Review of The Significance of Beauty: Kant on Feeling and the System of the Mind [Book Review]

Philosophy in Review 19 (2):122-124 (1999)
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Abstract

Matthews discusses the role of our ability to make a judgment of taste (judgment of beauty) within Kant's notion of the structure of the mind. In doing this she does not simply rely upon what we can learn from the first part of the third critique, the 'Critique of Aesthetic Judgment', but draws upon Kant's philosophy as a whole, including the first two critiques and the second part of The Critique of Judgment, the 'Critique of Teleological Judgment'. She looks at how the ability to judge beauty links to other aspects of the mind: in particular to our ability to make moral judgments and to our ability to cognize experience, the latter involving a selection of those aspects of nature which lend themselves to the kind of ordering of which our minds are predisposed. Matthews identifies a link in Kant's thinking between creativity and aesthetic judgment. That is, she understands Kant to be saying that aesthetic judgment makes revolutionary ways of thinking possible (p.71). However, in her introduction she writes 'Beauty need not lead to knowledge or moral activity in order to have value in our lives' (p.1). Matthews points out that her aim in this book is to show that the feeling of beauty serves a larger purpose for Kant. The relevant feature of the experience of beauty is its 'ability to orient rational beings in a sensible world'. Her book is dedicated to explaining how the experience of beauty does this. The feeling of beauty, she writes, 'acts as a mediating link between theoretical and practical reason' (p.1).

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Jennifer A. McMahon
University of Adelaide

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