Aesthetics and Morality in Kant and Confucius. A Second Step

In Stephen Palmquist (ed.), Cultivating Personhood. Kant and Asian Philosophy. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 321-332 (2010)
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In the framework of his transcendental philosophy, Kant strictly separates morality from aesthetics. The pleasure in the good and the pleasure in the beautiful are two different kinds of pleasure (Arten des Wohlgefallens). As a consequence, a moral act as such cannot be beautiful. It is only in a second step that Kant indicates possible connections, in his comments on aesthetic ideas, symbolism, the sensus communis, and education in general. In Confucius on the other hand we do not find such a radical separation between beauty and morality. Ritual is a source of both. Moral acts can be beautiful. One might wonder whether Confucius missed a point, or whether Kant overdid the separation. Or is it that their conceptions are so fundamentally different that they cannot easily be translated and identified across different philosophical traditions?

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Christian Wenzel
National Taiwan University


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