Kant and the Aesthetics of Nature

British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):138-155 (2007)
Abstract
I try to identify the characteristic and distinguishing features of a theory of natural beauty (as opposed to the sublime) that can be found in Kant's Critique of Judgement. Lest this may seem superfluous, I argue first that, contrary to a common view, Kant's theory does not take the experience of beauty in nature as theoretically basic and that he does not deal with beauty in art only as a derivative case of aesthetic experience. I then try to understand what it means to require, as Kant famously does, that beautiful nature has to look as if it were art. Does this commit him to a projectionist view, according to which we appreciate nature aesthetically only for what it really is not (namely art) rather than for what it is? Pursuing this question we find that for Kant nature can be the object of pure judgements of taste only insofar as nature can be explained scientifically, which in Kant's framework means purely mechanically. This ‘blind mechanism’ of nature plays an important role in Kant's explication of the moral significance the experience of beautiful nature has for us.
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