The analysis of the Beautiful (II)
“Kant: Critique of the Power of Judgment”
University of Iceland
Text: Critique of the Aesthtical Power of Judgment (6-9)
References third Critique: Guyer/Matthews
The second moment
Table of Judgment
(Critique of Pure Reason)
I. Quantity of Judgments
Universality in which sense?
1. Universality of form (or logical quantity, in Kant's terms, 100):
For all x: x has property P.
This is not the universality that Kant has in mind.
He even says that every judgment of taste is singular (100).
Why does he say so?
Kant's picture: you have to check whether a particular thing
actually gives you pleasure.
It doesn't make sense to check a class of things. You can
check them one after the other, and then summarize your
experience. But this summarizing doesn't interest Kant any
more. He is interested in your experience, and thus, for him, a
judgment of taste is only about particular objects – is singular
A variety of logical universality?
Cf. Richard M. Hare:
Moral judgments are universalizable
Whenever you say that some particular action is morally right, then
you are committed to a general principle that entails that this
particular action is right.
Idea: Moral judgments are often singular, but there is always a
moral principle in the backing.
This is again not what Kant wants to say, as we shall see.
Another kind of universality
“That is beautiful which pleases universally without a concept.”
Idea: A certain presupposition is associated with judgments
of taste, and the presupposition says that everybody would react to
beautiful things in some specific way.
Let us first briefly talk about presuppositions.
Given: Judgments or a domain of discourse
Conceptual question: What is presupposed in these
Substantive question: Are the presuppositions true? (or,
maybe, are we justified in presupposing what we
Conceptual and substantive questions are in principle
Domain of discourse: physicists in the lab talk about atoms.
Conceptual claim: They assume that there are tiny balls called
atoms and that one can know about these atoms.
Substantive thesis: There are (no) atoms; we can (not) know
about atoms (as they are unobservable).
(Scientific realism debate)
1. What exactly is presupposed in judgments of taste
according to Kant? (What is Kant's conceptual claim?)
2. How does Kant argue for his conceptual claim?
3. Is Kant's conceptual thesis true?
4. Is the thing that Kant thinks we presuppose in judgments of
What is Kant's conceptual claim?
Suggestions for the presupposition of the judgment that X is
1. Every person who knows X can understand that I take
pleasure in X.
2. Every person who is in appropriate contact with X would
judge X beautiful, particularly, he would take pleasure from
Suggestion 2 put into perspective
2 has a similarity with presuppositions connected to other
“All ravens are black.”
“Every person that commands appropriate cognitive
capacities and that is in appropriate contact with ravens
would also judge that all ravens are black.”
NB on suggestion 2
Suggestion 2 can be weakened by requiring more conditions:
Every person who is in appropriate contact with X and who is well
educated and who takes the appropriate stance ... would judge X
beautiful, particularly, he would take pleasure from X.
Still, the idea is that the pleasure is shared among everybody who
fulfills certain conditions.
“The beautiful is that which, without concepts, is repre-
sented as the object of a universal satisfaction.“
(par. 6, p. 96)
“Similarly, he must believe himself to have grounds for
expecting a similar pleasure for everyone.”
(par. 6, p. 97)
So suggestion 2 has direct textual support.
In the following, we are taking suggestion 2 for granted.
Kant's conceptual thesis
Whenever I judge some object X beautiful, I presuppose that
everybody who is in appropriate contact with X (and maybe
fulfills some other conditions), judges X beautiful as well.
Call this the presupposition of intersubjective validity
Kant's arguments for the conceptual
idea: it follows from the disinterested character of the pleasure we
take in the beautiful.
If I judge something beautiful, then I take pleasure in it
independently from my interests.
So I think that no personal matters enter this judgment.
So I think that the grounds for my judgment are impersonal.
So I think that everybody would join me in my judgment.
1. Although I'm not aware of any interests, I might be aware of
other personal factors (emotions, maybe) such that I wouldn't
think the grounds for the judgment are impersonal. I wouldn't then
expect universal validity for my judgment.
