Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, January 29, 2011


"The attainment of an aim is always connected with the feeling of pleasure... then [there is] a basis that determines the feeling of pleasure *a priori* and validly for everyone."-- Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT, p. 27.

I noted at the end of this essay that I didn't share Kant's belief that subjective judgments, such as those of taste, had to be universal to be valid; for me it's enough that they're statistically dominant, though what the dominance means in each case will vary.

Nevertheless, one can't set Kant aside lightly. In his history of aesthetics Monroe Beardsley points out that Kant "became the first modern philosopher to make an aesthetic theory an integral part of a philosophic system."

Moreover, I believe his idea of the sublime may have some suggestive applications to my Aumtheory, so I'm currently rereading CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT.

As a tertiary motivation I hope to apply what I find to Douglas Wolk's attempt to apply Kant to the modern comics-scene. I haven't watched Wolk's five-minute video yet, but I did read his remarks from READING COMICS and found them too glib by half.

One problem I anticipate with applying Kant to modern literature, particularly modern popular literature, is that Kant came from a fine-arts background that may have been strained to deal with phenomena that didn't seem to validate the ruling concept of the fine arts. An example would be his remarks on music from section 329:

If, on the other hand, we estimate the worth of the fine arts by the
culture they supply to the mind, and adopt for our standard the
expansion of the faculties whose confluence, in judgment, is
necessary for cognition, music, then, since it plays merely with
sensations, 'has the lowest place among the fine arts-just as it has
perhaps the highest among those valued at the same time for their
agreeableness. Looked at in this light, it is far excelled by the [visual]
formative arts. For, in putting the imagination into a play which is
at once free and adapted to the understanding, they all the while
carry on a serious business, since they execute a product which serves
the Concepts of understanding as a vehicle, permanent and appealing
to us on its own account, for effectuating their union with
sensibility, and thus for promoting, as it were, the urbanity of the
higher powers of cognition. The two kinds of art pursue completely
different courses. Music advances from sensations to indefinite ideas:
formative [visual] art from definite ideas to sensations. The latter gives
a lasting impression, the former one that is only fleeting. The former
sensations imagination can recall and agreeably entertain itself with,
while the latter either vanish entirely, or else, if involuntarily
repeated by the imagination, are more annoying to us than agreeable.
Over and above all this, music has a certain lack of urbanity about

To be sure, Kant's comment about music's "lack of urbanity" is predicated on judging the fine arts "by the culture they supply to the mind," so this comment is not meant to be a constitutive statement about music. Nevertheless, if music-- which was generally considered a "fine art" by Kant's class in his own time-- fails the test of "urbanity" and giving "definite ideas," what tender mercies would a fully Kantian system show to modern-day popular fiction?

Nevertheless, post-Kantian philosophers like Schopenhauer, Cassirer and Langer have managed to diverge from the specific analyses of their "master" while managing to reap credible philosophic rewards from application of his method.

So I too will be giving old Kant a whirl (as in "attempting to make him turn over in his grave") in future essays.

No comments: