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Kant's Aesthetic Theory: An Introduction.

Kemal's useful introduction is largely devoted to the first half of Kant's Critique of Judgment. It guides the reader through many of the topics which make up that philosopher's aesthetic theory. Among the matters not dealt with, or dealt with only in passing, are Kant's theory of the sublime, his conception of adherent beauty (importantly different from free beauty and excluded from the domain of pure judgments of taste), and the question whether Kant does or can allow for ugliness, the opposite of beauty.

The first five chapters of Kemal's work are directed first to the historical background of Kant's aesthetic theory, and then to Kant's conception of the logical features of pure judgments of taste as well as to his proof of the intersubjective validity of such judgments. Chapter 1 provides the background, including an account of Kant's views on cognitive judgment and its conditions. Chapter 2 introduces aesthetic judgments together with the four "moments" of Kant's Analytic of the Beautiful. It also contains an examination of the first of these moments. The second moment is the topic of chapter 3, and the third and fourth are dealt with in chapter 4. Chapter 5 contains an extended account of the deduction of the validity of pure judgments of taste.

Chapters 6 and 7 expand the discussion to such matters as community, culture, and freedom of agency. Chapter 6, in many ways the most interesting part of the book, takes up some consequences of Kant's characterization of judgments of taste as necessary or as demanding a liking shared by others. Finally, in chapter 7 the author treats the problem of compatibilism between freedom and nature, a problem incurred by Kant's theory of aesthetic judgment and already hinted at by Kemal in earlier portions of the book.

In his historical sketch, Kemal discusses Leibniz, Wolff, and Baumgarten, as well as the empiricist school of aesthetics. He argues that Kant first needed to develop a new conception of reasoning (both antirationalist and anti-empiricist) in order then to criticize the underpinnings of the aesthetics of his predecessors. To make the point concrete, the author takes the reader on a quick trip through the Transcendental Deduction of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, with its conception of rational consciousness. Kant's basic objection to all of the earlier aesthetics, Kemal holds, is that rationalists and empiricists alike (albeit in different ways) failed to distinguish properly between sense and intellect. True enough, but Kemal in this connection underestimates the significance of Baumgarten's break with the Leibnizian-Wolffians. Baumgarten's account of a special logic, and of a perfection of the senses, despite its internal difficulties, created the possibility of a new aesthetics in Germany, even though Kant was to reject that philosopher's perfection view of free beauty, his claim that aesthetics was a science, and his account of the nature of aesthetic affects.

Leading up to the four moments, Kemal argues that as part of a complete theory of our knowledge of nature, Kant examines the talent of judgment itself. This examination leads to a conception of reflective, nondeterminate judgment, of which proper aesthetic judgments are a species. In the course of analyzing Kant's deduction and the four moments--aesthetic liking as disinterested, as universal without the benefit of a determinate concept, beauty as purposiveness without purpose, and aesthetic liking as carrying a necessity--Kemal works hard at distinguishing between universality and necessity. What he has to say in these chapters about sensus communis and about aesthetic necessity as exemplary is interesting and helpful.

An insightful argument is made in chapter 6: we can demand assent to our proper aesthetic judgment from others since others can make such judgments and are obligated to do so; for experience of beauty promotes culture, culture is the striving for morality, and we are obligated to move towards the moral stance. Kemal here makes good sense of Kant's attaching a type of interest to beauty without making such interest a criterion for beauty and without disavowing the disinterestedness of aesthetic liking.

The discussion of freedom in the final chapter is disappointing. Kemal is tempted by incompatibilism between free agency and natural necessitation, and it never becomes clear what Kant is supposed to take the effectiveness of final causation to reside in. The author engenders expectation of a translation between the language of free agency and that of causal determinism, something which then would "generate a contradiction." A remark, in the context of a discussion of natural, radical evil, that we need to "harmonize [freedom and our natural being] as best as possible" embodies no resolution.
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Author:Meerbote, Ralf
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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