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The Problem of Free Harmony in

KANT’S AESTHETICS

The Problem of Free Harmony in

KANT’S AESTHETICS

Kenneth F. Rogerson

STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK PRESS

Published by State University of New York Press, Albany

©2008 State University of New York

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rogerson, Kenneth F., 1948–

The problem of free harmony in Kant’s aesthetics / Kenneth F. Rogerson. p. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7914-7625-3 (hardcover : alk. paper)

1. Kant, Immanuel, 1724–1804—Aesthetics.

cm.

2. Aesthetics, Modern—18th

century. I. Title. B2799.A4R67 2008

111.85092—dc22

2008019519

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Contents

Acknowledgments / vii

Note on Citations and Translations / ix

Introduction / 1

1

The Problem of Free Harmony / 7

2

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas / 25

3

Natural and Artistic Beauty / 41

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Free Harmony and Aesthetic Pleasure / 57

5

The Extensiveness of the Criterion of Beauty / 69

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Beauty, Free Harmony, and Moral Duty / 83

Appendix

The Meaning of Universal Validity in Kant’s Aesthetics / 101

Postscript

The Argument for Universal Validity / 111

Notes / 119

Index / 133

v

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the two anonymous readers for State University of New York Press. Their suggestions have greatly improved this book. I also thank my wife, Linda, and my son, Dylan, for their continued support.

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Note on Citations and Translations

Citations to the Critique of Pure Reason are to the standard A and B page num- bers referring to the first and second editions. Citations of all other of Kant’s works are to the volume and page number of the standard German edition of his collected works: Kants gesammelte Schriften (KGS). For citations to the Critique of the Power of Judgment, I have used the translation by Guyer and Matthews with one exception: For the appendix, which is a reprint of a much earlier article of mine, I use the Meredith translation as was the case in the orig- inal article. Also, I shall refer to the Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, and the Critique of the Power of Judgment as the first Critique, the second Critique, and the third Critique, respectively. Listed as follows are the original works and translations that I have used.

A/B Kritik der reinen Vernuf (KGS 3–4). Critique of Pure Reason, trans. N. Kemp Smith. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965. JL Jasche Logik (KGS 9). The Jasche Logic, Lectures on Logic, trans. Michael Young. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Cam- bridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 521–640. Gr Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (KGS 4). Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. H. J. Paton. New York: Harper and Row,

1964.

KU Kritik der Urteilskraft (KGS 5). Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans.

Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,

2000.

ix

Introduction

This book is a study of the first half of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (later translated as the Critique of the Power of Judgment) and hereafter referred to as the third Critique) entitled the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” My cen- tral concern is to give an interpretation of what is arguably the most important issue in Kant’s aesthetic theory, namely, the notion of a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. In the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant argues that an object is beautiful (is to be judged an aesthetically good ob- ject to appreciate) if and only if it gives us pleasure the source of which is a men- tal state similar to cognition entitled the “free harmony of the imagination and the understanding.” Kant believes that if and only if our aesthetic pleasure is based on such a mental state can our judgments of taste rise above mere sub- jectivity and make a claim that holds for all who properly appreciate aesthetic objects. This is Kant’s way of trying to justify a kind of “objectivity” about aes- thetic judgments. Kant holds that judgments of taste occupy a special position between mere subjectivity and outright objectivity. He wants to argue, in a way perhaps unique to the history of philosophy, that aesthetic judgments are “subjectively universal.” They are subjective since they are based on our feeling of pleasure. However, according to Kant, aesthetic judgments are more than this. When we make an aesthetic judgment we claim not only that the object pleases us but also that the object is universally pleasing. It is this claim to universality that makes aesthetic judgment rather like objective, empirical judgments. But fur- ther, Kant holds, free harmony is the basis of this pleasure. Ultimately, Kant’s position rests on the claim that aesthetic judgments are universally “valid” since they are based on the universal pleasurableness of the free harmony of the imag- ination and understanding. This description of Kant’s theory is not particularly controversial. Virtu- ally all scholars agree that this is Kant’s plan—to ground judgments of taste on the purported universal pleasure of free harmony. There are, however, two in- terpretative points that are quite controversial. Scholars will disagree concern-

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2

Introduction

ing what, exactly, a free harmony of the imagination and understanding could mean within the Kantian philosophy. Further, it is a controversial interpretative issue concerning why Kant believes that such a mental state is universally pleas- ing. These two interpretative issues are the central concerns for this book. I want to give a good answer to the question of what a free harmony is on Kant’s account and why such a mental state is pleasing. Even a sketchy description of free harmony will be slightly complicated since this notion refers back to Kant’s position on epistemology and meta-

physics. In the Critique of Pure Reason (Kant’s first Critique) Kant represents cog- nition as a matter of applying concepts to a manifold of sense data. Further, it is

a hallmark of the Kantian philosophy that concepts are considered to be rules

for the organization of these sense manifolds. To oversimplify for purposes of il- lustration, to cognize an object as a dog is to use the “dog rule” to organize the sense data provided to me. All the leg perceptions, fur perceptions, tail percep- tions, head perceptions, and so on, follow the concept/rule that we have for per- ceiving dogs. In general, Kant holds that “judging” objects as instantiating our concepts is a matter of recognizing that our sense data are organized by appro- priate rules. This process of conceptualizing data from the senses is character-

ized in the Critique of Judgment as “harmonizing” the faculty of understanding (the faculty of concepts) with the faculty of imagination (the faculty of receiv- ing sense data). So far so good. However, when Kant gives his account of aes- thetic appreciation he claims that we “harmonize” the understanding and imag- ination in a way that is “free” of concepts. Somehow, he wants to hold, we can perceive a manifold of sense data and “harmonize” it with our faculty of con- cepts (rules) but in a way that is not actually conceptually rule governed. Sup- posedly we can appreciate (judge) a manifold of sense as being rule-like, but without applying a rule. One may very well ask how this can be so. Finding an adequate answer to this question is a theme that runs through each of the chap- ters in this book. Arguably the chief problematic of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is to understand how Kant can talk about a manifold of particulars that is somehow rule governed but without benefit of rules. Each chapter is con- cerned in one way or another with making sense of a free harmony of the imag- ination and the understanding. In the course of this book, I want to offer a solution to this basic problem.

I

argue that Kant himself has a solution to the problem of free harmony but it

is

only developed around his notion of the expression of aesthetic ideas. Kant’s

doctrine of the expression of aesthetic ideas is more important for his broader

aesthetic theory than is commonly thought. In the latter portions of the “Cri- tique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant gives an account of how art (and even na- ture) can be interpreted as expressing themes or ideas that would otherwise be

Introduction

3

difficult to communicate—much more difficult to communicate than ordinary empirical concepts. I shall argue that only the doctrine of beauty as the expres- sion of ideas gives Kant a plausible explanation of how we can see objects of beauty as free harmonies. For example, Kant holds that an artist must create a work that provokes us to make new associations that come together in such a way to illustrate ideas that go well beyond our ordinary experience. In this way, aesthetic appreciation gives expression to moral and religious notions that on Kant’s account can never be known by mere empirical cognition. Expression of ideas, I argue, makes sense of the otherwise paradoxical notion of a free har- mony of the imagination and understanding. Aesthetic appreciation involves interpreting a manifold of sense as organized to express an idea which is not de- terminable by (free of) ordinary empirical concepts. Not only does expression of ideas play this explanatory role, but a normative role as well. I hold that ex- pression helps to explain why aesthetic appreciation is pleasing to us and fur- ther it explains why aesthetic experience is of moral value to us. This, then, sets up the basic thesis of my project here. Free harmony is a deeply paradoxical no- tion that cannot be adequately explained under ususal interpretations of Kant’s theory. The doctrine of expression of aesthetic ideas will solve this paradox and as a result expression of ideas becomes crucial for Kant’s aesthetic theory. While the main thesis of this book is quite straightforward, there is quite a lot to do in order to show that the position is plausible. In the first chapter I lay out the ba- sic problem that a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding ap- pears to be paradoxical by requiring us to contemplate “orderliness” yet with- out any defined order. I also survey and criticize interpretations that attempt to resolve this paradox. I argue that each such attempt comes up wanting. I fur- ther begin to develop my thesis that Kant’s doctrine of expression of aesthetic ideas will help us out of the paradox. Specifically, an artwork (or natural object) that can be interpreted as expressing an aesthetic idea will accomplish this ex- pression via a mental state that is free of concepts and yet orderly due to the fact that it expresses an idea. The topic of chapter 2 is Kant’s account of the expression of aesthetic ideas. Since I believe that expression of ideas is important to Kant’s broader theory of beauty, the point of this chapter is to look more closely at the doctrine of the expression of ideas and specifically the doctrine’s connection to the re- quirement that beauty be the appreciation of a free harmony. I argue that ex- pression of aesthetic ideas is not only consistent with the free harmony re- quirement but an extension and elaboration of that position. In the third chapter I consider a potential problem for my thesis that ex- pression of aesthetic ideas plays an important role in Kant’s theory. It would be natural to think that expression of aesthetic ideas could play a significant role

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Introduction

in an account of artistic beauty while it would be quite out of place concerning natural beauty. But since Kant considers natural beauty at least as important as artistic beauty, the emphasis on expression of ideas might seem misguided. I want to argue that the art/nature distinction in Kant has been overdrawn by scholars and that there is not an important criterial difference between the two. Even further, as Kant himself indicates, I want to argue that natural beauty can be seen as expressive in a way similar to artistic beauty and, in this way, defuse the objection raised. Chapter 4 addresses the issues of free harmony and expression of ideas from a slightly different direction than the previous chapters. In this chapter I consider a question fundamental to Kant’s account of aesthetic value, namely the claim that free harmony is the source of a universal pleasure. Specifically, I want to consider why Kant would regard free harmony pleasing at all, let alone, universally pleasing. This seemingly central question has not received sufficient attention in the literature. I argue that answering this evaluative question again leads to Kant’s account of expression of ideas. Chapter 5 concerns a problem that arises in chapter 1 and is connected to the proper interpretation of the free harmony of the imagination and the un- derstanding. This chapter is largely critical of current interpretations of free har- mony. I argue that if we were to accept current interpretations of free harmony, then Kant would be wedded to the thesis that every object we could appreciate would, in some sense, count as beautiful. This is a position that Kant clearly re- jects and as such the current interpretations are flawed. I also offer a solution to the problem that on many readings “everything is beautiful” for Kant. Again, I argue that appealing to the doctrine of aesthetic ideas will free Kant of this problem. Chapter 6 addresses what has become a controversial issue in the inter- pretation of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” Beyond claiming that ap- preciation of objects as free harmonies is universally pleasing, Kant claims that such appreciation is also of moral value. My task in this chapter is to analyze the relationship between pleasure in free harmony, following on the discussion of the previous chapter, and draw out the implications this has for our moral life. I have appended to the above chapters my essay “The Meaning of Uni- versal Validity in Kant’s Aesthetics,” as originally published with minor correc- tions, and have added a postscript to take into consideration current develop- ments. In this appendix I argue for an interpretation of Kant’s grounding of judgments of taste that involves all of the elements discussed previously. I lay out a case an interpretation of Kant’s argumentative strategy for establishing the universal validity of aesthetic judgments of taste that centrally uses his doc- trine of aesthetic ideas. In the postscript I go farther to consider and criticize

Introduction

5

current interpretations of Kant’s argument to the universal validity of judg- ments of taste. As described above, there is a central thesis that runs through each of the

chapters in this book; namely, that the doctrine of expression of aesthetic ideas

is needed to explain the possibility and the value of a free harmony of the imag-

ination and the understanding. However, the chapters that follow are also in- tended to be more or less self-standing essays addressing different aspects and problems in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” For example, chapter 3 can be read is an independent essay on Kant’s distinction between artistic and nat- ural beauty or chapter 6 can be read as an independent essay on the relation of

beauty and morality in Kant. In order that these chapters work as relatively in- dependent essays, certain discussions will show up more than once in the book.

I intended to give enough of the relevant discussion in each chapter to move

the point of the argument forward and refer the reader to a fuller treatment in other chapters. Such redundancy is, hopefully, excusable given the nature of the project.

1

The Problem of Free Harmony

I want to consider a particularly troublesome problem internal to Kant’s theory of beauty. In the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant argues that an object

is beautiful if and only if it is able to give us pleasure, the source of which is a mental state similar to cognition called the “free harmony of the imagination and the understanding.” And, an object that is able to occasion such a mental state of free harmony is said to exhibit “purposiveness without purpose.” 1 The problem for Kant scholars is how to make sense of either a “free harmony” of the cognitive faculties or of a “purposiveness” not directed by a purpose. What

I shall attempt here is first to lay out the problem in its most troublesome form

and argue, minimally, that there is a solution to Kant’s problems, at least for the case of artistic beauty—perhaps for natural beauty as well.

1

What we learn from the Critique of Pure Reason (Kant’s first Critique) is that the process of judgment is one of organizing a manifold of the imagination (a col- lection of sense particulars) by a concept of some sort. Further, it is character- istic of the Kantian philosophy that concepts are regarded as rules for how a manifold is governed. According to Kant, to judge that a manifold of sense par- ticulars falls under a concept (the job of the “understanding”) is to recognize that the manifold conforms to a particular rule—that the manifold is rule gov- erned. 2 The rule, as it were, is presumed to provide a schema of what our per- ception of a specific empirical objects is to be. To have the concept of a dog is to know what sort of order a perceptual manifold will possess. Now, while this is the most general description of judging, it is important to note that for Kant there are two different species of judging: determinate judgment and reflective judgment. Determinant judgments are ones where our predication of a “con- cept” to a manifold can be warranted on the grounds of experience (either di- rectly in the case of empirical concepts or on the basis of the “possibility” of ex-

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Chapter 1

perience in the case of the “pure concepts”). A reflective judgment, however, predicates “ideas” of a manifold, and in Kant’s technical sense the predication of “ideas” cannot be grounded in experience. “Ideas” like God, freedom, and im- mortality are notions the application of which always outstrips our evidential base. 3 For example, in the Critique of Judgment, (Kant’s third Critique) Kant is most interested to show that teleological judgments are reflective—they assert that nature is governed by purposes. And although, Kant argues, such assertions exceed our empirical evidence, it may be useful for doing science to act “as if” such judgments were true. This continues a theme from the first Critique where Kant gave ideas of reason a “regulative” function. 4 Having taken this brief excursion into Kant’s doctrine of judgment, we can now state the problem with the notions of “free harmony” and “purposive- ness without purpose.” Kant wants to say that the pleasure of taste has its source in a mental operation similar to cognitive judgments. To make a cognitive judg- ment is to claim that an object (manifold of perception) instantiates a certain concept (the manifold is governed by a certain rule). However, unlike ordinary cases of judgment Kant insists quite strongly that the kind of “judging” that gives aesthetic pleasure is not governed by any type of rules. The interpretative ques- tion that arises here is, How can there be a species of judging that employs no rules? One would think that the very notion of judging requires the application of some kind of rule (either determinant or reflective). More precisely, if Kant’s general characterization of judging is as a “harmony” between the imagination (responsible for gathering particulars) and the understanding (the faculty of giv- ing rules), then “free harmony” would seem a contradiction. How can one have a “harmony” with the faculty of rules when one has no rule? Similarly, if we take the formulation of purposiveness without purpose, the question can be asked:

How can we judge an object to be “purposive” if we do not attribute (even in an “as if” sense) some purpose to it? 5 It will be useful here to consider what sorts of “rules” Kant thinks are in- appropriate to the mental state of free harmony and roughly why aesthetic ap- preciation cannot be of these kinds. There are at least three sorts of rules that Kant thinks are inappropriate to aesthetic judging. Kant argues, in the first mo- ment of the Analytic of the Beautiful (the “Analytic”), that judgments of beauty cannot be ordinary, determinant (empirical) judgments roughly because “beauty” cannot be considered a class concept—a concept naming an organi- zation of perceivable properties. 6 Kant’s argument against such a position is di- rect, if somewhat question-begging. Beauty cannot simply described a configu- ration of empirical properties since judging something as beautiful must, in part, be a matter of taking pleasure in the object. And for Kant pleasure is not an ob-

The Problem of Free Harmony

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jective property that an object can possess. Pleasure is the subjective (aesthetic, Kant would say) response to an object. But dismissing such aesthetic “objectivism” does not end Kant’s complaints against rules used to make aesthetic judgments. In ¶9 of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant argues that while the pleasure of taste must be founded on a men- tal state of “judging” an object and such judging cannot be of the conceptual, de- terminant kind, neither can the judging be of the reflective, teleological type. Generally, Kant argues that aesthetic judging is not a matter of claiming that an object suits any sort of “end” or “purpose” (even if our judgment is only an “as if” judgment). Specifically, Kant considers two versions of this teleological position. We could take pleasure in recognizing that an object is “good for” some ordinary practical purpose we might have (a judgment of utility) or we could take pleasure in recognizing that an object is “good as an x”; that is, an object is judged to be a near perfect example of some class concept. 7 For example, a picture may represent a paradigm case of a horse—this is the thesis of Leibnizean perfectionism Kant criticizes in ¶15. Similar to his complaint against aesthetic objectivism, Kant ob- jects to perfectionism, in part, because it has no direct connection to pleasure. Kant’s criticism of grounding beauty on either judgments of utility or per- fection is that in order for “useful” or “perfect” objects to give pleasure at all we must assume some merely contingent interests on the part of those who appreci- ate the objects. We will not take pleasure in something having use value unless we are interested in the end that the object serves. Nor, presumably, do we take pleasure in perfectionism unless we are interested in seeing near paradigm exam- ples of class concepts. Further, Kant holds, we can never hope to get any sort of consensus about aesthetic value if we appeal to the whim of individual interests. Although the above is Kant’s official criticism of reducing aesthetic judg- ing to teleological judging, there is a larger point in the background. If judg- ments of taste could be reduced to judgments of utility or perfection, then we could formulate precise standards for either evaluating or constructing art- works. All we would need to know in order to evaluate a work as good (or cre- ate a good one) is the purpose the work should achieve. We could then set about to find the means—which presumably can be pinned down with some accuracy. But this conflicts with the notion (which Kant endorses) that aesthetic judging and aesthetic creation cannot be formulaic. 8 If they were formulaic, then creativity would be of little concern in art, and aesthetic evaluation could be a precise science—both of which Kant disavows. Kant seems to have worked himself into a corner. He starts with the prem- ise that aesthetic pleasure must come from an activity of judging. Judging is understood as organizing a manifold of particulars by a rule. But Kant seems to

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Chapter 1

have taken away any candidate for a rule to organize the manifold. Aesthetic judging cannot be rule governed by a determinant concept or a teleological Idea. And these seem to be the only alternatives he has to offer. It appears that noth- ing is left and it seems that Kant is perfectly happy with this result. As Kant de- scribes aesthetic judging it must be a recognition that objects are “merely sub- jectively purposive” where this seems to mean that the object occasions a harmony of the faculty of sense with the faculty of concepts (rules) but some- how without using any rules:

If pleasure is connected with the mere apprehension (apprehensio) of the form of an object of intuition, without a relation of this to a concept for determinate cogni- tion, then the representation is thereby related not to the object, but solely to the subject, and the pleasure can express nothing but its suitability to the cognitive fac- ulties that are in play in the reflecting power of judgment, insofar as they are in play, and thus merely a subjective formal purposiveness of the object. (KU 5: 189–90,

75–76)

The problem is that it is very difficult to understand what sense there is in claiming that aesthetic contemplation is a kind of “judging” without rules when the very definition of judging in the Kant lexicon is that of a rule-gov- erned activity.

2

There have been attempts to save Kant from the problem cited above. One res- cue attempt turns upon a reading of “mere subjective purposiveness” and the strictness of the “no rule” requirement. There are some portions of Kant’s text that suggest that while a free harmony is rule governed without a rule, the cru- cial notion of “without a rule” should be understood in what might be called an “abstractive” sense. Specifically, when Kant claims a “free” harmony is a har- mony without rules, perhaps he should really say that the manifold is rule gov- erned but when we engage in aesthetic appreciation we do not care which rule it is. And in this sense, we are only interested in the “formal” quality of mere “rule governedness.” We are only concerned subjectively that the manifold is rule governed. We are not interested in what rule prescribes the order of the manifold. The following passage would seem to support such a reading:

Now, if the determining ground of the judgment on this universal communicabil- ity of the representation is to be conceived of merely subjectively, namely without

The Problem of Free Harmony

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a concept of the object, it can be nothing other than the state of mind that is en- countered in the relation of the powers of representation to each other insofar as they relate a given representation to cognition in general. (KU 5: 217, 102)

On the basis of such passages, it could be argued that the problem of in- terpreting free harmony or purposiveness without purpose can be gotten around. We can talk about a manifold being rule governed (which seems to be

a requirement of any version of “judging”) and yet insist that the harmony of

the faculties is free in the sense that aesthetic judging abstracts from the spe- cific rule employed to unify the manifold. Perhaps, we are only concerned with the closeness of fit between manifold and rule. Such is suggested by Kant’s claim in ¶21 that a free harmony is also one that is “opitimal for the animation of both powers of the mind” (KU 5: 238, 123). Although the above would be a way of solving the puzzle of a “free har- mony,” it is a route that Kant should not take. This solution cannot avoid Kant’s deeper arguments against utility and perfectionism. To say that an object occa- sions a “free harmony” in the abstractive sense entails that we can specify a rather precise formula for beauty: An object is beautiful if and only if there is a closeness of fit between a manifold of imagination and a rule specifying a re- flective idea of utility or a rule specifying an empirical concept. At the very least this position is seriously inconsistent with Kant’s rejection of perfectionism. The theory of perfectionism would also seem to subscribe to a “closeness of fit” cri-

teria since there is no hint in the theory that an object is beautiful only if it measures up to some particular paradigm—rather, any paradigm will do. One must assume, then, that the measure of “perfection” would be how well an art- work fits the paradigm concept it is intended to represent. Nor, do I think Kant would want to subscribe to a closeness of fit criteria in the case of ideas of util- ity. If such a criteria were adopted, again we would seem to be able to formulate some precise standards for the creation and evaluation of beauty—a possibility antithetical to Kant’s enterprise.

But beyond the charge of inconsistency, the abstractive interpretation would promote some very odd paradigms of beauty and ones that Kant explic- itly rejects. If free harmony is taken to mean “closeness of fit to a rule” (regard- less of which rule), then well-drawn geometrical figures would be first-rate art- works, for example, a well-drawn square. A well-drawn square is an object with

a high degree of conformity to a concept (the “square rule”) and as such would

be an excellent artwork. Yet, it is just such cases that Kant explicitly rejects be- cause they are lacking in “freedom.” 9 Similarly, if we assumed that “free har- mony” should be understood in the abstractive sense and specifically abstract- ing from teleological ideas (instead of determinant concepts) we would fare no

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Chapter 1

better. On a teleological reading we would now have to admit that a well-de- signed wrench (the perfect water-pump pliers) is an excellent work of beauty. We appreciate that it fits well the orderliness required of a pair of water-pump pliers even though, of course, we not interested that the orderliness appreciated is “water-pump plier” orderliness. But here again, apart from the fact that such paradigms are unacceptable to us, it is very difficult to reconcile this position with Kant’s claim that objects must be purposive but without purpose. It would seem that under this reading, it turns out after all that beauty really has to do with what Kant calls “objective purposiveness.” Objects suit our “subjective” purpose of harmony of the faculties only by living up to some version of “objec- tive” purposiveness. Again, if this is what Kant has in mind, his position is dif- ficult to distinguish from the claim that aesthetic goodness can be reduced to either the goodness of utility or perfection. There is, however, another alternative sometimes pursued. 10 From the re- marks in ¶9 and ¶21 of the “Analytic” it could be claimed that Kant has a quite different way to recognize a “harmony” between the two faculties. That is to say, the problem we have had is one of understanding what a harmony between the imagination and understanding could be where there is no rule to account for the harmony. One answer to this question, suggested at ¶9 and ¶21, is that un- like usual cognition where recognition is achieved by the application of a rule, we recognize “free harmony” by means of a “feeling.” We simply “feel” the fit of the two faculties:

The powers of cognition that are set into play by this representation are hereby in a free play, since no determinate concept restricts them to a particular rule of cog- nition. Thus the state of mind in this representation must be that of a feeling of the free play of the powers of representation in a given representation for a cog- nition in general. (KU 5: 217, 102)

There are difficulties with taking this interpretation. First, were we to at- tribute to Kant the view that we can simply “feel” rule governedness without applying a rule, it would be a position quite unique to the critical philosophy and may well contradict some of the more important arguments in the Critique of Pure Reason. Specifically, it seems to be important to the Transcendental De- duction of the Categories that every manifold of representations be united by a rule. 11 But even if we could admit such an unusual activity as “feeling” a con- ceptual fit without using concepts, there are problems with this position intrin- sic to the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” As most commentators agree, to get any version of the arguments of paragraphs 9 and 21 off the ground, Kant

The Problem of Free Harmony

13

must argue that free harmony is a mental state very much like mental state of ordinary cognition. Discussing free harmony Kant says:

for we are conscious that this subjective relation suited to cognition in gen- eral must be valid for everyone and consequently universally communicable, just as any determinate cognition is, which still always rests on that relation as its sub- jective condition. (KU 5: 218, 103)

Roughly, Kant wants to argue that if ordinary cognitive states are univer- sally communicable, then so is free harmony. Kant seemingly wants to argue here that, short of skepticism, we must assume that ordinary cognitive states are “universally communicable” and since a free harmony of the faculties is suffi- ciently similar to a cognitive state, then it must be the case that free harmony is also universally communicable. This line of reasoning is thought to be crucial to Kant’s larger argument to show the universal validity of judgments of taste. But if free harmony and ordinary cognition are as radically different as the pres- ent account supposes, then Kant’s inference about universal communicability is clearly weakened. As Ralf Meerbote has convincingly argued, Kant is saddled with a nasty dilemma. 12 Either he holds that free harmony is literally a harmony devoid of concepts, in which case he cannot draw a close parallel with cogni- tion, or he admits that aesthetic judging uses concepts, in which case he loses the sense of “freedom.” Perhaps, as yet another possible interpretation one should understand free harmony not as abstracted from concepts or, somehow, simply devoid of con- cepts, but go in quite a different direction and claim that a free harmony is one whereby we can apply several different concepts to a manifold. This is what Paul Guyer has recently called a “multicognitive” interpretation of free harmony. 13 Presumably, the sense in which a relationship of the imagination and under- standing is suitably “free” of concepts is if it is free on any one determinate con- cept to pin down the order of the manifold. Instead we are free, as Guyer puts it, to flit between a “multiplicity of possible concepts.” In addition to the prob- lems that Guyer finds with this interpretation, let me add a couple more. This interpretation, like others we have seen in the aforementioned, will likely gen- erate some odd paradigms. It would seem that a good candidate for an aesthetic object on this accounting would be one so constructed to make it easy and nat- ural to conceptualize it under different concepts. One cannot help thinking that Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbit would come across as a prime candidate of an aes- thetic object. However, as entertaining as “duck-rabbit” games are, few would put them forward as excellent aesthetic objects.

