Truth and Beauty: Kant’s Critical Aesthetics
Aesthetics is central to Kant’s philosophical project. In judging a thing to be beautiful, Kant maintained, we bridge “the great gulf” between nature and human freedom, and prepare ourselves to “love something, even nature, without interest”—that is, to exercise moral judgment. Immensely influential in its time, the so-called “third Critique” inspired and gave energy to both German Idealism, which attempted to provide a rational and holistic account of the unity of all of things, and German Romanticism, which emphasized loss, longing and the fragmentary. How can we understand Kant’s approach to art and aesthetics today?
In this class, students will read Kant’s Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgment in its entirety. Among the questions we’ll explore are: Can aesthetic judgments be considered objective? How do they differ from other value-judgments, like mere judgments of taste or moral judgments? What is artistic genius? What does our capacity to appreciate beauty and the sublime say about the nature of being human and our place in the world? What if anything is the relationship between beauty and moral goodness? Finally, we’ll explore to what extent Kant’s foundational ideas still inform contemporary understandings of nature and art.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 10 — July 01, 2021