Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi sends me this:
I'm supposed to give a lecture tomorrow on Kant's "Critique of Judgment," but I have a plane to catch and won't have time to read it, so I was wondering if you could provide me with a summary of the work.
Well, here's what I had time to put together. Hope this helps:
First Book: Analytic of the Beautiful
In his first critique, Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) lays the empirical foundations for a comprehensive theory of knowledge. In the second critique, Critique of Practical Reason (1788), he presents a moral philosophy built upon the theoretical foundations laid in the first work. The third critique, Critique of (Aesthetic) Judgment (1790), is his critique of the aesthetical, or “judicial,” in which he seeks to accomplish two major tasks: first, to bridge the chasm between the theoretical knowledge of the first book and the practical knowledge of the second book through a third, intermediary legislate, which he calls “judgment”; and, second, to reconcile the subjectivity of aesthetic experience with a priori, communal standards of taste (sensus communis), which are based predominately on feelings of pleasure and displeasure. Before we jump into the argument, let me first clarify some of Kant’s more important terms.
First, there are the two kinds of judgment: determinant judgment and reflective judgment. Determinant judgment belongs to the understanding, and refers to a given universal concept. Reflective judgment belongs to the faculty of judgment, and refers to no given universal concept. In reflective judgment, the imagination is required to invent any corresponding universal concept.
The latter type, reflective judgment, is further divided into three kinds: systemic (dealing with a priori systems such as mathematics), teleological (dealing with end- and purpose-related judgments), and aesthetical (dealing with purposeless judgments). The aesthetic type is further divided into two kinds, the beautiful and the sublime.
There are also the mental faculties, which Kant divides into knowledge, feeling and desire. The first, knowledge, is regulated by the understanding, which, as mentioned above, is “the faculty of cognition under universal rules.” The second type of mental faculty, feeling, is regulated by judgment, which is “the faculty of thinking the particular as subsumed under the universal.” The third type is desire, which is regulated by reason. Kant defines desire as “the faculty of determining the particular by the universal.”
The terms purpose and purposiveness appear frequently in Kant’s argument, and are defined thus: purpose is “the concept of an object so far as it contains the ground for the existence of the object,” while purposiveness is “the agreement of an object with the arrangement that is possible only according to purposes.”
As stated above, there are two kinds of judgments, determinant and reflexive, the former having a fixed concept to which it refers, the latter having none. Of the reflexive type, there are four possible judgments: the agreeable, the beautiful, the sublime, and the good. The agreeable involves only sensory perception. The good involves ethics, and therefore is limited to moral judgment. The remaining two― the beautiful and the sublime― are the two aesthetic judgments, and exist somewhere in between the two polar coordinates, the agreeable (a posteriori) and the good (a priori). Kant oxymoronically calls these two aesthetic judgments “subjective universals.” Because they are neither teleological (i.e., concerned with ends or purposes) nor bound to logical reasoning or fixed aesthetic notions, they are subjective; and because the judgments are formed within the sensus communis (or community of taste), they are, to some extent, universal.
The beautiful has the three following characteristics: a wholeness of design, a creative intent (which is to be distinguished from teleological “purposefulness”), and a “form of finality.” By contrast, the sublime, which Kant elaborates on in the second half of this critique, lacks this wholeness, possessing instead an infiniteness of degree. Being infinite, the sublime is therefore beyond the bounds of our finite comprehension, and thus evokes in us a kind of fear or awe that is not experienced through the observation of beauty.
As Raman Selden points out, Kant’s argument marked a shift away from the reader’s response and subjectivity toward a “concern with the internality of the work itself” (377). To my mind, however, it seems that Kant is more concerned with the experience of art as noumenal phenomenon (i.e. the processes of the perceiving mind) than he is with the internal components and structure of the art itself.
To review, for an object to be beautiful, the following conditions must be met: the work must not have any corresponding concept or preconceived notion; each judgment must be treated as particular and singular (i.e. no logical generalizations); the work is not to be judged “in terms of an external purpose” (though it may have internal purposiveness, or what he calls “purposiveness without purpose”). By this logic, then, Selden concludes, “all neoclassical external canons of beauty are likewise of no value, for they posit an external standard on purpose” (377). In essence, Kant is liberating the work of art from the classical idea of mimesis, which holds that the representation is to be judged, at least in part, by its likeness to the object of imitation. (To be continued . . .)
[For an English translation of Kant's essay see J.H. Bernard’s 1931 translation (second edition), which is included in The theory of criticism from Plato to the present : a reader / edited and introduced by Raman Selden. Imprint London ; New York : Longman, 1988.]