Kant's Feeling: Why a Judgment of Taste is De Dicto Necessary

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Necessity can be ascribed not only to propositions, but also to feelings. In the Critique of Judgment (KdU), Immanuel Kant argues that a feeling of beauty is the necessary satisfaction instantiated by the ‘free play’ of the cognitive faculties, which provides the grounds for a judgment of taste (KdU 5:196, 217-19). In contradistinction to the theoretical necessity of the Critique of Pure Reason and the moral necessity of the Critique of Practical Reason, the necessity assigned to a judgment of taste is exemplary necessity (KdU 5:237). Necessity can also be assigned by employing the de re/de dicto distinction, namely, by ascribing entailments of what must necessarily hold to either a thing (de re) or to a proposition (de dicto). Although Kant does not use the distinction in any of the three Critiques, this omission has not prevented Kant scholars from applying the distinction in their analyses of the first two Critiques. In this paper, I examine the role that modality plays in Kant’s third Critique and I attempt to bring the de re/de dicto distinction to bear on Kant’s famous aesthetic theory. Ultimately, I perform a retrospective classification of the modality of taste by arguing that because a judgment of taste is not a statement about an objective fact, a judgment of ‘x is beautiful’ can only be read as de dicto necessary.
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Archival date: 2021-08-10
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