Kant and the Pleasure of “Mere Reflection”

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 55 (5):433-453 (2012)
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Abstract

Abstract In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant refers to the pleasure that we feel when judging that an object is beautiful as the pleasure of "mere reflection". Yet Kant never makes explicit what exactly is the relationship between the activity of "mere reflection" and the feeling of pleasure. I discuss several contemporary accounts of the pleasure of taste and argue that none of them is fully accurate, since, in each case, they leave open the possibility that one can reflect without having a feeling of pleasure, and hence allow a possible skepticism of taste. I then present my own account, which can better explain why Kant thinks that when one reflects one must also have a feeling of pleasure. My view, which emphasizes the role of attention in Kant, depicts well what we do when we judge something to be beautiful. It can also suggest a way to explain the relation between judgments of taste and moral feeling, and begin to show how the faculty of feeling fills a gap in the system of our cognitive faculties.

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