A Tale of Two Faculties

British Journal of Aesthetics 51 (4):415-436 (2011)
Abstract
The notion of the ‘free harmony of the faculties’ has baffled many of Kant's readers and also attracted much criticism. In this paper I attempt to shed light on this puzzling notion. By doing so, I aim to challenge some of the criticisms that this notion has attracted, and to point to its relevance to contemporary debates in aesthetics. While most of the literature on the free harmony is characterized by what I regard as an ‘extra-aesthetic approach’, I propose ‘an aesthetic approach’ to the harmony. Such an aesthetic interpretation explains why aesthetic judgement, but not cognitive judgement, is based on a free agreement of the faculties in distinctively aesthetic terms. By contrast, an extra-aesthetic approach to Kant's aesthetic theory does not explain what it is in beautiful objects as beautiful that calls for a free agreement of the faculties. I argue that this approach is limited, and suggest an alternative to it by articulating the necessary reciprocity and explanatory interdependence between the form and value of beautiful objects and the form of the mental activity that underlies judgements of taste. My proposal is not only aesthetic, but also normative in its attempt to carve up a space for a distinct form of aesthetic normativity, the one that Kant describes as ‘free lawfulness’ or ‘lawfulness without a law’. I opt for a specifically normative variant of aesthetic interpretation because I believe that Kant is committed to the view of aesthetic judgement as normatively autonomous and irreducible
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