Kant: Critique of Judgement

Kant: Critique of Judgement
Kant: Critique of Judgement Patrick Gardiner Kant’s third Critique, the Critique of Judgement, was published in 1790 and was intended—as he himself put it—to bring his “entire critical undertaking to a close.” So conceived, it was certainly in part designed to build upon and develop ideas that had already been introduced in its two predecessors but which he had come to regard as requiring further elaboration and supplementation. Thus Kant included in its ambitious scope wide-ranging discussions impinging upon the spheres of scientific enquiry, ethics, and religion, his aim being to approach these apparently diverse realms within a perspective distinguishable in significant ways from any he had hitherto adopted. At the same time, however, it should be recognized that the book was composed not only in the light of theses he had advanced in his own previous writings. For it may also be seen as involving responses or allusions to positions that had been put forward by other thinkers and which had attracted considerable attention among his contemporaries. This was especially true in the case of aesthetics, an area he had not so far subjected to systematic critical scrutiny; but they arose as well both from developments in the emergent biological sciences and from theoretical studies relating to history and to the nature of social change. Further, and at a more general level, Kant was sharply aware of recent contributions to the existing climate of opinion that had been made by philosophers who wished to challenge many of the rationalistic assumptions associated with the eighteenth-century Aufklärung, particularly those felt to threaten or undermine cherished dogmas of religious orthodoxy. All in all, German thought in the 1780s can be said to have been the focus of a variety of competing intellectual preoccupations and trends. Hence it is hardly surprising that his own treatise, appearing at the end of an ideologically turbulent decade, bore the imprint of current controversies, some of which had indeed been sparked off by the publication nine years earlier of the Critique of Pure Reason itself. The outcome of these disparate concerns and influences was a complex and seminal work. It was also, at least in certain respects, an elusive one. The sections into which the Critique of Judgement is divided fall into four main groups, each centering round a dominant topic or theme. But although the individual subjects treated are of great intrinsic interest, they are apt to strike the reader as belonging to markedly different categories; moreover, the actual manner in which some of the constituent sections are suppose to fit together is not always easy to discern. It may therefore be tempting to regard the book from one point of view as amounting to a series of somewhat loosely related essays rather than as representing a unified enquiry controlled by a single overarching objective. Nonetheless, Kant makes it pretty clear at the outset that this was not how he himself envisaged the project on which he was engaged. Instead, he presents it as following a course determined by, and closely integrated with, the overall plan informing his earlier investigations, the assumed connection deriving from the theory of mental powers or faculties in terms of which he tended to articulate the basic principles governing human thought and conduct. The functions of two of those faculties—namely, understanding and reason—had already been examined and their respective provinces charted. Thus in the Preface he writes that his first Critique was largely devoted to analyzing the role of the understanding in supplying the a priori principles essential to our cognitive experience; while in the second he demonstrated how reason—here identified in its practical employment as the source of moral prescriptions—performed a comparable a priori role in legislating at the level of human action and desire. He now maintains that a third faculty remains for consideration which forms “a middle term” between the other two and whose claims as a possible source of independent a priori principles have still to be assessed. The faculty in question is the power of judgment (Urteilskraft), the important issues its mediating position raises indicating that a further Critique is called for. Accordingly, and with the completion of his system in mind, it is this that Kant sets out to provide. Let us see how he proceeds, beginning with the contents of the formidable Introduction which in effect constitutes the first major division of his new work. REFLECTIVE JUDGMENT AND THE CONCEPT OF PURPOSE Kant wrote two Introductions to the Critique of Judgement, discarding the first as being “disproportionately extensive” and replacing it with the shorter version he decided to publish in its stead. Even in its abbreviated form, however, it amounts to an involved and demanding piece of work, containing retrospective references to conclusions so far reached in his philosophy as well as anticipations of matters he intends to cover in the main body of the text that is to follow. Since it is in terms of the former conclusions that he offers a preliminary clue to what he conceives to be a guiding concern of the present Critique, it will be best to start with his somewhat condensed remarks in that connection. For they indicate that his conception of judgment as playing a mediating role between understanding and reason was intimately linked to a distinction which was fundamental to the doctrine of transcendental idealism propounded in his previous writings. This was the radical contrast he had drawn between the realm of empirical phenomena, comprising reality as it appears to us as cognitive subjects endowed with a certain sensory and intellectual apparatus, and a postulated non-empirical realm of noumena or “things in themselves.” So far as the phenomenal sphere was concerned, Kant had argued that our familiar awareness of a spatio-temporal and causally governed world of perceivable entities and events presupposed a framework of universal forms and categories which was imposed upon the data or raw material of sensation by the human mind. Such an a priori framework determined the basic structure of the empirical consciousness, constituting the conditions upon which all everyday and scientific knowledge depended for its possibility. At the same time, it must clearly be understood that any knowledge we might legitimately claim to possess of reality was confined to the sphere of observable nature, i.e. to what fell within the scope of sensory experience: it did not extend to the noumenal realm, the latter being a supersensible field that was necessarily inaccessible to theoretical cognition or investigation. However, it did not follow that the notion of the supersensible had no substantive part to play in our thought. On the contrary, Kant regarded it as being crucial to the conception we were obliged to have of ourselves when considered from a practical and, more specifically, a moral point of view. For here it was essential that we should think of ourselves as possessing free will and as being thereby able to act in compliance with practical imperatives prescribed by reason as opposed to following the natural promptings of sensuous impulse or inclination. Such a capacity for rational self-determination appeared to be excluded on the supposition that we belonged solely to the phenomenal domain, since on Kant’s own principles everything occurring within that sphere was subject without exception to the laws of natural causality. On the other hand, the requirements of morality could be preserved if it were accepted that there were two aspects under which people might be viewed, the first of which involved treating them as items in “the world of sense” and the second of which involved regarding them as belonging to the “intelligible” or supersensible sphere which necessarily lay outside the range of the causal categories that were universally applicable within the empirical realm. Thus, while from a theoretical standpoint we were indeed bound to consider ourselves as governed by natural laws, from the standpoint of practical motivation and choice we could at the same time consistently conceive of ourselves as exercising freedom and rational autonomy of the kind presupposed by the moral consciousness. Kant was careful to point out that the latter conception, depending as it did for its possibility upon our membership of the supersensible as well as the natural world, was not capable of being cognitively established; for nothing whatsoever could be known by us at the level of noumenai reality. Nonetheless, the “twoworld” doctrine invoked might be said to leave room for the idea of human free will in a way that rendered it compatible with the acceptance of a fully deterministic account of nature, thereby resolving an antinomy commonly believed to arise between the claims of scientific enquiry and the presuppositions of ethical thought. Problematic though it has often been felt to be, the above solution to this apparent conflict was certainly the one that Kant had adopted in his two preceding Critiques. And it recurs in the Introduction to his third inasmuch as he speaks there of theoretical understanding and practical reason as having “two distinct jurisdictions,” neither of which need be thought of as interfering with the other—“it is possible for us at least to think without contradiction of both these jurisdictions, and their appropriate faculties, as coexisting in the same Subject” (Introduction, p. 13). However, although in the present context he briefly refers to this thesis as having been established in the Critique of Pure Reason, at the same time he indicates here that it leaves in its wake a further issue whose significance has still to be faced. For it raises the question of what connection, if any, may be presumed to exist between the spheres of natural necessity and practical freedom, given their supposed independence. Kant certainly writes of there being “a great gulf fixed” between the provinces to which the concepts of nature “as the sensible” and of freedom “as the supersensible” respectively apply, the first of these being “powerless” to exercise an influence upon the second. The fact remains nonetheless that the two realms cannot be thought of as totally insulated from each other, for it is a condition of moral agency that the principles and objectives which reason prescribes should be understood to be realizable in the phenomenal world, achieving expression within the empirical course of events. As he himself goes on to say: “the concept of freedom is meant to actualize in the sensible world the end proposed by its laws,” and he holds it to follow that nature must be “capable of being regarded in such a way that in the conformity to law of its form it at least harmonizes with the possibility of the ends to be effectuated in it according to the laws of freedom” (ibid., p. 14). In other words, we should be able, though without violating the principle of natural causality, to consider the phenomenal domain under an aspect that would allow us to view it as amenable to the behests and aims of morality; at the very minimum, it would not present itself as being wholly allen to the fulfillment of the latter. Such an aspect is specifically connected by Kant with the notion of a purposiveness or “finality” in nature which is supplied by the faculty of judgment; and it is in these terms that he envisages the possibility of judgment’s providing a “mediating concept” or requisite link between the two modes of thinking—theoretical and practical—whose spheres of application he has found it essential to distinguish. The implications of this suggestion, which Kant relates somewhat obscurely to his conception of phenomenal nature as itself having a “supersensible substrate” or noumenal ground, only appear at a later stage of the Critique where it is evaluated in the light of certain qualifications to which it is held to be inevitably subject. Within the context of the Introduction, however, its chief importance lies in its being the cue for him to initiate a general account of judgment and its functions. It is necessary to speak in the plural of its role, since Kant certainly regards the power of judgment as operating at more than