Kant on Aesthetic Normativity

Re-Thinking Kant 7 (2024)
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From Kant’s point of view, the puzzle about judgments of taste is that they claim to normativity—in Kant’s terms, to intersubjective validity or communicability—but nevertheless have only a subjective basis or “determining ground (Bestimmungsgrund).” The task of §9 of the Critique of Judgment in particular is to delineate an account of aesthetic response that accommodates Kant’s solution to this puzzle. If the aesthetic pleasure “precedes” the judgment—in other words, if the judgment is about the pleasure—then the judgment of taste would be merely private, like other judgments about things that cause us pleasure. So the judgment must precede the pleasure. But “nothing… can be universally communicated except cognition, and representation so far as it belongs to cognition. (V:217) Therefore, the determining ground of the judgment of taste must be “the mental state encountered in the relation of the mental powers of representation to each other insofar as they relate a given cognition to cognition in general.” (V:217) A bit later, he calls this state of mind a “feeling of the free play of the powers of representation in a given representation for a given representation for a cognition in general.” The appeal to ‘cognition in general’ can do what Kant needs it to do only if it conveys the normativity of cognition simpliciter but not its conceptual determinacy. I want to propose that we take ‘cognition in general’ to mean ‘integration into a unified system of empirical cognition.’ If I am successful, it will have the consequence that the basis for the normativity of taste— that is, the expectation that others ought to agree with our judgments-- is the same as the basis for the normativity of cognitive judgments.

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Ted Kinnaman
George Mason University


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