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The Supersensible in Kant’s «Critique of Judgment»


Julie N. Books

In this close analysis of Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics in his Critique of Judgment, Dr. Julie N. Books, explains why Kant fails to provide a convincing basis for his desired necessity and universality of our aesthetic judgments about beauty. Drawing upon her extensive background in the visual arts, art history, and philosophy, Dr. Books provides a unique discussion of Kant’s supersensible, illuminating how it cannot justify his a priori nature of our aesthetic judgments about beauty. She uses examples from the history of art, including paintings by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Constable, to support her views. This book will make a significant addition to courses on the philosophy of Kant, aesthetics, philosophy of art, metaphysics, the history of Western philosophy, ethics, psychology, and art history.
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Chapter 1: Judgments about Beauty, the Sublime, and the Agreeable


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In his Critique of Judgment (1790), which was his third Critique after his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) and his Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Kant tries to answer the question of how it is possible to judge something as beautiful on the basis of a subjective feeling of pleasure and yet demand that our judgment be universally agreed upon by everyone else.1 To answer this question, he first explains the nature of an aesthetic judgment. He says an aesthetic judgment is not a determinate judgment in which a particular object is brought under a universal concept (such as “That rose is red”), but rather it is a reflective judgment in which no concept is given (such as “That rose is beautiful”).2 No concept is given in an aesthetic judgment about beauty because beauty has no concept; it is entirely dependent on a subject’s feeling, and “apart from a reference to the subject’s feeling, beauty is nothing by itself.”3 There is nothing about the object (no property or feature) that makes it beautiful and nothing about the object that causes us to see beauty when we look at it. What makes an object beautiful is just that we perceive it to be beautiful, which depends completely on our feelings, specifically our feelings of pleasure.4 The pleasure we feel when we judge an object to be beautiful is generated in our minds by the free play of our cognitive faculties of the imagination and understanding.5

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