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Chapter 1

There is, however, a deeper problem with the “multicognitive” interpre- tation that is internal to the argument of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” As mentioned above, many commentators interpret Kant as offering an argu- ment for the “universal validity” of aesthetic judgments on grounds similar to the “universal validity” of ordinary cognitive states. Roughly, in order to account for shared cognition we assume that everyone conceptualizes manifolds in the same way—that is, everyone who is confronted with a Fido-like manifold sees that it is a dog-ordered manifold. Everyone, Kant seems to argue, must recog- nize orderliness in the same way. But, a free harmony denotes a kind of orderli- ness. Thus, presumably, if I recognize free harmony with a feeling of pleasure and I have a right to assume everyone must recognize orderliness in the same way, then I can assume that others will feel pleasure in free harmony as well. Again, we will have much to say about such an argument. But for now, notice how the multicognitive interpretation will make a mess of an argument like the one above. If by a free harmony of the imagination and understanding Kant means that for an appropriate aesthetic object we are “free” to see the ob- ject as displaying any number of “orderings.” But if this is the case, I have no reason to believe that anyone will share my recognition of order in an aesthetic object. And, thus, a key feature of the analogy between free harmony and cog- nition is broken—a feature that was intended as a cornerstone of Kant’s argu- ment to the universal validity of aesthetic judgments. There is one further interpretation that deserves close attention. Henry Allison in his recent book offers an interesting interpretation of free harmony that, if successful, will avoid the dilemma previously cited by Meerbote. To con- struct an argument for the “universal validity” of free harmony from paragraphs 9, 21, and 38, we must assume that appreciating a free harmony and applying a concept to a manifold are quite similar activities. Both are a matter of finding order in a manifold. Although both involve a kind of “harmony” between our cognitive faculties, there is an important difference. When we recognize the rule orderedness of manifold by the application of a concept, we do not simply ap- preciate an object’s rule orderedness; we also assert that the manifold shows a rule orderedness similar to that of other objects. It is on the basis of this simi- larity that we classify an object as a certain kind. Appreciation of beauty, how- ever, is not a matter of classifying objects by finding a common rule. We are only concerned, as Kant says time and again, with in the “subjective purposiveness” of objects. Subjective purposiveness can now be understood as an interest in or- derliness for its own sake, not as a concern with the order an object may share in common with others. Henry Allison, following Carl Posy, interprets Kant as claiming that when we engage in aesthetic contemplation “the normal concerns of cognition are

The Problem of Free Harmony

15

suspended.” 14 That is to say, free harmony judging is indeed looking for rule or- deredness of a manifold but since our “normal concerns of cognition” are sus- pended we do not follow through by applying concepts. We are not concerned with comparing an object’s rule orderedness to other, similar objects. This posi- tion seems to avoid the dilemma above. Aesthetic contemplation and ordinary empirical judgments are similar in that both are concerned with finding rule or- deredness in a manifold. The difference between the two is that aesthetic con- templation is concerned with orderedness per se while an empirical judgment

is further interested in determining a similarity with other objects. Having made

this distinction, presumably, we can claim that free harmony is not conceptual and yet it describes a rule-ordered manifold. Paul Guyer has dubbed this type of interpretation a “precognitive” interpretation of free harmony since it con- siders a free harmony a recognition of an orderly manifold that is logically prior to conceptualization. 15

I believe that there are yet problems with this attempt to free Kant of the

difficulties of free harmony. 16 I suspect that this interpretation puts too little dis- tance between a “free” harmony of the imagination and understanding and an ordinary, rule-governed conceptual judgment. Consider the judgment “Fido is

a dog.” When I make such a judgment I notice that the manifold of imagina-

tion I am presented with possesses a certain order. It is the order defined by my concept (rule) “dog.” When I make the judgment I recognize that my manifold has a certain order and that this order is common to manifolds presented on other occasions—this is the sense in which dog functions as a class concept for me. My judgments define a class of objects in terms of common rule orderliness of their manifolds of perception. Aesthetic appreciation is presumably different

from this. When appreciating an aesthetic object I “judge” the manifold to be orderly but do not compare this manifold’s orderliness to that of other similarly orderly objects, if there are any. This seems to imply that we could very well say that an aesthetic object displays a rule orderedness; it’s just that we are not concerned as to whether or not that rule is instantiated anywhere else. For all we know or care, the “rule” could be uniquely instantiated in the case we are presently observing. This interpretation is fine as far as it goes, but there are problems. Con- sider again my experience of Fido. In an ordinary, empirical experience of Fido,

I recognize that the present manifold of sense exhibits an orderliness shared

with a certain class of objects (dogs). This is also to say that I recognize that

Fido exhibits the “dog rule” shared by all “dogs.” Experience of Fido is rule or- dered and it is rule ordered by the determinate dog rule. On the present in- terpretation, aesthetic appreciation of an object is very much like our Fido ex- perience. Presumably, empirical experience and aesthetic appreciation are

16

Chapter 1

alike insofar as both involve the recognition of the rule orderness of the man- ifold of sense. Both the experience of Fido and the aesthetic appreciation of the Mona Lisa (for example) involve the recognition that the manifold of sense under consideration is ordered by a specific rule. The difference is that in the Fido case we also focus on the fact that the Fido rule has multiple in- stantiations whereas in the Mona Lisa case we do not concern ourselves with instantiations. If my understanding of the above interpretation is correct, then the dis- tinction between free harmony and determinate judging is not a difference be- tween a rule-ordered manifold (determinate judging) and a manifold that is not rule ordered (free harmony). Rather the distinction is between our recognizing a rule-ordered manifold that has multiple instantiations (determinate judging) and our recognizing a rule-ordered manifold but without reference to instanti- ation (free harmony). But if this is the difference, it is hard to see that it is much of a difference. Or, perhaps, it is difficult to see that this difference cannot be overcome. It seems entirely possible that we could consider any object “aes- thetically” and that any object could suit Kant’s free harmony requirement. 17 I see no reason, in principle, why we could not consider Fido for the rule order- ness of its manifold in abstraction from our knowledge of whether this rule is multiply instantiated or not. To consider an object in such a way would, I take it, suit Kant’s injunction that we consider an object merely for its “mere sub- jective purposiveness.” That is to say, we are concerned only the extent to which an object is rule ordered, we are unconcerned whether this rule shows up else- where in our experience. But if it is possible to consider dogs and all manner of objects as aesthetic objects, Kant loses the distinction between ordinary objects and special aesthetic objects that the free harmony criteria seems to establish. Additionally, if any object could be considered aesthetically, in the fashion sug- gested, it is not obvious how one would distinguish between good aesthetic ob- jects and those not so good. If we could make a distinction in kind between ob- jects that were free harmonies and those that were not, then the distinction between aesthetic and nonaesthetic objects would be clear. But this is not the case.

There is another attempt to resolve the dilemma that free harmony pres- ents that is rather similar to the Alison/Posy solution. Hannah Ginsborg sees the free harmony issue bound up with an even larger problem in the Kantian phi- losophy. 18 Kant has an account of empirical concept acquisition that is, unfor- tunately, rather sketchy. 19 As we have seen, Kant regards all concepts as rules describing a certain order of perceptual elements in an experience. Further, his official position as to how we come to form a new empirical concept is by way of comparison, reflection, and abstraction. Kant gives an example:

The Problem of Free Harmony

17

I see, e.g., a spruce, a willow, and a linden. By first comparing these objects with one another I note they are different from one another in regard to the trunk, branches, and leaves, etc.: but next I reflect what they have in common, trunk, branches, and leaves themselves, and I abstract from the quantity, the figure, etc., of these; thus I acquire a concept of a tree. (Logik, para. 6, Ak IX, 94–95; 592)

The problem with this account is that it seems one already needs a con-

cept (rule) of tree in order to single out spruce, willow, and linden as appropri- ate candidates to engage in a process of comparison, reflection, and abstraction.

If we did not already have something like a “tree rule” in mind, it seems unlikely

that of all the objects in the world we would pick these individuals to work our concept-forming labor upon. To put the matter differently, if we did not already have some rough concept of tree we wouldn’t have picked out a spruce, willow, and linden as appropriate objects to hone our formal concept of tree. To solve the problem of empirical concept acquisition Ginsborg admit- tedly goes beyond Kant’s text to suggest an account that he could have (should have) given. In order to make coherent Kant’s account of empirical concept ac- quisition he needs to make a distinction between two ways in which one could have and use rules for the ordering of an empirical manifold. Ginsborg’s sug-

gestion is that initially when we consider objects like the spruce, willow, and lin- den we pick them out because we are using a process that is “exemplary of rules,” but only subsequently (by the process of comparison, reflection, and abstrac- tion) do we come up an explicit rule that is the concept “tree.” 20 Ginsborg gives

a useful analogy. Using the English language is a rule-governed activity in two

senses. Simply speaking English is rule governed insofar as this activity is gov- erned by “lexical rules and rules of grammar.” 21 All of this is rather unstudied and even unconscious. However, this “exemplary” use of rules becomes the ba- sis for subsequent, explicit rules of English usage. How we use English unreflec- tively allows us the ability to extract explicit rules of usage. Ginsborg applies this analogy to empirical concept acquisition. Consider the first time a person runs across what we would now call a tree. On that first encounter our observer would not apply the conceptual “tree” rule to the per- ceptual manifold—no such rule is available. Nonetheless, claims Ginsborg, such

a first encounter may yet be rule governed in a primitive sense. Presumably, we

can find order in our first tree experience that will set the standard for any fu- ture tree encounters. Our first encounters with a tree are rule governed in a “primitive” way as opposed to subsequent experiences where we approach tree with the explicit concept well in hand. The model of primitive, rule-governed experiences as a key to the account of empirical concept acquisition sets the stage for an interpretation of the no-

18

Chapter 1

tion of a “free harmony” of the imagination and understanding in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” Recall that the central interpretative problem with a “free” harmony of the imagination and understanding is trying to figure out how the imagination could harmonize with the rule function of the understanding and yet do so without rules (concepts). Ginsborg’s primitive and exemplary rule- governed experiences seem to fit the bill. Kant claims that when we consider an object aesthetically we consider a manifold of imagination for its conformity to the rule-governed function of the understanding but yet without applying a

rule. This may seem mysterious. But if Ginsborg is correct we do this sort of thing all the time in the process of empirical concept acquisition. When we approach

a tree for the first time we must be able to appreciate the rule governedness of

the manifold in order to be able subsequently to find other instances of a tree. But this is an ability to discern rule governedness without using a rule. And, Ginsborg holds, this is just the ability required in aesthetic cases of free harmony. An additional bonus of Ginsborg’s account is that it adds coherence to what seems to be Kant’s central arguments justifying the universal validity of judgments of taste. As we have seen, it is commonly thought that Kant’s proof of the universal validity of judgments of taste crucially depends on the premise

that the mental state of free harmony is sufficiently similar to a conceptually de- termined cognitive state that we can regard aesthetic judgments to be as “uni- versally valid” as an ordinary empirical judgment. 22 Under most interpretations of free harmony this similarity between free harmony and empirical judgments

is difficult to explain. How can a nonconceptually determined manifold be suf-

ficiently similar to a conceptual manifold such that we could draw inferences from one to the other? Ginsborg’s interpretation seems to help this inference. If

Ginsborg is correct, then part of the story of empirical cognition (the part in- volving concept acquisition) requires our ability to recognize the rule gov- ernedness of a manifold prior to our application of an actual rule. Thus, Kant is justified in thinking that aesthetic appreciation depends on an ability we can as- sume to be shared by all. Ginsborg’s account may in fact go a long way in helping to understand Kant’s account of empirical concept acquisition; however, as an interpretation of free harmony it suffers from difficulties similar to those found with the Allison/Posy interpretation. The danger with trying to argue a close similarity between free harmony and ordinary, conceptual cognition is that one may fail to distinguish adequately aesthetic appreciation from cognition. If, as Ginsborg seems to suggest, empirical concept acquisition requires us to experience the rule governedness of a manifold without applying a rule and that this activity

is very much like (if not identical to) the experience of free harmony, then it would

The Problem of Free Harmony

19

seem that tree experiences are also aesthetic experiences. It would seem that we

could approach a tree now and appreciate it as if we were experiencing it for the first time and did not already possess a concept of tree. And, if we could do such

a thing, then experiencing a tree would be an instance of free harmony of the imag- ination and understanding. And, as such, it would be an aesthetic experience. Ginsborg is aware of this difficulty and tries to meet it. 23 To distinguish the mental activity of free harmony from the act of empirical concept acquisi- tion, Ginsborg claims that while each act of acquisition requires the recognition of a rule governedness with a rule (like free harmony) such acquisition cannot take place without also, at the same time, applying our newly acquired concept in the process. As Ginsborg puts it, “(t)he act through which I acquire the con-

cept ‘tree’ is at the same time my first act of judging something to be a tree.” 24 This seems to distinguish free harmony from empirical concept acquisition. It cannot be the case that every act of empirical concept acquisition is also an aes- thetic experience of free harmony since, Ginsborg holds, each act of acquiring

a concept is also an act of applying that concept—unlike a pure free harmony

experience. Also, apparently, once we have applied a concept to a tree experi- ence we cannot approach a tree as if it were not a conceptually determined man- ifold. Presumably we cannot abstract the primitive act of recognizing orderliness from the final act of applying a concept. Ginsborg’s position does seem to get her out of the problems noted above. However, there are further difficulties here. Ginsborg’s interpretation of free harmony depends on her admittedly speculative account of empirical concept acquisition—particularly the claim that such concept acquisition requires a primitive recognition of a rule governedness without rules. But even if we were to grant this, the further claim that each act of acquisition is inseparable from an act of application seems, at best, ad hoc. I see no reason, other than a mere assertion, why in a Kantian account of original acquisition we could not recog- nize a “something” (a tree) as rule governed at one moment and only later af- ter acquaintance with other “somethings” (trees) we start applying the concept “tree.” Nor do I see any reason in a Kantian position why we could not act as if we were seeing a tree for the first time and recreate, as it were, that original mo- ment of appreciating rule governedness per se. But maybe Ginsborg is right. Maybe empirical concept acquisition is very different from aesthetic apprecia- tion. Specifically, perhaps approaching a tree is so very different from ap- proaching an artwork that the cognitive processes are very different. But if this is so, we fall on the other horn of the dilemma discussed earlier. If the processes are so very different, there is no reason to believe that any argument based on their similarity is going to succeed.

20

Chapter 1

3

There is, however, one portion of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” where Kant has a solution to how a manifold can be both rule governed and free. The relevant discussion is contained in Kant’s description of how artistic “genius” can create works of art that express “aesthetic ideas.” 25 I want to argue: (1) the expression of aesthetic ideas gives a definite sense to the notion of a rule- governed manifold—it is governed by an aesthetic idea; (2) this sort of rule governedness is compatible with the requirement for a “free” use of the imagi- nation; and (3) more tentatively, that the expression of ideas is a general solu- tion to the problem of free harmony (for both art and nature). 26 While Kant understandably stresses the role of originality in artistic cre- ation, at least as important is his claim that the artist must also combine his or her creativity with some sort of organization (as usual without constraint of pre- conceived rules). The problem Kant considers in his discussion of artistic cre- ation looks very like the one that has been bothering us: How can an artist create a work that is free and yet organized? Kant’s explicit solution in these sec- tions is that the artist can achieve the proper organization for his work only if he or she creates a work that expresses an “aesthetic idea.” Thus, expression of ideas seems to play the crucial role of explaining, in the admittedly narrow case of artistic creation, how an aesthetic object can be rule governed. In fact, Kant goes so far as to argue that expression of ideas is not just a way of organizing a manifold to meet the rule-governed requirement, but the only appropriate way for artistic creation:

To be rich and original in ideas is not as necessary for the sake of beauty as is the suitability of the imagination in its freedom to the lawfulness of the understand- ing. For all the richness of the former produces, in its lawless freedom, nothing but nonsense; the power of judgment, however, is the faculty for bringing it in line with the understanding. (KU 5: 319, 197)

The point Kant repeats often in these sections is that genius (which Kant defines in part as the faculty to produce aesthetic ideas) is able to create fine art only insofar as it can provide a “rule” to the free fancy of the imagination (KU 5: 307, 186). This is required since without genius organizing an artwork in or- der to express an idea, we would be unable to account for the work’s rule gov- ernedness. Kant argues in these sections that the “genius” who lacks the skill of organizing to express at best creates “original nonsense” (KU 5: 308, 186). Without such organization an artist cannot produce an artwork that “remains purposive” by “introducing clarity and order” (KU 5: 319, 197). Or more posi-

The Problem of Free Harmony

21

tively, the ability to present aesthetic ideas “is that which purposively sets the mental powers into motion” (KU 5: 313, 192). 27 The evidence of these sections seems quite conclusive. Kant holds that expression of aesthetic ideas is a requirement for artistic creation and it is re- quired because it explains rule governedness. And while Kant offers this thesis as part of an explanation of artistic creation it takes only a slight extension of his doctrine to see how it would apply to artistic appreciation as well. The artist is saddled with the task of creating a work such that when properly appreciated it stimulates the imagination in such a way as to express an idea. This, Kant claims, requires “genius.” But, we can suppose something similar goes on dur- ing aesthetic appreciation. The person who properly appreciates a work of art (or, I would maintain, natural beauty as well) must be able to interpret the ele- ments of the work in such a way as to “see” that they come together to express an idea. As such, both the artist and the art appreciator must be able to expe- rience an object as stimulating a free harmony of the imagination and under- standing in such a manner that we interpret the object as expressing an idea. On the basis of these passages it might be granted that Kant can account for how aesthetic appreciation involves a rule-like harmony of the imagination and the understanding. Aesthetic appreciation involves our interpreting a man- ifold as organized in a way to best express an aesthetic idea. But perhaps it is more difficult to argue that expression of ideas is consistent with the restriction that the mental state of appreciation is “free.” Here I enlist the support of some important work on Kant by Paul Guyer. It has been argued, successfully I be- lieve, that the mental state of appreciating an artwork that expresses ideas is one free from conceptual determination. 28 It is crucial for this interpretation to notice that Kant’s description of the process of either producing or recognizing an aesthetic idea is a description of a “free harmony.” That is to say, recogniz- ing an artwork as expressing an aesthetic idea is a case of freely harmonizing a manifold of sense with the rule faculty of the understanding:

In a word, the aesthetic idea is a representation of the imagination, annexed to a given concept, with which, in the free employment of imagination, such a multi- plicity of partial representations are bound up, that no expression indicating a def- inite concept can be found for it. (KU 5: 316, 194)

The sense in which the expression of aesthetic ideas involves a free har- mony seems to be that, as Kant understands aesthetic ideas, they refer to some- thing that cannot be literally described—they are notions of things too big for ordinary empirical description. Kant’s favorite examples are moral and religious notions (“invisible beings, the kingdom of the blessed, hell, heaven, eternity,

22

Chapter 1

creation, etc.”) (KU 5: 314, 192). As a result, to express such an idea requires, Kant supposes, that we create works that stimulate the imagination to make all sorts of associations that substitute for a literal description of these elusive en- tities. And importantly, the process of expression is one that must be indepen- dent of all “concepts“—since no concepts can literally describe the notions in- volved. As Kant puts the matter, expression of ideas “can be communicated without constraint of rules” (KU 5: 317, 195). I shall save for the next chapter a more technical description of the ex- pression of aesthetic ideas; here I only want to suggest how expression is a men- tal state compatible with the restriction that aesthetic appreciation is one of free harmony. Expression of aesthetic ideas is a “free” harmony since expression must be unlike ordinary cases of conceptual determination. In ordinary cases (either empirical concepts or teleological ideas) Kant supposes that we come to objects with a well-formed notion of what the thing is either presumed to be or what function it is presumed to serve. Judging an object to be the expression of an aesthetic idea is quite another matter. Since there can be no well-formed concept of things like heaven, hell, and so on, we give free reign to our imagi- nation in order to interpret an object as expressing an idea of such things. This is not a matter of judging that an object falls under a given concept or serves some purpose. Neither a well-formed idea of an end nor a determinant concept is possible for the objects that art can supposedly express. As such, art cannot be governed by rules or standards in the ordinary sense. Rather, Kant claims, the artist can be said to create a “new rule” as a result of his “free use of his cog- nitive faculties” (KU 5: 318, 195). Regardless of how the process of expression is achieved (and Kant thinks here that genius is a mysterious gift of nature— one which cannot be taught or learned), it cannot employ any “concepts” or teleological ideas (KU 5: 317, 194). Moreover, expression of ideas, as others have pointed out, may even be compatible with what some regard as Kant’s unfortunate doctrine of perceptual formalism. That is to say, it could be argued that my interpretation comes dan- gerously close to claiming that all beauty must express ideas, and this interpre- tation seems to conflict with Kant’s supposed perceptual formalism. But, there need be no conflict here since Kant holds the plausible enough position that the artist’s job is to manipulate perceptual elements in such a way as to achieve an expression of ideas. 29 What Kant suggests is that formal unity of a manifold (even if this manifold is restricted to perceptible elements) can be achieved only if the artist works up his matter with some aesthetic idea in mind. 30 As mentioned above, the claim that recognizing aesthetic ideas as a men- tal state compatible with “free harmony” is a fairly well-accepted interpretation

The Problem of Free Harmony

23

of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” However, I want to claim something stronger than mere compatibility. Expression of aesthetic ideas solves the prob-

lem of interpreting “free harmony.” And further, if expression is the only way to make sense of a free harmony, then we may be forced to conclude that expression

is a necessary condition for beauty. Indeed, there are passages where Kant claims

that expression is criterial for beauty (KU 5: 320, 197). However, it could be ar- gued that we should discount such passages on the interpretation that although expression of ideas may be compatible with the free harmony requirement, ex- pression is only one species of beauty—whether an object expresses or not is quite contingent. However, if it is the case that expression is needed to explain the pos- sibility of free harmony, then expression is far from contingent. And Kant’s pro- nouncement that all beauty is expressive can be taken more seriously. To be sure, there are several problems left if we try to argue that expres-

sion plays the central role I attribute to it. In spite of passages like the one just quoted, sometimes it seems that Kant holds that expression of aesthetic ideas is

a feature only of artistic, not natural beauty. Thus, expression could not be cri-

terial for all judgments of beauty. Strictly speaking, trying to argue that expres- sion is criterial for all species of beauty goes beyond the argument of this chap- ter. If I have been convincing that expression solves the riddle of free harmony (even if this riddle can only be solved for artistic beauty), I have completed my task. But a little can be said in favor of assuming that Kant intends expression to be a general criteria. First, there are passages where Kant refers to beauties of nature as expressive. 31 Second, some think that calling nature expressive is an odd thing to do since with nature, unlike art, we cannot strictly attribute the sort of intentionality seemingly required for expressiveness. Of art, we may say quite truly that the artist expresses something in his work, but even if we may interpret a sunset as expressing grandeur, literally it does not. Yet, trying to force such a distinction on Kant will not work for the simple reason that even in the case of artistic beauty, the recognition of expression does not depend on actu- ally attributing intentions to a creator. 32 As we shall see in more detail in the next chapter, Kant holds that art is created by “genius” that acts unselfcon- sciously. Thus, Kant seems able to say that with both art and nature we inter- pret objects “as if” created with the intention of expressing an idea. This leads to a more general point about Kant’s distinction between art and nature. For some time it was supposed that such a distinction was philo- sophically important to Kant’s aesthetics; however, this has been disputed re- cently in a number of ways. 33 I shall not rehearse the arguments here but only point to one passage where Kant makes the distinction in order to show its rel- ative unimportance for the issue of beauty:

24

Chapter 1

Beauty (whether it be of nature or of art) can in general be called the expression of aesthetic ideas: only in beautiful art this idea must be occasioned by a concept of the object, but in beautiful nature the mere reflection on a given intuition, with- out a concept of what the object ought to be, is sufficient for arousing and com- municating the idea of which that object is considered as the expression. (KU 5:

320, 197)

Kant argues that for a work to be art it must be intended to conform to a “concept of an Object“—where this seems to mean that the artist must first rep- resent something by his art. And subsequently, after representing some object the artist can express an idea (say, painting a picture of a woman that expresses sadness). Yet, appreciation of nature obviously short circuits this process (there is no sense in which nature represents). Of course, Kant can be accused of be- ing just wrong in thinking that all art must represent, but on Kant’s own grounds the fact that an object does or does not represent is irrelevant to its beauty. This is part of the lesson supposedly learned in the “Analytic.” And if this is the im- portant difference between art and nature, it is difficult to see the relevance of the distinction for aesthetic judgment. We shall look into these matters more closely in the chapter 3.

2

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

In the first chapter I suggested that Kant’s doctrine of the expression of aesthetic ideas may help to explain the problematic notion of a free harmony of the imag- ination and the understanding. In this chapter I want to take a longer look at the notion of aesthetic ideas. After providing a description of what it is, for Kant, to express an aesthetic idea, I want to consider in more detail how this doctrine fits with and helps to explain his doctrine of free harmony. Also, I want to con- sider how expression of ideas may be of aesthetic value and, thus, how expres- sion might play a role in support of the universal validity of aesthetic judgments. Much of the discussion of Kant’s aesthetic theory centers around his at- tempt to justify what he takes to be aesthetic judgments’ special status. Aes- thetic judgments are, for Kant, judgments that claim a subjective, universal validity. Further, as we saw in the first chapter, Kant argues that aesthetic judg- ments’ universal status can be justified only if certain objects give us pleasure the source of which is the mental state of free harmony. And since the mental state of free harmony is some kind of recognition of the order of a manifold of sense, then it is thought to follow (on traditional interpretations of Kant) that an object’s aesthetic worth (its beauty) consists in its form—the way in which

a manifold is ordered. 1 Simply put, Kant’s substantive position on aesthetic

value seems to be a formalism. 2 None of this short description will come as any surprise to anyone familiar with the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” How- ever, rather more confounding is Kant’s subsequent discussions, from ¶42 to the end, where he appears to adopt a position typically thought to be antithetical to formalism; namely, the position that art (and perhaps nature as well) ought

to be in the business of expressing certain kinds of “ideas.” Kant goes so far as to claim, seemingly, that expression of aesthetic ideas is a criterion (perhaps even the only criterion) for beauty. At ¶51 Kant claims that “(b)eauty (whether

it be of nature or art) can in general be termed the expression of aesthetic ideas” (KU 5: 320, 197). This apparently puts Kant in a bind. If Kant is indeed a for-

malist, it would appear to be inconsistent to also claim that beauty must be judged in terms of the content that an object has to communicate to its audi-

25

26

Chapter 2

ence. The goal of this chapter is to take a look at Kant’s discussion of expres- sion of aesthetic ideas and see what role he may intend for the doctrine.

