Two dissertations concerning sense and the imagination

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.

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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'. 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. 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. Both explicitly are attempting to demonstrate the universal communicability and thus intersubjective validity of judgments of taste. Which for Kant is the same as saying that there is a 'common sense' - by which he means that humans all must have a kind of sensing ability which operates the same way.

Briefly, the argument begins by asserting that aesthetic judgments must be judgments in some sense; that is, they are mental acts which bring a sensible particular under some universal Kant's Introduction, IV. The four moments of the beautiful are then explicitly seen as being limitations on the conditions under which this judgment can take place no interest, purposive without determining purpose, etc. By this, he means that although the judgment is a judgment of the presentation of a particular singular object, no particular determination of either sensible intuition, or understanding forms a necessary part of the judgment.

In ordinary cognition of the world, this lack of restriction would be entirely out of place. It would be nonsense to judge whether a particular thing was a sofa without restricting my judgment to that particular thing, and to the concept of a sofa. However, considered in general that is, in their essence as sub-faculties the faculties of imagination and understanding are likewise not restricted to any presentation or kind of sense, or any concept.

This means that Kant is describing the 'proportion' between understanding and intuition as something like the always present possibility of the faculties being freed to mutually enact their essence. Because such faculties in general are required for all theoretical cognition whatsoever, regardless of its object as Kant claims to have proven in the first Critique , they can be assumed present a priori, in the same form and in the same way, in all human beings.


The presence of the cognitive sub-faculties in their various relations is equivalent with the principle of the universal communicability and validity i. Therefore, an aesthetic judgment must be seen to be an expression of this principle. The key move is obviously to claim that the aesthetic judgment rests upon the same unique conditions as ordinary cognition, and thus that the former must have the same universal communicability and validity as the latter.

It is just that, presented with the beautiful, our cognitive faculties are released from the limitations that characterize ordinary thought, and produce what above we called a cascade of thoughts and feelings. It is difficult to know what to make of this argument with the various other versions of it scattered throughout the text and the hypothesis it purports to prove.

For one thing, Kant's work here is so heavily reliant upon the results of the first Critique as to not really be able to stand on its own, while at the same time it is not clear at several points whether the first and third Critiques are fully compatible. For another, does not all this talk about the faculties 'in general' seem as if Kant is hypostatising these faculties, as really existent things in the mind that act, rather than simply as an expression for certain capacities?

However, there is no doubting the fascinating and profound implications of what Kant is proposing. For example, the notions of common sense and communicability are closely akin to key political ideas, leading several commentators to propose that what Kant is really writing about are the foundations of any just politics see e.

Or again, the 'freedom' of the imagination is explicitly linked by Kant to the freedom characteristic of the moral will, allowing Kant to construct a deeply rooted link between beauty and the moral sect. Finally, of course, there is K. Overview: For Kant, the other basic type of aesthetic experience is the sublime. The sublime names experiences like violent storms or huge buildings which seem to overwhelm us; that is, we feel we 'cannot get our head around them'. This is either mainly 'mathematical' - if our ability to intuit is overwhelmed by size the huge building - or 'dynamical' - if our ability to will or resist is overwhelmed by force e.

The problem for Kant here is that this experience seems to directly contradict the principle of the purposiveness of nature for our judgment. And yet, Kant notes, one would expect the feeling of being overwhelmed to also be accompanied by a feeling of fear or at least discomfort. Whereas, the sublime can be a pleasurable experience. All this raises the question of what is going on in the sublime. Kant's solution is that, in fact, the storm or the building is not the real object of the sublime at all. Instead, what is properly sublime are ideas of reason: namely, the ideas of absolute totality or absolute freedom.

However huge the building, we know it is puny compared to absolute totality; however powerful the storm, it is nothing compared to absolute freedom. The sublime feeling is therefore a kind of 'rapid alternation' between the fear of the overwhelming and the peculiar pleasure of seeing that overwhelming overwhelmed. Thus, it turns out that the sublime experience is purposive after all - that we can, in some way, 'get our head around it'. Since the ideas of reason particularly freedom are also important for Kant's moral theory, there seems to be an interesting connection between the sublime and morality.

