See also KantPapers
Edited by Melissa McBay Merritt (University of New South Wales)
|Summary||Kant's major work in aesthetics is the Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgment, which comprises roughly the first half of the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790; also known as "the third Critique", after the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787) and Critique of Practical Reason (1788)). The main task of this work is to provide an analysis of aesthetic judgment concerning the beautiful and the sublime, and an account of its epistemic and moral significance. Kant indicates that his analysis of the "judgment of taste" -- which specifically refers to our enjoyment of beauty -- is the "most important" part of the work, apparently because he thinks it promises to reveal something about our cognitive capacities that his previous work in epistemology and philosophy of mind lacked the resources to reveal (see Critique of the Power of Judgment 5:169 and 5:213).
Despite considerable interpretive controversy over the systematic ambitions of the analysis of taste, Kant was evidently interested in aesthetics for its own sake as well. At any rate, he made major contributions to what was then a burgeoning area of philosophical inquiry. He had clearly studied closely the developments in aesthetics from Britain from earlier in the 18th century. Kant's Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgment contains a principled account of the difference between the sublime and beautiful that marks a clear conceptual alternative to that of his predecessors. He also takes on some of the distinctive issues about beauty and sublimity in art (as opposed to nature), which bear less directly on the systematic ambitions of critical philosophy -- e.g., the role of genius, and the distinct expressive resources of various media.
Kant's earlier work in aesthetics, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764) has somewhat more limited ambitions. It is not a systematic work at all, and does not make bold claims about the epistemic and moral significance of aesthetic pleasure. Rather it aims to provide a putatively descriptive catalogue of the "beautiful" and "sublime" qualities of human beings according to sex, nationality, and race; hence it perhaps belongs more to Kant's efforts in anthropology, rather than aesthetics per se.
|Key works||In addition to Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) and Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (1764), readers can find some discussion of aesthetics -- mostly as regards the sublime -- in Kant's works in moral philosophy.
Kant's work in aesthetics follows on several decades of keen work on the topic in Britain from earlier in the the 18th century. Key works from the British tradition include: Joseph Addison, "The Pleasures of the Imagination" (published in The Spectator, 1712); Francis Hutcheson, Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725); Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757); and David Hume, "Of the Standard of Taste" (1757). He was also influenced by aesthetics as it developed in the German tradition, especially Alexander Baumgarten's Aesthetica (1750/1758) which Kant employed as a textbook in his lectures.
|Introductions||For an examination of Kant's aesthetics in historical context, see Guyer 1993. For a collection of articles on the significance of Kant's analysis of taste for epistemology and philosophy of mind, see Kukla 2006.|
Show all references
Kant: Beauty (53)
Kant: The Sublime (30)
Kant: Aesthetic Judgment (135)
Kant: Hermeneutics (11)
Kant's Works in Aesthetics* (93 | 25)
Kant: The Sublime
Kant: Aesthetic Judgment
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