1

In this section I want simply to sketch out what Kant’s doctrine of expression of aesthetic ideas amounts to and follow up in the next two sections by consider- ing how this doctrine squares with other parts of his account (notably his com- mitment to formalism) and, further, what role expression might play in Kant’s account of aesthetic value. Perhaps the most explicit description of an aesthetic idea comes in ¶49:

By an aesthetic idea, however, I mean that representation of the imagination oc- casions much thinking though without it being possible for any determinate thought, i.e. concept, being adequate to it, which, consequently, no language fully attains or can make intelligible.—One readily sees that it is the counterpart (pen- dant) of an idea of reason, which is, conversely, a concept to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be adequate. (KU 5: 314, 192)

A little bit of background is appropriate here. In the description of aes- thetic ideas Kant relies on a distinction developed in the Critique of Pure Rea- son (Kant’s first Critique) between concepts (Begriffe) and ideas (Ideen)—which, in turn, gives rise to determinant or reflective judgments as discussed in chap- ter 1. Concepts, as Kant defines them, falls into two groups: ordinary empirical concepts and pure or a priori concepts. Empirical concepts like dog or tree are notions that can be tied directly to sense intuition (sense data). To simplify, an empirical concept specifies what we are to find in our sense perception. The concept dog or a tree is defined by specifying the kinds of sense manifolds we would expect to experience and that could be appropriately called dog or tree. For short, dog or tree refers to types of manifolds of sense intuition. All of this is quite compatible with a fairly typical empiricist’s view of concepts. In fact, Kant would also agree with the empiricist that we come to form these concepts by first looking at different configuration of sense manifolds, grouping them by similarities and, finally, naming the groups (by use of a concept). 3 In this respect ordinary, empirical concepts are a posteriori; they are based on experience. There is, however, one important difference between Kant’s account of empir- ical concepts and those of the empiricists. Locke, for example, tends to look at concepts as paradigm cases of individuals—“Dog” would refer to a paradigm in- dividual of the class of dogs. For Kant, as we saw in chapter 1, concepts are rules

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

27

for organizing manifolds of sense. For something to be a dog, the manifold of sense of that object must measure up to the dog rule. That is to say, the mani- fold must possess certain elements—tail, head, etc.—and all of those elements must be of the proper form or in the proper configuration. Pure or a priori concepts most certainly represent a great departure from traditional empiricists. It does not overstate the case to say that the central proj- ect of the first Critique is to argue that there are concepts properly describing our sense-experienced world that are, nonetheless, logically prior to that sense experience. Such pure or a priori concepts are very limited in number. Kant ar- gues primarily for the concepts of substance and causality as well as the two pure “intuitions” of space and time. 4 Although there are obviously significant differ- ences between ordinary, a posteriori concepts and pure, a priori concepts it is nonetheless the case that a priori concepts are in a proper sense empirically de- terminant. That is to say, while a priori concepts are not derived from sense ex- perience, they apply to sense experience—in fact Kant argues that they neces- sarily apply to sense experience. As such, like ordinary empirical concepts, a priori concepts are also rules specifying an order for an empirical manifold. For example, the a priori concept of causality requires that there be a necessary rule of temporal succession from one happening to another. 5 Both a priori and a pos- teriori concepts are “determinant” as regards sense intuition insofar as we can specify, in both cases, what sort of sense manifolds fall under the concepts. However, both a posteriori and a priori concepts are to be distinguished from ideas according to Kant. In the first Critique Kant is concerned to postu- late a kind of “representation” distinct from concepts that applies to objects and states of affairs beyond the bounds of sense intuition and, hence, beyond the bounds of sense verification. Notably, in the first Critique, Kant is primarily con- cerned with just three such ideas of reason: God, freedom, and immortality. 6 None of these “ideas” is determinant according to Kant since we cannot spec- ify the nature of the sense manifold that would count as instances of these ideas. We cannot do this since the objects or states of affairs are not objects of expe- rience—are not the sort of things about which we can have sense knowledge. In the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant retains the basic distinction between ideas and concepts. It is still the case that concepts are concrete, de- terminant representations by which we can come to describe what an object would be like for sensible experience. Ideas, on the other hand, are representa- tions (and no doubt problematic ones) that refer to objects and states of affairs beyond sensible experience. However, Kant wants further to distinguish be- tween different kinds of ideas—rational ideas and aesthetic ideas. Near the end of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” Kant claims that aesthetic ideas are “inexponible” while rational ideas are “indemonstrable.” (Remark I, KU 5: 342,

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218.) Unusual language to one side, these labels are intended to reflect the analysis indicated in the passage from above (KU 5: 314). Kant wants to claim that both aesthetic and rational ideas attempt to go beyond experience, but in different ways. Aesthetic ideas induce so much thought that concepts cannot be adequate to the job of representation. (They are “inexponible.”) Rational ideas, however, attempt to represent that which has too little intuition for a con- cept to get a grip on. (They are “indemonstrable.”) As is often the case when Kant attempts to make a technical distinction, he overdraws the difference between aesthetic and rational ideas. It seems to be Kant’s position that ideas attempt to represent objects and states of affairs that cannot be met with in ordinary sense experience. Ideas of reason, Kant now sug- gests, do this by way of abstraction. We might portray the idea of God, for ex- ample, by abstracting from mortal limitations—a being not limited by space and time, a being not finite in power, knowledge, or goodness. In an artwork, how- ever, we may attempt to portray the very same idea of God, but this time we do so by giving some sense of God by suggesting, metaphorically or symbolically, that which cannot be directly experienced. 7 “Jupiter’s eagle, with the lightning in its claws” brings to mind the “mighty king of heaven” because of certain analogies between the majesty of the bird and the majesty of God. Or, again us- ing analogies, the idea of a “monarchical” state could represented by a “body with a soul if it is ruled in accordance with laws internal to the people, but by a mere machine (like a handmill) if it is ruled by a single absolute will” ( KU 5:

352, 226). Kant holds the position that artworks (and, as we shall see, natural ob- jects as well) are able to express ideas of objects or states of affairs beyond our sensible experience by suggesting such things symbolically by way of an anal- ogy. 8 However, this account of expression is not without its problems. Even if we were to grant that objects and states of affairs beyond our sense experience can be suggested symbolically, it is an open question whether symbolism must always operate analogically. It seems quite likely that symbolism can function in a variety of ways to express ideas—by making associations, by relying on certain conventions, and perhaps by other techniques. Further, unless symbolism is very broadly defined, it is quite likely that artworks express ideas by using techniques other than symbolism. For example an artwork might express a range of human emotions (often examples that Kant uses) by representing persons with outward demeanor characteristic of persons having those emotions. I would be hard pressed to call such a technique one of symbolism. In spite of these misgivings, Kant’s broad characterization of expression of aesthetic ideas seems plausible enough. An aesthetic idea is a “representation of the imagination that occasions much thinking” (KU 5: 314, 192). Or ex-

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pression of an aesthetic idea is “something else, which gives the imagination cause to spread itself over a multitude of related representations, which let one think more than one can express in a concept determined by words” (KU 5:

315, 193). Kant’s general position here is that an artwork expresses an idea by stimulating the imagination to make associations that congeal into a notion of something that we cannot meet with directly in experience. This is an interest- ing account of expression even if Kant is mistaken about the specific details of how these associations are made—namely, whether they must all by analogical and symbolic.

2

At the very least Kant holds that artistic beauty can be a matter of expressing aesthetic ideas. We even have a rough description of how Kant believes that we come to appreciate that ideas are expressed. However, many questions about the doctrine remain. For example, most of Kant’s discussion of aesthetic ideas occurs, understandably enough, in the context of art and artistic creation. In fact, Kant’s primary explanation of how expression works is embedded in his ac- count of how artistic “genius” creates an object that we come to appreciate as expressing an idea:

Genius really consists in the happy relation, which no science can teach and no diligence learn, of finding ideas for a given concept on the one hand and on the

other hitting upon the expression for these

requires a faculty for apprehending the rapidly passing play of the imagination and unifying it into a concept (which for that reason is original and at the same time discloses a new rule, which could not have been deduced from any an- tecedent principles or examples), which can be communicated without the con- straint of rules. (KU 5: 317, 194–95)

for to express what is unnameable

Kant’s position seems to be the following. An artist through an exercise of “genius” is able to construct an object that stimulates a host of thoughts and associations (“rapidly passing play of the imagination”) and yet is able to shape these thoughts into a coherent whole suggesting a particular idea. More specif- ically, an artist’s genius is able to bring a “new rule” to organize his or her ma- terial in order to express an idea of an object or state of affairs that goes beyond our sense experience. Genius, in short, is intended as an account of how art- works are created such that they can be properly appreciated as expressing an idea. Given this account one may very well assume that expression of aesthetic

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ideas is something exclusive to art and artistic creation. 9 Although this topic will be considered at length in the next chapter on art and nature, a little can be said here. At the very least, Kant does not hold the position that only art ex- presses aesthetic ideas. As we have seen above in ¶51, Kant quite explicitly holds that beauty of either art or nature can express aesthetic ideas (KU 5: 320, 197). One might complain that although Kant clearly says this, nonetheless, on his own grounds this makes no sense. Specifically, it makes no sense to say that natural objects can express ideas. There certainly are some points against considering natural objects as ex- pressing aesthetic ideas. Kant’s primary account of how objects come to express is given in terms of art. Artists through their use of “genius” create works such that when (properly) appreciated are understood to express an idea. But of course this account is unavailable to Kant for natural objects. There is no rea- son for Kant to believe that natural objects are created with the intention that it is appropriate for us to appreciate them as expressing an idea. 10 Natural ob- jects are not intentional objects. Since they are not intentional, it can be argued that it is mistaken to think that they could express anything. Only an account like the one Kant gives for artistic creation is appropriate to claiming that an object is expressive. That is to say, only if we can have reason to believe that an object is created with the intention that it communicate an idea, can we properly say of it that it expresses. Unfortunately, this way of understanding expression for both artworks and natural objects fails on Kant’s theory. As we have seen, Kant’s account of artistic creation relies on the notion of genius. Artists, through an act of genius, create their works. However, Kant has a quite Romantic notion of genius at work here. 11 Creation of art by genius is not a self-conscious, intentional process. In fact, Kant holds that “Genius is the innate predisposition of the mind (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art” (KU 5: 307, 186). This po- sition, again one familiar to the Romantic tradition, is that artistic ability is a “natural endowment” that the artist is neither well aware of nor much able to control. An artist, on Kant’s conception, is certainly not self-consciously plan- ning to create a work that communicates an idea. There is a larger point here as well. Claiming that objects are products of intentions or purposes is particu- larly out of place in the Critique of Judgment (Kant’s third Critique). Kant makes it quite clear (for example, in the introductions to the third Critique) that the only appropriate kind of purposive judgments are ones that merely claim that we should regard objects “as if” designed for some purpose. 12 To go farther and claim that an object is really designed to suit some purpose will often be beyond our powers to know. In the case of teleological judgments it may be particularly useful to interpret nature “as if” purposively designed, even though we cannot

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determine whether it is in fact so designed. Kant takes the same position re- garding aesthetic judging. In aesthetic appreciation we are required to look for purposiveness but, like teleological judgments, the purposiveness need only be on our interpretation—we need only be able to see objects “as if” designed for

a purpose. 13 If this is a correct account of expression for artworks, it has implications for both art and nature. First, it must be the case that we can properly appreci- ate an artwork as expressing an idea without knowing or even supposing that the artwork was created with an intention to express. (We need not, in the lan- guage of twentieth-century aesthetics, commit the “intentional fallacy.”) If in- terpreting an artwork as expressing an idea is not a matter of discovering the in- tentions of the artist, then it is plausible to say that we come to see an object as expressing an idea when we discern, attribute, or interpret an order to the ele- ments of the work that “add up” to the expression of an idea. We may interpret an artwork “as if” designed by intention to express an idea. But if this is how we appreciate artworks in order to understand them as expressing ideas, then it is perfectly consistent for Kant to say that we can do this with natural beauty as well. We can also interpret nature as expressing an idea since interpreting an object as expressing does not require us to postulate an intentional creator. Also we can interpret nature as if intentional (purposive) (KU 5: 306, 185). For ex- ample, we can properly interpret a bird’s song as expressing “joyousness and con- tentment.” (KU 5: 302, 181) We can appreciate the beauty of trees by seeing them as “majestic and magnificent” or the beauty of the fields by seeing them as “smiling and joyful” (KU 5: 354, 354). Or quite generally, we can observe the “cipher by means of which nature speaks to us in its beautiful forms” (KU 5:

301, 180). We can do all of this without literally attributing intentionality to these natural objects. Each of these interpretations of the expressiveness of nat- ural objects is properly made under the caveat that the object is seen as if in- tentionally created to express an idea. There is another problem that confronts Kant’s doctrine of expression of ideas. If it can be admitted that both art and nature are capable of being inter- preted as expressing aesthetic ideas, it can yet be argued that beauty that ex- presses ideas is inferior to beauty that does not. 14 The criticism here depends on

a distinction Kant develops in ¶16 between free and dependent (or adherent)

beauty with a decided evaluative preference for free beauty. Dependent beauty, as Kant defines it, is beauty that depends on a concept of what an object should be, whereas free beauty presupposes no such concept. (KU 5: 229, 114). Kant goes on to describe further this difference as one between beauties that do or do not have to “signify” something by themselves (KU 5: 229, 114). These charac- terizations have lead some to suppose that the free/dependent distinction is a dis-

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tinction between beauty that does not express ideas (free beauty) and beauty that does express (dependent). 15 If this is correct, then it can be argued that beauty

as the expression of ideas plays a secondary role in Kant since as a species of de- pendent beauty it will always come out second best to free beauties. This reading of Kant blurs the distinction between ideas and concepts dis- cussed earlier. Concepts, for Kant, are “representations” used to describe the world that can be given determinate, specific empirical content. Ideas, however, are just those problematic representations that cannot be captured by empiri- cal, sense experience. In the earlier paragraphs of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant rejects the view that objects should be judged as beautiful ac- cording to how well they exemplify a concept—such is the doctrine of perfec- tionism. 16 The free/dependent distinction, developed in ¶16, expands on Kant’s insistence that “pure” aesthetic judgments do not depend on concepts in the sense just sketched. The substance of the remark in ¶16 is that one should make

a distinction between judging the beauty of objects that, by their nature, must

depend on a concept and those that do not. For example, “the beauty of a horse,

of a building (such as a church, palace, arsenal, or garden-house), presupposes

a concept of the end that determines what the thing should be, hence a con-

cept of its perfection” (KU 5: 230, 114). Alternatively, Kant believes that non- representational art and at least some natural objects (flowers, birds, and “a host of marine crustaceans”) (KU 5: 229, 114) are not appreciated as instances of some concept. They are for Kant “free” beauties. It would be a difficult task to defend completely Kant’s distinction be- tween free and dependent beauty since it raises a host of problems. 17 Fortu- nately, that task need not be addressed here. We need only notice that the is-

sue of whether aesthetic appreciation depends on a concept is quite separate from the issue of whether an object expresses an idea. A free beauty like a flower could perfectly well express an idea. In fact, Kant uses the example of the “white color of the lily seems to dispose the mind to ideas of innocence” (KU 5: 302, 181). In this case the white lily expresses the idea of innocence and yet this has nothing to do with its “dependence” on a concept in Kant’s sense. This position can easily be expanded to rather un-Kantian examples of abstract art that would be nonconceptual, in Kant’s sense, but can clearly express ideas, particularly emotions. Alternatively, the architectural design of a church (a conceptually dependent object on Kant’s accounting) may yet express an idea. A Gothic church, one would hope, may express the idea of soaring spirituality. Seeing an object as, in part, the instance of a type (or representing the instance of a type)

is a separate and distinct activity from appreciating an object as expressing an

idea. Accordingly, it is not the case that objects that express ideas are necessar- ily also dependent beauties. The two categories are quite distinct.

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

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3

Kant holds that aesthetic worth is determined by the pleasure we take in the formal aspects of an object. Even more narrowly he holds, at least in the “Ana-

lytic,” a doctrine of perceptual formalism. Aesthetic pleasure is to be found in the organization of an object’s perceptible elements (as opposed to any cogni- tive content—any “meaning”): “In painting and sculpture, indeed in all picto-

not what gratifies in sensation

but merely what pleases through form.” And further, “(a)ll form of objects of

is either shape or play: in the latter case it is either play of shapes (in

space, mime and dance), or mere play of sensations (in time)” (KU 5: 225, 226). It is hard to know what we should do with the doctrine of perceptual for- malism. It is tempting to agree with Paul Guyer that Kant confuses a narrow doctrine of perceptual formalism with a wider position that follows from the free harmony requirement. 18 The free harmony requirement does indeed entail a kind of formalism since, as we have seen, free harmony refers to the way a man- ifold is organized. However, at this level of generalization we need not specify what sort of elements comprise the manifold. It may be perceptual elements (perceptual formalism). It may be intellectual items (thought associations) or it may be even some third alternative. Unfortunately, as in the above quotes from ¶14, Kant sometimes seems to hold that only perceptual formalism follows from the free harmony requirement. This is surely mistaken since the free harmony requirement at most commits Kant to a formalism broadly speaking that is in- different to the type of elements constituting the form. But further, as we shall see, it likely is not Kant’s intent to restrict free harmony to only a free harmony of perceptual elements. By his own examples, there are formal, free harmonies not comprised solely of perceptual elements. Regardless of where the truth lies in the above controversy, there is a prob- lem for my interpretation. Kant seems committed to perceptual formalism, at least in a range of cases. If this is so, then one may argue that we cannot take seriously his claim that all beauty expresses aesthetic ideas. While it may be granted that expression involves a free harmony (as we saw perviously) and that this is a “formal” concern, it does not seem to be a concern with perceptual form. Expression of ideas requires a free play of various cognitive elements that add up to an idea. To take the aforementioned example, we can recognize that an artwork represents “Jupiter’s eagle, with the lightning in its claws,” by giving our imagination “cause to spread itself over a multitude of related representations” which results in the idea of “the powerful king of heaven” (KU 5: 315, 193). Ex- pression, at least in this example, requires something quite different from per- ceptual form. 19 As a result, it could be argued, expression of ideas is inconsis-

rial arts

the drawing is what is essential

sense

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Chapter 2

tent with perceptual formalism. Moreover, Kant clearly holds that objects can be beautiful in virtue of their perceptual form alone. Thus, expression cannot be a requirement for all beauty as Kant seems to claim. This criticism founders on one important premise. Expression of ideas is not inconsistent with perceptual formalism. First, setting aside textual consid- erations, it is easy to grant that an idea can be expressed through the apprecia- tion of a perceptual form. We can attend to a perceptual form, a “design a la grecque” that may well “signify nothing by themselves” (KU 5: 229, 114) and yet can express any number of ideas. Further, as mentioned earlier, it seems to be the case with contemporary abstract art that we can attend to the percep- tual form and yet claim that the work is expressive. And not only is this what we would say about form and expression, but Kant himself seems to offer just such a position later on in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” In ¶51 where

he begins by asserting that, in general, beauty is the expression of aesthetic ideas, he gives a number of examples where art exemplifies perceptual form and also expresses ideas. Kant gives the example of music where, as usual, the apprecia- tion of perceptual form is all important. But he expands on this point in ¶53

where he claims that the “the form

melody) serves only, instead of the form of a language, to express

thetic idea of a coherent whole of an unutterable fullness of thought” (KU 5:

329, 206). The upshot here is that Kant may well have overstated his case for perceptual formalism in the early stages of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judg- ment.” However, even if that is so, it does not rule out the importance of ex- pression of aesthetic ideas. Expression is perfectly consistent with formalism, even perceptual formalism. 20 We can take this point farther. Not only does it seem possible that a theory of expression can be compatible with formalism on the grounds that one could hold that we appreciate expression by attending to form; but also, there is every reason to believe that Kant’s own account of expression rests on precisely the same grounds as his supposed formalism. The core of Kant’s formalism, it will be recalled, is the claim that aesthetic appreciation involves a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. And, whatever exactly this harmony amounts to, it is an organization of a manifold of particulars. Harmonizing the imagination with the understanding involves the recognition of some kind of order of a manifold of particulars. I believe that there is a considerable amount of evidence that appreciating an object (whether art or nature) as expressing an idea is always achieved by a free harmony of the imagination and the under- standing. In the previous chapter we had a problem understanding how we could appreciate a manifold of particulars as “freely” conforming to the rule-

governedness requirement of understanding. We seem to be presented with the

of these sensations (harmony and

the aes-

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

35

dilemma that either a manifold is determined by a conceptual rule or it is de- termined by no rule at all. The first horn of the dilemma is eliminated by Kant’s insistence that aesthetic appreciation is not a matter of recognizing a manifold as an instance of a concept. But, as we have seen, the second horn fares no bet- ter. If there are no rules at all, then it seems quite impossible to say that aes- thetic appreciation is a matter of finding any sort of order in a manifold that is clearly the intent of Kant’s free harmony requirement. The doctrine of expression of ideas speaks to a number of difficulties in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” As we saw in chapter 1, expression of ideas goes a long way to explain the possibility of a “free” (nonconceptual) har- mony of the imagination and understanding. Appreciating beauty (either art or nature) as expressing ideas allows us to understand how we can appreciate a manifold as orderly yet without an order imposed by determinant concepts. The alternative is that we appreciate an object (as if) designed to express an ideas. In a strict sense, given Kant’s distinction between concepts and ideas, objects interpreted as expressing ideas are perfectly consistent with the requirement in the second moment of the Analytic of the Beautiful that aesthetic appreciation is a matter of taking pleasure in an object apart from a concept.

4

To claim that expression of aesthetic ideas helps to explain how we can perceive order in a manifold without violating Kant’s injunction against concepts may seem overly facile, overly technical. I want to suggest in this section that this technical discussion does have important implications both for Kant’s theory of aesthetics and the field of aesthetics more generally. As we have seen, Kant’s principal complaint against judging objects aesthetically as instances of concepts stems from his rejection of “perfectionism.” That is to say, in the Second and Third Moments of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant argues that aes- thetic appreciation must be something other that judging an object in terms of how well it approximates a “perfect” instance of a concept. Kant’s official reason for rejecting concepts as the ground of aesthetic judgments is that “there is no transition from concepts to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure” (KU 5: 211, 97). It is virtually a first principle of Kant’s position that aesthetic judgments are founded on pleasure felt by the subject. Kant’s complaint against seeing aesthetic judgments as some kind of conceptual judgment is that such judgments seem able to be made without involving any reference to pleasure in appreciation. Kant clearly holds that perfectionism is an implausible theory since it makes no reference to the pleasure we feel in appreciating an object. However,

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there is another quite frequent complaint that Kant has against perfectionism. Perfectionism allows little room for creativity or originality. Take the more ob- vious example of art. If the job of an artist is to create an object that is a near perfect instance of some determinant concept, then the process might be de- manding but hardly original or creative. It is not creative since one knows full well what the artwork is to be like. It is not original since anyone striving to pro- duce a work of perfection would presumably be going down the same path. In the latter sections of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant often contrasts beauty as expression of aesthetic ideas with a position like perfectionism on the grounds of originality. A key text in this regard is ¶46 with Kant’s discussion of “Genius.” 21

The concept of beautiful art, however, does not allow the judgment concerning

the beauty of its product to be derived from any sort of rule that has a concept for

Thus beautiful art cannot itself think up the rule in

accordance with which it is to bring its product into being. Yet since without a

preceding rule a product can never be called art, nature in the subject (and by means of the disposition of its faculties) must give the rule to art, i.e. beautiful art is possible only as a product of genius. From this one sees: That genius (1) is a talent for producing that for which no

consequently that originality must be its primary

its determining

determinate rule can be given characteristic. (KU 5: 307, 186)

Kant’s criticism of using “concepts” here is a bit different from the origi- nal complaint in the “Analytic”; namely, that such a perfectionist doctrine does not adequately account for the pleasure at the base of an aesthetic judgment. In ¶46 (and elsewhere) Kant wants to stress the importance of originality of art and appreciation of beauty that is seen as breaking away from rules and con- cepts handed down. In the passage just quoted Kant appeals to genius as the ability to come up with new and original “rules” to produce artworks. And this account of genius and originality is further bound up with the expression of ideas. Kant goes so far as to define genius as the ability to express ideas:

“Genius really consists in the happy relation, which no science can teach and no diligence learn, of finding ideas for a given concept on the one hand and on the other hitting upon the expression of these” (KU 5: 317, 194). Even more, this faculty of genius is credited with the ability to be able to express these ideas by coming up with the sort of “new rule” referred to earlier. Genius is a “faculty for apprehending the rapidly passing play of the imagination and uni- fying it into a concept (which for that very reason is original and at the same time discloses a new rule that could not have been deduced from any antecedent

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

37

principles or examples), that is communicated without the constraint of rules” (KU 5: 317, 195). In the passages above Kant is rather loose with his use of “concept.” Given his distinction between ideas and concepts, he should have said genius is able to unify the imagination by use of a “new rule” (idea) and without the constraint of “old rules” (concepts). Despite Kant’s looseness concerning concepts and ideas (not uncommon, unfortunately), the doctrine of expression of aesthetic ideas plays an important role in his account of art and beauty more generally. With the doctrine of expression of ideas Kant can explain how he can talk about a harmony of the imagination and understanding that is free from concepts and original at the same time. Kant’s account of the expression of aesthetic ideas seems to be that ideas, by their very nature, attempt to refer to something beyond empirical experience. As such no ordinary “concept” will be adequate. Concepts, as we have seen, re- quire determinant, empirical content. A proper empirical concept must de- scribe the sort of thing to be met with in sense perception. This cannot be the case with the referent of an idea. If an object is constructed to express an idea we cannot construct the manifold in accordance with any given, empirical con- cept since concepts are not adequate to the job of referring to that which is be- yond experience. Kant then suggests, but does not argue for, the claim that ex- pression of an idea requires that one create an object according to some “new rule.” At first glance this does not seem to be obviously true. To be sure, we can grant Kant the claim that representing objects and states of affairs beyond ex- perience cannot be done by concept—this is true by the very definition of “con- cept.” However, more would need to be said to defend the claim that expres- sion of an idea must always be new and original and that this distinguishes expression of ideas from ordinary conceptualization. A couple of criticisms could be made here. First, it seems that even empirical concepts must have been, at some point, “new rules.” 22 The concept of chair or dog was developed by someone at some time. Second, it does not seem that every time that some- one creates an object in order to express an idea such expression must be orig- inal. If “Jupiter’s eagle” can express the idea of “an attribute of the powerful king of heaven” (KU 5: 315, 193) in one work of art, then it seems that anyone who subsequently (and quite unoriginally) uses this symbolic devise can also express the same idea. In spite of the above, Kant’s account of the originality of expression of aes- thetic ideas can be defended. It is important to keep in mind that expression at- tempts to “make sensible” that which lays beyond sense experience (KU 5: 314, 192). This project, it can be argued, requires an originality not required for cre- ating new concepts. One can very well have metarules for creating empirical

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concepts—look for common features among a group of objects you wish to group together under a new class concept. Ideas, since they are nonempirical in character, cannot work this way. Instead, Kant suggests that ideas can only rep- resent symbolically by suggesting that which cannot be literally exemplified. This activity, plausibly, is one for which there are no guidelines. It may even fur- ther be true that there is no unique way in which to express an idea. Expression, unlike conceptualization, may be achieved in any number of ways. There are likely many ways to express an “attribute of the powerful king.” And, even if we were to grant that one could choose some standard and, by now, nonoriginal ways of expressing such an idea, it is nonetheless true that once upon a time originality was required in a way that it is never required for conceptualization.

