Some Further Explanation on Kant
Louis Markos: Literary Criticism From Plato to Postmodernism - The Teaching Company - Lecture #10
Immanuel Kant - Critique of Judgement
Transforms Burke's introductory "epistemology of aesthetics" into a full blown science.
Kant's central assertion - "aesthetic judgements constitute a subjective universality"
Key Kantian distinctions
Kant asserts at the beginning that the judgement of the beautiful is purely subjective, that is to say, the judgement of the beautiful is different from the object, beauty occurs within the viewer, the way it is percieved by the subject.
These judgments are not rational, or cognitive, but rather are aesthetic.
Kant is the "Epistemological Aristotle" - just as Aristotle (an ontologist) wrote a treatise on each discipline. Kant then (the epistemologist) tries to define or categorize through treatise, the mental faculties of perception. Modes of perception. Judgement, reason, imagination, etc...
Reason and understanding are logical and cognitive, but the aesthetic judgement is always subjective. distinguishing feature.
Where as cognitive judgements - reason and understanding - presuppose fixed ideas and then work to establish fixed concepts - aesthetic judgements work through feeling, and don't rest on any concept, nor seek to generate one. Aestehetic judgements, ie the subjective, is pure in its freedom. Free from all ends or purposes. "Should aesthetic judgement seek a purpose, it would be a purposeless purpose."
Poetry and the aesthetic then uses a unique mode of perception. Different from the others in subjectivity. IN answer to Plato then, Kant has created "a seperate sphere" approach to poetry, demanding unique rules for a unique 'mode.'
"Aesthetics are an end in themselves"
Distinguishing the Aesthetic from the pleasurable and good.
Pleasurable is an interested emotion that seeks gratification from the object, where as the aesthetic/beautiful seeks nothing, it is disinterested. Beauty makes no demand from.
Pleasurable - eros - seek to possess
Beautiful - agapae - seeks nothing, an end in its self, pure and free
The good seeks beauty as a means to some higher end, the beautiful accepts it as a thing unto itself. (Good, better, best, never let it rest...?)
"Although the judgement of beauty is purely subjective, it is paradoxically universally felt, and therefore it constitutes a subjective universality."
Universal to all of us in something that is felt, perceived individually by all of us.
Evidence. Burke supplies proof that imagination and taste are based on senses, and the sense are universal, ergo taste is universal.
Kant's answer to the subjective universal. "What allows the aesthetic/subjective judgement to be felt universally is the very fact that it is purely subjective, and therefore is untainted by inclination or interests or hidden agendas.
Since the beautiful is free and is indifferent to even the object, than it is free from all external restraint. If we all feel it freely, then we must feel it the same way.
Modern theorists attack this because there is no disinterested response. everything is political, or bears agenda. Post-modernists throw Kant out because everything is relative.
So why is Kant's paradoxically subjective universal so important?
For Kant, the aesthetic realm has to be subject to be free, if it is objective, it is not free, but in order for us to establish it's "science," with rules and regulations, it has to be universal otherwise it is meaningless in its function.
According to Kant, taste is not universal. Taste is linked to the pleasurable, there is some sense of gratification. "THe charm of the object gratifies the taste and monopolizes its focus. However, there is a purer, higher, more aesthetic taste. This taste focuses on form.
A poem's form maybe studied as an end in itself, a purposeless purpose, and as such, it is an aesthetic judgement. The content of the poem, the moral, changes with age, but the form has no agenda, it is eternal, its an end to itself.
Eventually, in late thinkers, we will see this idea of the poem as an artifact in itself, an end in itself.
Imagination and Kant
For Kant, Imagination is a spontaneous, independent, mental power, enlivened and set free by aesthetic ideas.
Kant goes so far to say that in poetry, as an art, the imagination is set free in its power, a power that is used to ascribe new connection and create new forms, new associations.
Kant now goes on to investigate how reason and understanding play a role in taste and aesthetic. distinguishes beauty into Pure Beauty and Dependent Beauty
Pure Beauty - presupposes no concept of what the object ought to be. Pure beauty is purely subjective, and purely free. see Ars gratia artist. Art for art's sake. End of 1800's. Oscar Wilde. Art as an end in itself.
Dependent Beauty - presuppose a concept of perfection at which to measure the object. Taste? Taste is then the application of reason and understanding to beauty.
The moral. what does it teach us? etc...
As soon as dependent beauty starts to form concepts, it moves out of the imagination and into the realm of understanding - ie the establishment of concepts.
Sublimity - that which is truly, absolutely great, and inspires in us feelings of infinity and limitlessness
The quantintative sublime (the mathematical sublime) - occurs when we come into the presence of wild chaotic objects that cannot be absorbed. Quantitatively too much. Their greatness surpasses the ability of out intuition to grasp them. Overwhelms the imagination and we forced to turn to reason.
Thus the sublime turns to reason, and beauty turns to understanding. Where as understanding merely converts empirical data into concepts, reason takes concepts and transforms them into higher laws.
Imagination, is spontaneous, it only has to do with feeling. As soon as we've begun to think about our feelings we've moved to a realm of understanding. Once we have thought about are feelings, we're using our understanding to make parallels and corollaries, to build concepts.
When we start to think about our thinking, we are into the realm of reason.
The beautiful turns to understanding, the sublime turns to reason.
The qualitative sublime (the dynamic sublime) - to feel awe or fear in the presence of the object's overwhelming power. (if there is actual physical danger, there is terror, it's not sublimity). Just as in the qualitiative, the imagination is inadequate to stand up against the power of the sublime, so it turns to the higher faculty of reason to help it out.
Kant's final distinction between the sublime and the beautiful. Both the sublime and beautiful exist in a free play of the two different mental powers.
The subjective experience of beauty is a harmony in the free play of imagination and understanding.
The subjective experience of sublimity is a struggle, or disharmony between imagination and reason.
In line with Burke's assertion that beauty brings harmony, relaxation, and the sublime brings tension anxiety.
And what is the ramification of the sublime when we're forced to turn from imagination to reason?
"Kant builds on the mental disharmony caused in us as produced by the sublime." That is-
Kant admits our experience at first gives us a sense of displeasure, but eventually displeasure turns to pleasure when we realize what this surrender signifies or means."
"Our experience of the sublime, that moment when imagination turns over to reason, reveals to us that finally cognition or reason is supreme over sensation or imagination, and that therefore we are supra-sensible creatures. At that moment, when imagination turns over to reason, we realize that at heart we are not sensible creatures tied to the earth, but we are supra-sensible creatures tied to reason. In that moment, we learn with great joy that their is a faculty within us that is greater than nature, that can surpass both her majesty (the quantitative sublime), and her might (the qualitative sublime).
"And if that is true, then our final destination and end, is greater than that of nature. That is to say we are not only rational creatures, but spiritual creatures, indued with purpose, and an ability to endure, and transcend, pain and terror. There is something greater in us that goes beyond nature. One can transcend the pain and suffering of nature, and the physical."