KANT: CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT—Outline/Handout 
 
     


Adams & Searle's Intro: "Immanuel Kant" (416-419)

• Well said: Kant is "notoriously difficult to read since he is endeavoring to explicate not things we think about but the concepts without which we could not think at all" (416).

• What is the a priori principle of aesthetic judgment?: Kant's "solution lies in the concept of purposiveness, whether it pertains to human productions (the aesthetic) or the productions of nature (the teleological)" (417). [But I read this (at least by the end of our excerpt) as an "as if," as a "regulative" concept that we can't help assuming (since it's a priori) but which, like "God" or "free will," we can really know nothing about. The whole principle also sounds a lot like an "aesthetic imperative," à la Kant's moral categorical imperative.]

• Where does this concept of "purposiveness" come from? From the mind, course: it is an "a priori principle of judgment, not a property or observable characteristic of things"; it's all based, finally, on "the idea of a world of intentional creation" (417; my emphasis).

• By considering it something of an "aesthetic imperative," I have in mind the following: "a true aesthetic judgment has subjective universality; that is, one makes it only if one is willing honestly to think that others should also make it." Such judgments are also "'disinterested' because they are not referable to one's feelings of pleasure, pain, prejudice, or personal interest" (417).

• Anticipatory of 20th-century formalism, Kant shifts emphasis upon "the internality of the work itself"; "the concept of subjective universality and disinterest turns consideration of aesthetic experience toward concern with the work's internal purpose [whatever that is?!] rather than any external purposes it may be put to fulfilling" (418; e.g., sensual gratification, religious indoctrination, political propaganda).

• The "Purposiveness" as an "As-If" (again): "we must talk about the work's beauty as if that beauty is determinable independent of us and as if the work is an object apart from us with its own being" (418). (Thus 150 years later, the New Critics will discuss a poem as an "autotelic artifact," with its own unique, self-directed "organic" existence. But again—and this is my reading/emphasis—just because the mind "naturally" leads us to this way of thinking doesn't make it true.)

• And so the "beautiful" and the "sublime" are actually "states of mind," ultimately: "We take pleasure in the sublime experience even as we recognize our fear, because we see in the experience that we possess a faculty of mind that surpasses all sense. Thus what we really experience as sublime in such situations is our own sublimity or boundlessness of soul" (418; "Go, humankind! We're freaking awesome!"). (Note that this is one of several places in our excerpt that at least strongly suggests that the "imagination" is a wonderful faculty itself (as is imaginative art), largely outside the purview of rational conceptual explanation. This is a direction that the Romantics and the New Critics—both enemies of science & ratiocination for somewhat different reasons—gladly run towards.)

• Thus it may be (somewhat) clear by now why Kant's "Critique of Judgment is without question the most influential work of aesthetic theory ever written" (418).

   


from [Kant's] CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT


from Introduction


IV. Of Judgment as a Faculty Legislating a Priori (419-420A)

• This is a difficult section to start the whole shebang, since it's a stand-alone out-of-context section from the Intro. The editors (A&S, let me call them) no doubt include it because here Kant introduces the notion of "purposiveness" as the a priori concept involved in (reflective) judgment.

• Judgments about nature and art entail a "reflective," not a "determinant," faculty since there is no universal law to appeal to. (I read this distinction as similar to induction vs. deduction: "reflective" cognition involves the former since it must "ascend from the particular.")

• Crucially, the "reflective"/inductive can only provide "as if" (not based on understanding or reason) truths: "Thus the principle of judgment," regarding natural forms, "is the purposiveness of nature in its variety. That is, nature is represented by means of this concept as if an understanding contained the ground of the unity of the variety of its empirical laws" (419B). (One of the refrains of the rest of our PDF's sections is that there really is no ground in understanding or reason; indeed, even words fail us in the face of the sublime.)

• And this section mostly involves judgments about nature, concluding that the "purposiveness of nature is therefore a particular concept, a priori, which has its origin solely in the reflective judgment" (420A). The section really points, then, to the second half of the CofJ, which involves the "purpose" and teleology of natural things/beings. (Teleology is the philosophy of future directions, of ends; we make assumptions about where something in nature is designed to "go" by automatically trying to guess at some "purpose.")

• Also, the whole teleology and nature thing strikes us as odd in a treatise supposedly about aesthetics (judging human art). However, the two are explicitly connected at section's end: while claiming that the "purposiveness of nature" is "different from practical purposiveness (in human art or in morals) . . . it is certainly thought according to the analogy of these last" (420A). (Note how organicism is inverted here: rather than the usual "ah, art—this poem—is like nature!," the claim is "ah, nature is like art!"—at least in Kant's psychology [see also 434A].)

   


First Book: Analytic of the Beautiful


First Moment: Of the Judgment of Taste, According to Quality


I. The Judgment of Taste Is Aesthetical (420)

• "What he said" (some of the subtitles pretty much say it all). That "taste" is aesthetic strikes us a tautology today, but it is noteworthy (and influential) that this great rationalist opens up a space for the non-rational here: taste—defined as "the faculty of judging of the beautiful"—is quite subjective in that it involves the "imagination" and "feeling" (affect). "The judgment of taste is therefore not a judgment of conceptual cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective" (all italics Kant's unless otherwise specified).


II. The Satisfaction Which Determines the Judgment of Taste Is Disinterested (420B-421A)

• "Disinterest" is the key: In judging art, an "satisfaction" derived from self-"interest" and "desire" is not true aesthetic judgment. For instance, when viewing a painting of a unicorn, the feeling, "Damn, I wish I had that unicorn!" is beyond the pale: "We wish only to know if this mere representation of the object is accompanied in me with satisfaction, however indifferent I may be as regards the existence of the object of this representation." Conversely, "a judgment about beauty, in which the least interest mingles, is very partial and is not a pure judgment of taste."

•• Eurocentric/Racist Alert: Apparently Native Americans have only a low level of "taste," based entirely on base desire?!: "If anyone asks me if I find that palace beautiful," Kant could "answer like that Iroquois sachem [chief], who was pleased in Paris by nothing more than by the cook shops." (Damned ignorant savages. Wait. Food? That's probably where I'd go first myself!)


IV. The Satisfaction in the Good Is Bound Up with Interest (421A)

• The "good" involves a rational assessment of being "good for something" (useful) or "good in itself" (e.g., morality). Both versions of the "good" depend upon concepts (or they couldn't be rational). Aesthetic judgment—of the "beautiful"—does not: flowers, designs, etc. "have no meaning[!], depend upon no definite concept, and yet they please"!

