Nov 30, 2012


By Marsigit, Yogyakarta State University

In the Critique of Judgment, Kant, 1790, outlined the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment consists of  Analytic of Aesthetic Judgment and Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment in which to be elaborated also the Analytic of Beautiful includes the kinds of the judgment of taste; and Analytic of Sublime includes the mathematically the sublime and the dynamically sublime in the nature. It was stated in Burnham, 2003, that the predicate “aesthetic” can qualify many different kinds of things: judgments, experiences, concepts, properties, or words. We can understand other aesthetic kinds of things in terms of aesthetic judgments: aesthetic properties are those that are ascribed in aesthetic judgments; aesthetic experiences are those that ground aesthetic judgments; aesthetic concepts are those that are deployed in aesthetic judgments; and aesthetic words are those that are typically used in the linguistic expression of aesthetic judgments.

The document noted that the basic explicit purpose of Kant's Critique of Judgment is to investigate whether the faculty of judgment provides itself with an a  priori principle. Kant assumed that judgment was simply a name for the combined operation of other mental faculties and speculated that the operation of judgment might be organized and directed by a fundamental a priori principle that is unique to it. Kant insisted that the faculty of understanding is that which supplies concepts that is universals, and reason is that which draws inferences e.g. constructs syllogisms, and judgment 'mediates' between the understanding and reason by allowing individual acts of sub-sumption to occur; he then distinguished between determinate and reflective judgments. Aesthetic judgments, according to Kant,  to be a particularly interesting form of reflective judgments.

Burnham, 2003, noted Kant that an aesthetic judgments or judgments of taste must have four key distinguishing features: disinterested, universal, necessary and final without end. It is disinterested because it is pleasurable judgment; it is universal and necessity because it is in fact a product of features of the human mind; and it is purposive without purpose or final without end because it is the concept according to which it was made that an object is purposive if it appears to have such a purpose, or in other word they should affect us as if they had a purpose, although no particular purpose can be found. Having identified the major features of aesthetic judgments, Kant then delivered the questions how such judgments are possible, and are such judgments in any way valid that is, are they really universal and necessary. Kant initially focused on judgments about beauty in nature to answer  what does such a judgment mean, and how does it take place as a mental act; he then needs to clarify the basic features of such judgments and concluded that on aesthetic judgments there must have a number of peculiar features which at first sight look like nothing other than paradoxes that he called  'moments'; the first moment is “disinterested”, the second moment is “universal”, the third moment is “purposiveness”, and the fourth moment is “necessary”

Kant outlined that there are two types of interest that are by way of sensations in the agreeable, and by way of concepts in the good; only aesthetic judgment is free or pure of any such interests. He defined interest as a link to real desire and action, and thus also to a determining connection to the real existence of the object. According to Kant, in the aesthetic judgment, the real existence of the beautiful object is quite irrelevant and  that aesthetic judgments are disinterested. He claimed that judgment results in pleasure, rather than pleasure resulting in judgment; and the aesthetic judgment must concern itself only with form in the object presented, not sensible content. Burnham, 2003, elaborated Kant’s claims that aesthetic judgments behave universally; if we judge a certain landscape to be beautiful, we at least implicitly demand universality in the name of taste

Kant argues that there is always a tendency to see 'beauty' as if it were somehow in the object or the immediate experience of the object and that such a relativist view can not account for the social behavior of our claims about what we find beautiful. Meanwhile, Kant claimed that an object's purpose is the concept according to which it was manufactured; therefore, purposiveness is the property of at least appearing to have been manufactured or designed. Kant concluded that the beautiful has to be understood as purposive, but without any definite purpose because a definite purpose would be either the set of external purposes or the internal purpose. Accordingly, beauty is equivalent neither to utility nor perfection, but is still purposive; in nature, it will appear as purposive with respect to our faculty of judgment, but its beauty will have no ascertainable purpose that is, it is not purposive with respect to determinate cognition. Burnham, 2003, also elaborated Kant’s claims that aesthetic judgments must pass the test of being necessary that the judgment does not either follow or produce a determining concept of beauty, but exhausts itself in being exemplary precisely of an aesthetic judgment. 

Burnham, 2003, noted Kant that our faculty or ability to judge consisted of being a mere processor of other, much more fundamental mental presentations that are concepts and intuitions; everything interesting and fundamental happened in the formation of concepts, or in the receiving of intuitions. However, Kant argued that judgment has a fundamental principle that governs it that asserts the purposiveness of all phenomena with respect to our judgment or everything we experience can be tackled by our powers of judgment. Kant claimed that in the case of the beautiful we do notice that this assumption is being made because the beautiful not only draws particular attention to its purposiveness but also has no concept of a purpose available, so that we cannot just apply a concept and be done with it; the beautiful forces us to grope for concepts that we can never find and it is not an alien and disturbing experience, on the contrary, it is pleasurable; the principle of purposiveness is satisfied, but in a new and unique way.

