Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Kant on aesthetics

We have been reading selections from Kant's Critique of Judgment, his third critique.

It is wonderful to see the greats in action, in the first person: far better than the summaries in the histories of philosophy.

In the third critique, Kant is sharp, and also provocative at times.

Sharp: the distinctions he makes between the beautiful, the agreeable, the good. He defines beauty in terms of the feeling of pleasure, but carefully distinguishes it from the agreeable and the good. The agreeable is pleasure coupled with interest, he says. Again, we do delight in the good, but the good is connected with a concept and with interest, and beauty has to do neither with concepts nor with interest.

Provocative: he finds beauty only in form, which he subdivides into design and play. Colours, for example, and the quality of sounds, are merely charming; they do not pertain to beauty. Again, a man, or a woman, cannot be called beautiful, simply because the human form is linked to a concept of how that form should ideally be...

So Kant is against representational art, or rather, he considers representational art as 'dependent beauty', simply because it is linked to a concept, to something that it should ideally be, to a telos. Non-representational art - music without words is a prime example - is, instead, 'pure beauty', not linked to any concept.


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