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Hannah Arendt and Friedrich Schiller on Kant’s Aesthetics

The Public Character of the Beautiful

Mihály Szilágyi-Gál

This book analyzes how the public character of judgments of taste makes implicit statements in moral and political philosophy. The framework that relates aesthetic, moral, and political aspects into such a triadic relationship is an implicit conception of freedom. In «The Critique of Judgment» Kant elaborates the idea that judgments of taste can only exist where society exists. The author regards Friedrich Schiller’s and Hannah Arendt’s approaches on the normative resources of Kant’s aesthetics for moral and political thought. He evaluates the discovery of the presence of a constant feature of Kant’s conception of freedom in both his aesthetic and moral theory: freedom as autonomy.

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I. Kant’s Theory of Judgments of Taste


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I.   Kant’s Theory of Judgments of Taste

Given the structure of the critical philosophy the Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgment, it seems to be evident that the a priori of judgments of taste differs from both the a priori of theoretical and of practical knowledge. The aesthetic a priori is neither knowledge nor praxis.7 Still judgments of taste do have their well-defined place within the structure of the three volumes: they are supposed to serve as a bridge between the intellectual and sensual realm.

1.   Kant’s Use of the Word Aesthetics

According to Kant aesthetics is not the science of the beautiful, but of the principles of the senses in general. There are several passages in the first Critique that both establish the epistemological meaning of the word “aesthetic”, and introduce its relevance for aesthetic theory. The most important is paragraph 13, in the “Transcendental Aesthetic”, which introduces the fundamental assumption transcendental deduction is based upon. Accordingly, there are two a priori forms of intuition: space and time. These two basic forms are constantly present in every experience. Space is the outer form of the object of sensation which appears to the consciousness in the flux of time, which in turn is the inner sensation. It is therefore etymologically important to highlight that the word “aesthetic” has a specific meaning in the Kantian vocabulary. Although this specific meaning does not directly...

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