Critical Aesthetic Realism

Journal of Aesthetic Education 45 (2):49-69 (2011)
A clear-cut concept of the aesthetic is elusive. Kant’s Critique of Judgment presents one of the more comprehensive aesthetic theories from which we can extract a set of features, some of which pertain to aesthetic experience and others to the logical structure of aesthetic judgment. When considered together, however, these features present a number of tensions and apparent contradictions. Kant’s own attempt to dissolve these apparent contradictions or dichotomies was not entirely satisfactory as it rested on a vague notion of indeterminacy. He addressed the emerging tensions with his distinction between pure and dependent beauty, which is a distinction I believe a satisfactory theory of aesthetic judgment would reveal as unfounded. In addition, Kant left a crucial connection unaccounted for. This was the connection between the two aspects that he envisaged characterized an aesthetic judgment. The two aspects to which I refer are the “purposiveness of form” provided by the Imagination and the associated mental content,which Kant called “aesthetic ideas.” More recent aesthetic theories treat only a subset of the features addressed in Kant’s aesthetic theory. Even so, the standard aesthetic theories, such as expressivism, cognitivism, and formalism, entrench the kind of thinking that grounds these dichotomies. In contrast, I will demonstrate that a naturalized aesthetic theory can accommodate all the features suggested by the Kantian analysis in such a way that they are shown to be complementary rather than contradictory.
Keywords Aesthetic judgment  aesthetic experience  pure and dependent beauty
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DOI 10.5406/jaesteduc.45.2.0049
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