The Jurassic blogger enjoys a Montecristo Churchill, and some Kant on his birthday. Goes very well with a bit of Yamazaki 12 year old single malt, unseen on the table.
August 29, 2014


The Critique of Judgement

Kant's third critique, The Critique of Judgement, falls into two parts. The first part is devoted to aesthetics, and covers taste, genius, the beautiful, and the sublime. The second part is devoted to teleology and its application in nature, especially biology, and theology. It's a long, complex work, not as dense as the first critique, but still one that requires careful reading, and may have to be read several times before anything like full understanding is achieved.

Because of the complexity of the book, I'm going to comment on various snippets from the book. The translation is by James Creed Meredith, and a complete version is available in the Oxford World Classics series. That edition included both parts of the critique. There is also a Kindle version of the same translation available. Unfortunately that includes only the aesthetic part, and omits the teleological portion of the work. It's easier for me to use the Kindle version for blogging purposes, and that's what I'll be using in the section on aesthetics.


Kant opens by discussing the question of purpose. Art objects have a purpose, as opposed to natural objects, such as a stone or a rock that have no purpose, and this leads into a discussion of will.

"The will-for this is what is said-is the faculty of desire and, as such, is just one of the many natural causes in the world, the one, namely, which acts by concepts; and whatever is represented as possible (or necessary) through the efficacy of will is called practically possible (or necessary): the intention being to distinguish its possibility (or necessity) from the physical possibility or necessity of an effect the causality of whose cause is not determined to its production by concepts (but rather, as with lifeless matter, by mechanism, and, as with the lower animals, by instinct). Now, the question in respect of the practical faculty: whether, that is to say, the concept, by which the causality of the will gets its rule, is a concept of nature or of freedom, is here left quite open.”

Kant, Immanuel (2012-05-01). The Critique of Judgement. Kindle Edition. Location 161

" Kant's use of will and desire is vaguely reminiscent of the medieval/renaissance psychology that divided the soul up into a number of faculties. Not that Kant was influenced by this system. The will is moved by desire, and what it is capable of producing is possible or necessary. Kant then raises the question whether the "causality of the will" is from nature, i.e., mechanistic, or rather arises from freedom.

"Concepts, so far as they are referred to objects apart from the question of whether knowledge of them is possible or not, have their field, which is determined simply by the relation in which their object stands to our faculty of cognition in general. The part of this field in which knowledge is possible for us is a territory (territorium) for these concepts and the requisite cognitive faculty. The part of the territory over which they exercise legislative authority is the realm (ditio) of these concepts, and their appropriate cognitive faculty. Empirical concepts have, therefore, their territory, doubtless, in nature as the complex of all sensible objects, but they have no realm (only a dwelling-place, domicilium), for, although they are formed according to law, they are not themselves legislative, but the rules founded on them are empirical and, consequently, contingent.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 199

" Kant seems to be saying that empirical concepts, those based on experience, are not legislative because they are derived experientially, not on the basis of pure reason. Rules derived from these concepts are contingent, again because they are not derived from pure reason.

"But in addition to the above considerations there is yet (to judge by analogy) a further ground, upon which judgement may be brought into line with another arrangement of our powers of representation, and one that appears to be of even greater importance than that of its kinship with the family of cognitive faculties. For all faculties of the soul, or capacities, are reducible to three, which do not admit of any further derivation from a common ground: the faculty of knowledge, the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, and the faculty of desire. For the faculty of cognition understanding alone is legislative, if (as must be the case where it is considered on its own account free of confusion with the faculty of desire) this faculty, as that of theoretical cognition, is referred to nature, in respect of which alone (as phenomenon) it is possible for us to prescribe laws by means of a priori concepts of nature, which are properly pure concepts of understanding. For the faculty of desire, as a higher faculty operating under the concept of freedom, only reason (in which alone this concept has a place) prescribes laws a priori. Now between the faculties of knowledge and desire stands the feeling of pleasure, just as judgement is intermediate between understanding and reason. Hence we may, provisionally at least, assume that judgement likewise contains an a priori principle of its own, and that, since pleasure or displeasure is necessarily combined with the faculty of desire (be it antecedent to its principle, as with the lower desires, or, as with the higher, only supervening upon its determination by the moral law), it will effect a transition from the faculty of pure knowledge, i.e., from the realm of concepts of nature, to that of the concept of freedom, just as i its logical employment it makes possible the transition from understanding to reason.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 252

" Kant evokes the medieval understanding of the soul by saying that they are reducible to three. The scholastics also had a psychology that allowed for as few as three and as many as five faculties. Kant's division of the faculties of the soul obviously as not the same as that of the scholastics.