• Kant also begins the contrast here (developed in the next section) between aesthetic judgment and simple sensuous satisfaction (the "pleasant").


V. Comparison of the Three Specifically Different Kinds of Satisfaction (421-422A)

1. The "pleasant" is an immediate satisfaction (& desire-fulfillment) based merely on "impulses, stimuli."

2. The "good" satisfies in fulfilling its "object" of utility or of ethics (of conceptual "practical reason").

3. In contrast, and again, "the judgment of taste" is object-less and concept-free: "indifferent as regards the existence of an object . . . it is not directed to concepts"; "the judgment of taste is not a cognitive judgment . . . ." Of the three satisfactions, "taste in the beautiful is alone a disinterested and free satisfaction; for no interest, either of sense [the 'pleasant'] or of reason [the 'good'], here forces our assent."

—Note that, since the morally "good" entails an enforcement of the categorical imperative, it isn't "free": "For where moral law speaks there is no longer, objectively, a free choice as regards what is to be done"; one might well wonder what this does to Kant's "regulative" concept of free will?!
—Note also that this disjunction between aesthetics and morality is a blow against any privileging of didactic art, about a work's "message," in contrast to earlier critics of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, who assumed that a good work of art/literature also had to be moral. This rupture would allow later formalist critics to denigrate a text's "message" completely.)

Anthropocentrism: "Pleasantness concerns irrational animals also, but beauty only concerns men*, i.e. animal, but still rational, beings . . . and the good concerns every rational being in general" (i.e., humans only; "and maybe angels").

*: Ethology (the science of animal behavior) has shown that Kant was full of s---.

Explanation of the Beautiful Resulting from the First Moment (422A)

• The satisfaction of judging the "beautiful" (that is, "taste") is "entirely disinterested."


Second Moment: Of the Judgment of Taste, According to Quantity


VI. The Beautiful Is That Which Apart from Concepts Is Represented as the Object of a Universal Satisfaction (422)

• Kant thrives in universals, and so must go his aesthetics: now, because aesthetic "satisfaction" is "quite disinterested"—since it isn't based on "any private conditions"—that judgment has "a ground of satisfaction for all men," "grounded on what" we "can suppose in every other person." So we "must believe that" we have "reason for attributing a similar satisfaction to everyone." We "will therefore speak of the beautiful as if beauty were a characteristic of the object and the judgment logical"—even though neither is true. For since "this universality cannot arise from concepts," it must be deemed a "subjective universality."

—Of course, the modern English studies person immediately looks askance at a grand signifier like "everyone." Who is this "everyone"?! Every European? Every white male European (and American colonialist)? It certainly isn't that Iroquois chief from section II!

VII. Comparison of the Beautiful with the Pleasant and the Good by Means of the Above Characteristic (422B-423A)

• "Taste" regarding the "pleasant," again, is individual, based upon a "private feeling": in sum, in terms of spicy food, horror movies(?!), etc.: "everyone has his own taste (the taste of sense)."

• "Taste" regarding the "beautiful"—that is, aesthetic judgment: "if he gives out anything as beautiful, he supposes in others the same satisfaction; he judges not merely for himself, but for everyone, and speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things."

• Finally and again, in contrast: "the [useful or moral] good is represented only by means of a concept as the object of a universal satisfaction, which is the case neither with the pleasant nor with the beautiful."


VIII. The Universality of the Satisfaction Is Represented in a Judgment of Taste Only as Subjective (423-424A)

• With this discovery of a "universal" aesthetics, "we thus detect a property of our cognitive faculty which without this analysis would remain unknown." Kant's proof here seems to be the very existence and definition of the word/concept "beauty"?: "this claim to universal validity so essentially belongs to a judgment by which we describe anything as beautiful that, if this [universal validity] were not thought in it, it would never come into our thoughts to use the expression at all" (423A).

—To critique Kant's Eurocentrism (or Western Civ-centrism) again, this very definition seems very much to be culturally specific. For instance, the Diné (Navajo) word for "beauty"—hozho—inevitably means both "beautiful" and "good" (often with more weight on the latter). Such cross-cultural comparisons rather disturb Kant's "universal" compartmentalizing (itself a characteristic, BTW, of Western thought in general?!). By this last, I mean that conceiving of, say, ethics and aesthetics as two radically separate aspects of human existence is alien to many indigenous worldviews.

• Again, aesthetic judgment entails "a universality which does not rest on concepts of objects (not even on empirical ones) is not logical but aesthetical, i.e. it involves no objective quantity of the judgment but only that which is subjective" (423B).

• Nor can aesthetic judgments be expanded to general rules (since these are logical): "'Roses in general are beautiful'" isn't any "longer. . . simply . . . aesthetical, but . . . a logical judgment based on an aesthetical one" (423). In fact, appeals to reason are unfounded, in vain: "Thus there can be no rule according to which any one is to be forced to recognize anything as beautiful. We cannot press [upon others] by the aid of any reasons or fundamental propositions our judgment that a coat, a house, or a flower is beautiful" (424A). (Now that renders aesthetic judgment quite, quite subjective! But as I have suggested elsewhere, this division between aesthetics and rationalism can be seen as a positive, as an "opening.")

• Indeed, calling something beautiful isn't even great shakes as an assertion: "in the judgment of taste nothing is postulated but such a universal voice [that is, I call this beautiful because I believe that everyone should] . . . . The judgment of taste itself does not postulate the agreement of everyone (for that can only be done by a logically universal judgment because it can adduce reasons)[!]; it only imputes this agreement to everyone . . . . The universal voice is, therefore, only an idea" (424A)!

• WRONG Judgments: To complicate matters further, Kant admits that there are wrong judgments—there are "particular cases" in which we "cannot agree as to the correct application of this faculty" (423B). However, [Kant's interminable 3rd-person-masculine] "He can be quite certain," at least, that "he" is at least employing the aesthetic faculty "by the mere consciousness of the separation of everything belonging to the pleasant and the good from the satisfaction which is left"; and so the "claim" that something is beautiful "would be justifiable under these conditions, provided only he did not often make mistakes, and thus lay down an erroneous judgment of taste" (424A)!


IX. Investigation of the Question Whether in the Judgment of Taste the Feeling of Pleasure Precedes or Follows the Judging of the Object (424-425)

• The short answer is that the pleasure comes after the judgment. (If I might add another reason that Kant is difficult to read, it is his labored, redundant style that, in sections like this one, spends a lot of time making an overly "subtle" argument that mostly involves points already made?)

