The Inclusive Interpretation of Kant's Aesthetic Ideas

British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (1):21-39 (2013)
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In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant offers a theory of artistic expression in which he claims that a work of art is a medium through which an artist expresses an ‘aesthetic idea’. While Kant’s theory of aesthetic ideas often receives rather restrictive interpretations, according to which aesthetic ideas can either present only moral concepts, or only moral concepts and purely rational concepts, in this article I offer an ‘inclusive interpretation’ of aesthetic ideas, according to which they can present not only moral and purely rational concepts but also empirical concepts and emotions related to our ordinary experience. Although this latter class of experience-oriented aesthetic ideas has been neglected, I argue that recognizing the role it plays in Kant’s account is crucial for understanding his views not only of artistic production and our experience of art but also of the value he takes art to have for our ordinary experience of the world, others, and our own selves. What is more, insofar as the inclusive interpretation brings to light Kant’s acknowledgement of the close connection between experience and art, it reveals that his overall view of art is more plausible than is often thought, and recommends it as worthy of further consideration.
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