The Significance of Taste: Kant, Aesthetic and Reflective Judgment
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The Significance of Taste: Kant, Aesthetic and Reflective Judgment ROBERT B. PIPPIN 1° THEFUNDAMENTALQUESTIONof the "Analytic of the Beautiful" in the "Critique of Aesthetic Judgment" is easy enough to identify. On what basis, if any, could one claim some sort of universal a priori validity for judgments of the form, "This is beautiful"? In Kant's well-known analysis of this question, the issue is reformulated as: By what right could one claim that another person ought to feel pleasure in the presence of certain objects? Let us call this the "basic question."' There is controversy enough about what Kant means by this basic question and how a deduction of the validity of such judgments is supposed to work. However, shortly after Kant began serious work on a "Critique of Taste" in ~787, the whole issue became even more complicated when the proposed work became a full-blown CritiqueofJudgment. The question of aestheticjudgment was presented within the new, larger topic of reflectivejudgment, was presumably thereby linked to the problem of teleologicaljudgments, and so to the great general theme of the whole of the third Critique:the purposiveness I am grateful, for comments and criticisms, to Henry Allison, Volker Gerhardt, Rudolf Makkreel, Miles Rind, and to two anonymous referees for thisjournal. ' Kant's own formulation: "How is a judgment possible in which the subject, merely on the basis of his own feeling of pleasure in an object, independently of the object's concept, judges this pleasure as one attaching to the representation of that same object in all other subjects, and does so a priori, i.e., without being allowed to wait for external confirmation?" (Kritik der Urteilskraft [KU] in Kants gesammelteSchriften [Berlin: Ktniglich Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1908--13 (hereafter Ak)], Bd. 5, P. 288). All translations are my own, although I have frequently consulted Werner Pluhar's translation of The CritiqueofJudgment (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987). (Page references to the unpublished Introduction are to Bd. ~o of the Akademie edition.) [549] 55 ~ JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 34:4 OCTOBER 1996 of nature. It also created a great difficulty for commentators, since this link with reflective judgments now seemed arbitrarily to force together the problem of taste with such already diverse, complex reflective activities as the formation of empirical concepts, the integration of empirical laws into systems , and the search for explanations unique to organic beings. Although this topic supervening the whole of the KU, reflectivejudgment, indicates prima facie that Kant himself thought there was a common topic in the question of the possibility of our apprehension of aesthetic wholes, organic wholes and nature itself as a whole, it would be an understatement to say that there has been very little agreement about the nature or legitimacy of this relation. Especially problematic has been the question: what role, if any, do Kant's speculations and conclusions about the great significance of aesthetic appreciation (almost all introduced by the "reflectivejudgmentJpurposiveness" theme) play in the actual argument given in support of the basic question? Are Kant's remarks about the relevance of the beautiful to our understanding of nature as a whole and our place within such a whole, and his speculations about the teleological, moral, and socio-cultural significance of the aesthetic version of reflective judgments to be understood as part of what needs to be actually established by the argument for the basic question, the intersubjective validity ofjudgments of taste, or are they mere addenda, suggestive but vague speculations am Rande which Kant allowed himself, once the basic question had been answered? 2 Traditionally, responses to this question can be characterized as on a continuum of sorts, ranging from a more narrow to a wider view.3 Interpretations range from those with little sympathy for connecting an answer to the basic question with these large, speculative issues to more holistic, integrative inter- , It is no doubt true that one can draw a justifiably Kantian distinction between the "purely logical and epistemological analysis of the content and status of aestheticjudgments," and "theses about the individual and social psychology of the phenomenon of taste," as Paul Guyer does in "Autonomy and Integrity in Kant's Aesthetics," The Monist 66 (1985): 17o. But...