"Exemplary originality": Kant on genius and imitation

Journal of the History of Philosophy 35 (4):563-592 (1997)
"Exemplary Originality": Kant on Genius and Imitation MARTIN GAMMON 1. INTRODUCTION ACCORDING TO ERNST CASSIRER, Kant's discussion of genius in the Third Cri- tique stands "at the crossroads of all aesthetic discussions in the eighteenth century," in that he tries to accommodate the neo-Classical demand that art- works follow determinate rules to the Romantic insistence that aesthetic cre- ativity be free from such rules? In the Third Critique itself, Kant defends both of these criteria through the doctrine of "exemplary originality." For Kant, the genius combines two qualities: on the one hand, "a talent for produc- ing that for which no rule can be given," so that "originality must be its primary property"; however, "since there may also be original nonsense, its products must at the same time be models, i.e., be exemplary; and consequently, though not themselves derived from imitation, they must serve that purpose for oth- ers, i.e., as a standard or rule for estimating."' On the basis of this exemplary originality, then, a genius puts "freedom from constraint of rules so into force in his art, that for art itself a new rule is won -- which is what shows a talent to be exemplary" . Recently, some commentators have puzzled over the "air of paradox" sur- rounding Kant's union of originality and exemplarity in works of genius. "If such works," Timothy Gould conjectures, "make advances on what is familiar and gain new ground, their very..
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DOI 10.1353/hph.1997.0076
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