According to Kant, as noted by Burnham, 2003, that the kinds of cognition characteristic of the contemplation of the beautiful are not all that different from ordinary cognition about things in the world; the faculties of the mind are 'understanding' which is responsible for concepts, and  'sensibility' which is responsible for intuitions. Kant argued in aesthetic cognition there is no one determinate concept that pins down an intuition; intuition is allowed some free play and acts in harmony with the lawfulness in general of the understanding as common sense; hence the common sense was plausible as a possible explanation of the tendency to universality observed in aesthetic judgments. Throughout the Four Moments of the Beautiful, Kant elaborated many important clues as to the transcendental account of the possibility of aesthetic judgment e.g. communicability, common sense and the harmony of the cognitive sub-faculties. By deduction Kant explicitly attempted to demonstrate the universal communicability and thus inter-subjective validity of judgments of taste that there is a 'common sense' that humans all must have a kind of sensing ability which operates the same way.

For Kant, as it elaborated by Burnham, 2003, the other basic type of aesthetic experience is the sublime that is idea of absolute totality or absolute freedom, and thus the sublime is a kind of rapid alternation between the fear of the overwhelming and the peculiar pleasure of seeing that overwhelming overwhelmed. According to Kant, the connection between the sublime and morality can be raised up that the whole sublime experience would not be possible if humans had not received a moral training that taught them to recognize the importance of their own faculty of reason. Kant noted that while the beautiful is concerned with form, the sublime may even be formless and while the beautiful indicates a purposiveness of nature that may have profound implications, the sublime appears to be counter-purposive, as well as  although from the above one might expect the sublime experience to be painful in some way, in fact the sublime does still involve pleasure. 

Kant, as it elaborated by Burnham, 2003, divides the sublime into the 'mathematical' that is concerned with things that have a great magnitude in and of themselves and the 'dynamically' that is things that have a magnitude of force in relation to us, particularly our will. He defined mathematical sublime as something absolutely large that is large beyond all comparison; objects of sense are called 'sublime' only by a kind of covert sleight-of-hand. According to Kant, the sublime experience has two-layer process that are  a contra-purposive layer in which our faculties of sense fail to complete their task of presentation, and a strangely purposive layer in which this very failure constitutes a 'negative exhibition' of the ideas of reason which could not otherwise be presented. Kant insisted that in the dynamically sublime a 'might' or power is observed in nature that is irresistible with respect to our bodily or sensible selves; in particular, nature is called 'sublime merely because it elevates the imagination to the exhibition of those cases wherein the mind can be made to feel the sublimity that is proper to its vocation. Kant suggested, as noted by Burnham,2003, that the sublimity belongs to human freedom which is unassailable to the forces of nature; such a conception of freedom as being outside the order of nature, but demanding action upon that order.


Kant, as noted by Burnham, 2003, argued that art can be tasteful and yet be soulless that certain something would make it more than just an artificial version of a beautiful natural object and what provides soul in fine art is an aesthetic idea that is a counterpart to a rational idea that is a concept that could never adequately be exhibited sensibly. According to Kant, an aesthetic idea is as successful an attempt as possible to 'exhibit' the rational idea that is the talent of genius to generate aesthetic ideas, but that is not all; the mode of expression must be tasteful because the understanding's 'lawfulness' is the condition of the expression being in any sense universal and capable of being shared and the genius must find a mode of expression which allows a viewer not just to 'understand' the work conceptually but also to reach something like the same excited yet harmonious state of mind that the genius had in creating. 

Kant begins by giving a long clarification of art. As a general term, again, art refers to the activity of making according to a preceding notion. If I make a chair, I must know, in advance, what a chair is. We distinguish art from nature because (though we may judge nature purposive) we know in fact there is no prior notion behind the activity of a flower opening. The flower doesn't have an idea of opening prior to opening - the flower doesn't have a mind or a will to have or execute ideas with. Kant subdivided arts into mechanical and aesthetic; the former are those which never-the-less are controlled by some definite concept of a purpose to be produced and the latter are those wherein the immediate object is merely pleasure itself; and therefore, Kant distinguished between agreeable and fine art, the former produces pleasure through sensation alone and the latter through various types of cognitions. Accordingly, fine art is a type of purposeful production and its production according to a concept of an object but it has no concept adequate to its production; else any judgment on it will fail one of the key features of all aesthetic judgments: namely purposiveness without a purpose and fine art therefore must both be, and not be, an art in general (Burnham, 2003)

Kant, as noted by Burnham, 2003, defined genius as the talent that gives the rule to art that is the innate mental predisposition through which nature gives the rule to art; therefore, talent is an innate productive ability of the artist and as such belongs itself to nature. Kant noted that fine art is produced by individual humans, but not as contingent individuals that is not by human nature in the empirically known sense; and fine art as aesthetic can have no definite rules or concepts for producing or judging it as well as that  the rule supplied by genius is more a rule governing what to produce, rather than how. Kant then concluded that while all fine art is a beautiful 'presentation' of an object, this partly obscures the fact that genius is involved in the original creation of the object to be presented; genius provides the matter for fine art while taste provides the form and the beautiful is always formal. He insisted that the aesthetic idea is a presentation of the imagination to which no thought is adequate and this is a 'counterpart' to rational ideas which are thoughts to which nothing sensible or imagined can be adequate. Kant concluded that the cognition involved in judging fine art is similar to the cognition involved in judging natural beauty.


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