Characteristics of Aesthetic Judgment

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Kant considers it requisite to provide a deduction, or proof of its grounds, for any judgment claiming necessity. However, since the judgment of taste is neither cognitive nor practical, it can draw its necessity from no concepts. Rather, it has a twofold peculiarity: It claims the universality of a singular, not a universal, proposition, and it claims the necessary assent of everyone a priori, but cannot depend on a priori grounds of proof for doing so. Because of what they are, Kant asserts, the explanation of these peculiarities suffices as a deduction. As to the necessity, although the judgment of each individual improves with exercise, at each stage it claims the necessary assent of others. It claims autonomy. If it submitted to external principles, it would be something other than taste. As to quantity, since it judges without a concept, this must always be singular: “This tulip is beautiful,” never “All tulips are beautiful,” since the universal subject term of the latter is a concept and brings the understanding into the process. Obviously, then, no objective principle of taste is possible, and no rule can be given to art. Rather, the principle of taste is the subjective principle of judgment in general, operating on the condition solely of the faculty of judgment itself.

Unlike mere labor or science or commercial handicraft, beautiful art is free. Yet we must be conscious of it as art and not nature, to keep it within the framework that will allow it to please in the mere act of judging. Beautiful art is the work of genius, which is the “innate mental disposition (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art.” Genius is an original productive...

(The entire section is 698 words.)