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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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Since the supersensible is an indeterminate concept that we can know nothing about, Kant cannot use it to ground his a priori nature of our aesthetic judgments about beauty because it is completely empty and vacuous. It tells us nothing about why our aesthetic judgments about beauty have to be necessary and universal. Kant defines the supersensible as an indeterminate concept that we can know nothing about, which he thinks will make it easier for him to defend and harder for others to criticize because what can you say against something you can know nothing about? By locating the supersensible in the noumenal world, Kant thinks it will be safe from criticism and attack. But I think Kant is wrong to believe that there are two worlds—the noumenal world we can know nothing about and the phenomenal world that we can perceive through our senses. Scientists nowadays are pretty certain that there is only one world that we continue to discover new things about, such as the reasons why the dinosaurs became extinct, ways to refute Einstein’s views, and the existence of the Higgs particle or “God particle.” Thus, there is no good reason to postulate a supersensible concept or a realm of entities that are beyond our experience in another noumenal world.

Kant’s appeal to the supersensible is also unnecessary because I believe there is no necessary, universal agreement to our judgments about beauty that it is supposed to explain. There is no...

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