This Kant discusses under the heading of 'moral culture', arguing for example that the whole sublime experience would not be possible if humans had not received a moral training that taught them to recognize the importance of their own faculty of reason. Three in particular are of note. First, that while the beautiful is concerned with form, the sublime may even be or even especially be formless.

Second, that while the beautiful indicates at least for judgment a purposiveness of nature that may have profound implications, the sublime appears to be 'counter-purposive'. That is, the object appears ill-matched to, does 'violence' to, our faculties of sense and cognition. Finally, although from the above one might expect the sublime experience to be painful in some way, in fact the sublime does still involve pleasure - the question is 'how? Kant divides the sublime into the 'mathematical' concerned with things that have a great magnitude in and of themselves and the 'dynamically' things that have a magnitude of force in relation to us, particularly our will.

The mathematical sublime is defined as something ' absolutely large ' that is, ' large beyond all comparison ' sect. Usually, we apply some kind of standard of comparison, although this need not be explicit e. Blanc is large' usually means 'compared with other mountains or perhaps, with more familiar objects , Mt. Blanc is large'. The absolutely large, however, is not the result of a comparison. Now, of course, any object is measurable - even the size of the universe, no less a mountain on Earth. But Kant then argues that measurement not merely mathematical in nature the counting of units , but fundamentally relies upon the 'aesthetic' in the sense of 'intuitive' as used in the first Critique grasp of a unit of measure.

Dealing with a unit of measure, whether it be a millimeter or a kilometer, requires a number how many units but also a sense of what the unit is. This means that there will be absolute limits on properly aesthetic measurement because of the limitations of the finite, human faculties of sensibility. In the first place, there must be an absolute unit of measure, such that nothing larger could be 'apprehended'; in the second place, there must be a limit to the number of such units that can be held together in the imagination and thus 'comprehended' sect.

An object that exceeds these limits regardless of its mathematical size will be presented as absolutely large - although of course it is still so with respect to our faculties of sense. However, we must return to the second and third peculiar puzzles of the sublime. As we saw above with respect to the beautiful, pleasure lies in the achievement of a purpose, or at least in the recognition of a purposiveness.

So, if the sublime presents itself as counter-purposive, why and how is pleasure associated with it? In other words, where is the purposiveness of the sublime experience? Kant writes,. This problem constitutes Kant's principle argument that something else must be going on in the sublime experience other than the mere overwhelmingness of some object. As Kant will later claim, objects of sense oceans, pyramids, etc. In fact, what is actually sublime, Kant argues, are ideas of our own reason. The overwhelmingness of sensible objects leads the minds to these ideas. Now, such presentations of reason are necessarily unexhibitable by sense.

Moreover, the faculty of reason is not merely an inert source of such ideas, but characteristically demands that its ideas be presented. This same demand is what creates all the dialectical problems that Kant analyses in, for example, the Antinomies. Kant claims that the relation of the overwhelming sensible object to our sense is in a kind of 'harmony' sect. The sublime experience, then, is a two-layer process. First, a contrapurposive layer in which our faculties of sense fail to complete their task of presentation.

Second, a strangely purposive layer in which this very failure constitutes a 'negative exhibition' 'General Comment' following sect. This 'exhibition' thus also provides a purposiveness of the natural object for the fulfillment of the demands of reason. Moreover, and importantly, it also provides a new and 'higher' purposiveness to the faculties of sense themselves which are now understood to be properly positioned with respect to our 'supersensible vocation' sect.

Beyond simply comprehending individual sensible things, our faculty of sensibility, we might say, now knows what it is for. We will return to this point shortly. The consequence of this purposiveness is exactly that 'negative pleasure' sect. The initial displeasure of the 'violence' against our apparent sensible interests is now matched by a 'higher' pleasure arising from the strange purposiveness Kant has discovered.

