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Kant – Critique of Judgement [Notes]

Kant does not concretize what he is talking about without giving any examples of art from his day – no mention of any particular painting, sculpture, music, building; so it remains a floating abstraction and therefore very difficult to pin down into the specifics. He says that the beauty of these things is merely in the (physical) form and is just a matter of aesthetic taste. 

“Aesthetic, just like theoretical (logical) judgements, are divisible into empirical and pure. The first are those by which agreeableness or disagreeableness, the second those by which beauty is predicated of an object or its mode of representation. The former are judgements of sense (material aesthetic judgements), the latter (as formal) alone judgements of taste proper. A judgement of taste, therefore, is only pure so far as its determining ground is tainted with no merely empirical delight. But such a taint is always present where charm or emotion have a share in the judgement by which something is to be described as beautiful.”

In other words, one has to make aesthetic judgements without referring to the fact that one has an emotional reaction to a work of art; and beautiful artworks are always tainted with an emotional reaction as to their charm -- which implies that it ought to be rejected on the grounds that it is not “pure art” following his idea of “pure reason”.

“**Emotion-a sensation where an agreeable feeling is produced merely by means of a momentary check followed by a more powerful outpouring of the vital force-is quite foreign to beauty**. Sublimity (with which the feeling of emotion is connected) requires, however, a different standard of estimation from that relied upon by taste. **A pure judgement of taste has, then, for its determining ground neither charm nor emotion, in a word, no sensation as matter of the aesthetic judgement.**” [**emphasis added**]

This is a complete rift between art and valuing the artwork (between mind and value, or between reason and man’s life); a complete separation of the nature of art from man’s reaction to it. I’ve heard a lot of modern artists in person and in their writings that artwork conveying a particular object in reality (like a painting of a man) is mere technique and not something to be praised because it is mere technique and is done simply for the charm of the image. They got it from Kant. If one is going to throw out the charm of the image, then one is left with nothing by smears on canvas. Likewise for the other arts. Also note that he states that beauty has no emotion attached to it – when was the last time you saw something beautiful and had no emotional reaction to it?

“But I have already stated that an aesthetic judgement is quite unique, and **affords absolutely no (not even a confused) knowledge of the object. It is only through a logical judgement that we get knowledge**. The aesthetic judgement, on the other hand, refers the representation, by which an object is given, solely to the subject, and brings to our notice no quality of the object, but only the final form in the determination of the powers of representation engaged upon it. The judgement is called aesthetic for the very reason that its determining ground cannot be a concept, but is rather the feeling (of the internal sense) of the concert in the play of the mental powers as a thing only capable of being felt.” [**Emphasis added**]

This is a very good description of non-objective art – containing no knowledge of any object. Contrast this with a painting of an apple which does require the knowledge of the apple, what it is and what it looks like in the concretization of the concept “apple” according to Ayn Rand’s theory of art, the Objectivist aesthetics. In other words, insofar as a work of art contains or gives evidence of what the object *is* and how man understands it, it is not art, according to Kant.