Philosophy of the Arts


Kant’s Regulative Principle of Aesthetic Excellence

The Ideal Aesthetic Experience

Certain aesthetic evaluative concepts relate to specific experiences in a non-trivial way. An analysis of our attributions of aesthetic excellence provides us with interesting insights in the idea that our judgements of taste are founded upon an aesthetic experience. Only two rather unfelicitous strategies appear to have been available to analytic philosophers regarding the notion of aesthetic experience. Either it is being dismissed because of its alleged non-specificity in comparison with more normal cognitive experiences, or an identification of its actual instances is being attempted. The first strategy sacrifices a core item of our aesthetic discourse, whereas the second inevitably fails because no satisfactory identification of empirical aesthetic experiences will even be possible, as none of its conditions will be necessary and sufficient at the same time. Also, no identification of empirical, contingent aesthetic experiences will help advance a theoretical account of aesthetic evaluation. What is wrong with these two strategies is that they do not distinguish between our actual experiences and the use to which we put them in grounding our judgements in them. I propose an interpretation of Kant’s aesthetic theory that sustains a third strategy that does not suffer from these disadvantages. First, Kant’s Critique of Judgement will be interpreted as providing a legitimation of aesthetic discourse with the specific awareness of the communicability of our determinations of the object, which shows forth from our feeling of subjective finality; with an awareness, i.e., and not merely with the communicability that is its subject matter. Secondly, I argue that Kant can only account for the decisive role of such experiences within aesthetic discourse if he takes them not as actual empirical ones but as an ideal, which functions regulatively for the aesthetic application of the faculty of judgement.
‘Kant’s Regulative Principle of Aesthetic Discourse: The Ideal Aesthetic Experience.’ Kant-Studien, 86, 1995, pp. 331-345.
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