Spirit Without Lines: Kant’s Attempt to Reconcile the Genius and Society

Idealistic Studies 34 (2):151-62 (2004)


In the Anthropology, Kant wonders whether the genius or the individual possessing perfected judgment has contributed more to the advance of culture. In the KU, Kant answers this question definitively on the side of those with perfected judgment. Nevertheless, occurring as it does in §50 of the KU, immediately after Kant’s celebration of the genius in §49, this only raises more questions. Kant rejects the genius in favour of the individual of taste as an advancer of culture, yet under what conditions could the genius contribute? And, what threat does the genius really pose to this advance, other than that of penning simple nonsense? This essay attempts to answer these questions, using key texts and overlooked Reflexionen, all of which nest Kant’s concern for the genius in the associated risks of fanaticism. I conclude that, given certain conditions, the genius can contribute in a unique manner to the advance of culture.

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Corey W. Dyck
University of Western Ontario

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