"Judgement in general is the faculty of thinking the particular as contained under the universal. If the universal (the rule, principle, or law) is given, then the judgement which subsumes the particular under it is determinant. This is so even where such a judgement is transcendental and, as such, provides the conditions a priori in conformity with which alone subsumption under that universal can be effected. If, however, only the particular is given and the universal has to be found for it, then the judgement is simply reflective.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 293

" If I understand this correctly, Kant is saying that when we think of a universal, as in the major premise "All men are mortal," that we think not of a blobby mass of mankind, but of a particular man, as in the minor premise, "Socrates is a man," or more probably ourselves. If we have only a particular instance of something, then our judgement concerning it is simply reflective.

"When the form of an object (as opposed to the matter of its representation, as sensation) is, in the mere act of reflecting upon it, without regard to any concept to be obtained from it, estimated as the ground of a pleasure in the representation of such an object, then this pleasure is also judged to be combined necessarily with the representation of it, and so not merely for the subject apprehending this form, but for all in general who pass judgement. The object is then called beautiful; and the faculty of judging by means of such a pleasure (and so also with universal validity) is called taste.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 473

" Beauty is related to pleasure, and just as Kant had asserted that every moral act is an assertion of a universal, i.e., that all men should act in such a way, so too is judging something beautiful. All men should agree that this object, that I have judged beautiful, is beautiful.

Kant provides a table in which he reviews the various faculties in "their systematic unity."

All the Faculties of the MindCognitive Faculties
Cognitive facultiesUnderstanding
Feeling of pleasure and displeasureJudgement
Faculty of desireReason
A priori PrinciplesApplication
Conformity to law Nature
Final EndFreedom

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 602

Kant appears to relate the cognitive faculties as a whole to understanding, while the feelings of pleasure and displeasure are related to judgement. Our feelings of pleasure or displeasure are then to be related to our judgement as to whether an object is beautiful or not."If we wish to discern whether anything is beautiful or not, we do not refer the representation of it to the object by means of understanding with a view to cognition, but by means of the imagination (acting perhaps in conjunction with understanding) we refer the representation to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure. The judgement of taste, therefore, is not a cognitive judgement, and so not logical, but is aesthetic-which means that it is one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective. Every reference of representations is capable of being objective, even that of sensations (in which case it signifies the real in an empirical representation). The one exception to this is the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. This denotes nothing in the object, but is a feeling which the subject has of itself and of the manner in which it is affected by the representation.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 616


"That is good which by means of reason commends itself by its mere concept. We call that good for something which only pleases as a means; but that which pleases on its own account we call good in itself. In both cases the concept of an end is implied, and consequently the relation of reason to (at least possible) willing, and thus a delight in the existence of an object or action, i.e., some interest or other.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 677

" When a hammer is good for driving nails it is good for something, but it is not necessarily good in itself. The hammer has as its purpose (telos) the driving of nails. That which is good in itself, say a painting, has as its purpose its own existence, and that is its end.

"To deem something good, I must always know what sort of a thing the object is intended to be, i. e., I must have a concept of it. That is not necessary to enable me to see beauty in a thing. Flowers, free patterns, lines aimlessly intertwining-technically termed foliage-have no signification, depend upon no definite concept, and yet please. Delight in the beautiful must depend upon the reflection on an object precursory to some (not definitely determined) concept. It is thus also differentiated from the agreeable, which rests entirely upon sensation.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 680

At first it might appear that art, according to Kant, should be more or less photographic. That would seem to eliminate much of modern art. In Picabia's picture Procession on the left, it might appear that at first there is no recognizable object, one that Kant could not have a concept of. Look at it a bit longer though, and recognizable figures emerge. On the other hand, a painting in which the paint is allowed to drip freely on the canvas, and which forms no recognizable object, such as one of Jackson Pollock's action paintings, or this example of a drip painting, which might be categorized as free patterns, lines aimlessly intertwining, would seem to have no definite concept and not have an object that precedes a concept. Indeed, it might appear to have no concept at all. Is abstract art within the Kantian aesthetic?

The agreeable is what GRATIFIES a man; the beautiful what simply PLEASES him; the good what is ESTEEMED (approved), i.e., that on which he sets an objective worth.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 721

" The good is defined in ethical terms here. Kant does not equate beauty and truth, as Keats does later on, or beauty and goodness.

"So far as the interest of inclination in the case of the agreeable goes, every one says "Hunger is the best sauce; and people with a healthy appetite relish everything, so long as it is something they can eat." Such delight, consequently, gives no indication of taste having anything to say to the choice. Only when men have got all they want can we tell who among the crowd has taste or not.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 729

" Kant's observation here seems to point towards what Maslow would recognize as a hierarchy of needs. Once the most important needs have been satisfied only then can the less important needs, or aesthetic desires be fulfilled.