one level of our thought and as being relevant to discriminable philosophical concerns. That, indeed, quickly becomes apparent from the discussion which directly follows and which actually forms the centerpiece of this section of his book. For there it is issues pertinent to scientific procedure, rather than questions arising from reflection on our moral experience, that immediately occupy him. Moreover, it is with reference to such methodological considerations that he first broaches the problem of what kind of a priori employment may legitimately be assigned to the mental faculty he has in mind. Kant opens his account by making a preliminary distinction between what he respectively calls the “determinant” and the “reflective” dimensions of judgment. In both it is said to involve relating universals and particulars, but the manner in which it does so is radically different in the two cases. Thus judgment is asserted to be determinant when it involves applying a “given” universal—that is, a concept or general law known or presupposed in advance—to particulars recognized as falling under it: it was in this sense that Kant referred to judgment in his first Critique, where the relevant universals were the formative categories and principles of the understanding and where it was simply characterized as “the faculty of subsuming under rules.” He now wishes to compare that capacity with another one in which the above process is, so to speak, reversed; here it is the particular, or particulars, that is or are given, the task of judgment being taken instead to consist in seeking a universal beneath which the latter can appropriately be brought. Engaging in such a task is the business of reflective judgment, and it is with the operations of judgment so understood that Kant is presently concerned. What does this amount to in less abstract terms? As we have seen, it was central to the standpoint Kant adopted in his critical philosophy that everything falling within the sphere of empirical reality conformed to an overall framework whose universal applicability to phenomena was transcendentally guaranteed. And, since the forms of order embodied therein were constitutive of all objective experience, it followed that they must be taken to hold of whatever occurred within the areas explored by the empirical or natural sciences. However, it was one thing to recognize the a priori validity for any experience of such a categorical principle as that every event must have a determining cause. It was quite another to discover from experience what particular causal laws or regularities actually obtain within a given domain and to try to identify their possible connections and interrelations. Neither enquiry can be undertaken without recourse to the findings of empirical observation and scrutiny, but Kant lays especial stress on the second as expressing something that he considers to be intrinsic to the very notion of scientific thinking. That is the idea of system. The claim that “systematic unity is what…raises ordinary knowledge to the rank of science” had already been emphasized in the first Critique in connection with what was there called “the logical employment of reason.” Here Kant takes it up, though with the difference that the exercise of judgment is implicitly substituted for that of theoretical reason. At the level of everyday life there are innumerable generalizations which reflect the “manifold forms of nature” and which may be said to contribute to the stock of our ordinary or commonsense knowledge of the world. Even so, a mere aggregate of such perceived regularities, however comprehensive, is never by itself sufficient to qualify as a science. To satisfy that description, and to meet theoretical requirements of the kind deemed essential to scientific understanding, it is necessary that the relevant empirical laws should be seen to constitute an interdependent and hierarchically related system; as Kant puts it, from this point of view it is essential to establish “the unity of all empirical principles under higher, though likewise empirical, principles, and thence the possibility of the systematic subordination of higher and lower” (Introduction, p. 19). And that leads him to formulate what he conceives to be a fundamental presupposition of scientific enquiry. For he goes on to maintain that to embark upon such a project is to proceed on the assumption that the multiplicity of naturel laws will be found to exhibit a unitary order which is intelligible to the human mind, so that it is as if “an understanding (though it be not ours) had supplied them for the benefit of our cognitive faculties.” Nature, in other words, must be approached as though its workings were purposively adapted to our intellectual capacities and powers of comprehension, this being a conception which he specifically ascribes to reflective judgment. And in so ascribing it he at the same time contends that it amounts to an a priori principle possessed of an independent validity in its own right. Kant is insistent that the distinctive status of the principle in question, together with that of subsidiary “maxims of judgement” like those which attribute economy and continuity to nature’s operations, should be fully appreciated. In his own terminology, it is not “constitutive”: unlike the transcendental rules imposed by the understanding, it does not represent a necessary condition of phenomenal reality as such, being prescriptively related to our modes of empirically investigating nature rather than being objectively determinative of the natural realm considered in itself. Nor, Kant holds, does it justify us in affirming the existence of an actual designer in the form of a divine or superhuman intelligence responsible for harmonizing the natural world with the needs and capacities of our finite intellects. Instead it functions purely as a principle of enquiry which, while a priori in the sense of being something brought to rather than derived from experience, is only “regulative” or heuristic in character. Nevertheless, although we can never justifiably claim to know that nature objectively conforms to a purposively conceived order of the sort postulated, we are subjectively obliged even so to pursue our investigations as if it did. For otherwise scientific thought and research, conceived as a quest after system within the prima facie untidy conglomeration of facts and regularities that empirically confronts us, could not be meaningfully undertaken: “were it not for this presupposition we should have no order of nature in accordance with empirical laws, and, consequently, no guidingthread…for an investigation of them” (Introduction, p. 25). It appears, therefore, that a view of nature invoking purposive conceptions—which, as was intimated earlier, might ultimately be found to serve judgment as a means of mediating between the spheres of freedom and natural causality—can at least be said to have received positive, if limited, endorsement within the context of scientific methodology. For here it is taken by Kant to underlie, as an indispensable regulative idea, the general project of comprehending phenomena within a unitary scheme of interconnected laws. It has, moreover, a further implication to which he briefly alludes. For it follows from the account he has given that, although as scientists we must always conduct our enquiries on the supposition that nature is adapted to meet our systematizing ambitions, we cannot in this case—as we can in the case of its conformity to the categories of the understanding—have any guarantee that it will necessarily do so; if on a particular occasion it turns out to accord with our theoretical concerns, that can only be for us a contingent result. But the attainment of every objective where failure is possible is accompanied by a feeling of pleasure. Hence whenever the scientific quest after systematic unity is crowned with success, such an achievement is bound to be pleasing: the discovery, Kant notes, “that two or more empirical heterogeneous laws of nature are allied under one principle that embraces them both is the ground of a very appreciable pleasure” (ibid., p. 27). Thus it emerges that the exercise of judgment can be viewed as being intimately connected with the experience of a certain kind of pleasurable feeling, one that has its source in the satisfaction afforded to our faculties of cognition rather than in the fulfillment of any practical aims or desires we may happen to entertain. The above concludes what Kant has to say in the Introduction about the part played by reflective judgment in rendering the scientific enterprise possible. In effect, it constitutes a prelude that leads—admittedly somewhat obliquely—to the two central sections of his Critique, the first comprising a comprehensive analysis of judgment in relation to the aesthetic consciousness and the second a discussion of its role that focuses chiefly on the interpretation of organic phenomena of the sort studied in biology. At first sight these might seem to represent very dissimilar fields of interest. Nevertheless, they are both ones in which Kant again treats the idea of purposiveness as occupying a pivotal position. Furthermore, the intellectually oriented conception of pleasure he associated with the use of reflective judgment in scientific contexts may be regarded as anticipating, if only in some respects, a notion that lies at the heart of his aesthetic theory. AESTHETIC JUDGMENT AND EXPERIENCE Kant’s concern with aesthetics—the subject to which Part I of the Critique of Judgement is exclusively devoted—was by no means new. It is true that his appreciation of art itself was limited in both scope and depth. That was especially so in the case of music, to whose appeal he appears to have been largely insensitive; yet even with regard to literature he seems to have confined himself to a somewhat narrow diet, while his lifelong residence in the city of Königsberg meant that he had practically no direct awareness of what had been achieved in the spheres of painting, sculpture, or architecture. All the same, these constraints did not prevent him from taking a considerable interest in the nature and sources of aesthetic experience. He had long been familiar with eighteenth-century writing on aesthetic matters, an essay he published in 1764 on the feeling of the beautiful and sublime suggesting that by that time he was already broadly acquainted with the contributions made by such British thinkers as Hutcheson, Addison, and Burke. He referred, however, to the piece in question as having been undertaken “more with the eye of an observer than a philosopher,” and it was in fact only when he returned to the topic more than two decades later that he felt able to accord it the type of theoretical treatment it merited. This was due to the circumstance that during the years immediately preceding the composition of the third Critique Kant underwent a fundamental change of mind concerning the character of aesthetic claims. Generally speaking, he regarded earlier theorists, who included men like Baumgarten, Lessing, and Hume, as having tended to favor one or other of two radically opposed approaches to what these involved. Either they viewed them as being essentially related to psychological reactions or sentiments which were subject to a purely empirical investigation, or else they interpreted them instead as answerable to conceptual criteria or rules in a way that implicitly assimilated them to the status of cognitive assertions about objective reality. While he had previously been inclined to sympathize with the first position, Kant was now of the opinion that neither of them was finally acceptable. Both distorted what was basically at issue, each—though in contrasting ways—failing to do justice to distinctive peculiarities of judgments of taste that rendered them problematic. He therefore concluded that it was necessary to provide a fresh analysis of their implications, one that was designed moreover to show that the possibility of such claims ultimately depended upon the satisfaction of certain a priori conditions. Given that he had at the same time come to regard aesthetic appreciation and the pleasure it afforded as representing a specific form in which reflective judgment manifested itself, this was not an unexpected aspiration. Beauty and