5

In this chapter I have addressed several issues concerning Kant’s doctrine of aes- thetic ideas. Centrally, I have wanted to give a description of what an aesthetic idea is for Kant and how an object is capable of expressing such ideas. But also, I consider some problems standing in the way of understanding the doctrine as applying widely to objects of beauty (both art and nature) while not depreciat- ing the value of expression of ideas (not relegating expression to the status of mere dependent beauty). In this last section I want to make a few further re- marks about the value of appreciating objects, aesthetically, for the ideas they express. It is clear that Kant believes that the expression of aesthetic ideas is valuable. It is, however, an open question how this value might figure into an aesthetic value judgment. This issue will be considered in the appendix. For now it will be sufficient to see why he thinks that the expression of aesthetic ideas is of value. It turns out that there are actually several reasons that Kant gives to sup- port the value of expression of ideas. In ¶49, which contains the central de- scription of aesthetic ideas, it is reasonably clear why the expression of aesthetic ideas is valuable. Kant’s position is that art and nature can give us some glimpse into objects and states of affairs that lay beyond experience. Kant gives the fol- lowing example:

“The sun streamed forth, as tranquillity streams from virtue.” The consciousness of virtue, when one puts oneself, even if only in thought, in the place of a virtu- ous person, spreads in the mind a multitude of sublime and calming feelings, and

a boundless prospect into a happy future, which no expression that is adequate to

a determinate concept fully captures. (KU 5: 316, 194)

The Doctrine of Aesthetic Ideas

39

It seems quite clear that aesthetic appreciation of the expression of an idea is a valuable experience for Kant since such appreciation can do a job for us that can be done in no other way. Given Kant’s epistemological position in the first Critique that knowledge must be limited by the bounds of sense, having any fa- miliarity with that which lies beyond sense seems out of the question. Kant soft- ens his position in the third Critique and the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” in particular. By way of aesthetic appreciation we get some sense of that for which we can have no empirical knowledge. The example Kant gives in the pre- ceding quote illustrates the point. Presumably, we cannot form an empirical concept of the “consciousness of virtue”; however, the poet can yet give us some (metaphorical) sense of what such consciousness would be like. 23 Expression of aesthetic ideas is valuable since it is the only way in which we can have some kind of “representation” of those objects and states of affairs that go beyond empirical knowledge. But there is a related point here as well. Presumably, Kant’s interests in the expression of ideas extends to representa- tions of anything that might be said to be beyond the reach of empirical con- cepts; however, he is particularly interested in moral ideas. Kant’s examples of aesthetic ideas, although few in number, are often but not always examples of moral ideas. This leads to the claim that “taste is at bottom a faculty for the judging of the sensible rendering of moral ideas” (KU 5: 356, 230). This thesis, on the face of it, seems a bit narrow since, although it can be claimed as valu- able that appreciation of beauty can give us insight into specific moral notions, it can give us a peek into other notions beyond empirical experince. 24 There is a final, and rather more difficult, argument to the value of aes- thetic appreciation and one that also depends on Kant’s attempt to forge a link between aesthetic appreciation and morality. At ¶42 Kant claims that “since it also interests reason that the ideas (for which it produces an immediate inter- est in the moral feeling) also have object” (KU 5: 300, 180). This is part of an argument, which will be discussed in chapter 6, that proper aesthetic apprecia- tion gives us reason to believe that the world (nature) is amenable to our act- ing on the basis of practical reason. That is to say, we are interested to know whether our ideas (of reason) can have an effect in what appears to be a mech- anistically determined world. What is interesting about this passage is that Kant seems to be claiming that beauty as the expression of aesthetic ideas is able to engage this interest of reason. The passage cited above does not quite say this, but later in the discussion at ¶42 Kant describes how nature speaks to us in a “language” that “seems to have a higher meaning” and gives examples of aes- thetic ideas like innocence, courage, and so on (KU 5: 302, 181). As such, one might read Kant here as arguing that beauty as the expression of aesthetic ideas is morally valuable to us since it gives us reason to believe that the world is

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amenable to our efforts to act on practical reason. Again, I consider the ques- tion of the moral importance of aesthetic appreciation and its relation to aes- thetic ideas in much more detail in chapter 6. What I want to argue here is that the doctrine of aesthetic ideas helps Kant’s general account of aesthetic in two important ways. First, it helps to fill out the difficult notion of a free harmony of the imagination and the under- standing. On my interpretation appreciation of an object as the expression of an aesthetic idea is not just compatible with finding aesthetic pleasure in a free harmony, it helps to explain how we can appreciate free harmony. Second, the doctrine of aesthetic ideas may also help to explain in Kant why aesthetic ap- preciation is of value—why we should take pleasure in free harmony and specif- ically free harmony as expression of ideas.

3

Natural and Artistic Beauty

In the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant makes a distinction between the aesthetic appreciation of artworks and natural objects. It is commonplace to suppose that the distinction has important evaluative consequences. For ex- ample, Kant is often understood to hold the claim that artworks are intrinsically inferior to natural objects and as such artworks should be judged by a different, and lower, standard than natural objects. 1 It should be noted that just the op- posite interpretation has also been proposed; namely, that natural objects are

intrinsically inferior to artworks. 2 The position for which I shall argue is that while Kant clearly makes a distinction between artworks and natural objects, it

is a misreading of the text to suppose that he intends an evaluative preference

for one category over the other. And, further, I hope to show that attempts to read Kant as having such an evaluative preference are based on misunder- standings of other key Kantian concepts and distinctions—especially the dis- tinction between free and dependent beauty, the notion of disinterestedness, and the relation between beauty and morality.

In ¶45 of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” there is what I take to be

a clear statement denying an evaluative distinction between objects of art and nature:

In a product of art one must be aware that it is art, and not nature; yet the pur- posiveness in its form must still seem to be as free from all constraint by arbitrary rules as if it were a mere product of nature. On this feeling of freedom in the play of our cognitive powers, which must yet at the same time be purposive, rests that pleasure which is alone universally communicable though without being grounded on concepts. Nature was beautiful, if at the same time it looked like art; and art can only be beautiful (schöne) if we are aware that it is art and yet looks to us like nature. For we can generally say, whether it is the beauty of nature or art that is at issue: that is beautiful which pleases in the mere judging (neither in sensation nor through a concept). (KU 5: 306, 185)

41

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Chapter 3

Kant’s position seems clear enough. There is a single criterion for “beauty.”

Objects are beautiful when they are “purposive” but without “purpose” or, what

is the same criterion, when they occasion the mental state of a “free harmony

of the imagination and the understanding”—the criterion we considered in the first chapter. Although the precise details of the notion of “purposiveness with- out purpose” or “free harmony” is subject to interpretative dispute as we have seen, broadly Kant’s position is that in order for an object to be judged as beau- tiful it must possess a certain orderliness—the various elements must “hang to- gether” in some fashion or other. However, the sort of orderliness displayed can- not be attributed to any actual “purpose” or “concept.” Kant excludes two sorts

of orderliness as relevant to aesthetic evaluation. First, the orderliness of an ob- ject of taste should not be due to the fact that an object is an instance (perhaps

a near perfect instance) of some general object. A horse (or a pictorial repre-

sentation of a horse) will display an orderliness simply because all of the parts add up to a horse. As we have seen in previous chapters, this is part of Kant’s rejection of Leibnizean “perfectionism.” Second, an object may be orderly be- cause each of the parts help serve some definite purpose. An automobile (or a pictorial representation of an automobile) will appear orderly because its parts

contribute to the purpose of a vehicle. It has wheels, an engine, seats, and fend- ers, each of which contributes to the telos of an automobile. But again, Kant ar- gues that such organization of purpose is not the kind of organization appropri- ate to aesthetic evaluation. Kant’s broad reason for why each of the above sorts of organization fails

is connected to this claim that the pleasure at the foundation of a proper judg-

ment of taste must be “disinterested.” The pleasure we take in an orderliness lent by a determinate concept (like horse) or a teleological idea (like automo-

bile) is an interested pleasure. To oversimplify Kant’s argument, an object that

is a good example of a horse pleases us because we are “interested” in possess-

ing and using a horse. Or an object that serves the purpose of being a vehicle pleases us when we are “interested” in a means of conveyance. 3 All of this is background for Kant’s position in ¶45, which seems straight- forward enough. Both art and nature must live up to the same criterion: pur- posiveness without purpose (a free harmony of the imagination and under- standing). Further, Kant gives no reason to believe that one kind of object regularly does a better or worse job at meeting this criterion. To be sure Kant recognizes differences between art and nature but apparently ones that are ir- relevant to their consideration as aesthetic objects. Kant makes the double

claim that we must approach art as if it were a product of nature and nature as

if it were a product of art. What he has in mind is this. Artworks insofar as they

are human artifacts are most certainly intentional objects. They are objects cre-

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43

ated by humans with some intention—if only the intention of producing an aes- thetic object. However, proper aesthetic consideration requires that we abstract from the fact that artworks are intentional and in this respect treat it as if a nat- ural object. We should not be looking at artworks as designed, for example, to exemplify a concept or a teleological idea. But further, Kant claims that the proper aesthetic way to consider natural objects is as if they were works of art. Again, a good aesthetic object is one that displays “purposiveness without pur- pose.” Natural objects easily meet the “without purpose” requirement since, we suppose, they are not intentionally created. However, to consider an object aes- thetically we must view the work as if created by an intentional agent in order to fulfill the purposive requirement. In order to derive aesthetic satisfaction from appreciating a natural object, the object must seem as though all of its el- ements work together as though it were intentionally produced for the elements to function in this way. This is not to deny that there are differences between art and nature, even differences of some aesthetic significance. For example, it could be said that when artworks fail to meet Kant’s criterion it is often due to the fact that the works are too “studied” in their appearance—an artist’s intentions are too much in evidence. 4 Alternatively, natural objects may characteristically fail to be aes- thetically good because we have difficulty considering them as if purposive—we can find little rhyme or reason to their organization. But even though individ- ual artworks and natural objects may have different relative strengths and weaknesses as aesthetic objects, the passages we have been considering insist on a single standard. Further, I see no prima facie reason to believe that one cate- gory of objects is incapable of meeting this criterion or even that one category of objects is less likely to meet the criterion.

1

In spite of the evidence given here Kant has been interpreted as making a strong evaluative distinction between art and nature. One attempt at a stronger read- ing depends on Kant’s further distinction between “free” and “dependent” (or “adherent”) beauty. In ¶16 Kant distinguishes between beautiful objects that do not presuppose a “concept of what the object ought to be” (free beauties) ver- sus objects which do presuppose such an concept (KU 5: 229, 114). Kant seems to claim that the best we can do for a “dependent” beauty is to make an “im- pure” judgment of taste, while with a “free” beauty we can make a “pure” judg- ment. 5 But further, this is thought to imply that objects capable of pure judg- ments of beauty (free beauties) are aesthetically superior to those capable only

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of an impure judgment (dependent beauties). The reason the latter are depre- ciated harks back to Kant’s arguments in the first moment of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” that aesthetic judgments must be “disinterested.” Specif- ically in ¶2 Kant argues that aesthetic judgments must be free of conceptual in- terestedness. Kant’s point is that aesthetic judgments, based on felt pleasure in appreciation, are distinct from conceptual judgments. As we have seen, Kant is particularly concerned to distinguish aesthetic judgments from judging objects to be good representatives of a kind of object that does a good job of realizing some teleological end. Both of the latter judgments are, in Kant’s view, “con- ceptual” judgments, viz. judgments of how well an object fits a kind concept or how well an object meets a teleological “concept” (strictly speaking teleological judgments use “ideas” in Kant’s taxonomy). All such conceptual judgments are instances of “interested” judgments to be distinguished from properly “disinter- ested” aesthetic judgments. The claim in ¶4 is that conceptual judgments are “interested” in the sense that to judge an object to be good because it instanti- ates a kind concept or it suits a teleological idea assumes some prior concern with what kind is being realized or what end is being met. Kant claims that this sort of thing is antithetical to a contemplation of an object as “good in itself” (KU 5: 207, 93). Although there is much more to be said about Kant’s doctrine of disin- terestedness, this is enough to set up the connection with free and dependent beauty (and additionally, the connection with artistic and natural beauties). Ac- cording to Kant dependent beauties “depend” on a concept of what sort of thing the object is. One of Kant’s examples of such a dependent beauty is a church (KU 5: 230, 114). Simply put, in order to consider a church’s beauty our ap- preciation of the object is, in some sense, constrained by the fact that in order to be a beautiful church it must live up to minimal criteria for being a church (its not important here whether we consider “church” a kind concept or a tele- ological idea). However, it can be argued, to consider what sort of thing an ob- ject is (or what purpose it serves) amounts to taking an “interest” in the object and, given Kant’s cautions against interestedness, such a consideration will in- fect the purity of an aesthetic judgment. The partial conclusion here is that “de- pendent beauties” are aesthetically inferior to “free beauties” because our judg- ments of dependent beauties are tainted by conceptual interests. Kant seems to suggest as much when he distinguishes free beauty from beauty that is “merelydependent or adherent (my emphasis, KU 5: 229, 114). Given this ammunition, an argument can be mustered for the aesthetic superiority of natural versus artistic objects. In ¶48 Kant draws the art/nature distinction in the following way: “A beauty of nature is a beautiful thing; the beauty of art is a beautiful representation of a thing” (KU 5: 311, 189). Further,

Natural and Artistic Beauty

45

Kant seems to think that art is necessarily representational. To recognize some- thing as an artwork is to understand what it represents. And, most contentiously, to evaluate an artwork is, at least partly, to evaluate the extent to which it is a “good” representation. But, so the argument goes, this entails that artworks are all “dependent beauties,” since they depend on a concept of what kind of thing is represented. Finally, from the above, since dependent beauties are inferior to independent beauties, the artworks are aesthetically inferior to natural objects. 6 The free/dependent distinction is problematic, even without the ques- tionable application to the art/nature distinction. It seems inappropriate on Kant’s own accounting to talk of “objects” as free or dependent beauties as op- posed to evaluations (judgments) that are free or dependent. Any object, as Kant seems to admit, could be judged “dependently,” if one wanted. A vase could, in part, be considered for the extent to which it serves the purpose of holding flowers. Or, Kant’s own example, a botanist might consider the extent to which a particular flower is a good example of the species, and so on (KU 5:

229, 114). Or, on the other side of the coin, it would seem that any object could be judged independently of whether a concept applies to it or not. One could consider the vase without regard to its being a vase and one could consider a flower without regard to its species. In fact, it is arguable whether Kant’s cate- gory “dependent (or impure) judgments of beauty” is coherent. According to the earlier arguments of the “Critique” a proper judgment of taste ought never consider exemplification of a concept or purpose as part of an aesthetic evalu- ation. One might say that proper aesthetic evaluation should always be “inde- pendent” of the application of concepts. As such, it could be argued that so- called dependent judgments of beauty are at best a proper aesthetic judgment plus an aesthetically irrelevant conceptual judgment. Whatever we make of the free/dependent distinction, it will not establish that natural objects are aesthetically superior to works of art. The discussion of ¶16 seems to imply that both artworks and natural objects can be considered as either dependent or free beauties. As such, the art/nature and free/dependent distinctions are not coextensive. We can have artworks that are free beauties and natural objects considered as dependent beauties. Even if Kant has a pref- erence for free beauties over dependent beauties, it does not follow that this would necessarily support a preference for natural objects over artworks. As we have seen, Kant holds the unfortunate view that artworks (at least generally speaking) involve representation; subsequent developments in the history of art (notably abstract art) make this claim seem quite doubtful. Ac- cording to Kant, artworks employ “concepts” because they represent something (exemplify a concept). However, even Kant is willing to admit that it is not uni- versally true that all artworks are representational. He cites examples in ¶16 of

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“designs a la grecque, foliage for borders or on wall-papers

Similarly, Kant holds that “all music without a text” would be considered free beauty (KU 5: 229, 114). These examples of nonrepresentational aesthetic ob- jects are also clearly examples of artworks. However, even in cases of artworks that are representational it does not follow that our judgments of them must al- ways be dependent and as such judged inferior to free judgments concerning natural objects. It seems entirely possible that an artwork, which represents an object, can do so in such a way that it achieves “purposivenes without purpose” or “free harmony of the imagination and understanding” and accordingly can be judged (purely, if you will) according to Kant’s general criterion. Just this po- sition is implied by Kant in ¶48: “So much for the beautiful presentation of an object, which is really only the form of the presentation of a concept by means of which the latter is universally communicated” (KU 5: 312, 191). And Kant goes on to explain that the ability to pick the right “form” in which to present a concept requires “taste.” Taste, Kant describes elsewhere as a faculty able to recognize purposiveness without purpose (free harmony of the imagination and understanding). 7 The point of these admittedly obscure remarks seems to be that artworks are representational, yet they are aesthetically meritorious when and only when the form of their presentation is purposive without purpose. But this implies that artworks, like natural objects, must adhere to the same “pur- posiveness without purpose” criterion. Thus, even if we must admit that art- works are representational, this does not imply that they will always end up lower on the aesthetic scale than natural objects.

are free beauties.”

2

There is a variant of the claim that the art/nature distinction corresponds to the free/dependent distinction. As we have seen in the last chapter, much of the lat- ter portions of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” has to do with the notion of expression of aesthetic ideas (see ¶49 and further). It has been suggested that Kant has two quite different criteria for beauty: the formal criterion of purpo- siveness without purpose (or free harmony), seen in the early section of the “Cri- tique of Aesthetic Judgment” and a substantive criterion of expression of ideas, found in the later sections. An explanation of these two, seemingly incompati- ble, criteria is that the first applies to objects of nature while the latter applies to artworks. 8 Further, it is often supposed that to express an idea is to represent a concept and anything that represents a concept is an inferior, dependent beauty. This line of interpretation goes awry on at least three separate accounts:

(1) If my analysis of the free/dependent distinction is roughly correct, it does not

Natural and Artistic Beauty

47

follow that representational art objects are necessarily inferior to nonrepresen- tational natural objects. The free/dependent distinction does not match up to the nature/art distinction. (2) Kant’s text does not support the claim that only artworks can express aesthetic ideas. In ¶51 he claims quite the contrary: “Beauty (whether it be beauty of nature or art) can in general be called the expression of aesthetic ideas: only in beautiful art this idea must be occasioned by a concept of the object, but in beautiful nature the mere reflection on a given intuition, without a concept of what the object ought to be, is sufficient for arousing and communicating the idea of which the object is considered as the expression” (KU 5: 320, 197–98). Here, again, Kant assumes that artworks are (generally) repre- sentational; they assume “a concept of what the object ought to be” whereas nat- ural objects do not. But, nonetheless, whether representational or not each sort of object can express ideas. Expression of ideas and representation of concepts are, on Kant’s accounting, two distinct enterprises. Further, Kant reinforces this point by giving examples of natural (nonrepresentational) objects that are prop- erly regarded as expressing ideas. The white color of a lily expresses the idea of innocence and “The song of the bird proclaims joyfulness and contentment with its existence” (KU 5: 302, 181). The upshot is that it seems quite possible for nat- ural objects as well as artworks to express aesthetic ideas. As such, one cannot make an evaluative distinction between artworks and natural objects on the ba- sis of whether one or the other is capable of expressing ideas. (3) There is an- other problem with the interpretation under consideration. This interpretation assumes that representing by means of a concept is the same thing for Kant as expressing an idea. 9 This is not so. The “white color of the lily” can express “in- nocence” without representing anything. Or an artist can produce a painting that represents “Jupiter’s eagle” but expresses the idea of a “powerful king of heaven” (KU 5: 315, 193). Or statues may represent “humans, gods, animals, etc.” but express all sorts of ideas (KU 5: 322, 199). The general point that expression of ideas and representation of concepts are not identical is implicit in the passage cited previously from ¶51. After asserting that both art and nature express aes- thetic ideas, Kant goes on to mark the difference between art and nature by claiming that art expresses “through the medium of a concept of the Object” while natural objects express by “bare reflection upon a given intuition.” On this accounting, art expresses ideas by first representing something or other through a concept. For example, an artist may represent a nude in a painting and by means of which express the idea of gracefulness. Alternatively, Kant claims that we can appreciate the expressiveness of natural beauty without first seeing it as repre- sentational. Again, we could quarrel with the sort of distinction Kant makes be- tween art and nature here, but it is clear that he does not regard representation through a concept as equivalent to expression of ideas.

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3

There is one final strategy that is sometimes used to make an evaluative dis- tinction between artworks and natural objects. Toward the end of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” Kant attempts to draw a connection between aesthetic judgments and an intellectual or moral interest in the objects judged. It is ar- gued that Kant makes an important distinction between art and nature on the issue of moral or intellectual interest. Curiously, this line of argument is used al- ternatively to support the superiority of art over nature or nature over art. 10 One way this argument can go is to claim that either art or nature promotes a moral or intellectual interest. But, given Kant’s commitment to disinterestedness, such objects must be inferior to the others that do not depend on an “inter- est.” 11 In this respect the criticism is rather like the one based on dependent beauty. Some objects (and it is argued variously either art or nature) “depend” for their value on their ability to satisfy some moral or intellectual interest. But such objects are aesthetically inferior to the other group of objects that have no such dependence because, in general, Kant claims that genuine aesthetic merit should not depend on interests. 12 This argument from disinterestedness wrongly assumes that the disinter- estedness criterion rules out a moral or intellectual interest in beauty. If this cri- terion were to apply to moral interests, then it should not be permissible to con- sider an object “disinterestedly” and also take a moral interest in it. Yet, Kant holds just such a position: “It also interests reason that the ideas (for which it produced an immediate interest in the moral feeling) also have objective real- ity, i.e., that nature should at least show some trace or give a sign that it con- tains in itself some sort of ground for assuming a lawful correspondence of its products with our satisfaction that is independent of all interest” (KU 5: 300, 180). Here Kant claims that taking an “interest” in objects that are capable of producing in us a “disinterested delight” is “akin” to a moral interest. And, fur- ther, he apparently believes that taking the appropriate moral interest in objects is perfectly consistent with also considering them as a source of disinterested de- light. In fact, Kant suggests that our moral interest is engaged just because the objects give us a disinterested delight. Rather obviously Kant means to distin- guish aesthetically inappropriate sorts of interests criticized under the tag of dis- interestedness from an appropriate interest—namely, a moral interest. 13 There is a quite different attempt to distinguish the relative value of artis- tic and natural beauty on the basis of moral interest. In fact, it is the mirror im- age of the strategy just considered. Instead of condemning one sort of object be- cause it promotes a moral interest, it is praised for just that reason. Specifically, if one holds that promoting a moral interest is an important component to aes-

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thetic value, then one could argue that any category of object that fails to pro- mote such an interest (or promotes the interest poorly) is deficient as an aes- thetic object. 14 Further, Kant has been interpreted as claiming that natural

beauty satisfies an intellectual, moral interest while art does not. 15 And, further, since satisfying such an interest is aesthetically valuable, then natural beauty is superior to artistic beauty. The text typically used to support the superiority of nature over art (on the basis of a moral interest) is ¶42. There Kant claims:

provides no proof

I

do assert that to take an immediate interest in the beauty of nature

a mark of a good soul” (KU 5: 298, 178). This position is difficult to maintain in light of other portions of the text. In the final section of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” (namely, the “Di- alectic of Aesthetic Judgment”), Kant claims that “the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good,” seemingly referring to both art and nature (KU 5: 353, 227). Specifically, it is claimed that “we often designate beautiful objects of na- ture or of art with names that seem to be grounded in a moral judging” [my em- phasis] (KU 5: 354, 228). If we take Kant seriously in ¶59, neither the superi- ority of art over nature or nature over art can be justified by their differing moral importance. Both, it seems, are of moral importance since both are equally able to “symbolize” morality.

is always

“Now I glady concede that an interest in the beautiful of art of a way of thinking that is devoted to the morally

By contrast

The passages at ¶42 and ¶59 seem to stand in sharp contrast. Or, more properly, ¶42 seems inconsistent with Kant’s more general claim that art and nature live up to the same evaluative standard as well as the more specific claim in the Dialectic that both art and nature can symbolize morality. Yet, we must

take care to see precisely what Kant has to say in ¶42. He does not say that art

is devoid of moral interest or that only nature promotes such an interest. Ac-

tually, the claim is not about the objects of taste but, rather, about people who take an interest in either art or nature and what can be inferred about their

moral disposition. Kant’s point is that an interest in nature shows the “mark of

a good soul,” whereas an interest in art does not show this. But this is consis-

tent with the position in ¶59—that both art and nature are of moral interest. It could be that Kant holds that both art and nature, if properly appreciated, are capable of satisfying a moral interest. Yet, it does not follow that people who contemplate art are as likely to recognize the moral worth of these objects as are those who contemplate nature. In fact, Kant seems to think that those who appreciate nature cannot miss nature’s moral significance, while art lovers are apparently more easily distracted. There is another, and possibly better, explanation for the apparent con- flict between Kant’s position in ¶42 and later in ¶59. In the latter sections of the

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“Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” (¶44–¶58) Kant makes a distinction between beautiful or fine art (schöne Kunst) and merely agreeable (angenehm) art. 16 Agreeable art is art intended to be “agreeable” to our senses—to please us im- mediately. Specifically, agreeable art is intended to play on our emotions. Beau- tiful art, alternatively, is the higher category of beauty with which Kant is pri- marily concerned. It is the art that pleases through reflection on the harmony of our faculties. To put the contrast in more contemporary terms, agreeable art might be the “art” of a soap opera calculated to provoke certain emotions; whereas, beautiful art is the art of the (much more thought-provoking) Greek

tragedy. In light of this distinction it can be argued that Kant’s complaint in ¶42

is against agreeable art and is not intended to apply to beautiful art.