• Why? If it preceded judgment, "such pleasure would be nothing different from the mere pleasantness in the sensation, and so in accordance with its nature could have only private validity . . . . . Hence it is the universal capability of communication of the mental state in the given representation which, as the subjective condition of the judgment of taste, must be fundamental, and must have the pleasure in the object as its consequent" (424B).

• Subjectivism encore: "If the determining ground of our judgment as to this universal communicability of the representation is to be merely subjective, i.e. is conceived independently of any concept of the object, it can be nothing else than the state of mind," not attributable to something intrinsic in the object. Then a good summary of one of Kant's main points: "The cognitive powers" in aesthetic judgment "are here in free play, because no definite concept limits them to a particular rule of cognition" (424B).

• Imagination + Understanding: "Now a representation by which an object is given, that is to become a cognition in general, requires imagination, for the gathering together the manifold of intuition, and understanding, for the unity of the concept uniting the representations" (424B). (Note that "unity" is one of Kant's twelve a priori categories of "reason," which is probably why he wasn't tempted to grant this power to the imagination.)

• DEFINITION: "The subjective universal communicability of the mode of representation in a judgment of taste, since it is to be possible without presupposing a definite concept, can refer to nothing else than the state of mind in the free play of the imagination and the understanding" (424B).

• "The power of communicating one's state of mind"—as in "hey, guys, ain't that purty!"—"carries a pleasure with it, as we can easily show from the natural propension of man towards sociability . . . . ." But this isn't enough to explain it; it's also the "universality" of the thing: "The pleasure that we feel is, in a judgment of taste, necessarily imputed by us to everyone else; as if, when we call a thing beautiful, it is to be regarded as a characteristic of the object which is determined in it according to concepts; though beauty, without a reference to the feeling of the subject, is nothing by itself" (425A). (Several of Kant's key threads are summarized in this sentence.)

• And so such "pleasure" is the "sensation of the effect, which consists in the more lively play of both mental powers (the imagination and the understanding) when animated by mutual agreement" (425B). (Kant is such a social creature!)


Explanation of the Beautiful Resulting from the Second Moment (425B)

• "The beautiful is that which pleases universally without requiring a concept." Q.E.D.


Third Moment: Of Judgments of Taste, According to Relation of the Purposes Which Are Brought Into Consideration in Them


XI. The Judgment of Taste Has Nothing at Its Basis but the Form of the Purposiveness of an Object (or of Its Mode of Representation) (425B-426A)

(One of the more important sections, but so obscurely expressed?:) Real purpose/purposiveness is always "interested"—"always carries with it an interest" (be it the sheer pleasure of sensual gratification or the utility or morality of the "good"): "Therefore no subjective purpose can lie at the basis of the judgment of taste"—since Kant has already proclaimed that as disinterested.

Purposiveness-without-a-purpose—the most famous notion of the CofJ: "Therefore it [the pleasure involved in aesthetic judgment] can be nothing else than the subjective purposiveness in the representation of an object without any purpose . . . . and thus it is the mere form of purposiveness in the representation by which an object is given to us . . . . which constitutes the satisfaction that we without a concept judge to be universally communicable . . . . ." (The "mere form of purposiveness" is a confusing phrase, to be sure; to clarify, it is commonly read as a synonym of "purposiveness-without-a-purpose." Which is, like, much clearer[!]. My understanding of it goes back to the "as if based on a concept" argument: the mind has a propensity to project such a conceptual purposiveness even without evidence from the "understanding." And yet, as evident in the next section, "form" does also/actually refer to "empty" form, versus specific content. . . . Another way to look at it—or to translate it into formalist/New Critical terms: I can tell by the form of this language on the page that a poem was intended [purposefully]—and that "form" is pretty "beautiful"; but I know nothing of the real purpose, content-wise, vis-à-vis its creator.)


XIII. The Pure Judgment of Taste Is Independent of Charm and Emotion (426A)

• "Every interest spoils the judgment of taste and takes from its impartiality . . . . . That taste is still barbaric[!] which needs a mixture of charms and emotions in order that there may be satisfaction . . . . . And thus the matter of satisfaction is substituted for the form." (By "matter" is meant the specific content that creates "interest" via "charm" and "emotion.")

• In contrast, only "the purposiveness of the form" leads to a "pure judgment of taste."


XIV. Elucidation by Means of Examples (426-427)

• A further distinction (I'm getting this picture of Kant's mind as a huge complex of Venn diagrams?!): Judgments of "sense"/"material"/"charms" & "emotions" Kant dubs "empirical"; again, only "formal" judgments are pure (426A-B).

• Kant's subsequent discussion of "pure"/mere colors and musical tones being more "matter" than "form" (426B) at first seems, at best, much ado about nothing; at worst, confusing and contradictory. (He will later denigrate color as part of the form in works of sculpture & architecture—& painting?!)

• Again, all that trivial "charm" stuff is only "prejudicial to genuine, uncorrupted, well-founded taste" (427A). (I just love that dogmatic phrase—doubting all the while that there is such a thing, "pure" and outside of ideology.)

• To clarify his color/musical tone discussion, Kant claims that, for "painting, sculpture, and . . . . all the formative arts," it is "delineation [that] is the essential thing"; "what pleases by means of its form . . . . is fundamental for taste." In contrast, the "colors which light up the sketch belong to the charm," and are thus of peripheral regard?!—and thus outside the purview of "pure" aesthetic judgment (427A). (I would guess that many painters would disagree with this?! And how about poetry?: are rhythm, assonance, and other prosodic features likewise mere peripheral "charms"?! Actually, I remember Wordsworth actually saying something like this in his 1802 Preface. . . . .)

• Kant's next division is pretty cool (and his argument above is made clearer): "Every form of the objects of sense (both of external sense and also mediately of internal) is either figure or play. In the latter case it is either play of figures (in space, viz. pantomime and dancing), or the mere play of sensations (in time [e.g., music—and literature?!]). The charm of colors or of the pleasant tones of an instrument may be added; but the delineation in the first case and the composition in the second constitute the proper object of the pure judgment of taste" (427A). (My quibble: hearing a Charlie Parker sax solo or a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo on, say, a church organ changes—uh—more than just some peripheral "charm"; I would thus have to claim that the instrument's very timbre makes up part of this "pure form" shtuff of which Kant speaks.)

