Dissertation, University of Alberta (2016)

Emine Hande Tuna
University of California, Santa Cruz
I argue that Kant’s aesthetic theory yields a fruitful theory of art criticism and that this theory presents an alternative both to the existing theories of his time and to contemporary theories. In this regard, my dissertation offers an examination of a neglected area in Kant scholarship since it is standardly assumed that a theory of criticism flies in the face of some of Kant’s most central aesthetic tenets, such as his rejection of aesthetic testimony and general objective principles of taste. If art criticism is an enterprise of providing evaluations of artworks supported by reasons, then it is hard to see what the Kantian art critic can do for us. If I cannot defer to the critic’s judgment that she loved Blade Runner and there are no feasible general principles linking the depiction of futuristic cityscapes, or the accompaniment of a haunting minimalist soundtrack to the goodness of a film, then it does not seem to matter whether the critic communicates to me her evaluation of Blade Runner or supports her evaluation with descriptions of Blade Runner scenes. Nevertheless, the assumption that these Kantian tenets preclude the possibility of art criticism is mistaken and it is my aim to show how this can be. The project has two phases. In the first phase I develop a new interpretation of Kant’s theory of artistic beauty. In the second phase I make use of this interpretation to put forward a Kantian account of art criticism. Central to my interpretation is the notion that judgments of perfection, e.g., Blade Runner is an excellent neo-noir science fiction film, inform our aesthetic evaluations and receive support from descriptions of non-aesthetic properties of the film. It is precisely this underappreciated role of judgments of perception that I exploit in making room for Kantian art criticism.
Keywords Kant  Judgments of perfection  Aesthetic testimony  Art criticism  Christian Wolff  Mary Mothersill  Moses Mendelssohn  German Rationalist Aesthetics  Informed pure judgments of taste  Free-adherent beauty distinction
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