the problem of taste Many of the elements central to Kant’s revised account are set out in the section that opens this part of the Critique and is called “Analytic of the Beautiful.” As its title indicates, he considers the judgments with which he is dealing to be propositions ascribing beauty to things, subdividing his discussion of them into four “moments”—quality, quantity, relation, and modality—which purport to elucidate their essential nature under distinguishable aspects. Although schematically separated, however, the different features thereby identified tend (some-what questionably) to be spoken of as logically interdependent, and Kant also introduces additional points about their import that await clarification or elaboration further on in the book. Thus close attention to the order and detail of his exposition at this stage is liable to encounter obscurities or uncertainties that raise difficulties of interpretation. Nonetheless, and despite such complications, it is possible to view what he writes as contributing to a developing pattern of argument whose general tenor and purpose become evident as he proceeds. Right at the beginning of the “Analytic” Kant makes it apparent that he wishes to draw a sharp distinction between aesthetic judgments and ones that are objectively cognitive; to that extent at least he is in agreement with previous theorists who adopted a basically subjectivist position. Judgments of taste are not concerned with, nor can their truth be determined by reference to, observable properties of phenomena in the sense in which those may be said to underlie claims to knowledge about how matters stand in the world. Rather, they crucially have to do with the manner in which particular representations affect us so as to produce a “feeling of pleasure or displeasure,” the latter being something that “denotes nothing in the object.” It follows, Kant thinks, that aesthetic judgments are ones whose “determining ground cannot be other than subjective,” and he goes on to stress the contrast between, on the one hand, apprehending a building from a strictly cognitive standpoint and, on the other, being “conscious of this representation with an accompanying sensation of delight” (Part I, pp. 41–2). Qua subjective feeling, such a pleasurable reaction can contribute or add nothing to our knowledge of the building considered as an independent object of perception; it is, however, indispensable as forming the basis of a favorable judgment of taste. It appears, then, that pronouncing something to be beautiful necessarily implies finding it to occasion an experience of satisfaction. But satisfaction of what kind? Unlike some of his predecessors, who had also assigned pleasure a central place in their accounts, Kant was not content merely to regard the notion as referring to an isolable mental state, identifiable apart from the varying conditions of its occurrence. We have seen that traces of a different approach were already discernible in the Introduction to the Critique; but it is only here, where Kant emphasizes the need to discriminate the type of enjoyment intrinsic to the appreciation of beauty from the kinds of satisfaction experienced in other contexts, that it is explicitly formulated and developed. Thus he insists that the delight relevant to such appreciation must be carefully distinguished from pleasures which are, as he puts it, “allied to an interest” and which presuppose the presence of determinate appetites or wants on the part of the subject. Pleasures of the latter sort fall into two main groups, respectively categorized as ones that relate to the agreeable and ones that relate to the good. So far as the agreeable is concerned, Kant singles out immediate pleasures of sense, speaking at the same time as if these involved the gratification of particular desires or inclinations. By contrast, pleasure in the good is not a matter of sensuous enjoyment, the satisfactions in question being determined instead by rational considerations of a characteristically practical nature—we may, for instance, be pleased by something’s serving a certain purpose or again by its meeting certain standards or requirements we have in mind, including those prescribed by morality. Delight in the beautiful, however, stands on a completely different footing from either of the above. It derives from no specifie interest, whether sensuous or practical, that we may take in the existence of a given object or state of affairs. On the contrary, our attention in this case is directed solely to what strikes us as worthy of contemplation in its own right, the pleasure afforded being dependent neither upon sensory gratification nor upon a recognized conformity to the demands of practical rationality or volition. Hence it can be said that, of the triad of delights mentioned, taste in the beautiful constitutes “the one and only disinterested and free delight; for with it, no interest, whether of sense or reason, extorts approval” (Part I, p. 49). It is related to “favour,” as opposed to “inclination” or “respect,” and “favour is the only free liking.” The view that an attitude of disinterested contemplation is essential to aesthetic appreciation is one that has acquired widespread currency since Kant’s time. He may not have been alone among eight-eenth-century philosophers in subscribing to it, but he was certainly the most explicit and influential of its original proponents. He saw it, moreover, as having a significant bearing upon a feature of judgments of taste that was vital to a proper interpretation of their meaning. For he thought that, if the delight we take in a particular object is believed to owe nothing to conditions or preoccupations peculiar to ourselves, we feel we have reason for claiming that it should elicit a similar delight from everyone. And it was just such a claim to general agreement that he held to be necessarily embodied in aesthetic appraisals, a claim which he initially encapsulated in the contention that “the beautiful is that which, apart from concepts, is represented as the object of a universal delight” (Part I, p. 50). The grounds and implications of this contention are examined and explored in the second and fourth “moments” of the “Analytic.” The fact that we are typically prone to speak as if beauty were a quality of things in the world is pertinent to what Kant has in mind. As one might expect, he implies that such a form of words is misleading insofar as it suggests that aesthetic judgments can legitimately be assimilated to objective judgments of a cognitive kind. Nevertheless, it is also revealing in pointing to a genuine analogy between the two; for the former, despite being subjectively founded on feeling, resemble the latter in that they “may be presupposed to be valid for all men.” This becomes apparent, Kant thinks, if one compares the ways in which we refer to the merely pleasant or agreeable, where what we say is restricted in scope to our own private sensations, with the pronouncements we make about the beautiful, these being understood to have universal import in that they lay claim to the assent of others. Appealing to ordinary usage, Kant argues that when someone says that a particular wine is agreeable he will readily admit that he is asserting no more than that it is agreeable to him. There is therefore no contradiction between his judgment and a divergent judgment about its agreeableness expressed by somebody else, with the consequence that neither can properly criticize or condemn the taste of the other as “incorrect”: here, as in all cases of what is found personally pleasing to our various senses, the familiar dictum “Everyone has his own taste” holds good. When, on the other hand, we turn to ascriptions of beauty, the situation markedly changes. A person cannot in the same fashion confine him-or herself to saying of, for example, a building or a poem, “It is beautiful for me,” as if that again were just a matter of the pleasure it happened to give them. For, according to Kant, if it merely pleases him, he must not call it beautiful. Many things may for him possess charm or agreeableness—no one cares about that; but when he puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful, he demands the same delight from others. He judges not merely for himself, but for all men, and then speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. (Part I, p. 52) Such an implicit call upon the agreement of others, which Kant sharply distinguishes from a mere empirical conjecture as to how they are likely to react, explains how it is that divergent judgments of beauty, as distinct from ones concerning the agreeable, represent genuine instances of conflict. For here we express ourselves as if we were entitled to their assent; in his own words, we “formulate judgements demanding this agreement in its universality,” and if it is not forthcoming we are apt to regard those who dissent as being mistaken or wrong—we do not shrug off its absence as simply a difference in individual response. To that extent, then, aesthetic appraisals may justifiably be likened to cognitive judgments about matters of fact, where a similar claim to universal acceptance is implied and where divergences of opinion give rise to imputations of error. There, however, the apparent resemblance ends. For the validity to which aesthetic appraisals lay claim is subjective only; as such it in no way depends upon the use of concepts, whereas these play an essential role in ascribing validity to cognitive judgments about items in the world. Judgments of the latter type, in addition to presupposing the formal conditions imposed by the categories, necessarily involve subsuming what is perceptually presented under determinate empirical concepts whose applicability to the given is governed by publicly recognized rules. The validity of a particular cognitive claim is thus objectively decidable according to whether what it purports to denote and describe has been correctly characterized in a manner that conforms to the relevant rules or criteria. But it is Kant’s emphatic contention that judgments of taste cannot be understood or assessed in these terms: “in forming an estimate of objects merely from concepts, all representation of beauty goes by the board,” appeals to specific rules or principles as a means of compelling agreement or resolving disputes in aesthetic contexts being out of place (Part I, p. 56). If that were not so, aesthetic judgments would—as certain theorists have earnestly hoped—be “capable of being enforced by proofs.” Yet their hopes are vain, disregarding as they do something that is intrinsic to the very notion of aesthetic appraisal and failing which nothing can rightfully qualify as a judgment of the kind in question. For, as Kant has already insisted, what is crucial in grounding such a judgment about a given object is the pleasure we subjectively experience when we contemplate it; we must “get a look at the object with our own eyes, just as if our delight depended on sensation.” If the requisite delight is lacking we cannot properly or sincerely pronounce the thing to be beautiful, nor a fortiori can agreement that it is be wrung from us by others, however numerous they may be and whatever supposed “rules of beauty” laid down by distinguished critics they may invoke in their support. As he puts it elsewhere, in such circumstances I can only “take my stand on the ground that my judgement is to be one of taste, and not one of understanding or reason” (ibid., p. 140). The contrast with the claims to validity implicit in cognitive assertions could not, it would appear, be more trenchantly affirmed. Nevertheless, and as Kant himself was well aware, the position he had reached raised a considerable problem from a philosophical point of view. If aesthetic appraisals differed from expressions of personal liking in claiming universal and—as he further maintained—necessary agreement, and if they differed from cognitive judgments in virtue of their essentially subjective orientation, the question inevitably arose as to whether, and if so in what manner, they could be said to be justifiable. It was one thing to offer an analysis that aimed to exhibit their logical and epistemological peculiarities. It was another to contend that, given such features, we were actually entitled to make them. In our