Interestingly, on Kant's description, neither of these feelings wins out - instead, the sublime feeling consists of a unique 'vibration' or 'rapid alternation' of these feelings sect. The dynamically sublime is similar. In this case, a 'might' or power is observed in nature that is irresistible with respect to our bodily or sensible selves. Such an object is 'fearful' to be sure, but because we remain disinterested is not an object of fear.

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Importantly, one of Kant's examples here is religion: God is fearful but the righteous man is not afraid. This is the difference, he says, between a rational religion and mere superstition. Again, the sublime is a two-layered experience. Kant writes that such objects 'raise the soul's fortitude above its usual middle range and allow us to discover in ourselves an ability to resist which is of a quite different kind In particular, the sublimity belongs to human freedom which is by definition unassailable to the forces of nature.

Such a conception of freedom as being outside the order of nature, but demanding action upon that order, is the core of Kant's moral theory.

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Thus we can begin to see the intimate connection between the sublime especially here the dynamically sublime and morality. This connection for the sublime in general becomes even more explicit in Kant's discussion of what he calls 'moral culture'. Kant's answer is complicated. There is an empirical factor which is required for the sublime: the mind of the experiencer must be 'receptive' to rational ideas, and this can only happen in a culture that already understands morality as being a function of freedom or, more generally, conceives of human beings as having a dimension which in some way transcends nature.

The sublime, properly speaking, is possible only for members of such a moral culture and, Kant sometimes suggests, may reciprocally contribute to the strengthening of that culture. So, the sublime is subjected to an empirical contingency. However, Kant claims, we are justified in demanding from everyone that they necessarily have the transcendental conditions for such moral culture, and thus for the sublime, because these conditions are as in the case of the beautiful the same as for theoretical and practical thought in general.

The claims about moral culture show that, for Kant, aesthetics in general is not an isolated problem for philosophy but intimately linked to metaphysical and moral questions. This is one more reason why it is important not to assume that the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment is a book merely about beauty and sublimity. Moreover, this 'link' has an even greater significance for Kant: it shows reflective judgment in action as it were relating together both theoretical and practical reason, for this was the grand problem he raised in his Introduction.

Kant's treatment of the sublime raises many difficulties. For example, only the dynamically sublime has any strict relationship to the moral idea of freedom. This raises the question of whether the mathematical and dynamically sublime are in fact radically different, both in themselves as experiences, and in their relation to 'moral culture'.

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Again, Kant gives an interesting account of how magnitude is estimated in discussing the mathematical sublime, but skips the parallel problem in the dynamically sublime how does one estimate force? Finally, many readers have found the premise of the whole discussion implausible: that in the sublime experience, what is properly sublime and the object of respect should be the idea of reason, rather than nature. Overview: Thus far, Kant's main focus for the discussion of beauty and the sublime has been nature.

He now turns to fine art. Kant assumes that the cognition involved in judging fine art is similar to the cognition involved in judging natural beauty. Accordingly, the problem that is new to fine art is not how it is judged by a viewer, but how it is created. The solution revolves around two new concepts: the 'genius' and 'aesthetic ideas'. Kant argues that art can be tasteful that is, agree with aesthetic judgment and yet be 'soulless' - lacking that certain something that would make it more than just an artificial version of a beautiful natural object.

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What provides soul in fine art is an aesthetic idea. An aesthetic idea is a counterpart to a rational idea: where the latter is a concept that could never adequately be exhibited sensibly, the former is a set of sensible presentations to which no concept is adequate. An aesthetic idea, then, is as successful an attempt as possible to 'exhibit' the rational idea.

