Aesthetic representation of purposiveness and the concept of beauty in Kant’s aesthetics. The solution of the ‘everything is beautiful’ problem

Philosophical Inquiries 4 (2):69-88 (2016)
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In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant introduces the notion of the reflective judgment and the a priori principle of purposiveness or systematicity of nature. He claims that the ability to judge objects by means of this principle underlies empirical concept acquisition and it is therefore necessary for cognition in general. In addition, he suggests that there is a connection between this principle and judgments of taste. Kant’s account of this connection has been criticized by several commentators for the reason that it leads to the ‘everythingisbeautiful’ problem. In this paper I argue, contrary to these objections, that both finding an object beautiful and acquiring the concept represent the satisfaction of the same principle of nature’s purposiveness, which refers to the same cognitive need we have, that is, to systematize experience. I avoid the ‘everything is beautiful’ problem by arguing that aesthetic reflection refers to the synthesis of object’s individual and distinctive properties, while logical reflection refers to the synthesis of object’s general properties that it shares with other objects of its kind. Because aesthetic purposiveness is different from logical purposiveness, this allows for the possibility that we can have an object of cognition, without finding this object beautiful.
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