Critique of Judgment (Hackett Classics)

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But if only the particular is given and judgment has to find the universal for it, then this power is merely reflective " Kant Reflective judgment provides most of the subject matter for the Critique of Judgment , and it is as a form of reflective judgment that aesthetic judgment emerges in the Third Critique. Reflective judgment has the singular function of securing a minimum level of cognition when the subject confronts a seemingly uncognizable object. The task of such judgment consists in nothing less than "discovering" concepts and rules that the particular obeys. In short, the task of reflective judgment, as distinct from the task of determining judgment, is to render intelligible what is particular and contingent by showing it to have a unity that is thinkable by us, although it does not rest on the objective rules that are, of course, the prerogative of determining judgment.

At the end of the published introduction to the Third Critique, Kant provides a table which lists the three cognitive powers understanding, judgment, reason alongside each other Such a schema seems to suggest that each of these "cognitive powers" is somehow equal, legislating over its own domain. In the first two critiques, Kant goes to great lengths to demonstrate how reason and understanding each legislates over its own domain. The reader of the Critique of Judgment might easily be misled into believing that the judgment is just another faculty, with its own distinct sphere of legislation.

While capable of autonomy in aesthetic judgments, judgment is typically at the service of the understanding: However autonomous reflective judgment may be, we must recall that its autonomy exists only in distinction from the reflection that takes place in the understanding. In mere reflection upon particulars without objective concepts, the exercise of autonomy remains a function of the judgment's divestment of something that it ordinarily achieves.

It could thus well be that rather than occurring incidentally in Kant's texts, merely is used for systematic reasons, and that its status is that of a philosophical concept comparable, say, to that of the pure.

Immanuel Kant Critique of Judgment Explained 2 Aesthetic Judgment & Taste; Theoretical, Practical,

After differentiating determining judgments from reflecting judgments, Kant further divides the latter category into aesthetic and teleological judgments. Teleological judgment, on the other hand, is based on "the concept of a natural end" Teleological, rather than aesthetic, judgment imposes itself when confronted with objects of nature, with "its life forms and organisms. From the perspective of the understanding which knows only mechanical causality , the forms of such objects of nature are contingent, since it cannot come up with any necessary concepts for these natural phenomena" While such objects cannot be comprehended by the understanding, they nonetheless seem as if they are governed by some concept.

Teleological judgment operates by adding "one principle more" to the otherwise incomprehensible object--the principle of a natural purpose. Its principle is, instead, borrowed from reason. Even though the "Critique of Teleological Judgment" is included within the Critique of Judgment , it could as easily have been "appended to the theoretical part of philosophy" Kant qtd.


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Such a unification would not be a facile return to the vainglorious dream of a "scientific" form of aesthetics as in the more vulgar claims of structuralist literary criticism. In fact, it suggests quite the opposite--that science and aesthetics, while sharing the common ground of reflective judgment, are two clearly demarcated domains: the domain of aesthetic judgment and the domain of teleological judgment. Sciences such as biology and to some extent physics require precisely the sort of assumption that teleological judgments make--assumptions of rationality, comprehensibility, and systematicity in nature.

The a priori principle which governs all reflective judgments, that of purposiveness, undergirds both aesthetic and teleological judgments. It is at this level that science and aesthetics are unified within the Kantian framework. Just as the Third Critique may offer an epistemic model that unifies science and aesthetics, it dissolves any strict division between art and nature. Against most understandings of aesthetics, Kant's is not particularly concerned with art.

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The meaning of "aesthetic" in [the Third Critique], moreover, bears little resemblance to what is known under that title in the history of aesthetics, both before and after Kant. As Kant uses the term it does not refer to artistic representation at all, but to that which concerns the senses in judgments, and is subjective. The notion of the beautiful is likely to strike the reader as quaint and unimportant for whatever we might describe as "contemporary aesthetics.

Yet, if Kant speaks of the sublime and the beautiful, and fastidiously divides the realm of aesthetic experience into a hierarchical catalog, he nonetheless breaks with eighteenth-century aesthetics in many significant ways.

One such break is the complete absence of any notion of "perfection" from the beautiful. More broadly, the Kantian beautiful provides no standards or rules for evaluating art.

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Kant's formalism refers to the para-epistemic place that aesthetic judgments occupy within his framework. We must remember that aesthetic judgment, as a type of reflective judgment, concerns objects for which the mind has no concept. Such a display of form occurs when the power of imagination which apprehends the empirical object as a perception unites harmoniously with the understanding--but only in a free, undetermined way.

If the union of understanding and imagination were determining, the judgment would not be aesthetic at all. Under the condition that the merely apprehended intuitive manifold of a single object lends itself to being collected into the presentation of a concept in general, a harmonious agreement of the imagination and the understanding takes place, and thereby represents the minimal condition for cognition in general.

Against the beautiful, which resides in form, the sublime is formless. Formlessness is only capable of being judged sublime, however, when it also exhibits totality. As in judgments on the beautiful, determining judgment fails in the face of the sublime.


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  • This failure is experienced as sublime only when the notion of totality can be added to the perception of formlessness. The notion of totality, however, does not arise in the judgment, but comes from the reason. The beautiful, while it fails to be subsumed under any particular concept, harmoniously unites the powers of cognition in general. The sublime, on the other hand, represents the complete failure of such powers.

    Critique of Judgment (Hackett Classics)

    The subject, when faced with such failure, nevertheless feels its own power beyond cognition through the reason. This experience of its own power allows the subject to experience formless objects as sublime. This apprehension only occurs through the intervention of the reason. Strictly speaking, only feelings, and not objects, may be properly judged sublime. The objects which inspire sublimity, inspire only incomprehensibility.

    Yet reason through the rational concept of totality masters this incomprehensibility, leading to an experience of pleasure in the subject as it experiences its own ability to overcome formlessness. Ships to:.

    Aesthetics without Art: The Para-Epistemic Project of Kant's Third Critique

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