ordinary practice we might speak as if we were, but with what right? When I say of an object that it is of a certain shape or dimensions, there are determinate criteria to which reference can be made; granted that its empirically identifiable properties satisfy them, I may legitimately require general assent. When, on the other hand, I call it beautiful, it is intersubjective agreement in response, not agreement in objective description, that is centrally at issue. And here, it seems, I have ultimately to consult and rely upon my own felt reactions to the thing, “to the exclusion of rules and precepts” and without the availability of empirical or conceptual proofs. But if so, what valid grounds can I or anyone else possess for purporting to speak with a “universal voice” that lays claim to the concurrence of all? In Kant’s own summary formulation of the problem, “how are judgements of taste possible?” (Part I, pp. 144–5). An early intimation of his approach to the question he posed had already appeared when he was discussing the disinterestedness of aesthetic pleasure and when he there implied that the absence of personal idiosyncrasies in determining our delight might naturally lead us to regard it as resting on what we “may also presuppose in every other person.” As originally introduced, however, this seems to be presented as a mere conjecture which is uninformative as to the content of the presupposition referred to and which in any case stands in need of independent substantiation. And much of what Kant wrote in subsequent sections may be interpreted as being designed to provide such substantiation. Thus he went on to argue that a careful examination of the inner nature and sources of our pleasure in the beautiful showed it to be due to the satisfaction of subjective conditions of judgment which must indeed be assumed to be universally present in every human being. Hence if we could be sure that the pleasure we experienced was produced in accordance with these conditions, we should in fact be entitled to call upon the agreement of others in the manner distinctive of judgments of taste. Although his reasoning in support of this conclusion takes an intricate and on occasions bewilderingly circuitous course, the salient points covered are not hard to discern. What, then, are the “subjective conditions” to which allusion has been made? Kant’s answer derives from his faculty psychology and turns on something he calls “the free play of the cognitive powers.” In the account of perceptual knowledge originally given in the Critique of Pure Reason and briefly recalled in the present work, such cognition was portrayed as involving the operations of both imagination and understanding. The imagination, as “the faculty of intuitions or representations,” holds together and synthesizes items of the sensory manifold so as to allow them to be subsumed by the understanding under appropriate concepts; in this connection, therefore, it can be said to be at the service of the understanding, “in harness” to the latter in its task of categorizing and conceptualizing the presentations of sense. Now it is Kant’s contention that the same two faculties are also operat-ive at the level of aesthetic experience. Here, however, there can be no question of there being a specifie cognitive purpose which requires the subordination of the imagination to the ends of the understanding; in consequence, the roles they respectively perform do not conform to this pattern. Instead they should be regarded as engaging or meshing together in a fashion that enlivens or “quickens” both while setting “irksome” constraints upon neither: in the ideal case, that takes the form of a harmonious accord, a mutually satisfying interaction whereby each faculty is proportionately attuned to the other in an unconstrained “entertainment of the mental powers.” The resultant “feeling of free play” is one of pleasure, and it is of such pleasure that we are conscious when our experience is of an authentically aesthetic kind. Kant believed that the above account provided the basis for a “deduction,” or justification, of the intersubjective validity to which judgments of taste laid claim. For with those the delight involved was not dependent upon merely contingent capacities for sensuous enjoyment which notoriously varied from individual to individual. On the contrary, it had been shown to presuppose the operation of intellectual faculties that must be presumed to be identical in all human beings as a priori conditions if communicable knowledge was to be possible; hence it was pleasure of a type which everybody, in appropriate circumstances and undistracted by irrelevant considerations, could rightfully be expected to share. Kant indicated, moreover, that the position he had advanced had an additional consequence to which he attached great importance, a consequence that concerned the aspects under which an object must strike us if it was to produce the requisite response. In explaining what this consisted in, he introduced the notion of “formal finality” or “purposiveness without a purpose” (Zweckmässigkeit ohne Zweck). How are these curious expressions to be understood? At first sight Kant might be taken to mean that, in ascribing beauty to products of nature, we are subjectively disposed to think of them as somehow purposively adapted to our faculties but without being thereby justified in asserting this to be actually the case. And that is suggestive of a partial analogy with what he wrote in the Introduction about the conception of nature presupposed by reflective judgment in relation to scientific enquiry. But while in contexts involving natural beauty he is apt to speak in this vein, he also makes it clear that he has something further in mind. For he also argues that for pleasure of the relevant kind to be possible our response must be occasioned by the perceptual form an object displays, this form being experienced as manifesting a self-subsistent coherence or order which is apprehended neither as serving an assignable objective end or utilitarian purpose nor as conforming to some prior notion of what the thing is supposed or intended to be. The point is elaborated in a celebrated distinction drawn between what he respectively calls “pure” or “free” beauty and “dependent” or “adherent” beauty: the first, he writes, “presupposes no concept of what the object should be; the second does presuppose such a concept and, with it, an answering perfection of the object” (Part I, p. 72). Thus if we appreciate a natural product in terms of its suitability to its biological function or a human product in terms of its meeting requirements specific to objects of that type, we are assessing it from the standpoint of dependent beauty and any pleasure we derive there-from partakes of what Kant earlier referred to as being pleasure in the good. In judging something as an instance of free beauty, on the other hand, we are concerned solely with what “pleases by its form,” the form in question presenting an appearance of design or purposive organization that is satisfying on its own account and without any reference to identifiable objective ends or preassigned specifications. The latter would introduce considerations of a conceptual or cognitive character, whereas it is essential to formal relationships of the sort proper to a “pure” judgment of taste that they should not be reducible to some “universally applicable formula” and that they should be grasped and enjoyed in a way that is altogether free from the constraint of determinate rules. In giving examples of objects that impress us with the requisite pleasingness of form, Kant selects as “beauties of nature” certain birds, flowers, and crustaceans; in general, indeed, it is to natural products that he tends to accord precedence throughout this part of his text. But he also illustrates what he has in view by mentioning various human artifacts. Thus abstract “designs à la grecque” and wallpaper patterns are said to be “free beauties” inasmuch as they have “no intrinsic meaning” or representative function—“they represent nothing—no object under a definite concept”; and he further asserts that art forms such as painting and sculpture, where “the design is what is essential,” and musical works, where “composition” has an analogous status, are likewise capable of disposing the mind to the harmonious interplay of the faculties that is productive of aesthetic satisfaction. Whether his emphasis on exclusively formal features followed from, or was even wholly consistent with, his overall account of the character and grounds of judgments of taste may be questioned. It cannot, however, be denied that his asseverations on that particular score have frequently been seen as anticipating certain substantive critical doctrines which were to achieve considerable prominence more than a hundred years after he wrote. The conception of visual art as pre-eminently a matter of “significant form,” popularized early in the twentieth century by British writers like Roger Fry and Clive Bell, has often been cited in this connection. It is noteworthy, too, that the American critic and advocate of formalism, Clement Greenberg, later explicitly referred to him as a precursor of modernist theory. Such comparisons and parallels are understandable enough if viewed in the context of some of the claims Kant put forward in the “Analytic of the Beautiful.” Nevertheless, they accord less comfortably with what he had to say when, in the second of the two main sections into which Part I of the Critique of Judgement is divided, he effectively widened the scope of his investigation of aesthetic experience. The sublime and fine an Both the title of this lengthy second section and the manner of its organization have—not surprisingly—troubled commentators. Kant called it “Analytic of the Sublime,” thereby giving the impression that he would be centrally concerned with sublimity considered as a distinguishable dimension of the aesthetic consciousness. But the heading chosen turns out to be misleadingly restrictive. Not only does the implied contrast with beauty lead him back into picking up and elaborating on matters regarding the status and justification of judgments of taste that had already been alluded to in the preceding section. He also goes on to undertake an extended examination of the nature and value of artistic achievement which reaches far beyond anything suggested by his previous, rather cursory remarks on that topic. And while it is possible to descry some connection between the treatment of art he is now concerned to provide and his treatment of the sublime, the links discernible remain at best tenuous. Following the order of Kant’s own account, we shall begin with the latter. Kant’s interest in sublimity as a distinctive aesthetic category dates back to his 1764 essay on its relation to beauty which was mentioned earlier on. As in the case of the beautiful, however, his approach to the sublime underwent a profound transformation, the setting in which his observations were originally framed being replaced by one that eschewed “merely empirical” considerations of the kind adduced by Edmund Burke in his famous study of the subject in favor of a “transcendental exposition” that involved conceptions deriving from Kant’s mature critical system. In giving such an exposition, he makes it clear that he does not wish to deny the presence of significant similarities in our appreciation of the two. Thus he claims at the outset that both are “pleasing on their own account” and without reference to any further end. Moreover, judgments of the sublime are like pure judgments of beauty in not presupposing the application of any determinate concept and in the fact that, while being singular and noncognitive, they nonetheless lay claim to universal validity. Yet, despite these affinities, there are important differences which Kant is at pains to point out. In his eyes, they are sufficiently impressive to make an independent explanation of how sublimity can figure as a recognizable aspect of our aesthetic experience seem an imperative requirement. The need for such an explanation becomes plain when we compare the satisfaction we take in the beautiful with that aroused by the sublime. As has been seen, the former is held to involve the apprehension of a formal or self-subsistent