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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 4: The Supersensible, the Nature of Aesthetic Judgments, and the Faculty of Common Sense


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In his “Dialectic of Aesthetic Judgment” in his Critique of Judgment, Kant attempts to resolve the antinomy of taste. An antinomy is a contradiction that occurs between two reasonable statements, principles, or laws. The antinomy resides in the thesis that a judgment of taste is not based on concepts because if it were, one could dispute about it (since such disputes could be resolved through proofs) and the antithesis that a judgment of taste is based on concepts because otherwise one could not dispute about it (since everyone has his/her own subjective tastes, and so one could not be able to command necessary assent by others).1 Kant explains how he resolves this antinomy of taste through his notion of the supersensible (das Übersinnliche) as follows:

[A]ll contradiction disappears if I say this: A judgment of taste is based on a concept (the concept of a general basis of nature’s subjective purposiveness for our power of judgment), but this concept does not allow us to cognize and prove anything concerning the object because it is intrinsically indeterminable and inadequate for cognition; and yet this same concept does make the judgment of taste valid for everyone, because (though each person’s judgment is singular and directly accompanies his intuition) the basis that determines the judgment lies, perhaps, in the concept of what may be considered the supersensible substrate of humanity.2 ← 55 | 56 →

Kant’s solution is to say that a judgment of taste is based...

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