(selections from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism)
Kant's Critique is part of a trilogy which included The Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason (devoted to ethics), and many of his aesthetic views are designed to form analogies or contrasts with the qualities defined in these other works.
What is the beautiful? (a formal presentation which creates pleasure, 505; this perception must be devoid of interest, 506, 509) What example does he give of a beautiful object in which one may take no personal interest? (palace) What does it mean to say that the judgment of whether a thing is beautiful must be subjective?
What is meant by taste? (ability to judge and experience the pleasure created by this formal presentation, 505; must be devoid of interest, 509, partake of subjective universality, 510)
Is a judgment of taste logical or cognitive? If not, what is it? It is aesthetic, and as such subjective, based on our own feeling, 505.
What does it mean to say that we should be impartial in matters of taste? (507, not biased in favor of an object's existence or non-existence)
What does it mean to say that the agreeable is connected with (self-)interest? People who seek mere enjoyment dispense with judging. What does he seem to mean by mere enjoyment?
How does this contrast with the beautiful? The love of the beautiful leads to some concept, 507, rather than merely sensation.
What example does he give of a disinterested judgment? (example of palaces)
What are some ways in which the beautiful differs from the good? Does it have the same kind of purpose?
How can we perceive that something is beautiful? (through reflection, not sensation, 507)
What is the difference between our reactions to the agreeable, the beautiful and the good?
The agreeable gratifies us, and our senses approve; by contrast we like the beautiful, and this liking is free and disinterested, 509. We esteem the good, and our reason approves, 508.
Because judgment approves the object of taste, the viewer sees beauty as a characteristic of the object (not what it truly is, a trait of the perceiver) and assumes others will like it, 509. The object appears to us as the object of a universal liking.
What does it mean to say that a judgment of taste must involve a claim to subjective universality? (The judgments of the beautiful are tastes of reflection; one expects others to agree even if they do not apply the concept of beauty in the same way or to the same objects, because they have similar powers of perception.)
Do people in fact have the same aesthetic judgments? (511, no) If not, how can judgments of taste lay claim to universality?
What is the relationship of freedom and the imagination to beauty? (releases the free play of cognitive powers, the harmony of imagination and understanding, 512)
Does the aesthetic judgment of an object precede or follow the pleasure it conveys? (513, this is a pleasure in the harmony of the cognitive powers and must precede it)
What does Kant think of the intrusion of charm and emotion into aesthetic judgments?
Does Kant prefer design or color? (515, color not essential but merely charming) Would some nineteenth and twentieth century artists and/or critics have differed with his view?
What example does Kant give of free beauty? (a flower, 516, music without words) Are these satisfactory examples for conveying his point?
After reading Kant's descriptions of the beautiful, what kinds of art or literature do you think he might have admired? Are his principles influenced by classical or eighteenth-century models he may have known?
Is audience response important in a Kantian aesthetic? (516, seems to anticipate some aspects of a sociological study of reading tastes)
What does it mean to say that taste chooses "lawfulness without a law"? (519, subjective harmony of the imagination with the understanding)
What is the sublime, and how does it differ from the beautiful? (the beautiful suggests life's being furthered; whereas the sublime repels as well as attracts, prompts admiration and respect, 520; the sublime is unbounded, 520; one judges it by quantity not quality, 520)
The sublime is not a characteristic of an object, but of the mental attunement required to judge (not comprehend but admire) an object, 525, 527). That is, objects are not sublime but our notions of them may be, 521.
What are some examples of things which may evoke our ideas of the sublime? (chaos in nature most arouses our ideas of the sublime, 521)
What is the relationship between the sublime and our idea of a purposiveness in nature? (521)
What does it mean to say that the sublime is absolutely large? (521) Why would something immense be more sublime than something more encompassable? (We strive to grasp the absolutely large or small, and are inadequate to the task. This arouses within ourselves the knowledge of a supersensible power, 522. The sublime is what even to be able to think proves that the mind has a power surpassing sense, 522).
What types of things are "monstrous"? "Colossal"? (523)
Is there a limit to the magnitude our minds can conceive? (Yes, 522-23) Does the idea of infinity suggest the sublime? (Nature is sublime in appearances whose intuition caries the idea of infinity, 524. The magnitude of the object leads to a concept of nature of a substratum large beyond sense, and we experience a sublime judgment of mental attunement with the object.)
What is our response to this mental stretching? (The sublime is a feeling that the object is beyond our ability to attain to an idea that is a law for us, a feeling of respect.)(525)
What is the purpose of our attempt to respond to what we cannot comprehend? (the striving toward rational ideas of the whole is a law for us, 525) Our imagination is elevated in this attempt, 528, and it brings into consciousness a feature of our nature, 529.
What is the mind's first response to the sublime? (agitation, restlessness, alternating attraction and repulsion, whereas the beautiful is restful, 526. In this alternation our imagination and reason are in conflict, 526.)
What effect does a sense of fear have upon perception of the sublime? (inhibits judgment, 527; we cannot pass judgment on the sublime if we are afraid) Instead, what should we feel? (The might of nature draws out our strength of mind so that nature does not have dominance over us, 527.)
Might it be possible to feel both fear and a sense of the sublimity of the same object?
Why does Kant believe that a general may be more sublime than a statesman?! (528, associated with idea of danger)
How can it be said that a sense of the sublime approaches a moral feeling? (has its foundation in human nature, 529)
What is a sensus communis? A sensus communis can be shared by everyone. Still, what qualities are necessary to exercise it? (independent judgment, thinking from the standpoint of all, and consistency, acquired by practice in the first two)
What does it mean to say that taste is a sensus communis? (531)
What is art, according to Kant, or rather, what is art not? (not a science, and not pure nature, 532)
What does Kant mean by "craft," and how is it to be distinguished from art? (has no mercenary or directly practical end, 532)
Would most later artists and designers have agreed with this distinction? What seems to be his purpose in making it?
What, according to Kant, is genius? (genius combines imagination and understanding, is able to express well human truths that others can only sense or express badly, 533)
Is genius disorderly? (it passes beyond the rules but forms a new rule, 533)
Why cannot genius be imitated? (534) How does this create problems for literary schools? What then is the relationship between a genius and earlier traditions? What is the only way to honor genius in the work of others?
What is the relationship between morality and beauty? (beauty is the symbol of the morally good) Does this make sense to you?
Would Kant have agreed with John Keats's claim, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know"? Can you think of other poets or writers who made similar claims?
Are there ways in which Kant resembles Aristotle, for example, in their respect for formal perfection and their concern for the moral qualities of literature? Are they both concerned with issues of size and scope of an artwork? Can you compare features of Aristotle's "tragedy" with Kant's "sublime"? What are some major differences?