British Journal of Aesthetics 50 (4):343-356 (2010)
The literary scene of Kant’s day goes unmentioned by philosophical commentators. Yet some of its salient features have a clear relation to his problems and positions, not demonstrably causal in every detail, but too close overall to be coincidence in the random sense (which is only number 5 in the OED!). Kant’s critical view of society and his establishing of an independent aesthetic realm parallel the themes, and the arguments in self-defence, of contemporaneous radical writing; his discussion of how to exemplify ethical arguments bears on the general Enlightenment problem of how to embody abstractions persuasively, while his theoretical and practical difficulties over written style have consequences for the reception of his own work, and were responsible for divisions among writers of the day who might otherwise have made common cause. All this adds a valuable dimension to our understanding of both Kant’s aesthetics and his time.
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