purposiveness in objects which engages our faculties of imagination and understanding in harmonious free play. Furthermore, so far as natural beauty is concerned we are elevated by the thought of nature as being in some sense ideologically ordered to elicit this pleasurable response, “a finality in its form making the object appear, as it were, preadapted to our power of judgement” (Part I, p. 91). In the case of the sublime, however, nature confronts us in quite another light. For what is striking here is the circumstance that we assign sublimity to natural effects which present themselves to us as limitlessly vast or chaotic in a way that may be totally devoid of form. And this is connected by Kant with additional points of difference. Whereas what we find beautiful in nature is experienced as being happily attuned to our mental faculties, natural products of the kind typically referred to as sublime are said to “contravene the ends of our power of judgement”; they overwhelm our capacity for sensuously taking them in, thereby constituting what he calls an “outrage on the imagination” rather than anything conducive to its unconstrained accord with the understanding. It follows (Kant thinks) that sublimity, unlike beauty, is incorrectly ascribed to the phenomena themselves; for how can what is apprehended as “inherently contra-final” be noted with an expression of approval? Instead, we should properly attribute it to the sentiments and attitudes of mind they evoke in us, these being essentially associated with the presence of rational ideas that exceed the bounds of sensory presentation. As he himself puts it: “the sublime, in the strict sense of the word, cannot be contained in any sensuous form, but rather concerns ideas of reason” (ibid., p. 92). Kant’s stipulations concerning the use of the term, and the accompanying contrast drawn with beauty, consort somewhat oddly with what he says elsewhere about the grounds and subjective orientation of aesthetic judgments in general. Given that—as he here allows—objects can properly be called beautiful in virtue of their aptitude for affecting our faculties in certain ways, why should not the same considerations apply to the phenomena we call sublime, even if these are said to affect them in a radically dissimilar manner? In fact, it is his reference to reason and its ideas that is crucial in the present context and that chiefly underlies the distinction he wishes to make. For, insofar as particular natural phenomena cause us to entertain conceptions that outrun our powers of imaginative representation, they arouse us to a consciousness of reason as an independent faculty which leads us “to esteem as small in comparison with [its] ideas…everything which for us is great in nature as an object of sense.” And that, Kant claims, helps to explain the pleasurable exaltation induced by the sublime, springing as it does from a presentiment of “our superiority over nature” that awakens us to our rational vocation and makes the mind “sensible of the sublimity of the sphere of its own being.” Accurately construed, therefore, sublimity “does not reside in any of the things of nature, but only in our own mind” (Part I, p. 114). The invocation of reason as a separate “supersensible” faculty, which according to his previous Critiques is capable of both a theoretical and a practical exercise, underpins the account Kant goes on to give of two different modes wherein the above presentiment is held to manifest itself and which he refers to respectively as the “mathematically” and the “dynamically” sublime. In the case of the first, it is the sheer magnitude and formlessness of what appears before us that is paramount, conveying a perceptually intractable impression of unlimited extent and absence of boundary. But the failure of the imagination to encompass within a comprehensive intuition what is thus intimated to it, and the consequent dissatisfaction we feel in the face of its inadequacy, is counterbalanced by the fact that we are able to grasp in thought the notion of the infinite as a totality or “absolute whole,” the latter being an indeterminate idea ascribable to reason in its theoretical capacity. Hence the very limitations displayed by the imagination in its fruitless endeavors to measure up to this idea at the level of sensuous representation serve to highlight by contrast the supremacy of our rational powers, indicating that we are endowed with “a faculty of mind transcending every standard of sense” (Part I, p. 102). A broadly analogous conclusion is reached in Kant’s discussion of the dynamically sublime, although here the focus is on reason in its practical employment and what he writes assumes a distinctively ethical character. Whereas in the preceding case it was the vast dimensions of certain phenomena that impressed us, it is now the apparently “irresistible might” exhibited by such natural occurrences as violent storms and volcanic eruptions. Like Burke before him, Kant insists that the aesthetic appreciation of nature under this threatening aspect, which brings home “a recognition of our physical helplessness,” is only possible when we view it from a position of safety; on the other hand, he fundamentally diverges from his predecessor in the interpretation he offers of the satisfaction involved. That is not (as Burke had implied) due to the moderation of our sentiments which the absence of personal danger produces and which thereby allows us to find pleasantly invigorating and stimulating what would otherwise be experienced as disagreeably frightening. On the contrary, Kant holds its actual source to lie once again in a sense of the superiority of our rational powers to those of sensibility. This time, however, it is not a theoretical capacity to surpass in thought the limits of the sensuously oriented imagination that he has in mind. Rather, it is a supposed ability at the level of our practical life to respond to hostile or menacing circumstances in such a manner as to withstand the pressures of sensuous inclination. The dynamically sublime, in other words, awakens us to the conception of ourselves as self-determining moral agents who can rise above the solicitations of sensuous impulse and make our conduct conform instead to the principles and ends laid down by practical reason. Thus in experiencing it we are conscious of being more than mere creatures of sensibility—here conceived as a susceptibility to natural desires or fears—and are raised to a presentiment of the preeminence of our rational stature. This, moreover, is something we may properly expect of all human beings in virtue of their assumed capacity for moral feeling. It follows, therefore, that judgments of the sublime, like judgments of the beautiful, may rightfully command general assent, although they do so on different grounds. The emphasis on pride in the supremacy of reason in Kant’s theory of the sublime, together with the prominent place he assigned to moral considerations, may not be felt to conform very happily to our intuitive understanding of the concept as applied in aesthetic contexts. In tackling the problems it poses, however, he at least showed a novel insight into their complexity, as well as demonstrating a salutary readiness to extend the range of his enquiry beyond the somewhat narrow limits suggested by his initial analysis of taste. And a similar sensitivity to the variety of forms that aesthetic experience can take emerges in the passages he specifically devoted to the importance and value of art. In his earlier treatment of beauty he had tended to accord paradigmatic status to natural objects, with the accompanying implication that the aesthetic quality of works of art was estimable in comparable terms. Here, by contrast, it is the distinguishing features of the latter that he goes out of his way to stress. One such feature concerns intentionality. Kant does not retract his original claim that to be beautiful natural objects must convey an impression of formal design, even appearing to us as if they had been “chosen as it were with an eye to our taste” (Part I, p. 217). But that is very different from appreciating something in the knowledge that it is the product of actual deliberation, consciously made with a view to affecting us in a manner that will be found satisfying in its own right. Artistic works are intentional in this full-blooded sense and realizing them to be so is vital to their appraisal—“a product of fine art must be recognized to be art and not nature.” That is not to suggest that they should look artificially contrived or “laboured”; rather, they must be “clothed with the aspect of nature” in not seeming to owe their creation to an obtrusive observance of constrictive or “mechanical” rules. Thus an unstudied “pleasingness of form,” consonant with the conditions of taste, remains a necessary component of artistic worth. But it is not—Kant now insists— sufficient. Acknowledgment of the intentional dimension of art requires us to take account of a further factor, one that relates to the content of a work or to what it is meant to represent. Reference to the relevance of representational considerations in evaluating artistic achievement certainly constitutes a significant departure from the restrictively formalist preoccupations evident in some of Kant’s previous pronouncements on the subject. Yet it would be wrong to conclude from what he writes about artistic representation that he simply had in mind the mimetic reproduction of natural phenomena in another medium, however elegantly or harmoniously that might be accomplished. For his discussion of it is integrally connected with the role he ascribed to “genius” in art, this being described as completely opposed to the “spirit of imitation” and as involving capacities additional to merely technical skills that can be picked up and learned through academic training. Genius, according to Kant, is an esentially original and creative power, exhibiting itself among other things in the portrayal and expression of what he termed “aesthetic ideas”: taste may impart a universally pleasing appearance to art, but it is genius, as the source of and ability to communicate such ideas, that animates genuine examples of fine art with “soul” or “spirit.” Thus questions concerning the nature of aesthetic ideas and the manner in which they can be presented by artists in a publicly accessible form assume a critical importance in his account. How should what he says about them be interpreted? In looking for an answer, it is worth noting some remarks Kant makes about their relation to ones of the kind that figured in his theory of the sublime. Ideas like those of absolute totality or transcendental freedom were “indemonstrable concepts of reason” to which nothing could objectively correspond at the level of possible experience and for which a “commensurate intuition” could therefore never be given. Aesthetic ideas, it is now suggested, may be appropriately viewed as constituting the counterpart of such purely rational conceptions. They resemble the latter in not belonging to the sphere of objective cognition, but they do so for a diametrically opposite reason. For what are here under consideration are representations or intuitions of the imagination “for which an adequate concept can never be found.” Kant elaborates on the point as follows: By an aesthetic idea I mean that representation of the imagination which induces much thought, yet without the possibility of any definite thought whatever, i.e. concept, being adequate to it, and which language, consequently, can never get quite on level terms with or render completely intelligible. (Part I, pp. 175–6) It appears, then, that insofar as works of art are understood to embody aesthetic ideas, their inner content can never be finally or exhaustively articulated in alternative terms. The multiplicity of thoughts and associations conveyed by such works overflows the boundaries of determinate formulation and definition, outrunning the resources of conceptual or linguistic expression. Kant develops and illustrates this theme in subsequent passages. He does not dispute that, in seeking to give sensuous shape to the ideas that inspire them, artists are obliged to draw upon material which is furnished by perception and which is itself susceptible to objective description. He