There is yet one further reason, to doubt an important evaluative dis- tinction between art and nature. As odd as it may seem, it can be argued that

art (“beautiful art”) is indirectly a product of nature after all. 17 Properly under- stood, the distinction between artistic and natural beauty collapses on the side of nature. This seemingly odd position comes to light in Kant’s discussion of artistic genius, which we discussed in the previous chapter. Art is produced by

a creator who is not self-conscious of what he or she is doing: “He himself does

not know it and thus cannot teach it to anyone else either” (KU 5: 309, 188). The artist, Kant claims, gives the “rule to art” although he or she is never con- scious of what that rule is. Specifically, what an artistic does not do is to bring a pre-given, conceptual rule to bear on his or her creation. This would be in di- rect violation of the Kantian requirement that beauty not depend on concepts. Instead, genius inarticulately and unselfconsciously comes up with a new “rule” for his or her creation that does not depend on preestablished, ordinary rules.

Important to our present discussion Kant attributes creation of such unin- tended, beautiful art by genius to nature:

Genius is the talent (natural gift) that gives rule to art. Since the talent, as an in- born productive faculty of the artist, itself belongs to nature, this could also be ex- pressed thus: Genius is the inborn predisposition of the mind (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art. (KU 5: 307, 186)

Beautiful art, according to Kant is a product of genius. But genius, it turns out, belongs to the workings of nature. Artistic creation by genius is, in fact, nature working through a human agent. The distinction between natural beauty and artistic beauty falls on the side of nature. Artistic beauty is a species of natural beauty. On the face of it there is a sharp conflict between the position in ¶42 where Kant seems to assert that nature, but not art, is of moral value and the

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position in ¶59 where he seems to claim that both art and nature equally have moral value. My position is that ¶42 does not advocate the strong view that it seems to. Only an inferior version of art is not able to lay claim to moral worth. There is, however, an alternative interpretation that has the apparent advan- tage of taking both ¶42 and ¶59 at face value and rendering them consistent. Henry Allison argues that Kant makes two distinct claims about the moral value of beauty. 18 In ¶42 Kant wants to establish an intellectual, moral interest in beauty. This is the strongest, most important connection Kant makes between beauty and morality. In ¶59, however, Kant makes a weaker claim that beauty can be the “symbol” of morality. Thus, it is Kant’s consistent position that only natural beauty can satisfy a moral interest, while both natural and artistic beauty can play the lesser role of “symbolizing” morality. In chapter 6 we will be looking much more closely at Kant’s connection between beauty and morality, but we must venture a little way into the issue for present purposes. First, we need to have some idea why Kant holds in ¶42 that (natural) beauty can satisfy an intellectual, moral interest. On Allison’s reading appreciation of (natural) beauty gives us a hint that nature might be amenable to our reflective judging activity—free harmony is thought by Kant to be a species of reflective judging. As we have seen in our earlier discussion, free har- mony is a reflective activity rather like the sort of reflection we use when we at- tempt to see the world as instantiating ideas of reason. Specifically, aesthetic re- flective judging is rather like the moral enterprise of realizing our moral idea (the moral law) in the world. As such, our appreciation of (natural) beauty gives us a “hint” that nature is amenable to our efforts to realize our moral ideas in the world. And this insight is of great moral interest to us. 19 As we saw in our dis- cussion of aesthetic ideas in the last chapter, the basis of this interpretation can be found in the passage at ¶42:

But since it also interests reason that the ideas (for which it produces an imme-

diate interest in the moral feeling) also have objective reality, i.e., that nature should at least show some trace or give a sign that it contains in itself some sort of ground for assuming a lawful correspondence of its products with our satisfac-

this interest is moral. (KU 5: 300, 180)

tion that is independent of all interest

To simplify this interpretation, Kant seems to be claiming that apprecia- tion of natural beauty is, in part, noticing that objects are organized in such a way as to satisfy the purpose of reflective judgment. This seems to be what Kant has in mind when he frequently claims that aesthetic appreciation presumes a certain “subjective purposiveness” of its objects—aesthetic objects satisfy our purpose to see the world as conducive to our reflective judging efforts. But now

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Kant claims that finding nature subjectively purposive engages our moral inter- est since it suggests that nature is amenable to our moral ends. This is particu- larly pressing in the Kantian philosophy since according to the Critique of Pure Reason, strictly speaking, we cannot know that nature will allow us to impose our moral ends on the world. For all we know nature may be nothing but me- chanical determinism and our efforts to shape the world by our ideas are in vain. The lesson of ¶42 is that appreciation of natural beauty engages our moral interest since it is a “sign” that nature is conducive to our moral will. However, so the interpretation goes, the point of ¶59 is quite different. In ¶59 Kant wants to show that beauty (either art or nature) can “symbolize” morality in the sense that judgments of beauty are similar in several respects to moral willing or moral judgments. 20 For example, both aesthetic and moral judgments must be disin- terested and the freedom of the imagination in aesthetic appreciation is rather like the expression of freedom in willing by the moral laws, and so forth. And, Kant is reasonably clear that both art and nature can “symbolize” morality in these ways. 21 However, this is perfectly consistent with his claim in ¶42 that only natural beauty, not art, can satisfy an intellectual, moral interest. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that Kant’s claim in ¶42 is that (nat- ural) beauty is morally valuable because it allows us to see nature as amenable to our moral projects. Let’s further grant that Kant makes other claims about the connection between beauty and morality that are less important than this one. 22 Even granting all of this I want to argue that in paragraphs just prior to ¶59 Kant reasserts his claim from ¶42 that beauty requires us to see nature as conducive to our ideas. And, most important for our present purposes, Kant construes beauty in this context to include both nature and art. Further, it is even possible to see ¶59 itself as claiming that one of the reasons beauty (of art and nature) can symbolize morality is that both kinds of beauty can reinforce our belief that nature is amenable to the realization of our ideas. In the Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment (¶55–60) Kant’s official task is to explain how to resolve the apparently conflicting claims of judgments of taste. On the one hand such judgments seem to have a sort of objectivity and yet, on the other hand, they are based on subjective pleasure. Kant attempts to solve this “dialectic” in a fashion superficially similar to the dialectic of the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant will argue that the Dialectic can be solved only by postulating some- thing about a “supersensible” while also asserting an idealism concerning this su- persensible. 23 To put it a bit more simply, Kant claims that the solution to the di- alectic requires us to consider that the world may have features hidden from our senses while at the same time appreciating that we can have no knowledge of such things. Fortunately, we need not go into detail concerning the solution to the Dialectic, but we do need to be a bit clearer about how Kant is using super-

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sensible and idealism in these sections. Kant tells us in Remark II following ¶57 that he is dealing with three senses of the idea of a supersensible:

First, that of the supersensible in general without further determination, as the substratum of nature; second, the very same thing, as the principle of the subjec- tive purposiveness of nature for our faculty of cognition; third, the very same thing, as the principle of the ends of freedom and principle of the correspondence of freedom with those ends in the moral sphere. (KU 5: 346, 220–21)

Admittedly, this passage is not a paradigm of clarity. However, Kant seems to be dealing with the following three senses of the supersensible. First, there is the bare idea that under the appearance of experiences there is a supersensible substrate. But second, and most relevant to our present discussion, there is an idea of the supersensible of nature as suiting the purposes of our cognitive fac- ulties—notably, as mentioned in ¶57, the power of judgment (reflective judg- ment) itself (KU 5: 340, 216). And finally, Kant includes the supersensible in the explicitly moral sense of realizing ends of freedom. The second use of su- persensible seems to be making just the same point as that made in ¶42. At the very heart of the aesthetic experience and the aesthetic judgment is the sense that nature is subjectively purposive in the sense that we are able to see nature as conducive to our higher cognitive aims (a claim that exceeds our sense ex- perience). Kant is arguing that the dialectic of aesthetic judgment can only be solved if we assume that aesthetic experience is based on the “supersensible” idea that nature is conducive to reflective judgment—that nature is conducive to our ideas. But this, Kant suggests in the passage above, is very much akin to our project as moral agents of realizing our moral ideas in the world. The upshot here is that in the Dialectic (¶55f) Kant continues the theme, begun in ¶42, that appreciation of beauty allows us (perhaps requires us) to see nature as “subjectively purposive,” as responsive to our attempts to impose our ideas on it. There is a shift in terminology, however, this way of looking at na- ture is now described as regarding nature as having a supersensible underpin- ning. This theme continues in ¶58. In ¶58, however, Kant wants to insist that the notion that nature is subjectively purposive is only “ideal.” We only regard nature “as if” purposive for us. We can have no empirical evidence of this su- persensible design. What is interesting in the discussion of the Dialectic (at least from ¶55–58) is that Kant believes that beauty of both art and nature tells us something about the supersensible. For instance, Kant includes in the discus- sion of beauty and the supersensible the example of artistic genius and the ex- pression of aesthetic ideas (KU 5: 344, 219). Art produced by genius is given as an example of how beauty points to the supersensible in the way described

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above. But, perhaps most explicitly, in ¶58 where Kant insists that the purpo- siveness of nature that we seem to observe in aesthetic experience is to be re- garded as “ideal,” he claims that “the idealism of the purposiveness in judging of the beautiful in nature and in art is the only presupposition under which we can explain the possibility of taste, which demands a priori validity for every- one” (KU 5: 351, 225). This is about as clear as Kant can be. Aesthetic appre- ciation is a matter of appreciating nature “as if” purposive for our higher cogni- tive abilities (applying ideas to the world). This is the sort of thing that engages our intellectual, moral interest. (The same position as ¶42.) And now, Kant claims that this role applies to both art and nature. When Kant turns to the issue of beauty as the symbol of morality in ¶59, he lists four ways in which beauty is analogous to (symbolizes) morality. Admit- tedly, the notion of an interest in nature being purpose for our higher faculties is not included in the list (KU 5: 354, 227–28). However, in the paragraph im- mediately preceding the list Kant again makes reference to the supersensible and the idea of nature “harmonizing” with our higher cognitive goals (KU 5:

353, 227). It is very tempting to conclude that finding nature to harmonize with our higher faculties is intended here to be an important element in beauty “sym- bolizing” nature. And, as Kant asserts in the same context, this is something that works with the “beautiful objects of nature or of art” (KU 5: 354, 228). It is uncontroversial that the Dialectic makes connections between beauty and morality that are intended to include both art and nature. However, contrary to Allison, I see that one of these connections is precisely the same as the one advocated in ¶42, which presumably applies only to natural beauty. 24 In the end it is ¶42 that seems the anomaly in Kant’s position on the moral interest in beauty. Perhaps, as suggested above, the best explanation for the anomaly is that, without being terribly clear about it, Kant’s complaint against art in ¶42 pertains only to mere “agreeable” and not to serious “beautiful art,” which stands on all fours with natural beauty.

4

Kant makes a distinction between artistic and natural beauty. In addition to the obvious point that artworks are human artefacts and natural objects are not, he holds that artworks presuppose a “concept of what the object ought to be” (KU 5: 229, 114). This position is best understood, I believe, as a claim that artworks are representational. This seems to be Kant’s basic distinction between art and nature in Kant’s aesthetics. But this slender difference, I maintain, does not yield an important evaluative distinction between art and nature. Instead, Kant

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should be taken seriously at ¶45 that there is a single criterion for either artis- tic or natural beauty: “That is beautiful which pleases in the mere judging” (KU 5:

306, 185). That is to say, aesthetic judgments are based on pleasure the source of which is a kind of “judging” and, as we know, that judging is the problematic state of a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. Both art and nature are subject to the same criterion, but further there is no reason to be- lieve that one or the other category is better at suiting this criterion. There is no reason to believe that art is always or generally superior to nature or the re- verse. More specifically, I have taken to task attempts to map other seemingly evaluative distinctions Kant makes to the art/nature distinction. One cannot say, for example, that the art/nature distinction maps onto the free/dependent distinction. Specifically, one can make free aesthetic judgments about artworks, even representational artwork. Further, there is no good argument to show that artworks and natural objects fare differently as regards their ability to engage a moral or intellectual interest. To the extent that such an interest is engaged be- cause beauty shows nature to be subjectively purposive, I argue that yet again both art and nature are equal to the task—as indeed Kant himself seems to hold in the Dialectic. Kant has a single criterion for beauty—that an object must please by means of engaging a mental state of free harmony. Apparently either art or na- ture can do this so long as we are careful to attend to each sort of object prop- erly. And further, I believe that if Kant is carefully read he does not assert the evaluative superiority of either art or nature as has been suggested by some au- thors. As such, while Kant distinguishes between artistic and natural beauty it is unlikely that the distinction will play a substantive role in Kant’s overall ar- gument in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.”

4

Free Harmony and Aesthetic Pleasure

The purpose of this chapter is to concentrate on the foundational issue of pleas- ure in “free harmony.” We need to know why Kant believes that free harmony is

pleasing and, to a lesser extent, what possible grounds there are for claiming that

it is universally pleasing. I will argue against a current interpretation that focuses

on the early sections the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” and holds that pleas- ure is the way we “recognize” the quasi-cognitive state of free harmony. As an alternative I will offer an interpretation, which I call an “evaluative interpreta- tion,” that emphasizes the latter sections of Kant’s work where he develops his

doctrine of the expression of ideas. This is additional support for my position that

a full understanding of Kant’s notion of a free harmony of the imagination and understanding requires the aid of his doctrine of aesthetic ideas.

1

Kant holds that judgments of taste, as subjectively universal, are based on the supposed pleasure of free harmony. This is not a controversial interpretation; however, filling out the details of this sketch is considerably controversial. Prob- lems in interpretation begin early in the third Critique. In ¶9 and 21 of the “Cri- tique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant questions whether the feeling of pleasure is prior to or posterior to “the judging (der Beurteilung) of the object” (KU 5: 216, 102). Kant’s position is that pleasure must be posterior to (and based on) such judging. His argument is that if the pleasure were prior to judging, the pleasure could only be mere subjective pleasure with no claim to universality. But fur- ther, since Kant has already argued that “concepts” are inappropriate to beauty, the sort of judging in which we take pleasure cannot be the ordinary kind of judging we run across. Normally, judging is a matter of applying a concept (from the understanding) to a manifold of sense (from the “imagination”). However, since concepts are ruled out, we must assume that the judging involved here is (somehow) free of concepts. That is to say, there must be a “free harmony” of

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understanding and imagination. But now we have a problem. Kant argues that

a judgment of beauty must be founded on pleasure and that, in turn, the pleas-

ure must be founded on judging the object. This apparently says that a judg- ment of beauty must be based on the pleasure of judging an object to be beau-

tiful. This surely looks like a vicious circle; namely, this position seems to be that one must base a judgment of beauty on a preceding judgment of beauty. There is a way to avoid this circularity. Donald Crawford, Paul Guyer, and others have argued that Kant is best read as referring to two acts of judging in our experience and assessment of beauty. 1 One act is the official judgment of beauty. To judge an object to be beautiful we claim that it gives us pleasure and that this pleasure is “universally valid” or “universally shared.” But further it can be argued that to claim universal validity it must be assumed that the pleasure

is based on another, distinct act of judging. This second act is characterized by

a free harmony of the understanding and the imagination. Distinguishing two

different acts of judging avoids the circularity. It has been argued recently that the “two-act” interpretation is flawed. For instance, Hannah Ginsborg claims that there is but one, perhaps complex, judg- ment. 2 Under this recent interpretation we judge an object to be freely harmo- nious. That is to say, we judge a manifold of sense to be generally orderly but without applying any definite concept (rule) to specify that orderliness. How- ever, so the interpretation goes, if we look carefully at the text of ¶9 and ¶21, we find that pleasure is not something separate from the free harmony judg- ment. Indeed, Kant seems to claim that we recognize free harmony only by a feel- ing of pleasure. Accordingly, there is no need for another judgment that free harmony causes or occasions pleasure. Pleasure is part and parcel of the singu-

lar act of judging an object to be freely harmonious.

The powers of cognition that are set into play by this representation are hereby in a free play, since no determinate concept restricts them to a particular rule of cog- nition. Thus the state of mind in this representation must be that of a feeling of the free play of the powers of the representation in a given representation. (¶9, KU 5: 217, 102)

This point is restated in ¶21 where Kant is again discussing the free play or free harmony of the imagination and the understanding: “this disposition cannot be determined except through the feeling (not by concepts)” (¶21, KU 5: 239, 123). Kant’s reasoning in ¶9 and ¶21 seems to be this. Typically, we recognize the orderliness of a manifold by applying a concept. However, since free har- monies are “free” precisely because they do not involve the application of a con- cept, there must be some other way to recognize them. Kant suggests (with lit-

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tle argument) that a feeling of pleasure will do the recognitional job: We can (pleasingly) feel when our faculties are freely harmonious. On this interpreta- tion there is no reason to distinguish between judging a manifold to be freely harmonious and accounting for aesthetic pleasure. Moreover, there is no need for another “judgment of beauty” beyond this free harmony judging. We judge a manifold to be freely harmonious. This requires using a feeling of pleasure to recognize the free harmony. And if we reflect on the source of this pleasure, we realize that we have the right to expect such pleasure to be felt by anyone who cares to appreciate the object. This latter claim is again made in ¶9 and 21.

Now this merely subjective (aesthetic) judging of the object, or of the represen- tation through which the object is given, precedes the pleasure in it, and is the ground of this pleasure in the harmony of the faculties of cognition; but on that universality of the subjective conditions of the judging of objects alone is this uni- versal subjective validity of satisfaction, which we combine with the representa- tion of the object that we call beautiful, grounded. (¶9, KU 5: 218, 103; see also ¶21, KU 5: 238, 122–23)

Kant argues that we must assume that cognitive abilities are universal among mankind. Further we must appreciate that cognition, on Kant’s account, is a matter of organizing manifolds of the imagination by the understanding. Thus, so the argument goes, since recognizing free harmony (by the feeling of pleasure) is also recognizing a relation between understanding and imagination, we have good reason to suppose that this recognition will also work in the same way for all persons. Thus, we have good reason to suppose that all persons will recognize free harmony by the same feeling of pleasure. As such, we have shown that free harmony is universally pleasing. But this, then, is just the official judg- ment of beauty. Again, we have no need for two acts of judgment. There clearly are differences between the Crawford/Guyer interpretation on the one hand and the Ginsborg account on the other hand. However, it is my position that these differences are not best explained by counting the num- ber of judgments involved. It seems overly subtle to distinguish between two dis- tinct acts of judging versus one complex act. On the Crawford/Guyer interpre- tation there is one free harmony judgment producing pleasure and a second judgment of beauty claiming that the pleasure is universal. On the Ginsborg in- terpretation there is a single judgment where we pleasurably discern free har- mony and, at the same time, realize that this pleasure is universal. The differ- ences here seem less than earthshaking. Although there are differences between the two interpretations, they tend to be obscured, not illuminated, by the one-act/two-act debate. A genuine dif-

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ference between the two interpretations concerns the nature of the connection between free harmony and pleasure. The Ginsborg interpretation focuses on ¶9 and ¶21, where Kant seems to argue for an epistemic connection between free har- mony and pleasure. Presumably the only way we can know when there is a free harmony is by a feeling of pleasure. On the Crawford/Guyer interpretation, we judge an object to be freely harmonious and, as a separate issue, we find this ac- tivity to be pleasurable. 3 (Or, on some species of the interpretation, it is claimed that free harmony causes pleasure.) The Crawford/Guyer interpretation main- tains some distance between free harmony judging and pleasure. Judging a man- ifold to be freely harmonious is one thing; finding free harmony to be pleasurable is quite another thing. On the Ginsborg interpretation this distance reduces to zero. Free harmony neither causes pleasure nor is found to be pleasurable; instead, pleasure is the very way in which we recognize free harmony. Given the close con- nection between free harmony and pleasure it makes no sense to talk about a fur- ther judgment to determine what is the source of aesthetic pleasure. Claiming that pleasure is the way we “recognize” free harmony may, in fact, understate the tightness of the connection. Presumably, the feeling of pleasure does for the free harmony relation between understanding and imagi- nation what concepts do for a determinate relation between these faculties. From the first Critique of Pure Reason (Kant’s first Critique) we know that what makes a relation determinate is the conceptual ordering of the manifold of the imagination. A concept does not merely “recognize” an orderliness but consti- tutes the order. There is no order without the rule ordering provided by a con- cept. There can be no manifold of sense representations constituting “dog” or- der unless we apply the “dog” ordering rule (concept). If we were to push the analogy here between free and determinate harmonies, then we would have to say that pleasure doesn’t simply allow us to recognize the free harmony between understanding and imagination, but somehow makes the harmony possible. This begins to look very odd. We can comprehend how a manifold can be or- dered by rules. It is difficult to understand how a manifold may achieve “order- liness” by applying (if this is the right term) a feeling. I am far from certain whether the last bit makes any sense at all.

2

The contested issue between the two interpretations is one central to Kant’s aesthetics. The issue is a proper explanation of the claim that free harmony is universally pleasing. Only if we can explain and justify this, can we ground the “universal validity” of aesthetic judgments since universal validity requires the

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universality of our feeling of pleasure. 4 However, my position is that the Gins- borg interpretation fails, for several reasons, to give a good explanation of this key point. To begin with, it is far from clear that a recognitional interpretation is consistent with Kant’s position in the first Critique. In the first Critique Kant ar- gues that knowledge of objects requires our organizing a manifold of sense by a concept—where concepts are construed as rules. The importance of being able to rule-order a sense manifold and, correspondingly, the importance of ground- ing concepts in sense experience is expressed by Kant in a notable passage:

“Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind” (A51/B75). Kant’s point is that we must be able to show that our “thoughts” have application to the world and, important to our present issue, we must also be able to show that a collection of sense data (intuition) adds up to something. That is to say, we must be able to show that we can apply a concept to such a collection. Lamentably, the recognitional interpretation seems to violate the second half of Kant’s dictum. Quite surprisingly, on the new interpretation we seem able to rec- ognize (make sense of) a manifold without applying a concept, rule, or principle of any kind. But it would seem that, by the light of the first Critique, we ought to be “blind” to such a nonconceptualized manifold. 5 The first Critique passage is not easy to dismiss. There is an important rea- son why Kant insists that intuitions require concepts. A cornerstone of tran- scendental idealism is the claim that sense data by themselves yield no knowl- edge of the world. To wrest knowledge from an otherwise bewildering array of input to our senses we must be able to organize the data in some fashion. This notion plays a large role in the Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts in the first Critique of the Understanding, where Kant argues the general claim that all objects, in order to be knowable, must be organizable in terms of certain key concepts: pure concepts like substance and causality. But even if one could allow for a nonconceptual relationship (harmony) between imagination and understanding, it is far from clear that a feeling is the sort of thing that could establish and recognize this peculiar relationship. As we have seen above, a feeling seems particularly ill suited to provide the kind of or- ganizing that is required. 6 Actually, there are two problems here. First, it is dif- ficult to understand, on any interpretation, how there can be a harmony be- tween understanding (the faculty of rules) and imagination without employing any concepts (rules). 7 Second, there is a specific problem with the role of feel- ings. If one were to cast about for an alternative to concepts for bringing order to a manifold, a feeling would seem a very unlikely candidate. It is very difficult to understand how a feeling could lend order to a manifold of sense. However, these are not the only problems with the recognitional inter- pretation. Although difficult to understand, let’s grant that we know how to rec-

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ognize a free harmony by a feeling. And let’s further grant that a feeling is the only way to make this recognition. We still have a long way to go in order to reach the desired conclusion. Kant needs to conclude that free harmony is the source of a universally valid pleasure. What is needed from the argument of ¶9 and ¶21 is not merely the claim that the only way we recognize a free harmony is by a feeling but by two additional, and not obviously true, claims. It must also be argued that every one of us recognizes free harmony by the same feeling. And further, it must be argued that this common feeling is pleasure and not some other feeling. Let’s look at these additional claims. From the simple argument that free harmonies can only be recognized by some feeling nothing follows about the nature of that feeling other than its abil- ity to recognize free harmonies. Specifically, it does not follow, without further argument, that the feeling in question is pleasure. It would seem that nausea or tingling or vertigo or any old feeling could function as my free harmony recog- nitional feeling. Each of these are feelings, not concepts, and on the basis of the recognitional argument alone each could be a way of recognizing a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. However, it is important for Kant that the feeling that grounds judgments of beauty is pleasure. Pleasure is not just any old feeling. There is a considerable evaluative difference between claiming that experiencing aesthetic objects is pleasurable versus nauseating. Kant’s aes- thetic theory would be considerably less plausible if he were to argue that ob- jects that stimulate a feeling of nausea are the beautiful ones. The recognitional interpretation does not take into account the fact that to claim that something is pleasurable is to make a positive evaluative claim. This evaluative implication does not attend to just any feeling. There is a further complication with the “recognitional” interpretation. Even if Kant could argue that the feeling by which we recognize free harmony is pleasure, this would commit him to a position that he may very well not want to hold. It is common, and I think correct, to say of Kant that the feeling of pleasure taken in appreciation of “beauty” is not qualitatively different from other pleasures. To hold that beauty is that which gives us a qualitatively unique feeling of pleasure is to hold a position that, for Kant, is too subjective and thus too close to the empiricists’ position of his time. Rather, and here I agree with other commentators like Paul Guyer, Kant’s true position is that aesthetic pleas- ure is to be distinguished from other pleasures not because it is qualitatively unique, but because it has a different source from other pleasures. 8 Unfortunately, the recognitional interpretation cannot take this line; it must assume a qualitatively unique feeling. On the new interpretation the only way we can identify a free harmony is by a feeling. However, if a feeling is the only way to identify free harmony, then the feeling must be qualitatively unique.

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We must be able to say, on each occasion, that we know that we are experienc- ing a free harmony because we are having a pleasurable feeling unlike any other:

Our recognition must be based on the quality of the feeling since the alterna- tive of distinguishing pleasures based on where they come from is not available on this interpretation. We cannot take this latter route since it would require us to be able to independently recognize a free harmony.

