Kant’s Aesthetic Theory and the Problem of Particularity

4479 Words9 Pages

Kant’s Aesthetic Theory and the Problem of Particularity

ABSTRACT: In moving away from the objective, property-based theories of earlier periods to a subject-based aesthetic, Kant did not intend to give up the idea that judgments of beauty are universalizable. Accordingly, the "Deduction of Judgments of Taste" (KU, § 38) aims to show how reflective aesthetic judgments can be "imputed" a priori to all human subjects. The Deduction is not successful: Kant manages only to justify the imputation of the same form of aesthetic experience to everyone; he does not show that this experience will universally occur in response to the same objects. This is what I call Kant’s Problem of Particularity. After critiquing Anthony Savile’s attempt to overcome this Problem by linking Kant’s aesthetics to the theory of rational ideas, I elucidate the concept of (the oft-unnoticed) aesthetic attributes (§ 49) in a way that allows us to solve the Problem of Particularity.

The central elements of Immanuel Kant’s faculty-based aesthetic theory are reasonably familiar: In non-aesthetic cognitions, the faculty of imagination serves to synthesize sense intuitions and reproduce them in a manifold that is then "unified" under concepts by the faculty of understanding. The unification of the sensory manifold is thus a cognitive aim (Absicht) with respect to knowledge.(1) A crucial claim of the third Critique is that in conjunction with reflective experience of certain objects, the imagination presents the sensory manifold already unified, as it were, without the use of a concept. This harmony of the two faculties accomplishes that cognitive aim in a sort of unexpected way, and is the occasion of "a noticeable pleasure."(2) It is on the basis of this ple...

... middle of paper ...

... aesthetic Ideas is built right into the concept. CJ, 186.

(35) CJ, 196.

(36) CJ, 145-6. Kant discusses the case of a young poet who will not be convinced by others’ disapprobation of his poem. And Kant seems to applaud this stubbornness, since it is incumbent on the individual to arrive at his own, autonomous judgment of taste. This implies that there may often be disagreement over such judgments; on our scheme, this would be explained by the fact that if the work is indeed beautiful, then those who think otherwise have allowed other interests or prejudices to impede the production of an Idea in them. It is another question, one I shall not address here, whether this neglect is somehow culpable. See the important footnote to the Deduction, CJ, 155.

(37) CJ, 189, my emphasis.

(38) CJ, 183.

(39) CJ, 166-167.

(40) Savile, 174.

(41) CJ, 156.

Open Document