ON THE “NATURALIST” CRITIQUE OF CLEMENT GREENBERG VIDE KANT: A MISTAKEN & HANDED-DOWN CRITIQUE

Cosmos and History : The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 19 (2):52-72 (2023)
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Abstract

According to commentators like Rosalind Krauss, Briony Fer, Caroline Jones, and Michael Fried, Clement Greenberg’s formalist/positivist device of “medium-specificity” debars errant affective aesthetic experiences that are embodied; despite significant differences in how these theorists arrive at this conclusion, one shared point of emphasis is Greenberg’s inheriting Kant’s disinterested conception of pleasure in reflective judgments of beauty. Offering a textualist review of Kant’s Analytic of the Beautiful, I seek to demonstrate that neither Greenberg, nor Greenberg’s critics, are correct in their account of Kant’s judgments of beauty.1 Specifically, I argue that Greenberg conflates Kant’s conception of judgments of free beauty (pulchritudo vaga) with merely adherent beauty (pulchritudo adhaerens). In formulating a rejoinder to Greenberg and the misplacement of Greenberg as a Kantian, and following Diarmuid Costello, I hope to save a path for a Kantian aesthetics of the present, much in the spirit of other broadly Kantian art historians and philosophers of art/aesthetics (e.g., Thierry de Duve, Paul Guyer, Ido Geiger, etc.).

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