Works of genius as sensible exhibitions of the idea of the highest good

Kant-Studien 101 (1):22-39 (2010)
Abstract
In this paper I argue that, on Kant's view, the work of genius serves as a sensible exhibition of the Idea of the highest good. In other words, the work of genius serves as a special sign that the world is hospitable to our moral ends and that the realization of our moral vocation in such a world may indeed be possible. In the first part of the paper, I demonstrate that the purpose of the highest good is not to strengthen our motivation to accept the moral law as binding for us but, rather, to strengthen our motivation to persist in our already existent moral dispositions. In the second part, I show that the works of genius exhibit the Idea of the highest good and, consequently, strengthen our hope in its realization. Drawing on the results of the second part, the third part of the paper demonstrates that beauty, of both art and nature, symbolizes morality in a more substantive sense than that suggested by Henry Allison's “formalistic” interpretation. Since, on my view, fine art in Kant serves as a sensible representation of an undetermined conceptual content, or the Idea of the highest good, the fourth part of the paper addresses the vexed question of whether Kant's account of fine art already anticipates the cognitive role later attributed to it by the German Idealists.
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