• Finally, "Emotion" is another impure/bogus consideration when judging beauty ("subliminity" is an exception he'll deal with later): as "a sensation in which pleasantness is produced by means of a momentary checking and a consequent more powerful outflow of the vital force," it "does not belong at all to beauty" (427B; see 433B for a more detailed treatment). (And yet Wordsworth may well have had this passage in the back of his mind when he wrote about poetry being "emotion recollected in tranquility." Conversely, the later New Critics ate up this Kantian notion in their conception of the affective fallacy.)


XV. The Judgment of Taste Is Quite Independent of the Concept of Perfection (427B-428)

• Key (Summary) Definition: "the beautiful, the judging of which has at its basis a merely formal purposiveness, i.e. a purposiveness without purpose, is quite independent of the concept of the good; because the latter presupposes an objective purposiveness, i.e. the reference of the object to a definite purpose" (427B).

• Perfection is defined as "objective internal purposiveness"—and it is a definite purposiveness (in contrast to beauty) in which "the concept of what sort of thing it is to be must come first." This concept "furnishes the rule." (427B). (In sum, it's a deductive operation, versus pure aesthetic judgment.) "In this what the thing ought to be is conceived as already determined"; in contrast, in judgments about form/beauty, "the agreement of the manifold with a unity (it being undetermined what this ought to be), gives to cognition no objective purposiveness whatever" (428A).

• Therefore "perfection" and "beauty" are apples & oranges: "But to represent to oneself a formal objective purposiveness without purpose, i.e. the mere form of a perfection (without any matter and without the concept of that with which it is accordant . . . is a veritable contradiction" (428A). To state the converse (in another good summary statement): "Now the judgment of taste is an aesthetical judgment, i.e. such as rests on subjective grounds, the determining ground of which cannot be a concept, and consequently cannot be the concept of a definite purpose" (428A).

• As these "proofs" develop, Kant more and more clearly distinguishes aesthetics from rational understanding: "an aesthetical judgment is unique of its kind, and gives absolutely no cognition (not even a confused cognition) of the object; this is only supplied by a logical judgment" (428B). (Thus 20th-c. New Critics will be able to speak of the "poem" as involving a quite non-rational experience, as a humanistic bastion set apart from scientific thinking, as its own object of aesthetic "knowledge.")


XVI. The Judgment of Taste, by Which an Object Is Declared to Be Beautiful Under the Condition of a Definite Concept, Is Not Pure (428B-429)

• Now let's distinguish "free beauty" and "dependent [or adherent] beauty": expectedly, the latter is "dependent upon a concept (conditioned beauty), is ascribed to Objects which come under the concept of a particular purpose" (428B). In contrast: "In the judging of a free beauty (according to the mere form), the judgment of taste is pure. There is presupposed no concept of any purpose which the manifold of the given object is to serve" (429A).

• Examples? For "free beauty," check out nature: "Flowers are free natural beauties" (since most of us aren't botanists and know jack about their "natural purpose") (428B). "Many birds . . . and many sea shells are beauties, in themselves"—that is, "they please freely and in themselves" (428B-429A). As for human art, abstract patterns or "delineations . . . are free beauties"; so are "music phantasies (i.e. pieces without any theme), and in fact all music without words" (429A).

Frankly, this section raises lots of questions. As for natural "objects," I'm sorry, but to assume that certain other species, even entire taxonomical genera, are "beautiful" de facto (and cross-culturally?!) just seems plain weird. (And are dandelions flowers? or weeds?!) As for "all music without words": what about "program" music, which is composed about a known theme or subject supposedly familiar to both composer and audience? (That is, it is supplied with a concept.) Finally, "all music without words" can't be "beautiful"—certainly I've written some crappy metal anthems in my day—so that such works only qualify as being eligible to be judged beautiful must be implicit in the argument? (Later add: cf. Eagleton's "bad fine writing"!)

• HUMAN beauty: "But human beauty (i.e. of a man, a woman, or a child), the beauty of a horse, or a building . . . presupposes a concept of the purpose which determines what the thing is to be, and consequently a concept of its perfection; it is therefore adherent beauty" (429A) (because "perfection," as we have seen, is inevitably bound up in concepts).

—I actually checked several translations to see if "horse" was a typo for "house," but no, it's "horse." So why is "horse" included here with humans and houses, and not with flowers and birds? Because, as a domesticated (& cross-bred, etc.) creature, a horse is rather another "handiwork" of humankind?!

•• Eurocentric/Racist Alert: Kant's examples of "bad taste" in the adornment of humans and their buildings, etc., include the odd statement, "We could adorn a figure with all kinds of spirals and light but regular lines, as the New Zealanders do with their tattooing, if only it were not the figure of a human being" (429A). It's an obscure reference (to the indigenous Maori people, my source work tells me), but the implication is pretty clear, that such weird, non-Western artwork might be fine on a picture frame or an exotic brown body, but it isn't really fit for a (real/civilized) human?! (Nor—reading Kant's mind—is the practice of tattooing itself?)

• Conclusion: "A judgment of taste, then, in respect of an object with a definite internal purpose, can only be pure, if either the person judging has no concept of this purpose, or else abstracts from it in his judgment." That the latter is an option creates another problem, as some will judge a work "purely," some "impurely" (considering the purpose/concepts). "By means of this distinction we can settle many disputes about beauty between judges of taste; by showing that the one is speaking of free, the other of dependent, beauty—that the first is making a pure, the second an applied, judgment of taste" (429B).

This last distinction is pretty useful, really. Thus the formalist literary critic can judge Uncle Tom's Cabin solely(?!) on its narratological structure, etc., while the moral or historical (or whatever) scholar might like the book a lot more because of its didactic anti-slavery message and its historical importance to the abolitionist movement. The former, "pure" critic will say, "No fair! You can't be doin' that!" And point them to Kant. . . . (Or we can agree with Eagleton that there's no such thing as "pure" criticism.)

XVII. Of the Ideal of Beauty (429B-431)

[Redundant opening summary:] "There can be no objective rule of taste which shall determine by means of concepts what is beautiful. For every judgment from this source is aesthetical; i.e. the feeling of the subject, and not a concept of the object . . . ." And again, this subjectivity is "universal," but can we therefore find an "ideal," that contains "The universal communicability of sensation (satisfaction or dissatisfaction) without the aid of a concept—the agreement, as far as is possible, of all times and peoples as regards this feeling in the representation of certain objects"? (429B). (Spoiler alert: since an ideal is conceptual, probably not. Plus, "all times and peoples" sounds downright scary & fascist.)

