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Applied Philosophy Online

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Modern Art and Kant: The Kicker Argument

“SS 38. Deduction of judgements of taste.

Admitting that in a pure judgement of taste the delight in the

object is connected with the mere estimate of its form, then what we

feel to be associated in the mind with the representation of the

object is nothing else than its subjective finality for judgement.

Since, now, in respect of the formal rules of estimating, apart from

all matter (whether sensation or concept), judgement can only be

directed to the subjective conditions of its employment in general

(which is not restricted to the particular mode of sense nor to a

particular concept of the understanding), and so can only be

directed to that subjective factor which we may presuppose in all

men (as requisite for a possible experience generally), it follows

that the accordance of a representation with these conditions of the

judgement must admit of being assumed valid a priori for every one. In

other words, we are warranted in exacting from every one the

pleasure or subjective finality of the representation in respect of

the relation of the cognitive faculties engaged in the estimate of a

sensible object in general*.”

“*In order to be justified in claiming universal agreement an

aesthetic judgement merely resting on subjective grounds, it is

sufficient to assume: (1) that the subjective conditions of this

faculty of aesthetic judgement are identical with all men in what

concerns the relation of the cognitive faculties, there brought into

action, with a view to a cognition in general. This must be true, as

otherwise men would be incapable of communicating their

representations or even their knowledge; (2) that the judgement has

paid regard merely to this relation (consequently merely to the formal

condition of the faculty of judgement), and is pure, i.e., is free

from confusion either with concepts of the object or sensations as

determining grounds. If any mistake is made in this latter point, this

only touches the incorrect application to a particular case of the

right which a law gives us, and does not do away with the right



To Kant, an idea or a pure idea or pure reason does not come from that which we observe but is rather a priori to it and conditions that which we observe, quite contrary to Ayn Rand. So, the ideas he might believe are expressed in pure art or his aesthetical ideas are not something like the painting of an apple concretizing the idea of the apple (the concept made physical) as Miss Rand explains it in The Romantic Manifesto. It would be that which conditions the mind for the subjective experience to occur.

So, here's the kicker and the real relationship between Kant's Critique of Judgement and modern art: If that which we observe with our senses is just a subjective experience (see above) then a painting of this subjective experience (the apple) is not an objective aesthetic painting. To be truly objective and aesthetical would require grasping reality other than how we observe it subjectively -- that is, a true art painting or a pure painting would have to be a painting of something *other than* that which we observe. And this is modern art.