An Inquiry into the nature of aesthetic theory in its relation to theory of knowledge in Kant's critical philosophy

by Güven ÖZDOYRAN (Author)
©2020 Thesis 240 Pages


The primary objective of An Inquiry into the Nature of Aesthetic Theory in Its Relation to Theory of Knowledge in Kant’s Critical Philosophy is to investigate Kant’s aesthetic theory and its problematic relation to theory of knowledge in his transcendental philosophy. In the Critique of Judgment, Kant constructs his aesthetic theory by arguing that the aesthetic experience is based on a certain type of feeling, namely, the feeling of pleasure, rather than a concept. He grounds such a feeling on the aesthetic judgment of reflection. In spite of its nonconceptual and subjective characteristic, an aesthetic reflective judgment still has a claim to be universally valid. Here, the feeling of pleasure in beautiful is produced by the free harmonious relation between the imagination and the understanding. Judgment, in its reflective employment, does not determine its object but determines the feeling of pleasure in the judging subject. On the other hand, the categories, as pure concepts of the understanding, carry nearly all the weight in his theory of knowledge presented in the Critique of Pure Reason. The imagination, in this case, is strictly bound up by the rules that are imposed by the concepts of the understanding. By this way, judgment, as a cognitive faculty, determines its object and gains its objective validity. In this context, this book discusses the nature of Kant’s aesthetic theory and the components that constitute a pure aesthetic judgment of reflection and attempts to clarify its proper place in critical philosophy regarding his theory of knowledge.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Kant’s Theory of Reflective Judgment
  • 2.1. General Description of Reflective Judgment
  • 2.2. The Problematic Relation between Reflective and Determinative Judgments
  • 2.2.1. Further Remarks on the Issue
  • 2.3. The Structure of Kant’s Exposition of the Introductions
  • 2.4. The Principle of Purposiveness, the Principle of Systematicity and Nature: The Need for Reflective Judgment
  • 2.5. The Supplementary Notions: Technic of Nature, the Specification of Nature, Analogy and Symbol
  • 2.6. Kant’s Problematic Transition from the Principle of Purposiveness and the Principle of Systematicity to the Aesthetic Theory
  • 2.7. The Arguments on the Problematic Relation between the Theory of Reflective Judgment and the Aesthetic Judgment of Reflection
  • 3 Kant’s Theory of Aesthetic Judgment of Reflection
  • 3.1. General Description of Aesthetic Judgment of Reflection
  • 3.2. Disinterested Nature of Aesthetic Judgment of Reflection
  • 3.3. Subjective Universality: The Universal Voice
  • 3.3.1. “The Key to the Critique of Taste”: The First Rupture
  • The Two-Acts View or the Double Process of Reflection
  • The Counter-Arguments to the Two-Acts View and Alternative Explanations
  • 3.4. Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism: The Subjective Formal Purposiveness as the Purposiveness without a Purpose
  • 3.4.1. Definitions and the Problem of Causal Relation: The Second Rupture
  • 3.4.2. Transcendental Aesthetic and the Matter of “Aesthetic Form”
  • 3.5. Exemplary Necessity and Sensus Communis
  • 3.6. The Harmony of the Cognitive Faculties as the Great Narrative without a Narrative: The Third Rupture
  • 3.6.1. Deduction and Kant’s Expositions
  • 3.6.2. Exemplary Arguments for the Harmony of the Cognitive Faculties
  • 4 Stage I: Re-Considering the Faculties: Imagination (and Understanding)
  • 4.1. General Descriptions
  • 4.2. The Position of Imagination in “A” Deduction
  • 4.3. The Position of Imagination in “B” Deduction
  • 4.3.1. Figurative Synthesis and Intellectual Synthesis
  • 4.4. Schematism and the Implications of the Synthesis of Imagination
  • 4.4.1. The Difference between the Apprehension of an Event and the Apprehension of an Object
  • 4.5. Re-Examination of the Free Harmony of the Cognitive Faculties: The Last Attempt
  • 4.6. Concluding Remarks
  • 5 Stage II: Re-Considering the Faculties: Reason (and Understanding)
  • 5.1. Reason and Its Relation to Understanding in the System of Transcendental Dialectic
  • 5.2. Transcendental Ideas as the Pure Concepts of Reason
  • 5.3. Cosmological Ideas and the Synthesis of Conditions
  • 5.3.1. The Distinction between Mathematical Synthesis and Dynamical Synthesis
  • 5.4. Reason as a Higher Faculty: Regulative Employment of the Ideas
  • 5.5. Re-Examination of the Principles and the Nature as the Ground for the Reflective Judgment
  • 5.6. Concluding Remarks
  • 6 Conclusion
  • Bibliography