• As usual, it turns out to be a subjective "as if": "It follows . . . that the highest model, the archetype of taste, is a mere idea, which every one must produce in himself and according to which he must judge every object of taste . . . . Idea properly means a rational concept, and ideal the representation of an individual being, regarded as adequate to an idea. Hence that archetype of taste . . . is better called the ideal of the beautiful. Although we are not in possession of this, we yet strive to produce it in ourselves. But it can only be an ideal of the imagination . . . ." And so this "ideal" can't "appertain to the object of a quite pure judgment of taste, but to that of a judgment of taste which is in part intellectual. That is, in whatever grounds of judgment an ideal is to be found, an idea of reason in accordance with definite concepts must lie at its basis; which determines a priori the purpose on which the internal possibility of the object rests" (430A).

• Another untoward (yet predictable) turn to the HUMAN—and a very anthropocentric statement: "The only being which has the purpose of its existence in itself is man, who can determine his purposes by reason . . . . This man is, then, alone of all objects in the world, susceptible of an Ideal of beauty; as it is only humanity in his person, as an intelligence, that is susceptible of the Ideal of perfection." (Note that Kant is talking here about the human as object, not projecting subject, of this ideal.)

• So—an ideal of human beauty? (oh, oh): "First, there is the aesthetical normal[?!] idea, which is an individual intuition (of the imagination), representing the standard of our judgment upon man as a thing belonging to a particular animal species. Secondly, there is the rational idea which" reveals "the purposes of humanity. . . . " Now, for a "universal standard of aesthetical judgment upon each individual of this species"—well, only an image that represents "the whole race and not any isolated individual is adequate" (430B). (It's important to note that "race" was commonly synonymous with species in Kant's day; thus he's talking about the human "race" in this instance.)

• This ideal arises, then, with a generalizing ability of the "imagination": "the imagination can . . . reproduce the image of the figure of the object out of an unspeakable number of objects of different kinds or even of the same kind." Moreover, "the Imagination can, in all probability, actually though unconsciously*, let one image glide into another, and thus by the concurrence of several of the same kind come by an average, which serves as the common measure of all." Let the imagination do a little "fuzzy-math" interpolation (as it were) and voilà: "this is the stature of a beautiful man" (430B)!

*: Note that the (however vague) concept of the unconscious was employed by various German Idealists and German & British Romantics a good century before Freud gave it its "scientific" formulation. (BTW, my ancient M.A. thesis argued that the Romantics pretty much "discovered" the concept. Wordsworth's quaint term for it was the "underconsciousness.")

• Here, Kant is thankfully more multiculturally aware than usual: "If now in a similar way for this average man we seek the average head, for this head the average nose, etc., such figure is at the basis of the normal idea in the country where the comparison is instituted. Thus necessarily under these empirical conditions a Negro must have a different normal idea of the beauty of the human figure from a white man, a Chinaman a different normal Idea from a European, etc." (430B-431A).

But lots of quibbles remain. For instance, the "ideal" "Negro" would be an unfortunate "average" of many quite different African indigenous tribes; ditto the indigenous tribes of the Americas: that is, coming up with some hodgepodge composite figure incorporating the Hopi and the Lakota seems just plain wrong-headed! And the biggest objection, of course: why/how should, in fact, such an entirely normative figure = "the beautiful"? (Kant's defense would include the fact that he's now only talking about this semi-bogus—because corrupted by an "idea of reason"—"ideal," not about the aesthetically beautiful per se.)

• But Kant has a high opinion of this "averaging" of beauty: This ideal of beauty "can therefore contain nothing specifically characteristic, for otherwise it would not be the normal idea for the race. Its presentation pleases, not by its beauty, but merely because it contradicts no condition, under which alone a thing of this kind can be beautiful." (Sounds like a mannequin?!)

• We can derive for any animal species, etc., a "normal idea of the beautiful," but an "ideal" of the beautiful "we can only expect in the human figure." (Of course.) Why? Because herein beauty is combined with the "good," the moral: "In this the ideal consists in the expression of the moral, without which the object would not please universally[!]"—via this "visible expression of moral ideas that rule men inwardly. . . ." ((Huh?? So—I can tell by his visage that that fellow is both good-looking and a pillar of virtue?) So here "our reason unites with the morally good in the idea of the highest purposiveness—goodness of heart, purity, strength, peace, etc.,—visible as it were[!] in bodily manifestation" (431A).

• But again, and as negative conclusion: "This shows that a judgment in accordance with such a standard can never be purely aesthetical, and that a judgment in accordance with an ideal of beauty is not a mere judgment of taste" (431B).


Explanation of the Beautiful Resulting from the Third Moment (431B)

• "Beauty is the form of the purposiveness of an object, so far as this is perceived in it without any representation of a purpose." Kant's footnote to this is actually more interesting and clarifying: "A flower, for instance a tulip [and not a dandelion?!], is regarded as beautiful because in perceiving it we find a certain purposiveness which, in our judgment, is referred to no purpose at all." (I think this means—we intuit a purpose for which we can provide no cognitive reason.)


Fourth Moment: Of the Judgment of Taste, According to the Modality of the Satisfaction in the Object


XVIII. What the Modality in a Judgment of Taste Is (431B-432A)

• The aesthetic judgment of beauty is (once again) a special case: "It is not a theoretical objective necessity, in which case it would be cognized a priori that every one will feel this satisfaction in the object called beautiful by me." Nor is it a "practical necessity" based upon "concepts of a pure rational will": it "can only be called exemplary; i.e. a necessity of the assent of all to a judgment which is regarded as the example of a universal rule that we cannot state. And again: "this necessity cannot be derived from definite concepts . . . ."


XIX. The Subjective Necessity, Which We Ascribe to the Judgment of Taste, Is Conditioned (432A)

• "[H]e who describes anything as beautiful claims that everyone ought to give his approval to the object in question and also describe it as beautiful. The ought in the aesthetical judgment is . . . only conditioned [i.e., conditional?]. We ask for the agreement of every one else, because we have for it a ground that is common to all; and we could count on this agreement, provided we were always sure that the case was correctly subsumed under that ground as rule of assent."


XX. The Condition of Necessity Which a Judgment of Taste Asserts I[s] the Idea of a Common Sense (432A)

• Aesthetic judgments neither have "a definite objective principle," nor are they "devoid of all principle, like those of the mere taste of sense"; so "they must have a subjective principle which determines what pleases or displeases only by feeling and not by concepts, but yet with universal validity. But such a principle could only be regarded as a common sense, which is essentially different from common understanding which people sometimes call common sense . . . . (So it's might better be called a "universal sense," in contrast to the common English expression: which I'm thankful Kant didn't analyze in any detail!)


