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December 16, 2004



I seem to remember a Kantian passage about wallpaper and cufflinks that seemed to emerge out of a quagmire of dense readings - I remember thinking that Kant must have really liked looking at things, a lot of things all things. Thanks Miguel, you remind me of a nice moment.


As much as I (and so many others) like to bring the 3rd Critique into discussions of art, it’s worth remembering that in a number of respects that wasn’t Kant’s aim. To the extent that it was, his writing often reflects the conventional neoclassical academicism of the day.

Isn't it often the case that philosophers (those not specifically focused on philosophy of art) offer a greater service to theories of art the less they directly speak of it?

Miguel Sánchez

Isn't it often the case that philosophers (those not specifically focused on philosophy of art) offer a greater service to theories of art the less they directly speak of it?

Perhaps. I'm not sure if I'm able to generalize. I certainly prefer Kant's conceptual clarity to Heideggerian heavy breathing about Van Gogh's shoes, though. For a lot of contemporary work in aesthetics, works of art or artists are more like placeholders in the argument - use Duchamp to advance one line, Warhol to pursue another, without ever really engaging with the art as art (hence as well the heavy reliance on conceptually-oriented artists, who can help do some of the work.) While some of can be useful or interesting, it's often a bit removed from the actual examination of art (and properly so, given the field.)


I think you have the umlaut over the wrong a in the title -- Aufklärung. I need to think more about everything else in this entry before I would have anything useful to say. Thanks for pointing (and adding) to an interesting conversation.

Miguel Sánchez


You're right! I've made the change. That's what you get for cutting and pasting. Thanks for your comment.


Dear Miguel, a great post! I strongly agree with you. Kant was making the point that the aesthetic experience is central to our humanity, and one of the major binding elements of what constitutes our common, human, social world. There is our shared physical nature and sensory experience, which is explored in science; our common moral and ethical system, structured through reason; and the aesthetic experience, which takes into account both the sensory and the metaphysical, which draws upon and provokes reason but is not dependent upon it. This is what art can do. Various aspects of art and artistic practice and experience, like the universality of aesthetic judgement, like our ability to create and perceive forms and artworks, like our shared experiences of the mathematical and dynamical sublime, link all of us, draw us together. One poster mentions some of Kant's specific aesthetic critiques, and I'd respond that Kant, like other writers on aesthetics (Plato, Aristotle, Winckelmannn, etc.) could be somewhat kooky at times on specific points (and in the case of Kant, of course, his racial animus does disturb me, as a black person), but at the same time, the broader aspects of his aesthetic readings are incredibly valuable, as are other aspects of his thought, like his ideas about the categorical imperative, perpetual peace, and so on.

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