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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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, Kant fails to resolve the tension between arguing for a necessary, universal agreement to our estimations of beauty and the notion that aesthetic judgments depend on a person’s individual, subjective feelings. The reason for his failure is that his solution rests on the ambiguous notion of the supersensible, an indeterminate and indeterminable concept that we can know nothing about. The indeterminate and indeterminable nature of the supersensible may give Kant the means by which to argue that our aesthetic judgments go beyond the idiosyncratic nature of our sensory experience, but it does not explain how or why there should be a necessary, universal agreement to our judgments about beauty.

Furthermore, it remains unclear why Kant introduced the notion of the supersensible, especially when it does little work in his deduction concerning the a priori nature of aesthetic judgments. Since Kant’s two prior attempts to complete the deduction of the intersubjectivity of aesthetic judgments failed (namely, the free harmony of our mental faculties and the faculty of common sense), he may have turned to the notion of the supersensible to come to his rescue. However, the supersensible does not complete the deduction, nor do Kant’s attempts to define beauty as the symbol of the morally good. The parallels that can be found between Kant’s aesthetics and his ethics also do not explain why he introduced the supersensible. Perhaps the only role the concept of the supersensible serves is to resolve Kant’s antinomy of taste. But, as I have shown,...

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