stresses, however, that they do not do this in a merely imitative spirit, but rather in a fashion that imbues familiar phenomena with an unfamiliar meaning or symbolic resonance, thereby “animating the mind by opening out for it a prospect of kindred representations stretching beyond its ken.” Far from simply copying nature, art “surpasses” it, seizing upon the elusive intimations and fragmentary aspects of ordinary life and experience and “bodying them forth to sense with a completeness of which nature affords no parallel.” Thus imagination, regarded in the context of artistic activity as a productive rather than a reproductive capacity, can be affirmed to be “a powerful agent for creating, as it were, a second nature out of the material supplied to it by actual nature” (Part I, p. 176): it does not so much mirror the everyday world as transform it. It must be admitted that Kant’s allusions to the imaginative faculty are at times confusing, and not least in the apparently very different status accorded to it here from the one he typically assigned to it in his treatment of the sublime—he is even prepared to speak of it in its artistic employment as “emulating the display of reason in its attainment of a maximum.” But notwithstanding such difficulties and obscurities, his suggestive account of the imaginative potential of aesthetic ideas may be seen in retrospect to have been at once arresting and seminal. In emphasizing the revelatory though conceptually “inexponible” nature of specifically artistic representation, he anticipated in outline approaches followed by both Schiller and Hegel, particularly the latter’s detailed portrayal of the various arts as modes of expression in which thought and sensuousness are to be found indissolubly united or fused. The aesthetic and the ethical It was indeed Hegel who, referring to Kant’s aesthetic theory as a whole, described him as having spoken “the first rational word” on the subject. Whatever Hegel himself may have meant by this, there can be no question that Kant’s overall contribution proved to be of cardinal importance for the future development of aesthetics as a separate branch of philosophy. Rich in content and comprehensive in scope, it stands out as a historical landmark in the field, bringing into view considerations whose deeper significance had eluded the notice of earlier writers and whose ramifications have continued to haunt later ones. Furthermore, by underlining though not finally resolving problems unique to judgments of taste, it did much to encourage the notion that the aesthetic consciousness forms an autonomous or self-contained sphere, irreducible to other areas of human experience and demanding independent investigation in its own right. Yet while Kant’s influence in promoting such an outlook seems incontrovertible, a certain qualification regarding his own position is in order. It may be true that he never diverged from his fundamental claim that aesthetic judgments can no more be assimilated to practical or moral judgments than they can be to those of cognition or mere sensory liking. However, that did not prevent him from suggesting in a variety of places and contexts that connections exist between our capacities for aesthetic appreciation and broader concerns relating to our lives and conduct. This was clearly evident in his analysis of the dynamically sublime, with its pronounced ethical overtones. But discernible variations on the same general theme occur elsewhere. At one point, for example, he contends that the cultivation of taste and the communication of the delights it affords play a noteworthy role in social development, exerting a civilizing impact upon human behavior and intercourse. And at others he draws attention to analogies between the aesthetic and the moral points of view: in both cases we can be said to prescind from a preoccupation with personal gratification or advantage, regarding things instead from a universally shareable perspective; insofar as taste is conducive to such a mental state, it makes “the transition from the charm of sense to habitual moral interest possible without too violent a leap” (Part I, p. 225). Finally, Kant indicates that a concern with the beauty of nature—though not, it transpires, with that of art—is linked in a special way to our aspirations as moral beings. His point seems to turn on the often reiterated idea that natural beauties strike us as if they were designed to accord with and satisfy our mental powers in the enjoyment of aesthetic experience, intimations of such an apparent harmony between mind and nature being said to awaken an “interest…akin to the moral” (ibid., p. 160). What he writes on this score is admittedly condensed and somewhat elusive, but he can partly be taken to mean that the interest in question derives from the notion of nature’s being capable of displaying a comparable accordance with our ethical ideals and ends. If so, the moral significance he wishes to attach to the appreciation of natural beauty differs markedly from—though without necessarily conflicting with—the moral import he attributed to our experience of the dynamically sublime. For the latter was essentially related to our assumed ability as selfdetermining rational agents to rise above the promptings of natural inclination at the level of inward choice and intention. Here, on the other hand, it is the conception of nature’s ultimately harmonizing with the fulfillment of ethical ideas and projects at the level of external reality that is relevant. And that may recall what Kant wrote about the faculty of judgment in general when, at the start of the third Critique, he contemplated its playing a mediating role in relating our moral aspirations to the world. Nor need this seeming echo of his wider preoccupations surprise us. Although at times only faintly in evidence, they were seldom—if ever—altogether absent from his mind. TELEOLOGICAL JUDGMENT AND EXPLANATION In Part II of the Critique of Judgement Kant takes leave of aesthetics and returns to topics in the philosophy of science, the notion of purposiveness as “the characteristic concept of the reflective judgement” once again being prominent in what he has to say. Even so, he is at pains to point out that the issues that now occupy him must be distinguished from those he was dealing with when considering the fundamental presuppositions of scientific enquiry in the Introduction. Thus it was one thing to ascribe purposiveness to nature in the sense of conceiving the natural sphere to conform to a “logical system” of empirical laws which was adapted to our cognitive capacities and powers of comprehension. It was another to postulate or assume the applicability of purposive conceptions to particular types of objects falling within the natural realm. And it is to the specific question of whether, and if so in what manner, it may be justifiable to interpret from a scientific standpoint certain phenomena in purposive or ideological terms that the present part of the Critique is to a large extent directed. As quickly emerges, the particular phenomena Kant has in view are living or organic beings of the sort studied in biology. Internal purposiveness and the concept of an organism Generally speaking, and given the preconceptions of the age in which Kant was writing, the belief that organic phenomena presented special problems for the development of science is not hard to understand. The adoption of mechanical principles of explanation, founded upon the notion of “matter in motion” and according to which natural objects and events were universally subject to quantitatively determinable causal regularities, appeared acceptable enough when applied to the inanimate domain; by the close of the eighteenth century, indeed, the Newtonian framework of material particles and forces seemed already to have been triumphantly vindicated through the formulation of experimentally confirmed hypotheses whose explanatory power extended over a very wide range. When, however, it was proposed that the same approach should be transferred to the sphere of the organic the position looked a good deal less straightforward. For living things possessed features that apparently distinguished them sharply from inanimate entities and substances. In particular, they exhibited a degree of internal organization and complexity which made it difficult to regard them as the merely contingent products of “blind” causal forces or mechanisms and which suggested instead that it would be more apposite to invoke notions like design and purposive function in accounting for their structure. Thus a division tended to open up between those who steadfastly maintained that in the final analysis all phenomena, animate and inanimate alike, were explicable in mechanistic terms and those who claimed that the phenomena of organic life required for their proper interpretation a quite different set of ideas. The broad outlines of this emerging controversy were already clearly visible in Kant’s time. Teleological conceptions might have been effectively extruded from the sphere of physics, but the belief that they were nonetheless requisite in some form for the understanding of living things found adherents in contemporary biology. Moreover, quasi-Aristotelian ways of thinking about nature had been revived at a more general level by the philosopher J.G.Herder whose principal work, Ideas toward a Philosophy of the History of Mankind, was severely criticized by Kant himself on its publication in 1784. That such views impinged crucially upon his own position will be evident from what has already been said about the epistemological theses he had advanced in his first Critique. For according to these the very possibility of objective experience and knowledge was dependent upon the application of a priori concepts and rules in unifying the data of sense, the latter being held to correspond in essentials to the basic principles of Newtonian science. It appeared to follow, therefore, that nature was universally subject to regularities that conformed to the accepted paradigm of scientific explanation: in Kant’s words, “appearances must… be capable of complete causal explanation in terms of other appearances in accordance with natural laws” (Critique of Pure Reason, B 574). Claims of this sort, suggestive of an unqualified commitment to the tenets of the Newtonian scheme, might thus lead one to suppose that he would have ranged himself firmly with those who argued that organisms, no less than the rest of the natural world, were susceptible to mechanistic modes of explanation, and that he would have set his face against any attempt to reintroduce—even within a limited field of enquiry—conceptions that apparently harked back to an earlier epoch of scientific thinking. In fact, however, he followed another route; the opinions on the subject he eventually arrived at were altogether more complex, with reflective judgment being invoked to resolve the matters in dispute. At a preliminary stage of his approach to what he calls “objective finality in nature,” Kant distinguishes between the notions of “external” and “internal” purposiveness. With reference to the first of these, he points out that various natural products may be regarded as being designed either for our own benefit or else for the use and advantage of other living creatures. For example, grass may be said to exist in order to support herbivores like sheep or cattle, and the existence of the latter may in turn be viewed as answering to the needs of human beings. But although we may be led to look at things in this light if we make certain further assumptions, we are in no sense bound to do so. Taken simply by themselves, we can causally account for and sufficiently explain such externally adaptive relationships without recourse to any teleological ideas. By contrast, understanding the internal structure and development of organic phenomena seems positively to demand their employment. Thus we find it not merely natural but necessary to treat a living object like a plant or an animal as being something of which “every part is thought as owing its presence to the agency of all the remaining parts, and also as existing for the sake of the others and of the whole, that is as an instrument” (Part II, p. 21). So conceived, an organism can be termed a “natural end” (Naturzweck), an