3

There are problems with building an epistemic connection between free harmony and pleasure—the claim that pleasure is the way in which we recognize an oc- currence of free harmony. However, while I believe that there are problems in making this connection, I do not want to insist on the exegetical claim that Kant never intended to forge such a link. He may well have flirted with some such argument, but there are other strands of argument in the text as well. My claim is simply that Kant has another and better strategy for grounding aesthetic judgments. 9 Let’s reconsider the central question of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” The question is, Why should we believe that free harmony is uni- versally pleasurable? There is an alternative to the epistemic, recognitional in- terpretation. I shall call it the “evaluative” interpretation. It will help us to understand how free harmony can be pleasing, if we first appreciate that pleas- ure has evaluative implications. Typically, but not always, objects please us be- cause they satisfy our desires. It is an obvious bit of folk psychology to observe that people have aims, desires, and purposes and that the realization of these aims gives pleasure. In fact, we commonly value our aims and this is why we take pleasure in their attainment. In the published introduction to the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant makes just such an observation: “The attainment of every aim (Absicht) is coupled with a feeling of pleasure” (KU 5: 187, 73). This is no idle remark. Kant has a strategy of arguing that free harmony is (univer- sally) pleasing just because it represents the satisfaction of a (universal) aim. The kind of interpretation I am offering has been called a “causal account of pleasure.” 10 That is to say, a remark like the one cited previously is under- stood to mean that the attainment of an aim causes a feeling of pleasure. Specif- ically, one would argue that free harmony, as the attainment of an aim, causes pleasure for all of us. I believe that this is not what Kant intends and, inde- pendently, it is a poor account of the relation between pleasure and the attain- ment of aim. When we satisfy a desire, attain an aim, or realize a goal it is likely mistaken to say that these activities cause us to have pleasure. Scratching an itch may cause me pleasure, not realizing a goal. It is simpler and more accurate

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to say that we take pleasure in attainment of aims because we value these aims. There is a good analogy here between the relation of pleasure and free harmony in Kant’s aesthetic theory and the relation between moral feeling and the cate- gorical imperative. 11 Often persons are merely caused to have various feelings; however, Kant at least hopes that rational creatures can also take an interest in the moral law and have a positive feeling for the law because of our perception of its value. This is what Kant describes as a feeling of “respect.” I believe that a similar, noncausal account of pleasure is at work in the aesthetic theory of the third Critique of Judgment (Kant’s third Critique). It should be clear enough that Kant wants to associate pleasure in free harmony with the broader account of pleasure in attainment of aims. But we need to be a bit more specific. It is useful here to consider Kant’s often repeated point that the mental stare of free harmony is “subjectively purposive” or “sub- jectively final” (subjective Zweckmassigkeit). The claim is that free harmony suits the general purpose of judging that, as we have seen, consists in bringing order to a manifold of particulars. Recall that a free harmony is a “free” (nonconcep- tual) relationship between the understanding and imagination. As a relation be- tween the two faculties free harmony presumably qualifies as a successful judg- ing activity. Perhaps the best passages for this interpretation are ¶6 and ¶7 of the published introduction. In these sections Kant makes a general connection between pleasure and the satisfaction of judgmental aims. 12 He argues that all of us have a need to employ our understanding to nature—a need to bring or- der to manifolds of sense. Insofar as we are able to achieve this ordering, we sat- isfy one of our aims. And, finally, we take pleasure in this satisfaction:

If pleasure is connected with the mere apprehension (apprehensio) of the form of an object of intuition without a relation of this to a concept for a determinate cog- nition, then the representation is thereby related not to the object, but solely to the subject, and the pleasure can express nothing but is suitability to the cogni- tive faculties as they are in play, and thus merely a subjective formal purposives- ness of the object. (KU 5: 189–90, 75–76)

The outlines of Kant’s position are comparatively clear. Objects that oc- casion a free harmony satisfy the general aim of judgment by finding sense ex- perience amenable to our organizational efforts. To the extent that such objects satisfy this aim, we take pleasure in them. And further, Kant argues, everyone shares this judgmental aim. The universality of this aim is thought to follow from our universally shared cognitive abilities. Given the proper interpretative con- text, I believe that we can see this argument at work even in ¶9, the supposed locus of the epistemic interpretation: “On that universality of the subjective

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conditions of the judging (beurteilen) of objects alone is this universal subjective validity of satisfaction, which we combine with the representation of the object that we call beautiful, grounded” (KU 5: 218, 103). Kant holds that we all share the same conditions for judgment. This can be understood as the claim that we all share the same judgmental goals and the same judging abilities. Granting these shared goals and abilities, we can all come to agree that a particular ob- ject engages our free harmony and that the harmony is satisfying. Finally, we can all agree that the object is pleasing because it satisfies a common aim. And, as such, the object is a source of universal pleasure. The details of Kant’s position need some work. Specifically, there is a dan- ger that the explanation for why free harmony pleases covers too much ground. If Kant claims that free harmony pleases because it satisfies the general aim of “harmonizing” imagination and understanding, then it is difficult to compre- hend why paradigm objects of beauty occupy a special status. Any object, it would seem, will be pleasing on this account. Any ordinary empirical object is capable of ‘harmonizing’ these faculties in several ways. Empirical objects are subsumable under the first Critique’s pure concepts of the understanding (sub- stance, causality, etc.). 13 Such objects are also subsumable under ordinary em- pirical concepts (table, chair, rock, bottle, and so on). Further, objects or col- lections of objects can be interpreted teleologically, which is yet another way to attribute orderliness to a manifold of particulars. If Kant wants to say that a free harmony is pleasing simply because it satisfies our organizing aim, then all ob- jects (of experience) are pleasing because all objects satisfy this aim in various ways. Seemingly everything is beautiful for Kant. 14 The concern that pleasure in an object’s subjective purposiveness may be all encompassing is a problem that an interpretation like mine must face. In fact, we shall consider it in the next chapter. However, what I want to point out is that Kant recognizes this problem and the fact that he addresses it is indirect evidence for my “evaluative” interpretation. In the introduction to the third Critique Kant seems to admit that the application of the categories constitutes a harmony of the faculties and, as such, demonstrates subjective purposiveness. However, he attempts to avoid the conclusion that such objects are pleasing. Kant argues that applying the categories to objects is such an ordinary and pedestrian instance of subjective purposiveness that we “no longer detect any noticeable pleasure” (KU 5: 187, 74). I suspect that this argument will not stand much scrutiny; however, it shows that Kant is concerned with the problems that follow from finding pleas- ure in free harmony to be the satisfaction of a judgmental aim. It should be noted that there is a better strategy toward the end of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” for distinguishing free harmonies from other harmonies that satisfy our judgmental aims. As I have suggested in earlier chap-

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ters, the doctrine of the expression of aesthetic ideas can help to fill out Kant’s position. Kant holds in the latter sections of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judg- ment” (¶42–43) that certain “ideas” like hell, eternity, creation, envy, love, fame, and others (KU 5: 314, 192) can be expressed in works of art and even by interpretation of natural objects. It is Kant’s position that such aesthetic ideas (like their cousins the rational ideas) are too big to be represented by ordinary empirical concepts. There are a couple of important points about expression of aesthetic ideas, discussed in chapter 2, that are relevant here. First, the act of interpreting an ob- ject as expressing an idea is an instance of a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. Moreover, it is a harmony that is both free of concepts and yet displays an organization—an organization that adds up to an idea. Further, it may well be that in this particular instance free harmony is valuable (pleasura- ble) for everyone because it fulfils the special role of expressing notions that can- not otherwise be portrayed. Potentially, then, the account on offer here will solve several of the problems left dangling by the recognitional interpretation. The ap- peal to expression of ideas can explain how we are able recognize a manifold as constituting a harmony of the faculties (i.e., showing an orderliness) without us- ing concepts. The order is lent by ideas. And further, unlike the recogntional in- terpretation, we can explain why a certain species of free harmony gives pleas- ure. Free harmonies that express ideas are satisfying or pleasurable because of the valuable job they perform of expressing ideas otherwise difficult to convey. Each of these points has been discussed in previous chapters and they will only be summarized here. Let’s first consider the claim that expression of ideas involves a free harmony of the faculty. Notions like hell, eternity, and creation so exceed the capacity of mere empirical concepts that they can be portrayed only in a symbolic fashion by imaginatively bringing to mind a host of associa- tions that suggest the larger idea. Expression is nonconceptual in the strict sense that no ordinary concepts are quite adequate to the big ideas that are conveyed. Nonetheless, as we have seen in our early discussions, Kant gives an account of how we can come to appreciate a manifold as possessing an order. Certain ob- jects are able to stimulate our imagination to produce a host of associative thoughts in such a way as to suggest a larger idea. To be sure this is only a brief sketch of Kant’s admittedly contentious account of expression of ideas. 15 How- ever, the account makes clear, in a way that the recognitional interpretation does not, how free harmony as the expression of ideas can satisfy the broad aim of finding objects purposive with respect to judgment (finding objects subjectively purposive). An object that expresses an aesthetic idea is purposive for judgment in the sense that we are able to interpret the object as organized in a rule-like fashion—specifically, as organized to express an idea.

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While there is agreement that expression of aesthetic ideas is an instance of free harmony and that such a free harmony is “subjectively purposive for judg- ment,” it could be argued that it is not necessary here to bring aesthetic ideas into the discussion of how free harmony is pleasing. Perhaps, it is even possible to incorporate the notion that aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in subjective pur- posiveness with an updated version of the “recognitional” interpretation and avoid an appeal to expression of ideas. What I have in mind is this. It could be argued that what makes a free harmony of the imagination and understanding pleasing is that such a harmony is subjectively purposive. However, since free harmonies are free of concepts and concepts are the usual way of recognizing that a manifold of sense “harmonizes” with the understanding, pleasure plays the recognitional role. 16 There are problems with this view. First, if aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in finding an object purposive for judgment, then it surely seems that we must first recognize that the object is purposive for judgment and then take pleasure in the object because it is purposive for judgment. 17 Again, hopefully the doctrine of the expression of aesthetic ideas will explain how we can recognize that a manifold is (freely) purposive for judgment and take pleas- ure in the object for that reason. Second, earlier we found that there was a prob- lem with Kant’s holding that aesthetic pleasure is simply pleasure in the fur- therance of the judgmental aim (subjective purposiveness). The problem was that such an account would allow for any object to be aesthetically pleasing since, it seems, any object satisfies this broad aim. This is the so-called every- thing-is-beautiful problem we will consider in the next chapter. To anticipate, we may be able to free Kant of such a charge if beauty is restricted to the satis- faction of the particular judgmental aim of expressing an idea. But there is a third problem with trying to combine a recognitional interpretation with an evaluative interpretation of free harmony. Presumably, the importance of claim- ing that pleasure is the way we recognize free harmony was that it served an ar- gument for the universality of pleasure in free harmony—and, ultimately, grounding the universal validity of judgments of taste. This argument, which we shall consider in more detail in the appendix and postscript, is roughly that free harmonies, since they are like cognitive states, must be recognized in the same way. Free harmonies can be recognized only by a feeling (concepts won’t do). I recognize free harmonies by a feeling of pleasure and, thus, must assume that all others will also. Accordingly, free harmonies are universally pleasing. However, if it will explain why free harmony is pleasing for me on the grounds that free harmony displays a “subjective purposiveness for judgment,” then the argument from shared recognition is irrelevant to Kant’s goal of establishing the univer- sal pleasure of free harmony. If the appropriate explanation of my feeling of pleasure in free harmony is its “subjective purposiveness for judgment,” then

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this will also explain everyone’s feeling of pleasure in free harmony. Free har- mony is universally pleasing because of its subjective purposiveness for judg- ment. Establishing pleasure as the feeling by which we recognize free harmony seems irrelevant to the task of showing that it is universally pleasing.

I suspect that the above will go some distance toward answering the ob-

jection that for Kant all objects are beautiful. If it is largely correct, then only objects that satisfy the specific judgmental aim of expressing an idea will count as “beautiful.” Nonetheless, while expression of ideas goes a long way to ad- dressing this problem, other sorts of difficulties crop up. If the best interpreta- tion of pleasure in subjective purposiveness turns out to be pleasure in expres- sion of ideas, then it follows that expression of aesthetic ideas is criterial for beauty—a position not widely held by commentators. 18 If expression of ideas were criterial, then it would further entail that both artistic beauty and natural beauty are beautiful because they express aesthetic ideas. However, there are those who will resist the idea that natural beauty can be considered as expres- sive, 19 although Kant himself claims: “Beauty (whether it be of nature or art) may in general be termed the expression of aesthetic ideas” (KU 5: 320, 197). I believe that none of these problems are insurmountable and I refer the reader to the other relevant chapters in this book.

I shall conclude with a brief reconsideration of the issue that motivated

the current discussion, namely, the number of “judgments” involved in the as- sessment of beauty. An obvious point of difference between my interpretation and the “recognitional” reading is that I do not think that a feeling of pleasure can constitute or recognize a free harmony of the understanding and imagina- tion. Instead, I believe that the most plausible way to explain the link between free harmony and pleasure is to say that we take pleasure in free harmony be- cause it satisfies an aim we have. 20 But this implies that we can distinguish be- tween recognizing an object to be freely harmonious and taking pleasure in that object because it is freely harmonious. Further, this also implies we can distin- guish both of these activities from judging that we find an object pleasing be- cause it is freely harmonious. Now while we can make these distinctions it is an open question whether we should regard these activities as separate acts of judg- ment or perhaps a single, but complex, act. I suspect not much turns on an an- swer to this latter question. However, it is important to be clear about the con- nection between free harmony and pleasure. On this issue I hold that the connection is best explained within the context of Kant’s broader discussion of teleology as a pleasure in the realization of an aim. This should come as no sur- prise since the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” sits side by side with the “Cri- tique of Teleological Judgment” to make up the third Critique.

5

The Extensiveness of the Criterion of Beauty

The central task of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is to justify the sub- jective universal validity of aesthetic judgments by finding some plausible source for a pleasure in aesthetic contemplation that can also lay legitimate claim to universality. As we have seen in the first chapter, Kant believes that he has found the appropriate ground with problematic notion of a “free harmony of the imagination and the understanding.” 1 While free harmony causes problems, it is an uncontroversial, straightforward interpretation of Kant to say that an ob- ject is properly judged as beautiful if and only if it can produce in us a mental state of “free harmony” when we appreciate the object. Kant takes us to this conclusion by arguing (in ¶9 and ¶21) that a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding is the only appropriate ground for a judgment of taste. He argues that when (and only when) objects occasion free harmony they give us pleasure that could lay claim to universality.

1

To better understand the kind of problems that befalls Kant’s account of judg- ments of taste we need briefly to rehearse Kant’s argument to the end that a free harmony of the imagination and understanding can be the only ground of a “universal” pleasure. 2 Early on in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” (¶9) Kant argues that the judgment that an object is aesthetically good (beautiful) must itself be founded on a prior act of “judging the object” and that this judg- ing activity is the source of a universal pleasure 3 The argument here is rather quick. As is characteristic of Kant, it is an argument from elimination of alter- natives. Either the pleasure of taste is founded on the mental activity of judging or it is a simple sensuous pleasure. A simple sensuous pleasure cannot support a claim to universality. Thus, the only possible candidate for the pleasure at the basis of an aesthetic judgment of taste is a pleasure in “judging the object.”

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Although there is quite a bit to question here, let’s grant that Kant has

shown that the only possible candidate for a universal aesthetic pleasure is pleas- ure in a mental state of judging an object, we surely need to say more about this. As we have seen in earlier chapters “judging” has a very special meaning in the Kantian philosophy. To make a judgment is to apply a concept to a particular:

for example, “Fido is a dog.” However, Kant’s account of what is involved in predicating a concept of an object is rather novel. For Kant concepts are rules, rules that specify the order of a manifold of sense perceptions. 4 To predicate a concept of a particular involves the ability to recognize that a manifold of sense intuition has a certain rule orderedness. Concepts are rules of organization and

it is the faculty of “understanding” that is responsible for making sense of this

order. So, for example, to make the judgment “Fido is a dog” is to recognize that

a manifold of sense (given by the faculty of imagination) is ordered by the dog

rule—four legs, a tail, a head, and all in the appropriate locations. 5 This is a thumbnail sketch of judging as it occurs in the Critique of Pure Reason (Kant’s first Critique); however, the “judging” involved in aesthetic con- templation cannot be this sort of ordinary conceptual judging. Kant has already

ruled this out with his rejection of perfectionism. 6 Aesthetic judging cannot in- volve the use of concepts. For reasons discussed earlier, Kant rejects the view that aesthetic judging is a matter of determining how well an object measures up to some particular concepts—for example, how well a painting might rep- resent the paradigm instance of a dog. Neither, as we have seen, can aesthetic judging use teleological ideas. Aesthetic appreciation, plausibly enough, is not

a matter of admiring the cutting qualities of the perfect pocketknife. As a re-

sult, Kant argues that since aesthetic pleasure can only be grounded in “judg- ing an object” and yet cannot be grounded on the conceptual judging of an ob- ject, the only possible ground of aesthetic pleasure is a nonconceptual, “free” harmony of the imagination and the understanding. Although, as we have seen, this is difficult to interpret, we can characterize a free harmony as the judging activity where we find a manifold of particulars to be orderly, but without in-

sisting on a particular order determined by a particular concept (rule). Kant de- scribes this paradoxical notion of a free harmony in a number of ways as “free lawfulness,” “lawfulness without law” (KU 5: 240–41, 125), or “purposiveness

without

The argument so far has been that the only possible ground for a univer- sal aesthetic pleasure is a free harmony of the understanding and imagination.

This argument gets off the ground only if we grant the big assumption that there

is a universal aesthetic pleasure. This style of argument is known by Kant schol-

ars as a regressive or “analytic” argument—much in the way the argument of the Prolegomena proceeds from the assumption that geometry is synthetic a pri-

the representation of an end” (KU 5: 236, 120).

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ori and reasons back to the claim that space must be ideal; whereas, the “syn- thetic” argument of the first Critique will attempt to support the claim that geometry is synthetic a priori. Kant clearly needs a progressive or “synthetic” ar- gument as well. He needs an argument to show not simply that free harmony is the only possible candidate for a universal pleasure but further that there is some credible reason to believe that free harmony actually gives us (all of us) pleas- ure. The interpretation I put forward in the previous chapter is that Kant has such an argument that is developed from a broader account of pleasure. 7 In the introduction to the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant makes the following general claim about pleasure: “The attainment of every aim is combined with a feeling of pleasure” (KU 5: 187, 73). This seems a quite pedestrian claim. People have aims, desires, purposes, and when their aims, desires, purposes are satis- fied, they are pleased. Simpler yet, we take pleasure in the satisfaction of our aims.

This general account of pleasure as the satisfaction of aims becomes rel- evant to the case of aesthetic pleasure when Kant goes on to argue that a har- mony of our faculties, even a free harmony, is “subjectively purposive” for judg- ment. The claim is that objects that engage a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding also satisfy an aim we all have—the aim of being able to “judge” objects. It is, then, tempting to see Kant as arguing that a free harmony is pleasing to everyone since it satisfies a common aim. Here is the relevant pas- sage, complete with characteristic Kantian obscurity:

If pleasure is connected with mere apprehension (aprehensio) of the form of an ob- ject of intuition without a relation of this to a concept for a determinate cogni- tion, then the representation is thereby related not to the object, but solely to the subject, and the pleasure can express nothing but its suitability to the cognitive faculties that are in play in the reflecting power of judgment, insofar as they are in play, and thus a merely subjective formal purposiveness of the object. (KU 5:

189–90, 75–76)

Let’s take a look at the claim that free harmony is subjectively purposive for judgment. To consider an object insofar as it is subjectively purposive for judg- ment is to consider it insofar as it suits our purpose of judging alone, not for the judgment that is achieved. Presumably, to take satisfaction in an object because it suits our judgmental aim is not to take pleasure in the fact that the object in- stantiates some specific concept. For example, Kant wants to rule out pleasure we may take from judging that an object is a good example of a dog or some other class of objects. And, further, Kant also wants to rule out pleasure we may take in teleological judging—for example, judging that all the parts of an object

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are well organized to contribute to the function of being a barn, a staple remover, or a pocket knife. 8 In each case taking an interest in an object because it con- forms to a concept or conforms to an end would be to go down the wrong road of “perfectionism.” Either would be tantamount to praising an object because of the judgment it achieves, not praising it subjectively for the judging per se. A proper account of pleasure in judging per se is pleasure in finding manifolds of particulars to be amenable to our organizing efforts—again regardless of what the principle of organization might be. 9 The upshot of this interpretation is the following. What makes free har- mony pleasing is that it is subjectively purposive for our cognitive powers. That is to say, objects that provoke free harmony are ones that suit our (subjective) purpose of cognizing objects where this purpose, presumably, is to find order in manifold of sense. When we are lucky enough to find an object that suits cog- nitive purpose, we take pleasure in our success. This is an explanation for why free harmony is pleasing. But further, in ¶9, ¶21, and ¶38 Kant argues that since aesthetic pleasure in free harmony depends only on our cognitive abilities and purposes and since, short of skepticism, we must assume that all persons share the same cognitive abilities, then we may properly conclude that pleasure in free harmony is universal. (See KU 5: 217, 102–103 and KU 5: 238, 122–23.) Since this is often thought to be central to Kant’s deduction of judgments of taste, we need to say a little more about this argument. 10 Presumably, Kant wants to argue in ¶9, ¶21, and ¶38 that we are justified in assuming that a free harmony is universally pleasing since free harmony judging is sufficiently simi- lar to ordinary cognitive judging. If we are not skeptics, then we must assume that all of us will (or can) make the same cognitive judgments on the same oc- casions. When each of us is presented with a certain manifold of sense we will all receive the same sense data and all judge it to be governed by the same con- ceptual rule. For example, we will all judge the same manifold of fur, legs, and tail as an instance of a dog. As such, we will all be able to discern that this man- ifold is governed by the dog rule. This is also to say that each of us obtain the same relation of our manifold of imagination with our faculty of understanding. If we could not assume that such judging is done similarly in similar cases, then there could be no claim to “objective” knowledge of a shared world. There could be no common point of reference between us. Accordingly, in ordinary cases of cognition we must suppose that each of us judges the same manifold as suiting the purpose of judging in the same way. But, further, if we now hold that aes- thetic objects give us pleasure due to their purposiveness for judgment, then short of skepticism we must all, pleasingly, find the same objects subjectively purposive. This seems to follow in two steps. First, if aesthetic appreciation de- pends on finding a manifold of sense to be purposive for judgment, then from

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the above we must in principle agree in specific cases whether a manifold is pur- posive. This follows, since the nonskeptic must assume that we judge similar cases similarly. But, second, it is also the case that each of us will take pleasure in a manifold that suits the purpose of judgment. This presumably follows from the description of pleasure cited earlier where it is assumed that we all share the aim or purpose of finding a manifold of sense conformable to our faculty of un- derstanding. Thus, if I find an object that suits my subjective purpose of judg- ment, then I will take pleasure in it. And further, I am justified in believing that everyone else will also find the same object as satisfying their subjective purpose of judgment and as a result everyone else will also take pleasure in the object. In the end, this ambitious argument attempts to show that, short of skep- ticism, we must believe that when we appreciate an object as engaging our free harmony of the imagination and the understanding we will find this pleasing. And, importantly, the argument presumably also shows all other persons who properly appreciate the same object will find it pleasing as well. 11 This seems to further Kant’s argument that not only is free harmony pleasing, but we have good reason to believe that it is universally pleasing and this in turn grounds the central claim of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment”: to show that judgments of taste are universally valid. 12

2

There is much more to be said about the argument sketched above; however, we need go no farther to understand the nature of the problem that besets Kant. On this interpretation, Kant argues that a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding is universally pleasing since all of us will take pleasure in the satisfaction of our judgmental aim to organize to a manifold of sense. Again, this need only meet our “subjective” judgmental aim since we are not interested in the nature of the orderliness achieved. Unfortunately, as it stands, Kant’s crite- ria covers far too much ground. If Kant claims that free harmony pleases be- cause it satisfies the general aim of “harmonizing” imagination and under- standing, then it is difficult to explain why traditional paradigms of beauty occupy a special status. Any object, it would seem, will be pleasing on this ac- count, since any object will suit the subjective purpose of judgment. Any ordi- nary, empirical object is capable of harmonizing the imagination and under- standing in several ways. For example, according to the first Critique all empirical objects are subsumable under the pure concepts of the understanding (substance, causality, etc.). Every manifold of the imagination that we are able to experience as an empirical object must be organizable by the pure concepts.

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To this extent, every object of experience must suit the subjective aim of judg- ing. But further, empirical objects are also subsumable under some a posteriori concepts (table, chair, rock, bottle, and so on). In fact, it seems to be Kant’s po- sition that every empirical object is subsumable under at least one empirical concept. And further yet, objects or collections of objects can be interpreted teleologically. A teleological judgment is yet another way to attribute orderli- ness to a manifold of particulars and, of course, the subject of the second half of the Critique of Judgment (Kant’s third Critique). This is an embarrassment of riches. If Kant holds that the pleasure that grounds judgments of beauty is pleas- ure due to an object’s satisfying our organizing, judgmental aim, then all empir- ical objects are beautiful since all empirical objects satisfy this aim in a number of ways. Seemingly, everything is beautiful for Kant. As evidence that we are on the right interpretative tract, it is useful to note that Kant himself worries that pleasure in subjective purposiveness may well cover too much ground. In section 6 of the introduction where the idea of pleasure in subjective purposiveness is introduced, Kant tries to avoid the “everything is beautiful” charge—all the while tacitly admitting that there’s a problem:

In fact, although in the concurrence of perceptions with laws in accordance with

universal concepts of nature (the categories) we do not encounter the least effect

because here the understanding proceeds uninten-

by contrast the discovered unifiability of two or more empirically het-

erogeneous laws of nature under a principle that comprehends them both is the

To be sure, we no longer detect any no-

ticeable pleasure in the comprehensibility of nature and the unity of its division into genera and species by means of which alone empirical concepts are possible but it must certainly have been there in its time, and only because the most common experience would not be possible without it has it gradually become mixed up with mere cognition and is no longer specially noticed. (KU 5: 187,

ground of a very noticeable

tionally

on the feeling of pleasure

73–74)

Kant attempts to rule out three cases of subjective purposiveness as can- didates for aesthetic pleasure: (1) harmony due to application of the categories; (2) harmony due to application of teleological ideas; and (3) harmony due to the application of empirical concepts. The latter two points are connected, Kant believes, since to determine an empirical concept of a “kind” of thing we must subscribe to the teleological notion that nature sorts itself into such kinds. To address the first case, Kant claims that we do not (or cannot) feel pleasure in the categorial harmony between understanding and imagination since, pre-

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sumably, this result is unintended and occurs in the course of our ordinary ex- perience. The satisfaction at being able to apply the pure concepts of the un- derstanding to every object of experience does not give pleasure since, presum- ably, we do not in any way intentionally aim at this goal. Kant’s answer to the teleological idea/empirical concept case is different. In these cases he is willing to speculate that while persons may have at one time taken pleasure in apply- ing empirical concepts or teleological ideas to experience, such an activity has become so commonplace that it no longer gives pleasure. On the one hand, cat- egorial harmonies are not pleasing because they are unintended. On the other hand, application of empirical class concepts is not pleasing because it is so com- monplace. The strategy of these arguments, I believe, is to support the claim that aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in finding a manifold organizable without making every object fit this criteria—without Kant’s opening himself to the “everything is beautiful” charge. The brief arguments cited here (which are the only ones Kant gives) are not terribly strong. The first argument depends on the claim that, since we do not seek that our judging aim be satisfied, its satisfaction will not give us pleas- ure. I am far from certain that this is a believable claim. It surely seems that in other cases I can take pleasure in the satisfaction of my aims even if that satis- faction comes easily and unintendedly. If it has been a lifelong goal of mine to be rich and I receive as a gift a lottery ticket that turns out to yield a fortune, then I would nonetheless be quite pleased. I’m sure other similar examples could be cited. The second argument is that teleological judging or judging by means of an empirical concept is no longer pleasing (if it once was) since such judgments have become so commonplace. There are a couple of problems with this argu- ment. First, it seems that it could also be argued that appreciation of paradigm cases of beauty (paradigm free harmonies) could just as easily wear thin over time. One might think that by appreciating the same work of art or natural beauty over and over my freely judging it would, by like reasoning, become com- monplace and hence not pleasing. But further, a problem we have considered before, I see no reason why we could not consider an ordinary empirical object, like a dog or a house, in abstraction from its classifying empirical concept (or a teleological object in abstraction from its end or purpose) and appreciate the its rule orderedness per se. 13 And, if I were to appreciate an object’s rule ordered- ness per se, then it would seem that on Kantian grounds I would feel aesthetic pleasure. Further, if I could appreciate the rule orderedness per se for a dog or a house, then it seems that I could do it for any object. And if I could appreciate the rule orderedness of any object per se, then again everything is beautiful for Kant.