Kant would probably answer, that judgments of taste are really
about pleasure only, so the question can only be whether my
pleasure is in a way personal. Kant then thinks that his distinction
pleasure in the beautiful/good/agreeable is exhaustive. So there
cannot be other personal matters that enter judgments about the
2. Even if I conceive of the grounds of my judgment as disinterested
and impersonal, I need not conclude that everybody would join me in
the pleasure. To be sure, such a conclusion would be justified given
what I think, but it might be that I don't draw the conclusion.
(Comment: very often we think something true, but we don't believe
what follows from our beliefs. For instance, from what I believe
about numbers, very difficult mathematical theorems follow. But I
don't believe that these theorems are true – I haven't just thought
Kant might answer that the presupposition of intersubjective validity
is such an obvious consequence of my conceptions of the grounds
that I take the presupposition to be true as well.
More arguments hinted at in par. 7 (1)
1. The agreeable provides the paradigm for judgments without the
presupposition of intersubjective validity.
In this case, we talk differently. We say that something is
agreeable for me.
One cannot say that something is beautiful for me.
So the paradigm doesn't work for judgments about the beautiful
thanks to Jane here for a useful clarification....
So judgments about the beautiful do carry the presupposition of
Criticism of this argument
Criticism: We do say that something is beautiful for me.
Or we say “It's beautiful, isn't it” and “I think it's beautiful”
So we do somehow relativize to the speaker, and the agreeable is a
model for the beautiful.
Rejoinder: We do talk this way, but if we talk this way, we mean
something else, for instance, we really talk about the agreeable or
we want to say: “It might be beautiful, but I'm not sure” or “It is
beautiful, but I wouldn't be able to prove it.”
More arguments hinted at in par. 7 (2)
2. the surface structures of sentences with which we express
judgments of taste:
“This rose is beautiful.” resembles “This rose is red.”
The second sentence reflects a judgment for which intersubjective
validity is assumed.
So does the first one.
(This argument would impress ordinary language philosophers)
More arguments hinted at in par. 7 (3)
3. If A judges X to be beautiful, and B disagrees, A would
That makes only sense, if A thinks that everybody would
agree with him – at least under ideal circumstances.
More arguments hinted at in par. 7 (4)
4. Some persons have taste regarding the beautiful.
This only makes sense, if some judgments of taste are better than
So there is something to be got right here.
At least the experts would converge in their judgments.
Attention: people can also have more taste in that they know better
what people find agreeable. But this is a matter of empirical
research (par. 10, 98).
More arguments hinted at in par. 7 (5)
5. There is something like progress in matters of taste.
First, I don't take pleasure in Mahler's music, say.
Later somebody gives me a few hints, I study a bit on Mahler, and
I find his music beautiful.
The idea of progress implies that certain judgments of taste are
better than others.
Go on as in argument 4.
Criticism against 1 – 5
Criticism: These arguments are too soft or weak, they only talk
about what people think. We would need an argument that is about
the real world.
Rejoinder: We are only talking about the conceptual question here.
But the conceptual point is really about what people think. A real
world story would be pointless at this point.
The fourth moment
Kant elaborates on the presupposition in his fourth moment.
“That is beautiful which is cognized without a concept as the object of
a necessary satisfaction.” (124)
“Of every representation I can say that it is at least possible that it [...]
be combined with a pleasure. Of that which I call agreeable I say that
it actually produces pleasure in me. Of the beautiful, however, one
thinks that it has a necessary relation to satisfaction.”
(par. 18, 121)
The fourth moment (interpreted)
Question: what exactly is the presupposition of “X is beautiful”?
“For every person P: whenever she is in appropriate contact with
X, she should judge it beautiful.” (cf. par 19)
NB. “should” like obligation is a modal notion: If you should do
something, then this in a way necessary, it is required that you act
But Kant doesn't have in mind moral obligations here. He
emphasizes that the necessity is conditioned and weak.