entity whose inner constitution appears to be governed by an idea of what it is meant to be or become and whose component elements variously contribute to this purpose in a fashion suggestive of the operations of a constructive intelligence; indeed, the very notion of living things as “organized beings” may be felt to carry this implication. Moreover, in the case of internal as opposed to external purposiveness, Kant insists that objects which exemplify it are such that we are unable to imagine how their nature and production could be accounted for in terms of “mechanical principles” alone. It is impossible for human reason to hope to understand the generation of even “a blade of grass” from merely mechanical causes: “such insight,” he roundly declares, “we must absolutely deny to mankind” (ibid., p. 54). Pronouncements of the above kind strongly suggest that it is primarily to teleological modes of thought rather than to ones presupposing the operations of physical causality that we should look when investigating organic phenomena—a proposal encapsulated in Kant’s dictum that an organism is a natural product in which “nothing is in vain, without an end, or to be ascribed to a blind mechanism of nature” (Part II, p. 25). Hence we may gain the impression that he was prepared after all, and despite expectations to the contrary, to side with the antimechanist camp in biology. And on the face of it this would seem to entail his accepting a dualism regarding our understanding of the empirical world which was hard, if not impossible, to reconcile with his own stated epistemological commitments. It turns out, however, that he only subscribed to it in a form that imposed important restrictions upon both the significance and the actual implications of the teleological principles involved. Teleology and empirical science In the first place, Kant was concerned to emphasize that similarities discernible between natural organisms and purposively constructed human artifacts must not be allowed to obscure no less striking differences. An artificial contrivance such as a watch fulfills its function because the parts of which it is composed interact by moving one another in ways that have been independently determined by its maker. Living phenomena, by contrast, are apprehended as “self-organizing” entities, endowed with a “formative power” (bildende Kraft) which remains for us basically mysterious in its workings and for which no close analogue exists among the products of human art or technique. The various components of an organism are interrelated in a distinctively intimate and reciprocal manner, both “producing” and “sustaining” one another: for example, if an essential part of a tree is damaged or destroyed, the deficiency is apt to be repaired or made good “by the aid of the rest” so as to preserve the life of the whole to which they severally belong. Thus in considering the role of the concepts of design and purpose in biology it is necessary to recognize the constraints that govern their meaningful use in that context. Second, Kant indicates that in any event teleological principles of the sort employed in the interpretation of biological processes ultimately possess no more than a regulative status. In this view, to be sure, they are indispensable to our thought about these, affording modes of understanding and suggesting fruitful lines of enquiry at a point where the resources of explanation in terms of efficient causality seem to fail us. And that, indeed, may also encourage us to enlarge the field of their application to nature as a whole, adopting a perspective on reality wherein it is assumed that “everything in the world is good for something or other; nothing in it is in vain” (Part II, p. 28). In conformity with the reservations he has already expressed about attributions of “external” purposiveness, however, Kant is careful not to ascribe to such an extended employment of teleological conceptions the indispensability he thinks these have for us within the more limited sphere of organic phenomena; we are not obliged to contemplate nature in general in this way. Nevertheless he holds that, even in the case of the organic sphere, to say that we find it subjectively necessary to bring purposive notions to its interpretation is not to say that these can be accredited with objective validity. It is one thing to assert that we are intellectually so constituted that we cannot render organic phenomena intelligible to ourselves other than by treating them as if they were—in some admittedly mysterious sense—designed or organized to accord with a preconceived idea or intention regarding their final form. It is another to assert this to be so as a matter of objective fact, their possibility being dependent upon the agency of a nonhuman intelligence or creative mind. The latter, according to Kant, is something we could never justify or prove: strictly speaking, “we do not observe the ends in nature as designed” but “only read this conception into the facts as a guide to judgement in its reflection upon the products of nature” (ibid., p. 53). Here as elsewhere, in other words, we occupy the standpoint of reflective judgment, operating with heuristic concepts and principles that play a vital role in directing our thought about nature but without being in a position to affirm the actual existence of a supernatural designer or “author of the world.” In effect, and whatever concessions he may have made to the opponents of mechanism in biology, Kant did not abandon the conviction that explanation of a cognitively acceptable kind must conform to the mechanical paradigm. It is noteworthy, for instance, that he consistently speaks of our “estimating” (beurteilen) organic processes through teleological conceptions, not of our explaining them thereby. Moreover, he reiterates the point that we should always press the search for mechanical causes as far as we can, since if we do not follow this procedure there can be “no knowledge of nature in the true sense at all.” And while he undoubtedly asserts, quite categorically, that we can never hope to arrive at purely physical explanations of organic phenomena, he stresses that it would even so be “presumptuous” dogmatically to conclude that some “mechanism of nature,” sufficient to account for them, does not in fact exist. That is something which we have simply no means of knowing; the most that can reasonably be affirmed is that such a possibility lies beyond the limits of human comprehension. Despite its considerable ingenuity, Kant’s attempt to do justice to the rival claims of mechanism and teleology is not free from difficulty. It is true that at one point he writes as if the “antinomy” to which these approaches may be said to give rise can be surmounted by understanding each of them to be endorsing a particular methodological “maxim” for the investigation of nature rather than a principle purportively constitutive of its objective character. Thus a rule enjoining us invariably to seek causal explanations as far as we are able is not inconsistent with a rule legitimizing a resort to purposive interpretations when “a proper occasion” presents itself: to that extent the two standpoints can be reconciled. One trouble with this proposal, however, is that the causal principle was originally portrayed by Kant as being constitutive; to treat it now as having no more than the regulative status he has ascribed to its teleological counterpart would represent an apparent departure from that position. Furthermore, it is one thing to assert of certain phenomena, which at a given stage of enquiry seem to resist physical or mechanical explanation, that they may be accounted for instead along teleological lines. It is a different and more questionable matter to say of them that a complete causal explanation must forever be beyond our reach; indeed, the subsequent history of the biological sciences makes such a contention look somewhat bizarre. Even so, Kant certainly implied that, insofar as we found ourselves obliged to understand the functional structure of organisms in purposive terms, it was impossible for us to regard them as the mere products of what he himself called “blind efficient causes”; nor was he alone among his contemporaries in feeling that the two conceptions prima facie excluded one another in their application. Consequently, and notwithstanding the qualifications he introduced, he appears to have been committed to holding that we were precluded from fully assimilating organic phenomena to the framework within which all objective knowledge and genuinely scientific explanation are set. And it was perhaps partly a recognition of the problems this ostensibly presents that led him to entertain the notion of a possible understanding, “higher than the human,” which would comprehend the mechanical and teleological principles as cohering within a single uniting principle that transcended them: “if this were not so,” he writes, “they could not both enter consistently into the same survey of nature” (Part II, p. 70). He argues, however, that such a principle can only be referred to what, as the supersensible or noumenal ground of the phenomenal realm, lies outside the range of empirical representation. Thus so far as we ourselves are concerned it must be one of which, from a theoretical point of view, we are unable to form “the slightest positive determinate conception.” TELEOLOGY, MORALITY, AND GOD Kant’s contention that the supersensible constitutes a realm necessarily inaccessible to human knowledge and understanding of a theoretical kind is one that recurs in the Appendix which forms the long concluding section of the Critique of Judgement. This comprises a careful and wide-ranging discussion of the conceivable relevance of teleological interpretations of the natural world to the claims of theology. It is true that the question of whether the apparent evidence of purposiveness in nature could be invoked in support of such claims had already been broached in the Critique of Pure Reason, where it was examined along with other attempts that had classically been made to establish the existence and character of God from a speculative standpoint. Kant clearly felt, however, that the comprehensive investigation he had now undertaken of the general status and limitations of teleological judgment in relation to natural science warranted his embarking upon a more extended analysis than hitherto of the issues which the so-called “argument from design” involved. Furthermore, such an analysis seemed especially called for in the light of what he had written in his second Critique concerning the possibility of justifying belief in God from a moral or practical point of view as opposed to a theoretical one. As has been seen, Kant specifically denied the legitimacy of deriving theological conclusions from the fact that we find ourselves subjectively obliged to interpret certain natural products in teleological terms. It may be that the best sense we can make of such apparently purposive phenomena as organisms is by thinking of them as the creations of “a supreme intelligence”; he implies, indeed, that this is the case. But at the same time he reiterates the point that such an hypothesis is devoid of objective authority and that its import must instead be comprehended heuristically; it can never do more than point to this cause in the interests of the reflective judgement engaged in surveying nature, its purpose being to guide our estimate of the things in the world by means of the idea of such a ground, as a regulative principle, in a manner adapted to our human understanding. (Part II, pp. 75–6) The latter claim certainly accords with his critical objections to any theoretical attempt to transcend the limits of possible experience. Yet he thinks that, even if his strictures on that score were disregarded, other important difficulties would remain. By no means all natural phenomena impress us as bearing the marks of design; nor is it true that everything that occurs in the empirical world is prima facie easy to reconcile with the thought that nature in general has issued from the hand of a wise and beneficent creator. It would seem, in fact, that the most we could reasonably hope to establish by following this path would be the formative operations of a suprahuman “artistic