Reflective Judgment and Aesthetic Imagination in Kant and Hegel

Dissertation, Northwestern University (1995)

Kant's notion of reflective judgment in his Critique of Judgment has received considerable attention recently, but its nature and import remain obscure. This project theorizes reflective judgment as an interpretive activity of comparing and relating features of experience. The account focuses on the aesthetic dimension of reflection, and shows that Kant's judgments of taste and of the sublime fulfill a general model of reflective judgment. The role of productive imagination is emphasized in both kinds of judgment, and the importance of imagination to reflective judgment generally is clarified. The account gives special priority to Kant's judgment of the sublime, and argues that sublime reflection best models the process of reflective judgment. As an interpretive activity, sublime reflection is shown to explore the meaning of the "aesthetic ideas" Kant takes to be the content of art. The argument thus justifies application of Kant's judgment of sublimity to human works of art, and claims that aesthetic ideas are produced in sublime reflection on a work's meaning. Kant provides the basic orientation for the argument, but the brevity of his remarks on reflective judgment require that Hegel's theories of imagination and aesthetics supplement the account. Hegel's systematic philosophy, and his aesthetic theory in particular, claim to critique and surpass Kant in many ways. Nevertheless, the interpretation locates in Hegel's Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences and his Lectures on Aesthetics a level of development that articulates and extends notions central to Kantian aesthetics. The argument discloses there an aesthetically reflective imagination that parallels Kant's. The interpretation shows that metaphors are an exemplary product of the comparative activity of reflective imagination. A primary concern of the project is to determine what claim to validity the products of reflective judgment can make; the argument clarifies the nature of aesthetic validity and shows metaphorical expression to partake of this validity claim. As a result, this account shows aesthetic reflective judgment to play a role in everyday interpretive activity, and it thereby problematizes the modern divide between knowledge and aesthetic experience
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