It is the talent of genius to generate aesthetic ideas, but that is not all. First, the mode of expression must also be tasteful - for the understanding's 'lawfulness' is the condition of the expression being in any sense universal and capable of being shared. The genius must also find a mode of expression which allows a viewer not just to 'understand' the work conceptually, but to reach something like the same excited yet harmonious state of mind that the genius had in creating. Starting in sect. The notion of aesthetic judgment already developed remains central.

But unlike the investigation of beauty in nature, the focus shifts from the transcendental conditions for judgment of the beautiful object to the transcendental conditions of the making of fine art. In other words: how is it possible to make art? To solve this, Kant will introduce the notion of genius. But that is not the only shift. Kant stands right in the middle of a complete historical change in the central focus of aesthetics.

While formerly, philosophical aesthetics was largely content to take its primary examples of beauty and sublimity from nature, after Kant the focus is placed squarely on works of art. Now, in Kant, fine art seems to 'borrow' its beauty or sublimity from nature. Fine art is therefore a secondary concept. On the other hand, of course, in being judged aesthetically, nature is seen 'as if' purposeful, designed, or a product of an intelligence. So, in this case at least, the notion of 'nature' itself can be seen as secondary with respect to the notions of design or production, borrowed directly from art.

Thus, the relation between nature and art is much more complex than it seems at first. Kant's work thus forms an important part of the historical change mentioned above. Moreover, it is clear from a number of comments that Kant makes about 'genius' that he is an aesthetic conservative reacting against, for example, the emphasis on the individual, impassioned artist characteristic of the ' Sturm und Drang ' movement.

But, historically, his discussion of the concept contributed to the escalation of the concept in the early 19th Century. First, then, what does Kant mean by 'nature'? This can either be an empirical claim or, more commonly in Kant, a priori. On the other hand, nature as itself an object has several meanings for Kant. Especially: 2 If I say 'nature as opposed to art' I mean that realm of objects not presented as the objects of sensible will - that is, which are quite simply not made or influenced by human hands.

This includes things in space outside of us, but also aspects of sensible human nature that are the objects of sciences such as psychology. Kant begins by giving a long clarification of art. As a general term, again, art refers to the activity of making according to a preceding notion. If I make a chair, I must know, in advance, what a chair is.

We distinguish art from nature because though we may judge nature purposive we know in fact there is no prior notion behind the activity of a flower opening. The flower doesn't have an idea of opening prior to opening - the flower doesn't have a mind or a will to have or execute ideas with. Art also means something different from science - as Kant says, it is a skill distinguished from a type of knowledge.

Art involves some kind of practical ability, irreducible to determinate concepts, which is distinct from a mere comprehension of something. The latter can be fully taught; the former, although subject to training to be sure, relies upon native talent. Thus, Kant will later claim, there can be no such thing as a scientific genius, because a scientific mind can never be radically original. See sect. Further, art is distinguished from labor or craft - the latter being something satisfying only for the payoff which results and not for the mere activity of making itself.

Art not surprisingly, like beauty is free from any interest in the existence of the product itself. Arts are subdivided into mechanical and aesthetic. The former are those which, although not handicrafts, never-the-less are controlled by some definite concept of a purpose to be produced. The latter are those wherein the immediate object is merely pleasure itself.

Finally, Kant distinguishes between agreeable and fine art. The former produces pleasure through sensation alone, the latter through various types of cognitions. This taxonomy of fine art defines more precisely the issue for Kant. What, then, 'goes on' in the mind of the artist? It is clearly not just a matter of applying good taste, otherwise all art critics would be artists, all musicians composers, and so forth. Equally, it is not a question of simply expressing oneself using whatever means come to hand, since such productions might well lack taste.

We feel reasonably secure that we know how it is possible for, for example, clockmakers to make clocks, or glass-blowers to blow glass which doesn't mean that we can make clocks or blow glass, but that as a kind of activity, we understand it. We have also investigated how it is for someone looking at a work of beauty to judge it. But it is not yet clear how, on the side of production, fine art gets made.

