Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From Kant on aesthetic judgements

"Now my proposition is that this principle is nothing else than the faculty of presenting aesthetic ideas. But, by an aesthetic idea I mean that representation of the imagination which induces much thinking, yet without the possibility of any determinate thought whatsoever -- i.e., no concept whatsoever -- being adequate to it, and which language, consequently, can never get quite on level terms with or render completely intelligible. It is easily seen, that an aesthetic idea is the counterpart (pendant) of a rational idea, one which, conversely, is a concept to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be adequate.

"The imagination (as a productive faculty of cognition) is a powerful agent for creating, as it were, a second nature out of the material supplied to it by actual nature. It affords us entertainment where experience proves too commonplace; and we even use it to remodel experience, always following, no doubt, laws that are based on analogy, but still also following principles which have a higher seat in reason (and which are every whit as natural to us as those followed by the understanding in laying hold of empirical nature). By this means we get a sense of our freedom from the law of association’ (which attaches to the empirical employment of the imagination), with the result that the material can be borrowed by us from nature in accordance with that law, but be worked up by us into something else — namely, what surpasses nature.

"Such representations of the imagination may be termed ideas. This is partly because they at least strain after something lying out beyond the confines of experience, and so seek to approximate to a presentation of rational concepts (i.e., intellectual ideas), thus giving to these concepts the semblance of an objective reality. But, on the other hand, there is this most important reason, that no concept can be wholly adequate to them as internal intuitions. The poet essays the task of interpreting to sense the rational ideas of invisible beings, the kingdom of the blessed, hell, eternity, creation, etc. Or, again, as to things of which examples occur in experience, e.g., death, envy, and all vices, as also love, fame, and the like, transgressing the limits of experience he attempts with the aid of an imagination which emulates the display of reason in its attainment of a maximum, to body them forth to sense with a completeness. of which: nature affords no parallel; and it is in fact precisely in the art of poetry that the faculty of aesthetic ideas can show itself to full advantage. This faculty, however, regarded solely by itself alone, is really no more than a talent (of the imagination).

"If, now, we attach to a concept a representation of the imagination belonging to its presentation, but inducing solely on its own account such a wealth of thought as would never admit of comprehension in a definite concept, and, as a consequence, giving aesthetically an unbounded expansion to the concept itself, then the imagination here displays a creative activity, and it puts the faculty of intellectual ideas (reason) into motion — a motion, at the instance of a representation, towards an extension of thought, that, while germane, no doubt, to the concept of the object, exceeds what can be laid hold of in that representation or clearly expressed."

Need to return to this properly & get it semi-clear. Purposive without purposefulness. Judgements of beauty are universal and necessary (can that be made sense of without the patrician cosplay thought experiment, "We are entitled to expect others to agree with us"?). They are also disinterested. Free play of imagination and understanding, in which these newly lively faculties are delineated by each other, and in some way their commonality is experienced.

Need to understand what is driving Kant into such a subtle analysis. What is it that he doesn't want to say?

Forgetting about paintings, music, etc., what would satisfy me, if I were Kant, that it has satisfied the criterion of aesthetic experience? If this does not describe aesthetic experience as something to do with paintings, music, etc., what does it describe aesthetic experience as? (Also need a graceful snappy term for this manoeuvre, which may be used a lot).

And/or what would satisfy me as faculties capable of this kind of free play? What if I were to insist on the radical plurality of the individual neurological systems on which the social supervenes? (Cf. Wittgenstein's beetles. Cf. overlapping consensus).

The notion of "purpose in general" is really fascinating and seems (ha ha) like it might be useful elsewhere. Could be nudged around a little with the concept of "affordance." Also make connections with Dennett's Pandemonium model and with the experience of knowing something without being able to quite express it yet. Could actually drill away rigorously at this: the social construction (at the level of an individual life) of "purpose in general."

Cf. hermeneutic circle & Nash equillibria.

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