Kant has dropped many important clues as to the transcendental account of the possibility of aesthetic judgment: in particular, we have talked about communicability, common sense and the harmony of the cognitive sub-faculties. Kant then cuts off to turn to the sublime, representing a different problem within aesthetic judgment. He returns to beauty in sect. These transitional passages feel much like a continuation of the Four Moments; we will treat them as such here, since also Kant claims that the sublime does not need a Deduction.
The Deduction in fact appears in two versions in Kant's texts sect. Here, we will discuss only the second.