This book is a revised version of my PhD thesis accepted by the Middle East Technical University (Department of Philosophy) in October 2013. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor Prof. Dr. Ahmet İnam for his endless support, help, guidance and encouragements throughout my academic life. I am grateful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elif Çırakman for her support, comments and encouragements. I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Halil Turan, Prof. Dr. Ertuğrul Turan and Prof. Dr. Çetin Türkyılmaz for their help and critical evaluations. I am also grateful to Asst. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Yakın, Asst. Prof. Dr. Hasan Gürkan and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Murat Mengü for their unfailing supports and priceless friendships. Lastly, I wish to express my gratitude to my beloved wife Esma Akça Özdoyran for her endless support and patience; without her, this book would not be completed.

Dr. Güven Özdoyran

Istanbul Arel University

November, 2019

1 Introduction

Kant introduces his aesthetic theory in the Critique of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft) published in 1790. In the critical philosophy, there are two main domains corresponding to the theoretical and the practical philosophy. In the theoretical realm, the faculty of the understanding has its own legislative power through its a priori laws and principles, while in the practical realm, reason legislates a priori by means of its own laws and principles. Yet, they exercise in merely one territory, that is, in the experience. In the Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft), it is concerned with the nature, as regards its universal a priori laws, in which everything happens in accordance with the concept of necessity. In the Critique of Practical Reason (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft), on the other hand, morality is in the scope and the unconditional practical laws necessitate the concept of freedom. In the third Critique, the faculty of judgment is presented as a special and an independent faculty which has its own a priori principles. Indeed, the faculty of judgment must have such a principle; otherwise there would be no need of a transcendental critique to it. It is crucial to emphasize the fact that even though the power of judgment operates with its a priori principles, it does not have its own domain. One of the main motives behind the presentation of the faculty of judgment as such in the third Critique is simply that the judgment serves as a bridge between the theoretical and the practical domains. In other words, Kant attempts to complete his critical philosophy as a system by combining these two distinct fields through the faculty of judgment. At this juncture, by referring to Kant’s arguments about the “schematism” it can be said that the judgment may be considered as a “schema” in the respect that it is homogenous with both understanding and reason, or strictly speaking, with both domains in which the understanding and the reason furnish their own distinct a priori laws.

The faculty of judgment, in the third Critique, is ascribed to a new kind of employment, reflective judgment, in addition to its determinative function. What is significant here is that aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment are considered as the subclasses of this type of employment. In its reflective form, judgment searches for a concept or universal for a given particular. This central theme will construct the main frame of Kant’s aesthetic theory. According to that, aesthetic judgment of reflection is characterized as non-conceptual. Here, we, as the judging subjects, confront with a new side of nature. In the theoretical cognition, we treat the nature as our object of experience to determine and ←13 | 14→cognize it. On the other hand, when we appreciate the beauty in nature, we do not cognize it. Otherwise stated, we experience another aspect of nature in its fertility and productivity which, let us say, resists to be cognized or conceptualized. In this manner, we live in nature, where we cognize it on the one hand, and we just “feel” it on the other. Considering from this perspective, it can be stated that in the first Critique Kant explains our knowing, and therefore, conceptualizing process by explicating the conditions under which the nature or the unity of experience is constructed, while in the third Critique, specifically in his aesthetic theory, he expounds our “aesthetic appreciating” process by introducing the condition under which the nature is not constructed by the universal laws or the principles of the understanding but is solely felt. Our feeling of pleasure in the experience of beautiful can be regarded as a sign which expresses that when nature conforms to the structure of our a priori conceptual apparatus, there remains something as undetermined by the understanding. However, this does not come to mean that in the aesthetic experience, we use different tools, rather than this conceptual apparatus. Kant argues his aesthetic theory by directly putting the notion “free harmony of the cognitive faculties”, in which the imagination and the understanding animate each other in a free way without being determined by the concepts of the understanding, at the centre. Therefore, Kant employs the same apparatus both to his theory of knowledge and aesthetic theory but in a completely different way. In other words, theory of knowledge and aesthetic theory in Kant’s critical philosophy are fed from the same source, and hence, relied entirely on the same ground. Understood this way, it should be emphasized that such a structure, indeed, allows Kant to integrate his aesthetic theory legitimately into his critical philosophy. Otherwise, the aesthetic experience would be based on empirical-psychological components, and in such a case, the critique of beautiful would be futile. At this point, the critique of judgment and that of aesthetic judgment intersect. Aesthetic judgment of reflection is grounded also on reflective judgment’s a priori principles, i.e. the subjective formal purposiveness, as a variety of the principle of purposiveness. The judging subject reflects on the purposive form of the object judged through which our cognitive powers harmonize with each other free from any conceptual determination and by this way the feeling of pleasure is produced.

