Chapter 11. "Ęsthetic Judgements are Necessary" by Immanuel Kant

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from "Analytic of the Beautiful"
The Reading Selection from "Analytic of the Beautiful"
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Immanuel Kant (detail) Antiquity Project

About the author …

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) studied in Königsberg, East Prussia. Before he fully developed an interest in philosophy, he was fascinated with physics and astronomy—in fact, he anticipated William Herschel's discovery of Uranus by a few years. Kant's critical philosophy, one of the truly profound philosophies in the history of Western Civilization, was constructed to forge empiricism and rationalism into a "critical" philosophy which sought to overcome the many pressing shortcomings of each. What we call objective reality, Kant argues, is subject to whatever conforms to the structures of our perception and thinking. Virtually every epistemological theory since Kant, directly or indirectly, can be oriented in reference to his The Critique of Pure Reason. In his The Critique of Judgment, from which our reading is excerpted, Kant argues that ęsthetic judgments are prior to pleasure and are both universal and necessary. They have the appearance of being purposive even though they are not conceptually final.

About the work …

In his "Analytic of the Beautiful" in The Critique of Judgment,[1] Immanuel Kant integrates ęsthetics into his critical philosophy. How are judgements about beauty or taste possible, if those judgements are said to be both subjective and necessarily universal? Kant's account of judgements of taste relies on ideas he developed in his Critique of Pure Reason. For, in sections in this reading, ęsthetic judgements or judgements of taste are analyzed in accordance with the table of categories from the first Critique; more precisely, he argues judgements of taste are analyzed as follows: moment one—relation (subjective), moment two—quantity (universal), moment three—quality (independence from morality), and moment four—modality (necessity). Accordingly, Kant concludes in this reading (1) Ęsthetic judgments are not conceptual but show the relation between a represention and a disinterested satisfaction. (2) Ęsthetic judgments are singular statements but are tied to an obligation of common agreement. (3) Ęsthetic objects appear to be exemplary forms without being understood as functionally purposive. (4) Individual ęsthetic judgments imply a principle that other persons ought to feel a similar satisfaction. Later in the The Critique of Judgment, Kant goes on to show that ęsthetic judgments are synthetic ą priori since all persons have the capacity of "the free play" of the imagination to provide a nonconceptual semblace of unity of form to the understanding of the object. Thus, all persons feel the same thing intersubjectively. Kant considers ęsthetic judgements as universally true.

Ideas of Interest from "Analytic of the Beautiful"

  1. What two senses of sensation does Kant distinguish? How does this distinction point to the difference between delight and the agreeable? In this regard, how does he define "feeling"?

  2. How does Kant define "taste" under the moment corresponding to the category of quality?

  3. Why does Kant think that there can be no universal objective rule concerning tastes or, what amounts to the same thing, why does he think that there can be no objective rule as to what is beautiful? On Kant's theory, howwould such an objective rule self-contradictory?

  4. Explain Kant's distinction between free or self-subsisting beauty and dependent or conditioned beauty. What kinds of disputes about beauty does Kant think this distinction settles?

  5. On Kant's theory, how is the archetype of beauty, an ideal of the imagination, related to the subjective universal criterion concerning beauty? Explain why Kant believes this ideal does not apply to free or self-subsisting beauty and therefore cannot be a pure judgement of taste.

  6. Distinguish between what Kant terms "the normal idea" of beauty which constitutes the indispensible condition of beauty and the complete archetype of beauty which is an ideal of the imagination.

  7. According to Kant, why are judgements of taste concerning beauty only conditional, even though all persons "ought" to give approval of them?

  8. What is Kant's distinction between common sense and common understanding. Why is this distinction important with respect to judgements of taste? Why is common sense a necessary condition for the communication of knowledge?

  9. Explain how, according to Kant, the beautiful is related to necessary delight?



Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment. 1790. Translated by James Creed Meredith. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1911. Section 1. Book 1.