We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Find using OpenURL

Buy This Issue

"The Beautiful Is the Symbol of the Morally-Good": Kant's Philosophical Basis of Proof for the Idea of the Morally-Good

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 33, Number 2, April 1995
pp. 301-330 | 10.1353/hph.1995.0024

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

"The Beautiful Is the Symbol of the Morally-Good": Kant's Philosophical Basis of Proof for the Idea of the Morally-Good G. FELICITAS MUNZEL RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN Anglo-American Kant scholarship, such as the seri- ous attention being given to the Critique of Judgment and the recognition of the primacy of practical reason in Kant's philosophy, are giving rise to reconsidera- tion of long-standing issues? One of these is the connection between aesthetics and morality. ~ Kant's own much-debated statement in this regard, "Now I say: the beautiful is the symbol of the morally-good" (w Critique of Judgment), immediately follows a logically technical discussion of the kinds of intuitive representation and analogy whereby we may establish the reality of our con- cepts. My purpose in this essay is to reexamine Kant's statement by exploring (from the perspective of a holistic reading of the Kantian corpus) what ex- planatory power Kant's highly unique, critical sense of qualitative analogy has for his conclusion that beauty symbolizes morality. ' Four such recent works focusing on the Critique o]'Judgraent, or the primacy of practical reason, or on both, are: Paul Guyer's Kant and the Experience of Freedom: Essays on Aesthetics and Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Rudolf A. Makkreel's lmag/nat/on and Interpretation in Kant: The Hermencutical Import of the "Critique of Judgment" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 199o); Richard L. Velkley's Freedom and the End of Reason: On the Moral Foundatiom of Kant's Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989); John H. Zammito's The Genesis of Kant's "Critique of Judgment" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). 9 Paul Guyer's most recent work interprets this connection as a relation in which aesthetic theory serves the purpose of satisfying the "need for access to the ideas of pure practical reason through natural human feeling" (19, 4~, 18, 20. [3ol] 302 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 33:2 APRIL i995 None of the elements of Kant's discussion in w is new. Reason's striving to give reality to its ideas, reason's appeal to the symbol, the use of analogy, the need for intuition (Anschauung), and the association drawn between beauty and morality, especially virtue (alternately described by Kant as sublime and as beautiful), are found in the corpus from the earliest pre-critical works for- ward. The discussion of the first half of w in the third Critique, including the specific references to symbolic cognition of God and the problem of anthropo- morphism, recalls in particular the elements of Kant's account of the revised sense of rational cognition (Vernunfterkenntnifl) by analogy, the philosophical cognition of the purely intelligible, in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Prolegomena. The question to be asked is how w of the Critique of Judgment advances and/or changes Kant's previous account. What philosophical cogni- tion is gained by reason now availing itself of this particular symbol, the beautiful, as a means of exhibiting the reality of its idea of the morally-good?3 My inquiry is divided into three sections. The first part explicates the formulation and purpose of Kant's qualitative analogy. The second part be- gins by pointing out difficulties in ascertaining precisely to what the respective terms of the analogy in question -- the beautiful (da~ Sch6ne) and the morally- good (das Sittlich-Gute)--refer. On the basis of the analysis of the critical sense of analogy and the distinctions between Sittlichkeit and Moralitiit, "the morally- good" is interpreted as the object of our will (not its formal ground of determi- nation). A parallel analysis of the beautiful concludes that beautiful artworks fit the subject term of the analogy best. The final section reviews Kant's treat- ment of the symbol -- its employment as the only way of gaining practical cognition of the supersensible -- and the limits he ultimately places on its use. 1. To understand Kant's unique sense of analogy, it is helpful to understand the issues underlying the shift from its pre-critical sense (which coincides with our own usual sense of analogy) to the fully developed third Critique sense of analogy as...

You must be logged in through an institution that subscribes to this journal or book to access the full text.


Shibboleth authentication is only available to registered institutions.

Project MUSE

For subscribing associations only.