understanding” (Kunstverstand) sufficient to account for “miscel-laneous ends” of the sort natural organisms exemplify. But that is a far cry from being entitled to infer that the world as a whole is the product of a presiding moral divinity with an overarching end or purpose in view. And if we confine ourselves to the theoretical contemplation of nature alone it is unclear how such an inference could conceivably be justified. There is nothing in the natural order when considered solely by itself which can properly be held to qualify as an unconditioned or final end of creation capable of endowing it with meaning and value in our eyes. The various weaknesses of the argument from design, referred to by Kant himself as “physico-theology,” do not however require us to suppose that no such ultimate end can be identified. This becomes apparent if we turn aside from theoretical considerations and approach the matter from the standpoint of practical reason as exhibited in our moral experience. When looked at in that perspective it is evident that man emerges as the only possible candidate—“without man…the whole of creation would be a mere wilderness, a thing in vain, and have no final end” (Part II, p. 108). In our capacity as moral agents we are aware of having a status which sets us apart from the rest of the natural order and which uniquely assigns to our existence intrinsic worth. For it is a presupposition of the moral consciousness that, regarded as rational beings possessing freedom of choice and volition, we are able to act under laws and pursue objectives that originate, not in nature, but in ourselves. In Kant’s words: Only in man, and only in him as the individual being to whom the moral law applies, do we find unconditional legislation in respect of ends. This legislation, therefore, is what alone qualifies him to be a final end to which entire nature is ideologically subordinated. (Ibid., p. 100) How is this supposed to be relevant to the issue that physico-theology tries but fails to resolve—the existence of God as “the supreme cause of nature and its attributes”? It is Kant’s contention that, while a theoretical appeal to our experience of nature cannot legitimize theological claims, there is a sense in which a recognition of what is essentially involved in our vocation as moral agents may be said to do so. Following the line of thought articulated in his second Critique, he argues that practical reason sets before us as an a priori obligation the project of promoting what he calls the summum bonum, “the highest good in the world possible through freedom” (Part II, p. 118). Such a goal is held to constitute an ideal state of affairs wherein human happiness would be appropriately proportioned to moral desert, a condition that manifestly does not obtain in life as we know it but which we are nonetheless called upon to help to realize. Granted, however, that this is something morality obliges us to pursue as a duty, it follows that we must believe it to be ultimately attainable; and that consideration, when taken in conjunction with the limitations to which we are inescapably subject as finite and imperfect members of the world, requires us to assume the existence of a “moral author” of nature capable of ensuring that our efforts will not turn out to be finally vain. Kant thinks that someone who, though in general righteously disposed, does not assume this will inevitably be “circumscribed in his endeavour,” eventually abandoning any attempt to further the project in question on the ground of its impracticability. If, on the other hand, such a person resolves to be faithful to the call of their “inner moral vocation” and acts accordingly, they thereby show themselves to be committed to “the existence of a moral author of the world, that is, of a God” (ibid., p. 121). Such an assumption, in other words, is essential if we are to “think in a manner consistent with morality”; to employ the terminology of the second Critique, it represents a “postulate” of pure practical reason. Admittedly, and as Kant points out in an important footnote, this argument still does not amount to an “objectively valid proof” of God; on critical principles that remains forever impossible. But it is nonetheless “sufficient subjectively and for moral persons” (ibid., p. 119). And given the necessary primacy for us of the moral law, he implies that it is all that we can properly ask for or need. The priority that Kant assigns to what he calls “the moral proof” in the last part of the Critique of Judgement raises the question of what significance, if any, he is prepared to attribute to ideological conceptions of nature from a theological point of view. He certainly concedes that the traditional argument from design is worthy of respect; unlike other speculative arguments, it has appeared as persuasive to the understanding of the ordinary “man in the street” as it has to that of the “subtlest thinker.” He implies, though, that this tends to be due to an unnoticed confusion between an ostensible reliance upon purely empirical factors and the underlying influence of “moral considerations to which everyone in the depth of his heart assents.” When these two strands are carefully distinguished, it becomes clear that it is the second that actually produces conviction, any presumed dependence of the conclusion reached upon the “physico-teleological evidence” being in fact illusory. And he drives the point home by claiming that, even if as rational beings we inhabited a universe in which nature showed no trace of features suggestive of physical teleology, the asseverations of practical reason regarding the existence of God would still retain their force. Yet all the same, and notwithstanding his insistence that “physico-theology is physical teleology misunderstood” (Part II, p. 108), he does not go so far as to declare that such a teleology is wholly irrelevant or otiose in the present context. Considered as affording the premises for a theoretical demonstration it is certainly useless to the theologian. But it does not follow that it has no subsidiary role to play. Kant indicates, for instance, that it may at least function “as a preparation or propaedeutic,” disposing the mind to entertain the idea of there being an “intelligent” source of nature and thereby rendering it “more susceptible to the influence of the moral proof.” Furthermore, he also goes on to suggest that the abundance of material for teleological judgment which the actual world supplies can be said to serve us “as a desirable confirmation of the moral argument, so far as nature can adduce anything analogous to the ideas of reason (moral ideas in this case)” (Part II, p. 155). In trying to interpret this rather cryptic remark, it will be worth recalling again the notion—initially advanced in the Introduction to the Critique—of judgment’s affording a mediating link between practical reason as the supersensible source of moral requirements and nature as constituting the sensible sphere wherein they are to be given effect and realized. Now according to Kant’s moral proof we must believe that the pre-eminent objective reason sets before us is an attainable one, this belief involving as an indispensable condition our acceptance of the existence of God. But it is not easy from a human standpoint to give content to that idea without envisaging nature to be designed in a manner that makes the attainment of such an end possible. Thus the fact that innumerable natural phenomena seem to demand for their intelligibility the employment of teleological concepts may be welcomed as lending some reinforcement to the thought of nature’s being purposively adapted to the practicable fulfillment of what the moral consciousness enjoins; for as Kant puts it: “the conception of a supreme cause that possesses intelligence… acquires by that means such reality as is sufficient for reflective judgement” (ibid.). Even so, the problem of ultimately reconciling teleological and mechanistic interpretations of the natural world remains; and while Kant has allowed that a transcendent principle capable of subsuming or accommodating both might conceivably obtain at the level of a higher understanding, he at the same time reiterates the point that, so far as human knowledge is concerned, the conception of nature as a product of intelligent design can never be theoretically established or proved. Reflective judgment may perform a salutary service in supplementing assumptions to which, as a matter of moral necessity, we find ourselves committed by practical reason. As, however, he has consistently maintained throughout the third Critique, in none of its forms can judgment itself be accredited with cognitive insight into what lies beyond the bounds of the phenomenal sphere. Such assurance as we have on the latter score can never be other than a moral assurance, one that holds good for us “from a purely practical point of view” (Part II, pp. 143–4). SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Original language editions 4.1 Kant, I. Kritik der Urteilskraft, Berlin, 1790. 4.2 Kants gesammelte Schriften, 29 vols, ed. Deutschen (formerly Königlich Preussische) Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin: de Gruyter (and predecessors), 1902–, Vol. V. English translations 4.3 Kant’s Critique of Judgement, trans. J.C.Meredith, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952: all references in the text are to this translation. 4.4 Kant’s First Introduction to the Critique of Judgement, trans. J.Haden, New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965. Bibliographies 4.5 Cohen, T., and Guyer, P. (eds) Essays in Kant’s Aesthetics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982, pp. 308–23. 4.6 Guyer, P. (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Kant, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 467–9. Influences 4.7 Addison, J. “On the Pleasures of the Imagination,” The Spectator (1712); trans. into German 1745; in Addison, J. The Spectator, 5 vols, ed. with introduction and notes by D.F.Bond, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965, pp. 535–82. 4.8 Burke, E. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), ed. with introduction and notes by J.T.Boulton, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958. 4.9 Hume, D. Essays Moral, Political and Literary (1693), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963. General surveys 4.10 Cassirer, E. Kant’s Life and Thought (1918), trans. J.Haden, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1981. Specific topics 4.11 Cassirer, H.W. A Commentary on Kant’s Critique of Judgement, London: Methuen, 1938. 4.12 Caygill, H. Art of Judgement, Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. 4.13 Cohen, T., and Guyer, P. (eds) Essays in Kant’s Aesthetics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. 4.14 Crawford, D. Kant’s Aesthetic Theory, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974. 4.15 Crowther, P. The Kantian Sublime, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. 4.16 Guyer, P. Kant and the Claims of Taste, London and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. 4.17 Kernel, S. Kant and Fine Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986. 4.18 McCloskey, M. Kant’s Aesthetics, London: Macmillan, 1986. 4.19 McFarland, J.D. Kant’s Concept of Teleology, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1970. 4.20 McLaughlin, P. Kant’s Critique of Teleology in Biological Explanation, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990. 4.21 Mothersill, M. Beauty Restored, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984. 4.22 Podro, M. The Manifold of Perception: Theories of Art from Kant to Hildebrand, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972. 4.23 Savile, A. Aesthetic Reconstructions: The Seminal Writings of Lessing, Kant and Schiller, Oxford: Blackwell, 1987. 4.24 Schaper, E. Studies in Kant’s Aesthetics, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1979. 4.25 Walsh, W.H. “Kant’s Moral Theology,” Proceedings of the British Academy, 49 (1963):263–89. 4.26 Wood, A. Kant’s Rational Theology, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978. 4.27 Yovel, Y. Kant and the Philosophy of History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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