The fourth moment (continued)
Nevertheless, necessity, however weak, is a characteristic of a
Kant: there is something a prioristic about judgments of taste.
This came as a surprise to Kant himself, earlier he didn't think
Kant: a priori judgments are in need of justification: deduction.
The fourth moment (continued)
Kant expresses the presupposition in yet different words: What is
really presupposed is a common sense:
“Thus only under the presupposition that there is a common sense
[...] can the judgment of taste be made.”
(par. 20, 122)
Common sense: entirely about the feeling.
Kant's problem with the conceptual
Kant himself finds the conceptual claim worrisome.
par. 1: Judgments of taste are aesthetic. The representation is only
related to the subject. Judgments of taste do not represent objective
knowledge. So how can there be intersubjectivity without
This is already about the substantial question: Is the
presupposition true? So the worry is: From a certain perspective,
the presupposition seems implausible. But if this is so, then our
ordinary talk about the beautiful might rest on a mistake.
A model for objectivity
Kant: objectivity implies intersubjectivity
Alice the same judgment Bob
The problem for aesthetic judgments
feeling of pleasure object feeling of pleasure
Alice the same judgment??? Bob
The problem put differently
When we judge something agreeable, it is about our feelings, and
we don't presume intersubjective validity.
When we judge something beautiful, it is about our feelings, and we
do presume intersubjective validity.
What grounds the difference?
par 8, p. 99
The role of concepts
In his summary of the second moment, Kant says that the
“beautiful pleases universally without concept.” (my emphasis)
For Kant, there is only objectivity, when concepts are applied.
a. the categories of the understanding
b. specific concepts.
So the puzzle can also be put like this:
How can there be intersubjective validity without concepts?
Beauty and concepts
Kant claims that judgments of taste involve no concepts.
What does this mean?
Moment 1: For judging something beautiful, one need not to know
what kind of thing that is.
Moment 2: There are no rules for judging something beautiful
(remember, that concepts are rules according to Kant)
You cannot demonstrate to someone else that something is beautiful
(cf. mathematical proofs) (par. 8, p. 101)
The substantive question
Are we justified in presupposing universal validity of judgments of
This justification is probably the most important task that Kant sets
It reappears again and again.
1. Par. 21
2. The deduction (for Kant, deductions are always about
justifications. Henrich: distinguish the questions: quid facti – what
are the facts? quid juris – are the facts justifiably as they are?)
3. The dialectic (the antinomy of taste)
par. 9 (I)
So far, we have two aspects of judgments of taste
2. the presupposition
Problem: What comes first?
NB. “first” is probably not meant in a temporal sense, rather the
question is: Which aspect grounds the other?
par. 9 (II)
Model no. 1
problem: pleasure alone gives no grounds for the
Model no. 2
how can this be?
par. 9 (III)
Kant's theory of the free play. We have, inter alia, the following
imagination (task: “composition of the manifold of intuition”)
understanding (task: unity by application of a concept)
If we judge something beautiful, hey play without a definite
result (which would be a cognition).
par. 9 (IV)
How does Kant argue for the theory of the free play?
Kant assumes that the presupposition is true. From this he derives
the theory of the free play.
The argument in nuce:
The presupposition can only be true, if the understanding and the
imagination engage in free play, whenever we judge something
Of course, the argument doesn't help, if the presupposition is false.
par. 9 (V)
NB. Kant's methodology in the “Groundwork” is similar. In
Section 2, he derives the content of the Categorical Imperative
from the assumption that there is an imperative that commands
categorically. In Section 3, he shows that there is such an
par. 9 (VI)
NB. A problem in interpreting Kant:
What is the “judging of the object” (“Beurteilung”, 102)?
Interpretation here: it is to claim that the presupposition is true
(note that taking the presupposition to be true is to say
something about the object: this object would arouse pleasure