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There is a another answer to the everything-is-beautiful charge that has been offered in Kant’s defense. It has been argued that the “everything is beau- tiful” charge is a nonstarter since this criticism neglects the unique status of a free harmony of imagination and understanding in Kant’s account of judgments of taste. 14 Recall that Kant wants to argue that only free harmony is a likely source for a universal aesthetic pleasure and if we emphasize the free (noncon- ceptual) character of the harmony, then such a requirement will disqualify all sorts of garden-variety objects as candidates for aesthetic pleasure. All of the garden-variety objects mentioned above “harmonize” the understanding and imagination by applying an empirical concept or a teleological idea to a mani- fold of the imagination. But, presumably, free harmonies don’t work this way. And, thus, free harmonies are quite unique. This rejoinder surely goes in the right direction by attempting to show that free harmonies are somehow unique, but more needs to be said to be convinc- ing here. The problem with the rejoinder as stated is that it fails to come to terms with the explanation offered previously concerning what makes free harmonies pleasing. On this interpretation Kant argues that free harmonies are pleasing since they satisfy our general aim of finding order in a manifold of sense. But, if this is all there is to Kant’s argument, then it will do no good to emphasize the uniqueness of free harmonies. If free harmonies give pleasure simply because they exhibit organization in a manifold, then any organized manifold (free or conceptual) ought to do the job. In fact, it could be argued that a well-defined conceptual ordering might do a better job at exhibiting organization than a free harmony can do. 15 In the first chapter we considered an interpretation of free harmony of- fered recently by Henry Allison and Carl Posy that can be employed to solve the everything-is-beautiful criticism. 16 On this interpretation, both appreciating free harmony and applying a concept to a manifold of sense are a similar activ- ity of finding order in a manifold. Although both involve a kind of harmony be- tween our cognitive faculties, there is an important difference. When we rec- ognize the rule orderedness of a manifold by the application of a concept we do not simply appreciate an object’s rule orderedness; we also assert that the man- ifold shows a rule orderedness similar to that of other objects. There is a differ- ence, then, between applying a concept to a manifold of sense and merely ap- preciating the harmony between the imagination and the understanding (“free” of concepts). In the free harmony case we merely consider the orderliness of the manifold; whereas, in the case of applying empirical concepts we are further en- gaged in drawing a similarity between the order found in a particular instance of a manifold and other like instances. We assert that an object is one of a kind. And, as such “the normal concerns of cognition are suspended.” 17

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Assuming that we could make such a distinction between aesthetic con- templation and empirical judgment, then perhaps this distinction will allow us

to say that not all objects are to be judged as beautiful. When we experience or- dinary empirical objects we proceed to apply a concept defining the orderliness of the manifold and, at the same time, we recognize how the particular object

is related to others of like kind. This is not aesthetic contemplation, and the ob-

ject is not considered an aesthetic object. However, when we approach a true aesthetic object, we judge the orderliness of the manifold per se with no con- cern to classify the object. Presumably, then, we can distinguish between expe- rience of ordinary empirical objects and genuine aesthetic objects. This is a very interesting reply to the everything-is-beautiful criticism but

I believe that there are still problems. Earlier I made the broad criticism that

this interpretation fails to make a distinction in kind between applying concepts and free harmony judgings. That general criticism seems to apply more specifi- cally to the everything-is-beautiful charge. If aesthetic appreciation is to be understood as judging an object to be rule orderly but without applying a rule (concept), then it would seem that all empirical objects are still live candidates for beauty. After all, it seems quite possible to appreciate the rule orderedness of a dog or a house by considering the rule orderedness of these manifolds while putting aside any comparisons of its orderliness to other, similar objects. I see no reason why we could not abstract from the concept-forming job of comparing our orderly manifold with other similarly ordered manifolds. Arguably, there have been cases in the art world that seem to encourage this sort of idea. One could see someone like Duchamp encouraging us to consider a urinal as an aes- thetic object and not just as one of a kind of object. If this sort of thing is pos- sible, then the everything-is-beautiful criticism returns. We can appreciate the rule orderedness of any object per se, if we abstract from any further compar- isons to other like objects. We approach a urinal not as one of a kind, but we consider it for its internal orderliness. Perhaps this response is wrong headed. Perhaps, we cannot simply abstract from an empirical concept (or teleological idea) to appreciate the rule ordered- ness of any empirical object. That is to say, perhaps we cannot set aside consid- eration of comparisons to like objects once this comparison has been made in the process of forming an empirical concept. And, as such, we cannot say that all objects are beautiful. However, even if Kant (under this interpretation) could avoid the criticism that everything is beautiful, he may be faced with the equally challenging criticism that at some time in the past everything was beautiful— everything has been beautiful for someone at some time. Consider again the way that the Allison/Posy interpretation goes. A free harmony of the imagination and the understanding is similar to ordinary empirical cognition insofar as our

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“judging” an object “invites the application of a concept.” 18 But unlike ordinary cognition we do not actually follow through with the process of applying a con- cept to the manifold. 19 Aesthetic contemplation (“judging”) of the object ac- cording to Allison/Posy is “antecedent to the application of a concept.” 20 This seems to explain how an empirically conceptualized object will fail to be beau- tiful. Presumably, if I consider a dog’s rule orderedness as a dog, then I will not feel aesthetic pleasure. I am, as it were, focusing my attention on a particular dog compared to other similar animals for the purpose of applying my class con- cept. Further, let’s grant that we cannot consider a dog’s rule orderedness per se by abstracting from the concept “dog,” although I am not convinced that this is so. If we grant this, then it will follow that ordinary objects that fit into our em- pirical-concept schemes will not be proper objects of aesthetic consideration. However, there was a time when there was no empirical concept of “dog.” There was a time when someone approached a dog and they could appreciate its rule orderedness for its own sake. They could appreciate a dog’s rule orderedness free of any concepts since their appreciation was quite literally “antecedent to the application of a concept.” At one time every object someone encountered was antecedent to the application of an empirical concept. But since every object subsequently was found to be rule governed (by the appropriate conceptual rule), every object at one time could have been appreciated as rule orderly but without the application of a rule. Thus, at one time every object was beautiful. But the claim that everything was beautiful seems just as implausible as claim that everything is beautiful. Again, as we saw in chapter 1, Hannah Ginsborg also tries to distinguish between the activity of applying a concept to an ordinary empirical object and appreciating the beauty of an aesthetic object, while at the same time insisting on the important similarities between the two enterprises. For the reasons dis- cussed earlier, Ginsborg argues that for Kant to build a coherent description of empirical-concept acquisition he must have a two-step account of how we come to recognize order in an empirical manifold. In order to create an empirical con- cept, we must compare various objects with an eye to grouping them according to similarities in the orderliness of their sense manifolds. In the end these simi- larities make up the general rule of orderliness defining a Kantian empirical con- cept. Again, as we saw in the first chapter, concepts are rules defining the order of manifolds of sense. However, Ginsborg agues, to make this account coherent, Kant must assume a “primitive” notion of recognizing the order of a manifold that is logically prior to the explicit recognition of an order that is specified by an empirical concept (rule). This primitive ability seems to be needed since we could not begin to compare the similarities in orderliness of manifolds (needed to form a concept) unless we had a way of recognizing orderliness prior to the

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use of concepts. Moreover, this primitive (nonconceptual) ability to recognize the orderliness of a manifold, Ginsborg speculates, must be the same ability that we have when we appreciate a free harmony of the understanding and imagination. Free harmonies, as we have seen, require us to recognize an orderliness of a sense manifold without applying a concept. But now we seem to be able to distinguish between recognizing free harmonies and making an empirical judgment. Both ac- tivities are a matter of recognizing orderliness in what Ginsborg calls a “primi- tive,” nonconceptual way. 21 This is the extent to which free-harmony judging and conceptual judging are thought to be similar activities. However, similar to the Allison/Posy interpretation, conceptual judging differs from the mere primitive form of judging by going on to compare the orderliness of the present object with other like objects for the purpose of classifying as a kind of object. I believe that Ginsborg’s interpretation suffers from a fate similar to the Allison/Posy account. If each act of applying an empirical concept to a mani- fold requires a first step of primitively recognizing orderliness, then it would seem that we could approach any empirical object and appreciate it for its prim- itive orderliness in the same way we approach paradigm cases of aesthetic ob- jects. Such appreciation would be a case of free harmony. Ginsborg attempts to block this move. She seems to think that we cannot approach ordinary empir- ical objects in this way. She claims that anytime we experience an ordinary em- pirical object, we (necessarily?) apply a concept at the same time. I don’t find much of an argument for this point. But let’s grant it for the moment. Nonethe- less, even if it is true that for an empirical object for which we have an empiri- cal concept we cannot appreciate its orderliness without also applying a con- cept; nonetheless, there must have been a time when we could. Once upon a time, before we acquired the concept of “dog,” we could appreciate the orderli- ness of a particular dog without applying the concept dog. Thus, prior to our ac- quiring the concept dog, we could appreciate the free orderliness of a dog man- ifold and this is indistinguishable from aesthetic appreciation. But, similar to our argument above, there must have been a time when this was true of all objects. And, thus, on this interpretation, once upon a time, everything was beautiful.

3

Given the problems we have seen with current interpretations of Kant’s account of aesthetic pleasure, I will suggest a more fruitful approach to the everything- is-beautiful charge, one consistent with the results of my earlier chapters. I want to suggest that pleasure in subjective purposiveness for judgment generally is not an appropriate criterion for Kant’s account of aesthetic pleasure because it

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covers too much ground. The criterion for aesthetic pleasure needs to be qual- ified in order to avoid the everything-is-beautiful charge. Kant needs to argue that of all the objects that suit our general, judgmental aim, some objects suit it in a unique and interesting way. And when objects satisfy our judging aim in

this unique and interesting way, they give us a pleasure suitable to be called “aes- thetic pleasure.” I believe that Kant does develop such a position later on in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” Beginning with ¶42 Kant can be read as ar- guing for the additional requirement that beauty be able to express “aesthetic Ideas.” This additional requirement, as I have argued in chapters 1, 2, and 4, is perfectly consistent with Kant’s claim that we trace our aesthetic pleasure to a “free harmony.” 22 Expression of ideas, it is generally held, can be achieved only through a free harmony of the imagination and understanding. But if we em- phasize this aspect of Kant’s position, then we can escape the everything-is- beautiful charge. Kant does in fact hold that the only appropriate candidate for aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in finding order in a manifold (subjective purpo- siveness). However, not just any ordering will do since it is not simply the or- dering that gives us pleasure. Aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in finding order in

a manifold that can do a most important job—it can allow an object to express

ideas. It is this additional requirement that objects express ideas through a free harmony of imagination and understanding that allows Kant to avoid the kinds of criticisms we have been considering in this chapter. This interpretation has the added benefit of meshing well with the issue brought up in the previous chapter and that will be discussed in length in chapter 6—namely, the connec- tion Kant sees between beauty and moral value. In the previous chapter we con- sidered seriously the interpretation, again stemming from ¶42, that a good ex- planation of why Kant believes that beauty can engage our moral interest is that beauty is subjectively purposive for judgment in the specific sense that objects of beauty can realize ideas of reason. This is of moral interest to us since it leads

us to believe that the world is amenable to our moral efforts. Accordingly, if we understand Kant as arguing that the pleasure at the base of aesthetic judgment

is pleasure in finding objects as organizable in a way that suits our purpose (as

stated in ¶42) of seeing objects as exemplifying ideas of reason, then this will ex- plain why it is not the case that every object that is organizable by some rule will qualify as beautiful. Simply being purposive for any kind of judging will not do. Not every object is beautiful. And, further, if we adopt this interpretation, then we can better understand why objects that are beautiful on this criteria are also

of moral interest. Objects that are interpretable as expressing ideas satisfy our moral interest in giving us a “hint” that nature is amenable to our moral proj- ects. We will go into Kant’s connection between beauty and morality in con- siderable detail in the next chapter.

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There is a downside to the interpretation that I am proposing here. Re- call that one of the reasons that the everything-is-beautiful criticism is gener- ated is that some interpretations put considerable emphasis on the argument from skepticism traced out earlier. Presumably, Kant wants to argue that the mental state, at the basis of aesthetic appreciation is sufficiently similar to an ordinary cognitive state that we must assume that our responses to states of ap- preciation are as common and “sharable” as our cognitive beliefs are common and sharable. If I feel pleasure in the aesthetic appreciation of an object, then I can expect that all others will feel the same pleasure given the close similarity of aesthetic appreciation and ordinary cognitive judging. The problem with pro- moting this argument from skepticism is that it leads very quickly to the every- thing-is-beautiful charge. The tighter the similarity between aesthetic appreci- ation and ordinary cognition, the harder it is to avoid the everything-is-beautiful charge. Alternatively, if one argues, as I have, that the grounds of aesthetic ap- preciation are rather different from ordinary cognition, then this will weaken any such argument from skepticism for a common response to aesthetic appre- ciation. While we may be safe in assuming that we will have similar responses to applying concepts to the world for cognition, we may not be permitted to con- clude that we will have shared responses to the activity of interpreting the world as amenable to our ideas of reason. However, I am not overly concerned that my interpretation weakens an argument from skepticism since, on independent ground, I believe that this argument is problematic. 23

6

Beauty, Free Harmony, and Moral Duty

One topic that has garnered considerable attention in the scholarship on Kant’s aesthetics is the connection he attempts to make between aesthetics and moral- ity. Kant wants to hold that our appreciation of beauty is important for our moral life. Beyond this broad characterization there is much that is unclear about the connection between aesthetics and morality. It is unclear why Kant believes that aesthetics is important for morality and it is further unclear how (or if) the moral importance of aesthetics advances the central argument of the “Critique of Aes- thetic Judgment.” These are two distinct issues that need to be sorted out; how- ever, before doing so I want to make some preliminary remarks. Since Kant’s general account of beauty is based on the subjective experi- ence of appreciation, I believe that a good way to approach the issue of the moral importance of beauty is to ask why, according to Kant, is aesthetic experience morally valuable? 1 Broadly, the answer seems to be that the experience of beauty is, in some fashion, similar to our experience of determining our actions by the moral law. 2 Quite a lot will need to be said to make this claim either clear or convincing. However, assuming for the moment that we knew how to make the connection between aesthetics and morality there is a further question. What does Kant want to achieve by the connection? What argumentative goal is fur- thered by showing that aesthetic experience is morally important? Here, as elsewhere, there is little consensus by commentators. One interpretation, which I favor, is that the connection of aesthetics with morality furthers Kant’s cen- tral argument justifying the “universal validity” of aesthetic judgments—the claim that aesthetic judgments warrant a kind of objectivity. A more common interpretation is that Kant first establishes universality of aesthetic judgment and then goes on to show how there is a moral interest in aesthetic apprecia- tion. 3 A twist on the latter strategy is to suggest that there is a relationship be- tween aesthetics and morality but it is not that morality is enlisted to support the legitimacy of aesthetic experience. Rather, the support is the other way around. Aesthetic experience helps to support an interest in morality. 4

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Both of the issues described above are important to a proper interpreta-

tion and evaluation of Kant’s position on aesthetics. However, for the purposes

of this chapter I will consider only the first issue. I want to give an interpreta-

tion of Kant concerning the moral importance of aesthetic experience. While I have chosen to work on the first issue, the second question is far from unim- portant. Clearly, Kant believes that establishing the moral importance of aes-

thetic experience is relevant to the extended argument in the “Critique of Aes- thetic Judgment.” Nonetheless, the first question has priority. We must be clear about the moral importance of beauty before we can speculate about the kind

of argumentative job it is intended to do. I do, however, take up the issue of the

argumentative role of the moral importance of beauty in the appendix and the postscript.

1

A proper interpretation of the connection between aesthetics and morality is

complicated by the fact the Kant is all too generous with suggestions concern- ing the nature of this connection. For example, there is an argument in ¶41 to the effect that developing an interest in beauty increases our sociability. Throughout the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” Kant argues that the pleas- ure we find in beauty must be “communicable” or sharable by all others. In ¶41 it is argued that developing an interest in communicable pleasures forges a bond with our fellow man such that “each expects and requires of everyone else a re- gard to universal communication, as if from an original contract dictated by hu- manity itself” (KU 5: 297, 177). 5 And, in turn, this bond will make us more dis- posed toward respecting our fellow man’s interests. This is one way Kant connects aesthetics to morality; but not the only way. Kant also holds that beau-

tiful objects are capable of expressing specific moral ideas and this is what makes aesthetics morally important. 6 At ¶60 Kant claims that “taste is at bottom a fac-

ulty for the judging of the sensible rendering of moral

that the true propaedeutic for the grounding of taste is the development of moral ideas and the cultivation of moral feeling” (KU 5: 356, 230). Here it seems that aesthetic appreciation is morally important if and only if beautiful objects achieve the didactic goal of expressing moral ideas—beauty, presumably, is valu- able for the moral notions it can teach us. There can be little doubt that Kant develops both of these strategies for linking aesthetics and morality. However, I do not believe that either of these positions represent the most central and sustained point Kant wants to make. They are at best icing on the cake. As evidence for the secondary role of these

.” It is evident

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positions, the claim that aesthetic appreciation leads to sociability is offered as an “empirical interest in the beautiful”—such is the very title of ¶41. It is fair to say that any time Kant describes something as having only an empirical (as op- posed to a pure or a priori status) it is likely that we have not gotten to the heart of the matter. This attitude is borne out in the text of ¶41. Referring to the propensity toward sociability Kant claims that “this interest, which we indirectly attach to the beautiful through our inclination to society and which is therefore empirical is of no importance to us here, since we must concern ourselves only with what may have reference a priori, even if only indirectly, to a judgment of taste” (KU 5: 297, 177). Kant’s suggestion that our appreciation of beautiful objects is morally im- portant because such objects express moral ideas is, I believe, much more plau- sible. There is something very plausible about this position both on interpreta- tive grounds and on the broader grounds of aesthetic theory. To the broader point, it is interesting to note just how often works of art and beauties of nature either have explicit moral themes or are described in moral language. Novels, movies, paintings, and sculpture often feature themes speaking to how we con- duct ourselves in the world. As such, it is very tempting to think that aesthet- ics’ home turf is to comment on our moral life. And, as we have seen from the text of ¶60 Kant seems to be making a very strong claim for the importance of expressing moral ideas. 7 Although, in the end, I want to hold that expression of ideas is important for Kant, the specific interpretation that beauty must express moral ideas is prob- lematic. First, there is a long-standing interpretation of Kant as an aesthetic for- malist. Presumably, Kant holds that aesthetic value (beauty) resides in the ap- preciation of an object’s form, not its content—and surely appreciating an object for the moral ideas it expresses seems to be advocating content over form. An extreme position on Kantian formalism would have it that expression of ideas should never count as relevant to the aesthetic experience. A more mod- erate view may allow objects to be expressive so long as they meet the appro- priate formal criteria. 8 On the moderate view, it may well be that appreciating an object as expressing an idea is achieved through the appreciation of an ob- ject’s form. However, even if we grant that expression of ideas is compatible with ap- preciating form, Kant would have a tough time claiming that it is expression of moral ideas that gives beauty its moral value. Recall that in the end Kant wants to claim, presumably, that all cases of aesthetic appreciation are of moral im- portance and, presumably, all cases of aesthetic appreciation are morally im- portant for the same reason. Now, if “expression of moral ideas” explains the moral importance of aesthetic appreciation, then it must be the case that all ob-

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jects of beauty express moral ideas. To be sure, many of Kant’s examples of ex- pression are examples of moral ideas, but not all. Kant talks about expressing

the idea of the “monarchical state” when it is either ruled by “a single absolute will” or “in accordance with laws internal to the people” (KU 5: 352, 226). He also gives an example of the expression of ideas as diverse as “the mighty king

of heaven” (KU 5: 315) or “invisible beings

192). Not only does Kant not limit aesthetic ideas to moral ideas, but we would surely worry about him if he did. There are any number of works of art that are expressive but do not fit neatly under the category of expressing moral ideas:

the existential angst of Kafka’s Castle, the enchanting smile of Mona Lisa, or the stark simplicity of Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow. Again, it may well be reasonable to hold that aesthetic objects be seen as expressing some sort of ideas, but it is questionable to attribute to Kant the view that all aesthetic objects must express moral ideas. This is a position that is textually and philo- sophically dubious.

death” (KU 5: 314,

eternity

2

I believe that the strategies previously explored do not represent Kant’s best at- tempt to connect aesthetics to morality. However, I do not deny that Kant holds that sociability or expression of moral ideas are morally important features of aes- thetic experience. Quite the contrary, there is clear evidence that he holds these positions. Nevertheless, it may well be the case that Kant has several reasons for why beauty is morally important—some reasons more philosophically promising than others. This is not to suggest the Critique of Judgment (Kant’s third Critique) is “patchwork” of several views as has been argued of the Critique of Pure Reason (Kant’s first Critique). 9 Yet, it would be a mistake to think that everything Kant has to say on the connection between aesthetics and morality can be fit into a single, highly unified argument leading to a well-defined thesis. 10 My intention in this chapter is to offer an interpretation connecting aes- thetic experience and morality that can be genuinely attributed to Kant and that is philosophically viable—even if it is not the only way Kant makes such a connection. I believe that the key to finding a viable link between aesthetics and morality lies in Kant’s notion of “the free harmony of the imagination and understanding.” As we have seen in earlier chapters, despite considerable in- terpretative disagreement on many of the issues in Kant’s aesthetics, there is consensus on the following broad outline of his position. Aesthetic judgments of taste are based on the pleasure found in a free harmony of the imagination

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and understanding. As we have seen in the earlier chapters, making sense of this position is no mean feat. Pleasure in free harmony is the very foundation of Kant’s judgments of taste. Given the centrality of pleasure in free harmony for Kant, I propose that we formulate the issue of morality and beauty in the following way. Kant needs to show that, intrinsically (necessarily), aesthetic experience is morally impor- tant. But, if pleasure in free harmony is the aesthetic experience, then Kant needs to show that taking pleasure in free harmony is important to our moral life. Assuming that he gives such an accounting, and that it is credible, he will have gone a long way toward making a firm connection between beauty and morality. According to Kant, pleasure in free harmony is a requirement for all beauty. And, if it can be shown that such pleasure is morally important, then it follows that all beauty is morally important. As we shall see this is a more than slightly controversial interpretation of Kant since it is sometimes argued that only natural beauty is capable of engaging our moral interest in any im- portant way. The question of why pleasure in free harmony might be morally impor- tant is central to Kant’s project. However, there is an antecedent question here. Before we can answer this central question we need to know why Kant would think that free harmony is pleasing at all. Fortunately, we have covered this ground in chapter 4 and I will only summarize the results of that discussion as it is relevant to the present question. In chapter 4, I argued that there are two fundamentally different approaches to the issue of why free harmony should be considered (universally) pleasing. The most common interpretation is one that I am calling the “recognitional” or “epistemological” interpretation. This view has Kant arguing, specifically in ¶9 and ¶21, that the only way that we can rec- ognize the peculiar free harmony of the imagination and understanding is by a feeling—and the feeling of pleasure in particular. In chapter 4, I discussed the several problems with interpreting Kant as claiming that pleasure is the way in which free harmonies are recognized. I shall concentrate here on the problem most relevant to the current discussion. The “recognitional” interpretation cannot do an adequate job of explaining why free harmony is pleasing. Even if we grant that free harmonies must be recognized by some feeling, it does not follow that the relevant feeling is pleasure. Never- theless, it is important for the plausibility of Kant’s aesthetic theory that pleas- ure is at the foundation of judgments of taste. After all, pleasure is not just any feeling. There is a considerable evaluative difference between claiming that aes- thetic experience is pleasurable and claiming that it is nauseating or tingling or whatever. There is a great danger here that a recognitional “feel the fit” inter-

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pretation will miss the evaluative aspect of an aesthetic judgment of taste. It seems that the very best this sort of interpretation can do is to explain why we must feel our way into a free harmony. But, crucially for our present concerns, it fails to adequately explain why free harmonies are distinctly pleasing.

3

Fortunately, as we saw in chapter 4, there is an alternative to the “epistemolog- ical” explanation of the pleasure in free harmony. It is what I have been calling the “evaluative” interpretation. This interpretation depends on the general claim, made in the published introduction to the third Critique, that “the at- tainment of every aim (Absicht) is combined with the feeling of pleasure” (KU 5: 187, 73). 11 Seemingly, Kant wants to place the pleasure of taste within a broader account of pleasure as attainment of aims. To do this he needs to ex- plain how aesthetic appreciation, as a mental state of free harmony, achieves some aim of ours. The key to this strategy is the point, which Kant often makes in the third Critique, that free harmony is “subjectively purposive” for the fac- ulty of judgment. Somehow or other, Kant wants to argue, the mental state of free harmony satisfies our general aim of judgment—where the faculty of judg- ment on Kant’s account is the faculty of organizing a collection of particulars by the rule-ordering function of the understanding. This aim, presumably, is one that all of us share universally (see KU 5: 183, 70). In the introduction Kant claims that a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding is an “apprehension” of the mere “subjective formal pur- posiveness of the Object” (KU 5: 189–90, 75–76). Sorting this out a bit, the point seems to be that the pleasure we take in apprehending an object “freely” is not a pleasure in finding the object suitable to this or that determinate kind of organization (concept) since, as a free harmony, no concepts are involved. As such, aesthetic pleasure can be nothing but pleasure in the mere fact that the manifold of the imagination is orderly without regard to the kind of order—a mere formal requirement. The big picture here is relatively clear. Certain ob- jects occasion a free harmony of the imagination and the understanding. And free harmony is pleasing because it constitutes a “subjective formal purposive- ness” of the faculty of judgment. However, while the big picture seems clear, the details are not. One problem with the details is that Kant’s account of pleasure in free harmony seems to cover too much ground. If free harmony pleases since it satisfies the general aim of judgment to organize a manifold of sense particu- lars (intuitions) by the faculty of rules (concepts), then it would seem that ab-

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solutely every object (of experience) would give aesthetic pleasure. According to the first Critique every object of experience must satisfy our epistemic condi- tions. And, crucially, one of these conditions is that manifolds of intuition must be organizable by the pure concepts of the understanding. Every object, on this accounting, furthers the judgmental aim of bringing order to a manifold of the imagination. There is a great danger that Kant may be forced to the undesirable conclusion that every object of experience is beautiful. 12 In order to avoid this problem I will appeal to the discussion in chapter 5. Kant must argue, in some fashion, that a free harmony of the imagination and understanding is different from other ways of organizing a manifold. And fur- ther, free harmony is different because it is pleasing while other ways to organ- ize are not. It should be noted that a distinction can be made between “free” harmonies and others, but perhaps at a considerable cost. Recall that a free har- mony is one that is free from the sort of “determinate” concepts that typically characterize an act of judgment. That is to say, typically a judgment for Kant is a matter of determining a specific, conceptual order of a manifold of sense. However, what makes a “free” harmony free is the fact that it is not determined by a concept. This is a central theme in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment”; the following from ¶9 is representative: “The powers of cognition that are set into play by this representation are hereby in a free play, since no determinate concept restricts them to a particular rule of cognition” (KU 5: 217, 102). To insist that the basis for pleasure in beauty is a free harmony will serve to distinguish it from all other sorts of harmonies Kant may wish to talk about. And, therefore, it is entirely possible to hold that a free harmony is pleasing while the other kinds of harmonies between understanding and imagination are not pleasing. However, there is a problem here as well. The more Kant empha- sizes the “free” aspect of free harmony, the harder it is to account for free har- monies as genuine harmonies of the understanding and imagination. To “har- monize” the understanding and the imagination is to be able to organize a manifold of sense by the rule-ordering function of the understanding. However, since free harmonies use no conceptual rules, it is difficult to see how the un- derstanding brings order to a manifold in such a way that we can say that the two faculties are in harmony. In this sense it is unclear how there can be a “free” (nonconceptual) harmony of the imagination and understanding. It is unclear how there can be a manifold of the imagination that “harmonizes” with the con- ceptual, rule function of the understanding without the employment of rules. 13 In this sense we are thrown back to the fundamental question of this present work, raised in chapter 1; namely, How are we to understand free harmony and the pleasure that it is presumed to give?

