Thursday, October 01, 2015


[I will resume posting these snatches about Kant’s Aesthetics: how often or for how long I cannot say.]

When Kant heads the first Section of the First Moment of the first Book “The judgment of taste is aesthetic” he has said all that there is to say on the subject. The judgment of taste is aesthetic, the judgment of taste is an immediate awareness, the judgment of taste is an intuition, the judgment of taste is subjective — all of these formulations say the same thing and that is the whole of Aesthetics. We can continue to create fresh articulations, fresh modes of expression, of this insight, but there is nothing to explain, nothing to analyze. We are face to face with a reality, a mystery, that cam mever be explained. Poets and lovers have for millennia been singing their love, but the mystery of Love remains unspoken, because Love is the root and source of everything but can never be a thing to be objectively examined, described, analyzed. This is not to banish or abolish Aesthetics, but it saves us much error to know what we are up to. Kant could have saved himself much trouble and saved his readers much bewilderment if he had given us his enlightening insights without the abstruse critiques, analyses, derivations, and dialectics.

Kant observes that in aesthetic judgment “what matters is what I make of (the) representation in myself” (5: 305). All apprehension, on the level of understanding, aesthetic feeling, emotion, or bare sensation, is creative: something from within us meets the incoming impression and gives it its colour, its meaning, its quality.

At the end of the First Moment Kant gives a definition of the beautiful. It runs: “Taste is the faculty for judging an object or a kind of representation through a satisfaction or dissatisfaction without any interest. The object of such a satisfaction is called beautiful.” This is a valid definition in terms of the classifications and distinctions of Kant’s theory. This is good as far as it goes, but no one will say that it throws any light on the nature of the beautiful. There is no going beyond Socrates’ foolish “All things beautiful are beautiful bt Beauty.” And that places us face to face not only with the secret of Beauty but also with the secret of our inner reality and of all the reality we are given to know. The rubric under §6 (Second Moment) reads: “The beautiful is that which, without concepts, is represented as the object of a universal satisfaction.” The specification “without concepts” stresses the immediacy of the aesthetic intuition, and that is good, but the rest of the statement is ambiguous, and we are still saying nothing about the what of the beautiful.

D. R. Khashaba

Cairo, October 1, 2015.


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