The Role of Taste in Kant's Theory of Cognition

Garland (1990)
Abstract
Drawing on Kant's hints in the Critique of Judgment that his theory of taste is of importance to his system as a whole, I argue that Kant's theory of taste is an attempt to give content to a central presupposition of his theory of cognition. This is the presupposition that human beings are inherently capable of judgment, that is of taking individual subjective states of mind to be intersubjectively valid and to conform to a universal standard of agreement. Without this presupposition, I argue, Kant cannot show how we are capable of making genuine judgments about the particular objects that affect our senses, rather than merely exhibiting psychologically determined responses to them that express nothing over and above our own personal state of mind. Accordingly, he needs this presupposition to show how the a priori conditions of cognition in general, as specified from the transcendental perspective of the first Critique, can be applicable to the actual sense-data of human beings viewed, not as transcendental subjects of experience, but as empirically existing inhabitants of the spatio-temporal world. In this way, I argue, the capacity to judge itself serves as a fundamental condition of objective experience: one that must be made intelligible in its own right, without appeal to any prior capacity on our part for objective cognition. ;It is this task, I claim, that Kant's theory of taste is intended to accomplish. A judgment that something is beautiful, for Kant, has the apparently paradoxical character of being intersubjectively valid without being objectively valid, that is without amounting to any cognition of the object about which it is made. In experiencing aesthetic pleasure, we take our subjective state of mind in an object to be valid for anyone else perceiving the object, yet we do so without appealing to any objective property as basis for the legitimacy of our claim. The capacity to exercise taste thus shows that we are capable of judging in a way that does not presuppose the recognition of antecedent objective criteria, and which can itself be recognized as legitimate prior to any assurance of the possibility of objective cognition, It is this, I suggest, which accounts for the connection Kant draws between taste and the faculty of judgment, and more generally for the importance he ascribes to taste in the critical system as a whole
Keywords Judgment (Aesthetics)  Knowledge, Theory of
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Call number B2799.J8.G56 1990
ISBN(s) 0824032039  
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Katalin Makkai (2010). Kant on Recognizing Beauty. European Journal of Philosophy 18 (3):385-413.
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