XXI. Have We Ground for Presupposing a Common Sense? (432)

• Without the universal grounding of this (redefined) "common sense," aesthetic judgments "would be collectively a mere subjective play of the representative powers, exactly as scepticism would have it" (indeed!). This "common sense" is an accord of mental faculties that "takes place when a given object by means of sense excites the imagination to collect the manifold, and the imagination in its turn excites the understanding to bring about a unity of this collective process in concepts" (again, conceptual "understanding" is required because "unity" is another one of Kant's twelve a priori categories of reason). However, it remains subjective, at last: "this accordance can only be determined by feeling (not according to concepts)."

• But Kant's conclusion is circular reasoning?: "since the universal communicability of a feeling presupposes a common sense, we have grounds for assuming this latter."


XXII. The Necessity of the Universal Agreement That Is Thought in a Judgment of Taste Is a Subjective Necessity, Which Is Represented as Objective Under the Presupposition of a Common Sense (432B-433A)

• "In all judgments" of the beautiful, "we allow no one to be of another opinion, without however grounding our judgment on concepts but only on our feeling, which we therefore place at its basis not as a private, but as a communal feeling." This doesn't mean "that everyone will agree with my judgment, but that he ought" (thus I have called this Kant's "aesthetic imperative"). It "is a mere ideal norm, under the supposition of which I have a right to make into a rule for everyone a judgment that accords" with "common sense." It's a "principle" that, "although only subjective, is yet assumed as subjectively universal (an idea necessary for everyone); and thus can claim universal assent (as if it were objective) . . . ."

• "This indeterminate norm of a common sense is actually presupposed by us"; but "Whether there is in fact such a common sense . . . or whether a yet higher principle of reason makes it only into a regulative principle for producing in us a common sense"—well, "these questions we have neither the wish nor the power to investigate as yet"! (BTW, calling this "common sense" a "regulative principle" puts it—and aesthetic judgement itself—in the same "as if" category as the belief in God, immortality, etc.—i.e., ethics, or "practical reason.")


Explanation of the Beautiful Resulting from the Fourth Moment (433A)

• "The beautiful is that which without any concept is cognized as the object of a necessary satisfaction." (By this point, I read "necessary" as regarding that universal "ought" that we can't help but assume in our aesthetic judgments.)



from Second Book: Analytic of the Sublime


XXIII. Transition from the Faculty Which Judges of the Beautiful to That Which Judges of the Sublime (433-434)

• Both the "beautiful and sublime" are "[aesthetic] judgments of reflection" (433A-B); both "announce themselves as universally valid for every subject, although they lay claim merely to the feeling of pleasure and not to any knowledge of the object" (433B).

• But there are "remarkable differences." For starters, "The beautiful in nature is connected with the form of the object, which consists in having definite boundaries. The sublime, on the other hand, is to be found in a formless object, so far as in it or by occasion of it boundlessness is represented . . . ." Also, the beautiful "directly brings with it a feeling of the furtherance of life, and thus is compatible with charms and with the play of the imagination. But . . . the feeling of the sublime is a pleasure that arises only indirectly; viz. it is produced by the feeling of a momentary checking of the vital powers and a consequent stronger outflow of them, so that it seems to be regarded as emotion—not play, but earnest in the exercise of the imagination. Hence it is incompatible with physical charm; and as the mind is not merely attracted by the object but is ever being alternately repelled, the satisfaction in the sublime does not so much involve a positive pleasure as admiration or respect, which rather deserves to be called negative pleasure" (433B; see also 427B).

• A further distinction: "Natural beauty brings with it a purposiveness in its form by which the object seems to be . . . pre-adapted to our judgment . . . . On the other hand, that which excites in us, without any reasoning about it, but in the mere apprehension of it, the feeling of the sublime, may appear as regards its form to violate purpose in respect of the judgment, to be unsuited to our presentative faculty, and, as it were, to do violence to the imagination; and yet it is judged to be only the more sublime[!]" (433B-434A).

• Given all this "violence" and "violation," sublimity is really "found in the mind, for no sensible form [in nature] can contain the sublime properly so-called. . . . Thus the wide ocean, agitated by the storm, cannot be called sublime." It is rather the mind that attains sublimity, having been "incited to abandon sensibility and to busy itself with [though fail to arrive at!] ideas that involve higher purposiveness" (434A).

• Again, the psyche projects this "purposiveness"; and again—returning to the judgment of beauty—Kant compares nature to art: "our judgment requires that these [natural beauties] must not be judged as merely belonging to nature in its purposeless mechanism, but also as belonging to something analogous to art" (434A; see also 420A). But the sublime is different: "nature excites the ideas of the sublime in its chaos or in its wildest and most irregular disorder and desolation . . . ." The sublime "displays nothing purposive in nature itself, but only in that possible use of our intuitions of it by which there is produced in us a feeling of a purposiveness quite independent of nature. We must seek a ground external to ourselves for the beautiful of nature; but seek it for the sublime merely in ourselves and in our attitude of thought, which introduces sublimity into the representation of nature" (434A).


XXIV. Of the Divisions of an Investigation into the Feeling of the Sublime (434B)

• More DIVISION (as Kant continues to his "murdering to dissect"!)—"a division into the mathematically and the dynamically sublime." In both cases, the sublime "brings with it as its characteristic feature a movement of the mind bound up with the judging of the object, while the case of the beautiful taste presupposes and maintains the mind in restful contemplation." But, like the aesthetic judgment of beauty, both types of the sublime "ought to be judged as subjectively purposive"—and yet "without purpose or interest." (Of course.)

To clarify Kant's division as developed in the following sections: the "mathematically" sublime more involves the object's "great"/"infinite"/"totalizing" magnitude per se (although this is still a subjective feeling/judgment); the "dynamically" sublime—think of a "dynamically" rolling ocean wave—entails the individual mind's involvement with the object's great might, so that fear is involved (one is "moved" by this fear—"dynamically"—to run away, if you will).


A. Of the Mathematically Sublime


XXV. Explanation of the Term Sublime (434B-435)

• "We call that sublime which is absolutely great," that is "great beyond all comparison" (434B).

• As should be obvious, the sublime isn't about objective measurements: "there is always at the basis of our judgment a standard which we assume as the same for everyone; this, however, is not available for any logical (mathematically definite) judging of magnitude, but only for aesthetical judging of the same, because it is a merely subjective standard . . . ." But size DOES matter here: "although we have no interest whatever in an object . . . yet its mere size, even if it is considered as formless, may bring a satisfaction with it that is universally communicable, and that consequently involves the consciousness of a subjective purposiveness in the use of our cognitive faculty. This is not indeed a satisfaction in the object (because it may be formless), as in the case of the beautiful . . . but a satisfaction in the extension of the imagination by itself" (435A).