In addition to the aesthetic experience, reflective judgment’s principle of purposiveness, along with the principle of systematicity and of specification, functions in our scientific investigation of nature. Accordingly, in order to classify nature or nature’s products, e.g. living organisms in biology, in a systematic way, these principles regulate or guide reflective judgment in the scientific discovery of nature in its diversity of particular empirical rules or laws. Under this ←14 | 15→guidance, we are able to generate an adequate concept for a given particular case discovered in nature. Here, an empirical concept implies the particular empirical rules or laws for such organisms. In this context, to find a concept for a particular means to subsume it under a genus or species, that is, to classify it. According to Kant, the universal laws or principles of the understanding are too abstract and general for fulfilling such a task. This is the main rationale behind why he assigns reflective judgment and its principle to this task. To exemplify, the universal, and formal, law of causality is unable to inform us about the particular empirical character of nature’s specific products. We are in need of special particular causal laws to explain these phenomena. In doing this, we approach to nature in its productivity from teleological perspective by attributing purposes to the nature’s products. The principle of purposiveness, in this sense, expresses nature’s arrangement and appropriateness to our cognitive faculties.

Critique of Judgment is divided into two parts as “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” and as “Critique of Teleological Judgment” in accordance with these two main themes. In the first part, Kant constructs his aesthetic theory by annotating the determinants that function as indispensible components in forming an aesthetic judgment of reflection. Some of them are described through “the moments” of the aesthetic judgment, i.e., of the judgment of taste, systematically by Kant. Some of them, on the other hand, appear in analyzing his aesthetic theory in a detailed way. If need be mentioning briefly, non-conceptual, disinterested, contemplative, subjective universal, and exemplary necessary characters of aesthetic experience, together with the free harmony and subjective formal purposiveness, internally and mutually necessitate each other. In lacking one of them, the entire system unavoidably collapses. All of them are dependent on each other. In this context, the inner dynamics of aesthetic theory reflect a complete and magnificent system. Each part stands necessarily for the whole. By borrowing Kant’s own language in his second Critique, I would like to formulate this system as follows: Each component is ratio essendi for the others; and the other is ratio cognoscendi for each component and vice versa.

