Rationally Agential Pleasure? A Kantian Proposal

In Lisa Shapiro (ed.), Pleasure: a History. Oxford University Press. pp. 167-194 (2018)
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The main claim of the paper is that, on Kant's account, aesthetic pleasure is an exercise of rational agency insofar as, when proper, it has the following two features: (1) It is an affective responsiveness to the question: “what is to be felt disinterestedly”? As such, it involves consciousness of its ground (the reasons for having it) and thus of itself as properly responsive to its object. (2) Its actuality depends on endorsement: actually feeling it involves its endorsement as an attitude to have. I claim that seeing that nature of aesthetic pleasure requires that we divest ourselves of the following dilemma: either feelings are the non-cognitive, passive ways through which we are affected by objects; or they are cognitive states by virtue of the theoretical beliefs they necessarily involve. On my reading of Kant, this dilemma is false. Aesthetic pleasure is neither passive, nor theoretically cognitive, and yet, it is an exercise of rational agency by virtue of belonging to a domain of rationality that is largely overlooked in the history of philosophy, but that deserves, I argue following Kant, our close attention: aesthetic rationality. In the first section, I explain this nature of aesthetic pleasure, and in the second section, I respond to a charge of “over-intellectualism."
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