Kant's Regulative Principle of Aesthetic Excellence: The Ideal Aesthetic Experience

Kant-Studien 86 (3):331-345 (1995)
Abstract
It is rather intriguing that we will often try to persuade people of what we find beautiful, even though we do not believe that they may subsequently base their judgement of taste on our testimony. Typically, we think that the experience of beauty is such that we cannot leave it to others to be had. Moreover, we are often aware of the contingency of our own judgements’ foundation in our own experience. Nevertheless, we do think that certain aesthetic, evaluative conceptions do relate to specific experiences in a non-trivial way, especially that of aesthetic excellence. Now certain analytical aestheticians ascribe truth values to aesthetic judgements of various kinds. Such ascription would evidently have a bearing on the problem of aesthetic experience’s relevance for evaluation, as we may in the end be better off neglecting the experiential altogether in virtue of treating aesthetic values in objectivist ways, as natural properties, or as reducible to such properties, descriptions of which will then indeed be true or false.1 However, I think that it is too early yet to bury subjectivism. So let us instead defend it and try to get a better grasp on its suppositions. In this we may profit from ideas advanced by David Wiggins, who neither denies the role played by objective properties, nor neglects the subjective import. According to him, aesthetic values are somehow kinds of relations, which are established by an elaborate process of criticism and refinement of perceptions of, and feelings toward specific natural properties.2 The argument in this paper suggests that the analysis of a paradigmatic pair regarding ‘aesthetic excellence’ provides us with inter-
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