Kant sums up the problem in two apparent paradoxes. The first of these is easy to state. Fine art is a type of purposeful production, because it is made; art in general is production according to a concept of an object. But fine art can have no concept adequate to its production, else any judgment on it will fail one of the key features of all aesthetic judgments: namely purposiveness without a purpose.

Fine art therefore must both be, and not be, an art in general. To introduce the second paradox, Kant notices that we have a problem with the overwrought - that which draws attention to itself as precisely an artificial object or event. Kant expresses this point by saying that, in viewing a work of art we must be aware of it as art, but it must never-the-less appear natural.

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Where 'natural' here stands for the appearance of freedom from conventional rules of artifice; this concept is derived from the second sense of 'nature' given above. The paradox is that art the non-natural must appear to be natural. Kant must overcome these paradoxes and explain how fine art can be produced at all. In sect. He writes,. Genius is the talent natural endowment that gives the rule to art. Since talent is an innate productive ability of the artist and as such belongs itself to nature, we could also put it this way: Genius is the innate mental predisposition ingenium through which nature gives the rule to art.

In other words, that which makes it possible to produce fine art is not itself produced - not by the individual genius, nor we should add through his or her culture, history, education, etc. From the definition of genius as that talent through which nature gives the rule to art follows arguably! First, fine art is produced by individual humans, but not as contingent individuals. That is, not by human nature in the empirically known sense. Second, fine art as aesthetic just like nature as aesthetic can have no definite rules or concepts for producing or judging it.

But genius supplies a rule, fully applicable only in the one, concrete instance, precisely by way of the universal structures of the genius' mental abilities which again, is 'natural' in sense one. Third, the rule supplied by genius is more a rule governing what to produce, rather than how.

Thus, while all fine art is a beautiful 'presentation' of an object sect. The 'how' is usually heavily informed by training and technique, and is governed by taste. Taste, Kant claims, is an evaluative faculty, not a productive one sect. Thus, the end of sect. Fourth, because of this, originality is a characteristic of genius. This means also that fine art properly is never an imitation of previous art, though it may 'follow' or be 'inspired by' previous art sect.

Fifth, as we mentioned above, fine art must have the 'look of nature' sect. This is because the rule of its production that concept or set of concepts of an object and of the 'how' of its production which allows the genius to actually make some specific something is radically original. Thus, fine art is 'natural' in sense two, in that it lies outside the cycle of production and re-production within which all other arts in general are caught up and thus, again, cannot be imitated. This leads Kant to make some suggestive, but never fully worked out, comments about artistic influences and schools, the role of culture, of technique and education, etc.

See e. Having made the various distinctions between the matter and the form of expression in genius' work, or again between the object and its presentation, Kant applies these to a brief if eccentric comparative study of the varieties of fine art sect. According to the manner of presentation, he divides all fine arts into the arts of speech especially poetry, which Kant ranks the highest of the arts , the arts of visual form sculpture, architecture and painting , and the arts involving a play of sensible tones music.

The last pages of this part of Kant's book are taken up with a curious collection of comments on the 'gratifying' non-aesthetic but still relatively free activities , especially humor. However, we have not yet clarified what kind of thing the 'rule' supplied by genius is; therefore we have not yet reached an understanding of the nature of the 'talent' for the production of fine art that is genius. Genius provides the matter for fine art, taste provides the form. The beautiful is always formal, as we have already discovered.

So, what distinguishes one 'matter' from another, such that genius might be required? What genius does, Kant says, is to provide 'soul' or 'spirit' ' Seele ', sect. The datasets are also available as weekly exports. NL EN. More from Zachary Mayne. Publisher: Bristol : Thoemmes, Description: V, p.

Series: Aesthetics: sources in the eighteenth century 2 Note: Anastatic repr. Tonson, Subject: Aesthetics Early works to Two Dissertations Concerning Sense, and the Imagination. Bristol: Thoemmes, Please select Ok if you would like to proceed with this request anyway. WorldCat is the world's largest library catalog, helping you find library materials online.

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