The Subjective Basis of Kant's Judgment of Taste

Inquiry 54 (4):315-336 (2011)
Abstract Kant claims that the basis of a judgment of taste is a merely subjective representation and that the only merely subjective representations are feelings of pleasure or displeasure. Commentators disagree over how to interpret this claim. Some take it to mean that judgments about the beauty of an object depend only on the state of the judging subject. Others argue instead that, for Kant, the pleasure we take in a beautiful object is best understood as a response to its qualities, and that, accordingly, feelings of pleasure or displeasure are no different from other representations, such as colors or smells. While I agree that the judgment of taste is best understood as asserting a claim about an object's qualities, I argue that the distinction Kant makes between feelings of pleasure or displeasure and other representations should not be ignored. I show that one's liking or disliking for an object is merely subjective in the sense that its significance depends on what one has made of oneself through one's aesthetic education. The judgment of taste, then, is merely subjective because one must first become the kind of person whose feelings have the right significance at the right time before one can determine whether an object's qualities make it beautiful
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DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2011.592327
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Nick Zangwill (2003). Aesthetic Judgment. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Katalin Makkai (2010). Kant on Recognizing Beauty. European Journal of Philosophy 18 (3):385-413.

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