• "But if we call anything . . . absolutely great . . . (great beyond all comparison), i.e. sublime, we soon see that it is not permissible to seek for an adequate standard of this outside itself, but merely in itself. It is a magnitude which is like itself alone. It follows hence that the sublime is not to be sought in the things of nature, but only in our ideas" (435B)—again (to rehearse a tried-&-true theme by now), because the "absolute" is an a priori projection of the Kantian mind . . . as the next bullet point clarifies:

• (Another) Definition: "the sublime is that in comparison with which everything else is small." But it's not intrinsic to the object, because "we easily see that nothing can be given in nature, however great it is judged by us to be, which could not, if considered in another relation, be reduced to the infinitely small"! "Nothing, therefore, which can be an object of the senses, is . . . to be called sublime. But because there is in our imagination a striving towards infinite progress, and in our reason a claim for absolute totality . . . therefore this very inadequateness for that idea in our faculty for estimating the magnitude of things of sense excites in us the feeling of a supersensible faculty." (Pretty ingenious!) In sum, "it is the state of mind . . . that is to be called sublime" (435B).

• Concluding Definition: "the sublime is that, the mere ability to think which shows a faculty of the mind surpassing every standard of sense" (435B; though I assume the syntax is clearer in the original German?!).


XXVI. Of that Estimation of the Magnitude of Natural Things Which Is Requisite for the Idea of the Sublime (435B-436)

• As intimated above, I think that Kant's idea that the sublime is the product of a cognitive dissonance—that is, the mind's awareness of its own "inadequacy"—is fairly brilliant: "Nature is . . . sublime in those of its phenomena whose intuition brings with it the idea of its infinity. This last can only come by the inadequacy of the greatest effort of our imagination to estimate the magnitude of an object" (435B-436A). But it remains an "aesthetical estimation of magnitude in which it is felt that the effort towards comprehension surpasses the power of the imagination" (436A).

• And it involves the categories of infinity/totality: "the proper unchangeable fundamental measure of nature is its absolute whole; which . . . would be infinity comprehended. But since this fundamental measure is a self-contradictory concept (on account of the impossibility of the absolute totality of an endless progress), that magnitude of a natural object on which the imagination fruitlessly spends its whole faculty of comprehension must carry our concept of nature to a supersensible substrate . . . . As this, however, is great beyond all standards of sense, it makes us judge as sublime, not so much the object, as our own state of mind in the estimation of it." And so "true sublimity must be sought only in the mind of the subject judging, not in the natural object the judgment upon which occasions this state." The "mind feels itself elevated in its own judgment if"—"abandoning itself to the imagination and to the reason"—"it yet finds the whole power of the imagination inadequate to its ideas" (436A).

• In (redundant) conclusion: "the sublime in the aesthetical judging of an immeasurable whole like this [the preceding grand cosmological example] lies, not so much in the greatness of the number of units, as in the fact that in our progress we ever arrive at yet greater units." This is, in sum, "our imagination with its entire freedom from bounds" (436B).


XXVII. Of the Quality of the Satisfaction in Our Judgments upon the Sublime (436B-437A)

• "The feeling of our incapacity to attain to an idea which is a law for us is respect." ("Awe" is the more common term for this in discussions of sublimity?) "Now . . . the intuition of a[n absolute] whole is a law [or a priori category] of reason"; this "whole" we "attribute to an object of nature (conversion of respect for the idea of humanity in our own subject into respect for the Object)" (436; this humanistic/anthropocentric high regard for the human psyche is getting a little tiring).

• Sublimity as Pain + Pleasure: "The feeling of the sublime is therefore a feeling of pain arising from the want of accordance between the aesthetical estimation of magnitude formed by the imagination and the estimation of the same formed by reason. [Brilliant.] Simultaneously, "a pleasure" is "excited, arising from the correspondence with rational ideas of this very judgment of the inadequacy of our greatest faculty of sense, insofar as it is a law for us to strive after these ideas" (436B; I guess you have to be more of a rational than I to understand this as "pleasure"?!). In other words: "the greatest effort of the imagination" goes into considering/judging "something absolutely great," calling for "a reference to the law of reason"; this "involves a pain"—and yet it is also "pleasurable to find every standard of sensibility inadequate to the ideas of understanding" (437A; again, rather a masochistic "pleasure"?).

• "The mind feels itself moved in the representation of the sublime in nature, while in aesthetical judgments about the beautiful it is in restful contemplation. This movement may . . . be compared to a vibration, i.e. to a quickly alternating attraction towards, and repulsion from, the same object. The transcendent . . . is for the imagination like an abyss in which it fears to lose itself"!! (Wonderful. And so rationalist.) In conclusion, and of course: "But the judgment itself always remains in this case only aesthetical, because, without having any determinate concept of the object at its basis, it merely represents the subjective play of the mental powers (imagination and reason) as harmonious through their very contrast" (437A).


B. Of the Dynamically Sublime in Nature


XXVIII. Of Nature Regarded as Might (437-438A)

• The Sublime, Part II: "Nature, considered in an aesthetical judgment as might that has no dominion over us, is dynamically sublime." (To clarify, if it had immediate dominion, we'd be too really afraid to be getting all "aesthetic"!?)

• And yet: "If nature is to be judged by us as dynamically sublime, it must be represented as exciting fear"; indeed, "nature can be regarded by the aesthetical judgment as might, and consequently as dynamically sublime, only so far as it is considered an object of fear."

• But: "we can regard an object as fearful, without being afraid of it"—but, as I indicated above, not too afraid!: "He who fears can form no judgment about the sublime in nature, just as he who is seduced by inclination and appetite can form no judgment about the beautiful. The former flies from the sight of an object which inspires him with awe, and it is impossible to find satisfaction in a terror that is seriously felt." (In sum, you probably can't appreciate the sublime in the mighty form of the tiger if it's about to gnaw on your face.)

• Likely an oft quoted passage in Kant?: "Bold, overhanging, and, as it, were threatening, rocks; clouds piled 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 readily 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."

• "Now, in the immensity of nature, and in the inadequacy of our faculties . . . we find our own limitation, although at the same time in our rational faculty we find a different, nonsensuous standard, which has that infinity itself under it as a unit, and in comparison with which everything in nature is small, and thus in our mind we find a superiority to nature even in its immensity." [Ugh—such human hubris!]