Kant’s aesthetic theory entirely excludes the empirical determination of the feeling of pleasure in beautiful, and hence, of the aesthetic judgment of reflection. The aesthetic appreciation cannot be based on any external causal relation between the object judged and the judging subject. In other words, it is not possible to describe an aesthetic experience as that the feeling of pleasure, or, liking, is the product of the existence of the object. On Kant’s account, we take pleasure not in the existence of the object, but in judging itself. As a necessary result of this, any personal interest towards the aesthetic object is inevitably eliminated. If an aesthetic judgment includes such an interest, it refers to what Kant calls ←15 | 16→“aesthetic judgment of sense” based not on the pleasure in beautiful which is contemplative, but on the pleasure in agreeable. Aesthetic judgment of sense, thus, finds its own roots on the “sensation proper”, namely, on the color, or tone, or flavor, not merely on the form of the object which is purposive. And in this case, it also loses its claim to be universally valid for all judging subjects. This “formal” characteristic of Kant’s aesthetic theory is the main reason for being considered as a “radical version” of “aesthetic formalism”. Moreover, Kant treats the aesthetic judgment of reflection as a “very special” kind of judgment. For, even though it is a “singular”, “subjective” judgment, namely, that it depends on a single empirical experience, and rather, even though it does not involve a concept, it still has a claim to be universally valid. This subjective and special type of universality takes its legitimacy from mainly three conditions: Disinterestedness/Contemplation, Subjective Formal Purposiveness and Harmony of the Cognitive Powers.

On the other hand, as we will see, Kantian aesthetic theory also includes some serious problems, “impasses”. Some of them stem from the structure of the third Critique and from the obscurity of Kant’s own arguments. Some of them are the necessary result of the notion “free harmony”. Comparing it with the first two Critiques, it should be noted that Kant’s expositions in the third Critique reflect extremely unsystematic structure. Besides, some crucial issues are just left as unexplained without giving any further analysis. These factors can be regarded as responsible basically for commentators’ complaints and conflicts.

The main objective of this book is to examine Kant’s aesthetic theory in its relation to his theory of knowledge. In order to fulfill this aim, firstly, I will elaborate on reflective judgment, its principles and the nature where reflective judgment performs. Secondly, I will attempt to expose the elements of the aesthetic judgment of reflection. In doing this, I will also try to expound the inner dynamics of Kant’s aesthetic theory. And thirdly, I will concentrate specifically on the relation between aesthetic theory and theory of knowledge. In this light, I classify this relation into three groups corresponding to three titles of the first Critique: 1) “Transcendental Aesthetics”, regarding the formalist character of Kant’s aesthetic theory 2) “Transcendental Analytic” considering the notion “free harmony of cognitive faculties” 3) “Transcendental Dialectic” and “the Appendix to the Transcendental Dialectic” referring to the arguments of the theory of reflective judgment and its principles. Relevantly, I structure the chapters of the book by projecting this relation. According to this, I entitle the fourth chapter as “Re-examination” and “Stage I” in the respect that I will attempt to re-examine Kant’s arguments about the free harmony with his exposition of “Transcendental Analytic” in which the functions and the positions of ←16 | 17→the imagination and those of the understanding are discussed. Besides, I entitle the fifth chapter as “Re-examination” and “Stage II” to the extent that I will try to re-examine Kant’s theory of reflective judgment, the principles and the nature with his expositions of “Transcendental Dialectic” and “the Appendix” in which reason, its concepts and principles along with the transcendent and the empirical employment of them are explained.

Consequently, in the second chapter, I will deal mainly with, first of all, the general theory of reflective judgment and argue Kant’s distinction between determinative and reflective judgments Secondly, I will attempt to investigate the arguments about the principle of purposiveness, the principle of systematicity and the nature presented as a ground for reflective judgment and these principles. While doing so, I will also have presented the reasons why Kant inserts reflective judgment and its principle into his system. Thirdly, the supplementary notions, such as technic of nature, the law of specification of nature, analogy and symbol will be discussed. Immediately afterwards, I will argue Kant’s problematic transition from these arguments to the aesthetic judgment of reflection. In doing this, we will also come to discern the integration problem of aesthetic theory into his general theory of reflective judgment. Lastly, I will attempt to investigate commentators’ arguments about the present issue. By this way, we will have a proper ground to track the arguments and the debates which will be investigated in the following chapters.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (April)
Kant Transcendental philosophy Aesthetic theory Epistemology Judgment
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 240 pp.

Biographical notes

Güven ÖZDOYRAN (Author)

Güven Özdoyran studied philosophy at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Turkey. He received his doctoral degree from METU and continues his academic studies at Istanbul Arel University, Faculty of Communication. His current research areas are communication theory, media and cultural studies, sociology of communication.


Title: An Inquiry into the nature of aesthetic theory in its relation to theory of knowledge in Kant's critical philosophy