Kant on the Pleasures of Understanding

In Alix Cohen (ed.), Kant on Emotion and Value. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 126-145 (2014)
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Abstract

Why did Kant write the Critique of Judgment, and why did he say that his analysis of the judgment of taste — his technical term for our enjoyment of beauty — is the most important part of it? Kant claims that his analysis of taste “reveals a property of our faculty of cognition that without this analysis would have remained unknown” (KU §8, 5:213). The clue lies in Kant’s view that while taste is an aesthetic, and non-cognitive, mode of judgment, it nevertheless involves the “free play” of cognitive capacities that is pleasurable in some way that ordinary cognitive business is not. My thesis is that the judgment of taste reveals a pleasure that is not usually apparent when we understand something in particular, but which is nevertheless proper to the activity of understanding as such. This matters, I argue, because in this way the judgment of taste points to a standard of cognitive virtue.

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Melissa M Merritt
University of New South Wales

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