• Indeed, it's all about us humans, isn't it?: "Thus humanity in our person remains unhumiliated . . . . nature is not judged to be sublime in our aesthetical judgments in so far as it excites fear, but because it calls up that power in us (which is not nature) of regarding as small the things about which we are solicitous (goods, health, and life), and of regarding its might . . . as nevertheless without any dominion over us and our personality to which we must bow where our highest fundamental propositions . . . are concerned. Therefore nature is here called sublime merely because it elevates the imagination to . . . the proper sublimity of its destination, in comparison with nature itself."

Ugh. The contemporary ecocritic would object that, on the contrary, that grand "power" in the brain physiology of homo sapiens is entirely a part of nature—and that "nature" actually does have complete "dominion over us." Kant, in my humble opinion, is very much blinded by the twin ideologies of humanism and rationalism.

• In conclusion (and of course): "Sublimity . . . does not reside in anything of nature, but only in our mind, insofar as we can become conscious that we are superior to nature within, and therefore also to nature without us (so far as it influences us)." [Lord help me.]


XLIX. Of the Faculties of the Mind That Constitute Genius (438-439)

• "We say of certain" works of "art, they are without spirit, although we find nothing to blame in them on the score of taste" (438A-B). "A poem may be very neat and elegant, but without spirit"; moreover [sexism alert!:], even of a woman we say that she is pretty, an agreeable talker, and courteous, but without spirit" (438B; ergo a woman &symp; an object of art).

• Definition: "Spirit, in an aesthetical sense, is the name given to the animating principle of the mind. . . . this principle is . . . the faculty of presenting aesthetical ideas. And by an aesthetical idea I understand that 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." (Thus it is the converse, so to speak, "of a rational idea" [438B].) [To beat a dead horse, this privileging of aesthetics and the imagination as beyond the "intelligibility" of rational discourse will prove influential. Indeed, the last sentence is a pretty good statement of what the New Critics would call the "heresy of paraphrase."]

• "The imagination . . . is very powerful in creating another nature, as it were, out of the material that actual nature gives it." Yes, this creativity is "also in accordance with principles which occupy a higher place in reason"—of course!—but via the imagination, "we feel our freedom from the law of association": such raw materials "can be worked up into something different which surpasses nature" (438B).

This "freedom from the laws of association" is not only a shot at British Empiricism (e.g., Locke's associationalism), but it sets up Romantic theorists (like Coleridge) who will make much of the distinction between mere "Fancy" (which is only associational) and the vaunted Romantic "Imagination," which issues from an unconscious fount, has a powerful synthetic force, etc.—and issues in good part from Kant.

• Once again, "no concept can be fully adequate to" such creative representations; they contain "more thought than can ever be comprehended in a definite concept"; they "arouse more thought than can be expressed in a concept determined by words." The creative imagination points towards the "unbounded": the "imagination . . . emulates the play of reason[?!] in its quest after a maximum, to go beyond the limits of experience and to present them to sense with a completeness of which there is no example in nature." This "is, properly speaking, the art of the poet" (439A).

• What? Some Actual Examples?!: "painting or sculpture" of course may possess this creative genius, this "spirit," but "poetry and rhetoric also" have this "spirit that animates their works" (439A). However, Kant's example of "spirited" poetry is pretty "18th-century" lame, even the French original, which is written in a French meter analogous to Pope's heroic couplets. But supposedly the poet here "quickens his rational idea of a cosmopolitan disposition at the end of life by an attribute which the imagination . . . associates with that representation, and which excites a number of sensations and secondary representations for which no expression is found" (439B; this sounds very like T. S. Eliot's "objective correlative," BTW). Such a combination of "rational idea" (or "theme"?!) combined with imaginative sensory imagery results in a transcendence that "no expression measured by a definite concept completely attains" (439B). [This passage, too, sounds very much like the New Critics.]

• Conclusion: "the aesthetical idea is a representation of the imagination associated with a given concept, which is bound up with such a multiplicity of partial representations in its free employment that for it no expression marking a definite concept can be found" (439B). But we knew that.


LIII. Comparison of the Respective Aesthetical Worth of the Beautiful Arts (440)

In Praise of Poetry; or: Poetry Rocks!: "Of all the arts poetry (which owes its origin almost entirely to genius[!] and will least be guided by precept or example [wow]]) maintains the first rank. It expands the mind by setting the imagination at liberty and by offering, within the limits of a given subject . . . that which unites the presentment of this concept with a wealth of thought to which no verbal expression is completely adequate, and so rising aesthetically to ideas." [I'm understanding the "concept," as in the previous passage, as involving the "theme" or "subject" of the poem, which really limits "liberty" & "play"?!]

• Poetry versus Rhetoric: poetry "plays with illusion, which it produces at pleasure, but without deceiving by it; for it declares its exercise to be mere play"; in contrast: "Rhetoric," or "the art of persuasion, i.e. of deceiving by a beautiful show . . . is a dialectic which borrows from poetry only so much as is needful to win minds to the side of the orator before they have formed a judgment, and to deprive them of their freedom[!]; it cannot therefore be recommended either for the law courts or for the pulpit[!]." Thus rhetoric is "deceitful" even if aimed towards the good & the true: "It is not enough to do what is right; we should practice it solely on the ground that it is right," not because of the false persuasion of rhetoric. [This statement is very much in the "categorical" tone of Kant's morality—of his "practical reason"—in general, BTW.] If right is right, why "add the machinery of persuasion, which, since it can be used equally well to beautify or to hide vice and error, cannot quite lull the secret suspicion that one is being artfully overreached[!]." (Welcome to U.S. politics!) In contrast, "[i]n poetry everything proceeds with honesty and candor. It declares itself to be a mere[!] entertaining play of the imagination . . . and it does not desire to steal upon and ensnare the understanding by the aid of sensible presentation." [Interestingly, the deconstructionist Paul de Man's essays on poetry in the 1970s include the argument that poetry, too, is ultimately "rhetorical"—and therefore (all the more) deceitful.]

   


WORKS CITED

Adams, Hazard, and Leroy Searle. "Immanuel Kant." Critical Theory Since Plato. Edited by Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle, 3rd ed., Thomson Wadsworth, 2005, pp. 416-419.

Kant, Immanuel. "[F]rom Critique of Judgment." 1790. Critical Theory Since Plato. Edited by Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle, 3rd ed., Thomson Wadsworth, 2005, pp. 419-440.

  —TCG, July 2016


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