Aesthetics and Subjectivity : From Kant to Nietzsche 2nd by Bowie

By Bowie

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Example text

But this leads to much the same 22 Aesthetics and subjectivity problem as the one just mentioned. The synthetic unity of the I is not guaranteed by our empirical perception because it is self-caused, although Kant claims empirical perception is a necessary condition of it. Kant talks of the ‘pure synthesis of the understanding which is the a priori foundation of the empirical synthesis’ (B p. 140) – meaning the I which, even though I am not aware of it in the sequence of differing experiences, must be there to accompany my experiences, thus making them mine – but then does not give any further account of this pure spontaneity.

He gives the example of how poets attempt to make the ideas of ‘the invisible Being, the realm of the blessed, hell, eternity, the creation’ (B p. 194, A p. 191) into sensuous images. Aesthetic ideas are the ‘pendant’ to ideas of reason, because the ideas of reason, such as goodness, cannot be manifested empirically. Soon after the writing of the CJ Schiller will come to regard art as a means for the ‘aesthetic education’ of the people on the basis of his interpretation of Kant’s conception: art is to make morality available through pleasure by sensuously conveying ideas, instead of trying to compel people in terms of abstract imperatives.

Despite his repeated insistence upon the subjective basis of aesthetic pleasure Kant himself returns on occasion to the idea that nature may give an indication that ‘it contains in itself some basis, a law-bound correspondence of its products to our pleasure which is independent of all interest’ (CJ B p. 169, A p. 167), and he talks of a ‘code through which nature talks to us figuratively in its beautiful forms’ (B p. 170, A p. 168). Given our own status as part of nature, the idea of a deeper harmony between ourselves and nature is tempting, especially as Kant sees the fact of agreement over judgements of taste as testifying to the possibility of the sensus communis.

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