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4

Aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in the quasi-cognitive state of free harmony. How- ever, we have yet to see a full explanation as to why free harmony is pleasing. The outline of an answer is relatively clear. A free harmony of the imagination and understanding is “subjectively purposive” for the faculty of judgment. And, since free harmony meets the aim of judgment, this satisfaction is met with pleasure—on the principle that generally satisfying an aim is pleasing. On the one hand, Kant needs to explain how free harmony satisfies an aim of judgment, in spite of the fact that a free harmony does not further judgment by employing concepts. On the other hand, he needs to show how a free harmony satisfies an aim of judgment in such a way that it is not true that determinate (conceptual) acts of judging also satisfy this aim. This latter is the worry that everything will turn out to be beautiful according to Kant. The answers to these questions have been discussed in earlier chapters, specifically chapters 4 and 5, and I will only briefly run through those results here. The explanation for how free harmony can be pleasing and, further, why this criterion does not generate the everything-is-beautiful problem resides with the doctrine of aesthetic ideas developed in the latter portions of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” 14 The following passage well represents the complex set of concerns that come together in the latter sections of the “Critique of Aes- thetic Judgment.”

But since it also interests reason that the ideas (for which it produces an imme-

diate interest in the moral feeling) also have objective reality, i.e. that nature should at least show some sort of ground for assuming a lawful correspondence of

its products with our satisfaction that is independent of all interest

take an interest in every manifestation in nature of a correspondence similar to this; consequently the mind cannot reflect on the beauty of nature without find- ing itself at the same time to be interested in it. Because of this affinity, however, this interest is moral, and he who takes such an interest in the beautiful in nature can do so only insofar as he has already firmly established his interest in the morally good. (KU 5: 300, 180)

reason must

A lot of work gets done in this very compact passage. There is a sugges- tion as to how beauty (as a free harmony) can satisfy an aim of judgment in a way different from ordinary conceptual judging. Kant asserts in ¶42 that reason is interested in ideas having “objective reality.” The ideas Kant refers to here are unmistakably the aesthetic ideas that are a topic throughout the latter sections of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” but are discussed at length in ¶49. The

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position in these latter sections is that aesthetic appreciation is a matter of in- terpreting objects of art or nature as the expression of aesthetic ideas as, for ex- ample, when we interpret that “the song of a bird proclaims joyfulness and con- tentment with its existence” (KU 5: 302, 181), or when “the poet ventures to make sensible rational ideas of invisible being, the kingdom of the blessed, the kingdom of hell, eternity, creation, etc.” (KU 5: 314, 192). Kant goes so far as to say in ¶60 that “taste is at bottom a faculty for the judging of the sensible ren- dering of moral ideas” and that feeling resulting from this judging objects as ren- dering ideas is nothing other than “that pleasure which taste declares to be valid for all mankind in general” (KU 5: 356, 230). Expression of aesthetic ideas is the origin of aesthetic pleasure since, from the passage at ¶42, finding objects to express ideas furthers an aim we have. With a little bit of work we can see that the account of pleasure in ex- pression of ideas is consistent with, and hopefully an extension of, the story Kant tells in the early sections of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” In the early sections Kant claims that the pleasure of taste must be found in “subjective purposive”—finding experience amenable to judgment’s purpose or end to or- ganize manifolds of sense. But now, this general account is specified. Kant claims that we satisfy a purpose of judgment when we find objects are organizable by an aesthetic “idea.” It is important to note here, for the consistency of Kant’s position, that the sort of organization that an aesthetic idea gives to a manifold is different from that given by a determinate concept. Ideas and concepts are separate in the Kantian pantheon of representations. An aesthetic idea, Kant explains, is a “representation of the imagination which by itself stimulates so much thinking that it can never be grasped by a determinate concept” (KU 5:

314, 192). Kant’s point, which is not well worked out in the text, is that some notions are too big, too complex to be represented by ordinary empirical con- cepts; however, aesthetic objects are able to “express” such notions by encour-

to spread itself over a multitude of related represen-

aging “the imagination

tations, which let one think more than one can express in a concept determined by words” (KU 5: 315, 193). 15 The doctrine of expression of ideas provides an explanation of how aes- thetic objects can be subjectively purposive for judgment. Insofar as an aesthetic object can be interpreted as expressing an idea (e.g., creation), it can be seen as exhibiting a kind of organization. In fact, ¶49 is largely devoted to explaining how artistic genius can organize artworks such that they express an idea. Simi- larly, one could say of natural objects that we can interpret them as expressive (again, like interpreting a bird’s song as joyfulness—KU 5: 302, 181) insofar as we interpret the natural object as if organized in such a way as to bring out that idea. 16 In either the case of art or nature aesthetic appreciation, under this in-

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terpretation, is subjectively purposive for judgment. To appreciate an object as expressing an idea is to find a manifold of sense amenable to our efforts to bring order to our experience, and this is the aim of judgment generally. While, it may be granted that appreciating beauty as the expression of ideas will satisfy the aim of judgment, it is perhaps less clear that expression is consistent with Kant’s claim that aesthetic pleasure is pleasure in free harmony. To address this issue I offer nothing original. I take it as a well-accepted inter- pretative point that appreciating beauty as expressing an idea is an instance of freely harmonizing the imagination and the understanding. 17 Again, ¶49 is the appropriate text. Here Kant argues that the sort of organization (harmony) needed to express an aesthetic idea is nonconceptual in Kant’s technical sense. For our purposes, it is enough to say that interpreting a manifold as expressing an aesthetic idea is not a matter of applying a pure, a priori concept or even an a posteriori, empirical concept. Rather, there is a degree of freedom or creativ- ity to the process. Kant makes this point in a number of ways. Aesthetic ideas are representations that “occasions much thinking without it being possible for any determinate thought, i.e., concept, to be adequate to it” (KU 5: 314, 192). Genius, which creates expressive objects, creates a “new rule which could not have been deduced from any antecedent principles or examples” (KU 5: 317, 195 and again at KU 5: 319, 197). And, quite explicitly, Kant claims that while genius is expressing ideas this must be done by use of the “unsought and unin- tentional subjective purposiveness in the free correspondence of the imagina- tion to the lawfulness of the understanding” (KU 5: 317, 195). I will take it as uncontroversial that appreciating beauty as the expression of aesthetic ideas is an instance of free harmony. I go further to suggest that free harmony as expression of ideas helps us to understand how an object can be sub- jectively purposive without employing concepts (or purposes). To be “subjec- tively purposive” a manifold of imagination must conform to the understanding (the faculty of rules). However, consistent with the free harmony requirement, this conformity to the faculty of rules must be done without concepts. The doc- trine of expression of ideas allows Kant a way to talk about aesthetic apprecia- tion as achieving a purpose of judgment (by interpreting manifolds as organized by ideas) while being free from concepts. The upshot here is that aesthetic pleasure turns out (on my interpreta- tion) to be pleasure in the expression of aesthetic ideas. We find an object aes- thetically pleasing not simply because it is amenable to our broad judgmental aim of finding manifolds of sense organizable. Rather, the more plausible expla- nation is that in beauty we can find expressions of notions that would not other-

wise be expressed. According to Kant, “it

have objective reality” (KU 5: 300, 180). And, finally, it is the satisfaction of

interests reason that

ideas

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this interest that we find pleasing in aesthetic contemplation. The doctrine of expression of ideas, so far, plugs two holes in Kant’s account of the pleasure in free harmony. It explains how there can be a harmony free from conceptual or- ganization—there is organization by an “idea.” It can also explain why we find this harmony is pleasing and not necessarily any old harmony This harmony is able to convey a notion we otherwise would be unable to convey by ordinary methods.

5

I believe that an adequate interpretation of the connection between beauty and morality should be able to put together two crucial features of Kant’s position. One ought to be able to say that the pleasure of taste is some species of pleas- ure in subjective purposiveness and that pleasure in this species of subjective purposiveness is morally important. Kant needs to make this connection since, in the end, he wants to claim that there is something morally important at the heart of the aesthetic experience, and that pleasure in subjective purposiveness is at the very heart. I have argued that expressing an aesthetic idea is a species of subjective purposiveness and one that plausibly explains the pleasure of taste. Interpret- ing an object as expressing an idea constitutes finding the object purposive for the faculty of judgment without the use of determinate concepts—satisfying one of Kant’s requirements. Assuming that some such account is correct, we need to understand why finding pleasure in the subjective purposiveness of expres- sive objects is also morally important. While Kant flirts with a number of ways to connect aesthetic pleasure with morality, there is a central theme. He claims that it is important that aesthetic ideas get expressed—that they have “objec- tive reality” (KU 5: 300, 180) or “the appearance of an objective reality” (KU 5: 314, 192). And further the reason expression is important is that it somehow connects us to the “supersensible” (KU 5: 316, 194) or even the “supersensible substratum of humanity” (KU 5: 340, 216). Presumably, then, appreciating ob- jects as expressing ideas constitutes a subjective purposivenss for judgment and this appeals to our supersensible nature. Further, it will turn out, this supersen- sible nature is the very underpinning of our moral life. If we can sort this all out we may be able to understand why Kant thinks that beauty is the “symbol of morality” as the heading of ¶59 announces. 18 Appreciating an object as expressing an aesthetic idea is a matter of find- ing it subjectively purposive in a rather special way. We find that the object is amenable to our efforts to interpret it as organized by an idea. This is quite un-

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expected and fortuitous since ideas (as opposed to concepts) are the sort of thing we can have no right to expect to be exemplified in our experience. 19 We do have a right to expect that every object of experience will be purposive for de- terminate judgment since, if we grant the argument of the first Critique, every object of experience must be subsumable under the pure concepts of the un- derstanding. However, we have no right to believe that experience will conform to our ideas. In fact, Kant’s consistent position beginning in the first Critique is that strictly speaking we can never know that any piece of experience exempli- fies an idea. Ideas by their very nature are notions that outstrip our cognitive abilities. At best we can merely believe that ideas like “God, freedom and im- mortality” are instantiated (Bxxx). And yet, it is fundamental to Kant’s moral theory that we harbor the hope that ideas are realizable in the world. A central question in the moral theory is how the categorical imperative as an idea of pure reason is possible—that is to say, how can we aspire to realize the categorical imperative in the world? This is a problem for Kant since, as we have seen, we have no reason to believe that any idea has application to experience. In the Critical philosophy not only do we have no reason to believe that we can act from an idea (like the categorical imperative) but there is a prima facie reason to think that such actions are impossible. Kant devotes considerable energy in the first Critique to showing that all events, including human actions, are de- termined by causal laws. Given this position, he is at pains to show that causal determinism is at least consistent with the possibility that humans can choose to act from the idea of the moral law. Kant seems to be arguing that we must be interested in whether ideas of reason are realizable in the world since we must be interested in the realizabil- ity of the moral law. It is important to the very project of morality that we be able to shape our world in accordance with an idea of reason. To interpret na- ture as amenable to our ideas is nothing less, for Kant, than to see nature sup- ported by “the supersensible substrate of humanity.” 20 That is to say, a neces- sary condition for moral action is the assumption that nature can be a product of our intentionality—our ideas. And the ability to shape the world in accor- dance with our ideas is “supersensible” since, according to the doctrine of the first Critique, knowledge of human freedom is beyond our sensible experience. Given the importance to Kant’s moral theory of being able to interpret nature as a product of our ideas, we can begin to get a clearer view of why he would hold that beauty as the expression of aesthetic ideas is of moral impor- tance. As moral agents we must have an interest in nature being amenable to the realization of our ideas. One could also say, in Kantian language, that we have an interest in finding nature purposive for judgment—specifically in the sense of being able to judge nature organizable by ideas. Our desire that nature

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be amenable to our ideas is nothing less than a desire that there is a “supersen- sible substrate” to nature. We hope that nature can be a product of supersensi- ble free agency. So far so good. The controversial point of the “Critique of Aes- thetic Judgment” is that appreciation of beauty also satisfies this moral aim or moral interest. Insofar as objects are interpretable as expressing an idea they are also “subjectively purposive” since we can also see them as organizable by some sort of idea. And this sort of subjective finality is something we all find pleasing. We find such purposiveness pleasing not simply because we want generally to organize experience, but because we all have an “aim,” Kant would say, in see- ing experience as an expression of ideas—as a product of supersensible freedom. We have such an aim since a fundamental premise of Kant’s moral theory is that we are able see nature as a product of ideas. But if this is granted then, finding experience amenable to our ideas satisfies this aim and is, thus, pleasing. Fur- ther, since this is the pleasurable satisfaction of a moral aim, Kant believes he is on solid ground to claim that “the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good” (KU 5: 353, 227). There are strengths to the sort of interpretation I offer here. We can bet- ter understand how Kant can hold that the pleasure of taste is pleasure in find- ing nature subjectively purposive for judgment while avoiding the charge that everything is pleasurable in this respect. If the most plausible interpretation of the pleasure we derive from subjective purposiveness is that we are pleased to find nature as organized by our ideas, then it will not be the case that every ob- ject is beautiful. While every object is organizable in some way, only a limited few will be organizable as expressions of ideas. Further, as sketched above, this inter- pretation can explain why Kant thinks that appreciation of beauty is connected to our moral life. If it is the case that as moral agents we must take satisfaction in nature being amenable to our ideas, then we should be similarly pleased when we are able to interpret art and nature as expressing aesthetic ideas. Under the interpretation suggested here, beauty as the expression of ideas satisfies a kind of judgmental purpose or aim by allowing us to view nature as organizable by reason. To this extent aesthetic appreciation shares similarities with morality. However, it is questionable how far this analogy can be taken and thus it is questionable how much moral importance can be granted to aesthetic experience. There are, it must be recognized, a few important disanalogies be- tween morality and aesthetics. As moral agents we surely must be concerned whether we are capable of remaking the world in accordance with our ideas— the idea of the moral law in particular. It could be argued that while a plausible analogy can be made between a moral agent and a creative artist the analogy is considerably weaker when we compare our roles as a moral agent and an ap- preciator of beauty. First, let’s consider how the agent/artist analogy might go.

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One may very well claim that a moral agent and an artist share an important concern. If the business of an artist is to create a work that expresses an idea (and Kant clearly makes such a suggestion, KU 5: 313, 192), then the artist must be as concerned as the moral agent whether it is possible to realize ideas in the world. However, Kant’s claim that beauty has moral significance is surely not just a claim about the value of artistic creation—if it is even that. Rather, it seems clear enough that he holds that the appreciation of beauty is of moral im- portance. And, yet there is a considerable difference between appreciation of beauty and creation of art. The artist must impose his or her will on the world; whereas, an appreciator of beauty is rather more passive. As appreciator we can, at best, take pleasure in being able to interpret art and nature as expressing ideas. But, this is a bit different from the moral satisfaction we would take in the active role of exercising our freedom to remake nature in accord with our ideas. I know of nowhere that Kant addresses such a problem; however, there is a response he could make. It could be argued that the kind of pleasure that an appreciator of beauty enjoys is similar to the satisfaction of a moral agent. The appreciator, like the moral agent, takes pleasure in being able to see nature as a product of ideas—even if the appreciator is not the producer. One could say that we have a moral concern that it be possible, in general, to affect nature by ideas (i.e., there may be a supersensible substrate). As such, it is of concern to us that “nature should at least show some trace or give a sign” that free agency based on ideas is possible (KU 5: 300, 180). It is, perhaps, less important that we see ourselves as the authors of such ideas—as, arguably, the artist can. Al- though, from our discussion of genius it is not so clear that artists can see them- selves as authors. Part of the account above of the moral importance of aesthetic apprecia- tion is fairly well accepted, specifically the interpretation of Kant as arguing that appreciation of beauty as free harmony appeals to our moral hope that the world is amenable to free agency. 21 However, unlike my reading, it is often thought that this feature of aesthetic appreciation can be had without any appeal to Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic ideas. As I have been arguing all along, I do not be- lieve this can be so. I hold this view on two grounds. First, my argument of chap- ter 1 and elsewhere is that the very notion of a free harmony of the imagination and understanding cannot be explained without reference to the doctrine of aesthetic ideas. But second, as discussed in this chapter, seeing objects as ex- pressing ideas further adds depth to the central moral concern Kant has in his aesthetic theory; namely, that aesthetic appreciation can give us a sense that the objective world is amenable to ideas in general and, hopefully, the idea of the moral law in particular.

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Another sort of objection, one we have encountered earlier, is that Kant sometimes seems to hold that the moral significance of beauty pertains only to natural beauty. 22 If the position that I argue here for the moral importance of beauty holds, then Kant is not entitled to make such a distinction between art and nature. I hold that centrally what is of moral importance in our apprecia- tion of beauty is that such appreciation encourages us to believe that nature is amenable to our ideas. And, further, our appreciation suggests this by our being able to interpret either artworks or natural objects as the expression of aesthetic ideas. 23 Both art and nature are able to express aesthetic ideas. Moreover, as was argued in chapter 3, the distinction between art and nature oddly shrinks on Kant’s account due to his thesis that art (especially so-called fine art) is the product of genius. Very much in the mold of the romanticists, Kant holds that genius is an “inborn predisposition of the mind (ingenium) through which na- ture gives the rule to art” (KU 5: 307, 186). On Kant’s account, as odd as it may seem, artistic beauty is a special case of natural beauty. The upshot here is that if it be the case that Kant pins the moral importance of aesthetic appreciation on the sense that nature is amenable to our acting on our ideas and, further, that beauty does this through its ability to express aesthetic ideas, then despite what Kant seems to sometimes say beauties of both art and nature are of moral sig- nificance. And, it would seem they are potentially of equal moral importance. The above reading seems to be confirmed by Kant’s remarks strategically placed at the very end of the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” Kant claims, fa- mously, “the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good” (KU 5: 353, 227), and it is reasonably clear that he intends “the beautiful” to cover “beautiful objects of nature or art” (KU 5: 354, 228). As we saw in chapter 3, while this seems good evidence for denying the moral superiority of natural beauty some com- mentators, notably Henry Allison, see matters differently. Allison sees Kant as making two quite different claims about the connection between aesthetic ap- preciation and morality. The first and strongest claim is that aesthetic appreci- ation can suggest the amenability of the world to our moral, practical action. This connection between aesthetic appreciation and morality can be made only by natural beauty, according to Allison. Subsequently in ¶59, Kant makes a quite different, and weaker, claim that beauty can “symbolize” morality by the fact that aesthetic experience is in various ways similar to moral experience. Pre- sumably, this weaker claim about the connection between aesthetics and moral- ity pertains to both art and nature. As I have argued in chapter 3, I do not believe that there is a sharp divide between the position that Kant holds in ¶42 (aesthetic appreciation shows that nature is amenable to our moral ends) and the claim in ¶59 (aesthetic experi-

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ence is similar to moral experience). First, it is fairly clear that in the paragraphs leading up to ¶59 Kant continues the earlier theme that aesthetic appreciation (not limited to natural beauty) leads us to believe that nature is conformable to our ideas. 24 Specifically, Kant claims that aesthetic appreciation can encourage our belief in a “supersensible” in nature that allows nature to be purposive to our higher aims. This appears merely to be different language for the same kind of point made back in ¶42. Even in ¶59, the precise location where Kant asserts that the “beautiful is the symbol of the morally good,” he again asserts that aes- thetic appreciation encourages us to believe that there is a “supersensible” ground to nature that allows for moral freedom (KU 5: 353, 227). In light of the preceeding discussion, it is not implausible to say that, for Kant, the highest moral significance of aesthetic experience (either art or na- ture) is that our aesthetic experience suggests the amenability of nature to our moral projects. And, further, I hold that this sense that nature is conformable to our ends is possible only if we further interpret aesthetic objects (either na- ture or art) as the expression of aesthetic ideas There is, perhaps, a more difficult problem with the interpretation offered here. My interpretation may again make the criteria for beauty’s moral impor- tance too wide. Presumably, beauty is morally importance because it is “subjec- tively purposive” in the sense that it allows us to interpret art or nature as a product of ideas. However, beauty may well not be unique in this role. In fact, such a claim may apply equally well to teleological judgments. Teleological judg- ing, it would seem, can give us just the same sort of pleasure as beauty and would have just the same kind of claim to moral importance. It may even be the case that Kant cannot suitably distinguish beauty and teleology. Perhaps, aesthetic and teleological judging are both a matter of finding nature amenable to our “su- persensible” ideas. As indirect evidence for my interpretation, Kant does indeed worry that teleological judging may offer the same sort of pleasure found in aesthetic judg- ing. In section 6 of the published introduction Kant is concerned as to whether our ability to apply teleological ideas to nature, such as the division of nature into genera and species, gives us an a priori (universally valid) pleasure—just like the pleasure of taste. Kant’s answer to this concern may not seem entirely satisfac- tory, if he wishes to make a principled distinction between aesthetic judging and teleological judging. He seems to claim that while, indeed, teleological judging does (or has) been pleasing, “we no longer feel any noticeable pleasure” result- ing from such judging only because teleological judging has become too familiar, ordinary—we’re all quite used to applying such ideas to nature (KU 5: 187, 74). This seems an unsatisfactory way to distinguish between aesthetics and teleol- ogy. Apparently, appreciating beauty and judging the world teleologically are, in

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principle, the same enterprise. The only difference is that the former is somewhat more novel (and thus more obviously pleasing) than the latter. I am not entirely certain that Kant can, in the end, offer a satisfactory dis- tinction between aesthetic judging and teleological judging, but the defense he offers is perhaps better than it seems on a couple of related grounds. Part of the answer Kant gives to distinguish aesthetic judging from teleological judging is that we no longer “feel any noticeable pleasure” in the latter since, he seems to say, teleological judging has become a routine, everyday, practical affair. That is to say, quite unlike aesthetic judging the point of teleological judgments is to further empirical enquiry. As such, it is less appropriate to attend to the “sub- jective purposiveness” of nature for its own sake, while in the case of aesthetic judging this is just the point of the activity. Similarly, as Kant points out, we would hope and expect our teleological judgments to take on a fairly regular and familiar pattern—for example, it is often the case that we will be able to unite “heterogeneous laws under higher though still empirical ones” (KU 5: 188, 74). In aesthetic judging, however, the very originality and hence unexpected nature of the subjective finality will doubtless add to our appreciation of this sort of purposiveness. In this chapter I want to accomplish two related tasks: (1) to identify the source of aesthetic pleasure according to Kant and (2) to offer an interpretation of why such pleasure is of moral importance. I believe that the best interpreta- tive answer to the first question is that aesthetic appreciation is (universally) pleasing just in the case that we are able to judge an object as “subjectively fi- nal” in the sense that we can judge an object as expressing an idea. This is pleas- ing since, Kant presumes, we all have as an aim or end that ideas be realizable in the world. But further, we find this sort of subjective finality satisfying because it is important to our moral life. The very possibility of moral action depends on the assumption that we can realize ideas in the world. There are, of course, many controversial questions that remain even if the answers to the questions explored earlier are satisfactory. It remains an open question how Kant intends to use his claim that beauty is morally important in his wider theory of aesthetic judgment. Is it intended to help justify the univer- sal validity of aesthetic judgments or rather to offer an incentive to engage in aesthetic appreciation? How does this account of a moral interest in beauty square with Kant’s insistence that aesthetic judgments are disinterested? I shall address some of these issues in the postscript to the appendix. And, there are doubtless other important issues. However, it is my intention that the interpre- tation offered here offers better understanding of Kant’s wider project.

Appendix The Meaning of Universal Validity in Kant’s Aesthetics

Kant’s project in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is to show on what grounds we can make a legitimate “judgment of taste” (i.e., a judgment that something is beautiful). While recent interpretations have attempted to explain and evaluate this demonstration, my hunch is that much of the difficulty of in- terpreting Kant’s argument stems from the more basic problem of understand- ing just what Kant thinks he must show. Since, as Kant acknowledges, justify- ing judgments of taste crucially depends on supporting their claim to “universal validity,” I shall consider here only the restricted question of how we should understand the meaning of this claim. 1 My position, simply stated, is that judg- ments of taste for Kant are a species of imperatives. Specifically, a judgment of taste issues a demand to all persons (i.e., universally) that if they attend prop- erly to the object, which I judge as beautiful, then they ought to take pleasure in that object. Only if this point is appreciated, I maintain, can we make any head- way in identifying Kant’s argument justifying judgments of taste.

1

At least on the face of it, the notion of universal validity is an easy one to under- stand. Universal validity implies a nonrelativistic account of judgments of taste. Thus Kant’s position in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is that a judgment of taste does not simply state personal preferences but “lays claim to everyone’s assent.” 2 In this respect, judgments of taste are like ordinary statements of fact. Both are either correct or incorrect (“valid”) independently of who makes the judgment (“universally”). Yet the parallel between judgments of taste and statements of fact cannot be taken too far. In paragraph 8 of the “Critique” Kant distinguishes between objectively and subjectively universal judgments. 3 To make a statement of fact

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