"The beautiful stands on quite a different footing. It would, on the contrary, be ridiculous if any one who plumed himself on his taste were to think of justifying himself by saying: "This object (the building we see, the dress that person has on, the concert we hear, the poem submitted to our criticism) is beautiful for me." For if it merely pleases him, be must not call it beautiful. Many things may for him possess charm and agreeableness-no one cares about that; but when he puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful, he demands the same delight from others. He judges not merely for himself, but for all men, and then speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. Thus he says the thing is beautiful; and it is not as if he counted on others agreeing in his judgement of liking owing to his having found them in such agreement on a number of occasions, but he demands this agreement of them. He blames them if they judge differently, and denies them taste, which he still requires of them as something they ought to have; and to this extent it is not open to men to say: "Every one has his own taste." This would be equivalent to saying that there is no such thing at all as taste, i. e., no aesthetic judgement capable of making a rightful claim upon the assent of all men.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 760

" What is beautiful, is beautiful for all.

"Hence, in a judgement of taste, what is represented a priori as a universal rule for the judgement and as valid for everyone, is not the pleasure but the universal validity of this pleasure perceived, as it is, to be combined in the mind with the mere estimate of an object. A judgement to the effect that it is with pleasure that I perceive and estimate some object is an empirical judgement. But if it asserts that I think the object beautiful, i.e., that I may attribute that delight to everyone as necessary, it is then an a priori judgement.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2050

"The empirical interest in the beautiful exists only in society. And if we admit that the impulse to society is natural to mankind, and that the suitability for and the propensity towards it, i.e., sociability, is a property essential to the requirements of man as a creature intended for society, and one, therefore, that belongs to humanity, it is inevitable that we should also look upon taste in the light of a faculty for estimating whatever enables us to communicate even our feeling to every one else, and hence as a means of promoting that upon which the natural inclination of everyone is set.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2176

" Kant seems to be asserting that in the state of nature there is no interest in the beautiful. It is only when we begin to come together as a society that it is possible for some to pursue the beautiful. Kant doesn't pursue this, but it would be interesting to ask whether this ties into the division of labor. Once the society has formed, and some degree of specialization is in place, does the pursuit of the beautiful happen because someone is able to trade his creative efforts in exchange for bread, shelter, and so forth?
"Fine art, on the other hand, is a mode of representation which is intrinsically final, and which, although devoid of an end, has the effect of advancing the culture of the mental powers in the interests of social communication. The universal communicability of a pleasure involves in its very concept that the pleasure is not one of enjoyment arising out of mere sensation, but must be one of reflection. Hence aesthetic art, as art which is beautiful, is one having for its standard the reflective judgement and not organic sensation.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2332

" This would appear to indicate that when music is heard, a book is read, or a painting seen, that there does not immediately affect the body, but is reflected upon at leisure. One appreciates the melody only retrospectively.

"A beauty of nature is a beautiful thing; beauty of art is a beautiful representation of a thing.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2417

" Unlike Plato, who would push the representation back further, Kant assumes, perhaps not the reality of the thing-in-itself, but that natural objects have a real existence, and that art represents that thing.

"The requisites for fine art are, therefore, imagination, understanding, soul, and taste.*”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2570

"*The first three faculties are first brought into union by means of the fourth. Hume, in his history, informs the English that although they are second in their works to no other people in the world in respect the evidences they afford of the three first qualities separately considered, still in what unites them they must yield to their neighbours, the French.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2571

" That seems an unfortunate slam at the English. The French may have taste, but that's all.

"*I confess to the pure delight which I have ever been afforded by a beautiful poem; whereas the reading of the best speech of a Roman forensic orator, a modern parliamentary debater, or a preacher, has invariably been mingled with an unpleasant sense of disapproval of an insidious art that knows how, in matters of moment, to move men like machines to a judgement that must lose all its weight with them upon calm reflection. Force and elegance of speech (which together constitute rhetoric) belong to fine art; but oratory (ars oratoria), being the art of playing for one's own purpose up-the weaknesses of men (let this purpose be ever so good in intention or even in fact) merits no respect whatever. Besides, both at Athens and at Rome, it only attained its greatest height at a time when the state was hastening to its decay, and genuine patriotic sentiment was a thing of the past. One who sees the issue clearly, and who has a command of language in its wealth and its purity, and who is possessed of an imagination that is fertile and effective in presenting his ideas, and whose heart, withal, turns with lively sympathy to what is truly good-he is the vir bonus dicendi peritus, the orator without art, but of great impressiveness, Cicero would have him, though he may not himself always always remained faithful to this ideal.”

Kant, Critique [Kindle] Location 2704



Kant's section on teleology makes up about one third of the book, but it is not an easy read. As might be expected it is long and difficult. I want to comment on a couple of passages, and encourage any readers to go on to read Kant on their own.

"The principles of a science may be inherent in that science itself and are then termed indigenous [principia domestica). Or they may rest on concepts that can only be encountered outside that science, and are foreign principles (peregrina). Sciences containing the latter principles rest their doctrines on auxiliary propositions (lemmata), that is, they obtain some concept or other, and with this concept some basis for a regular procedure, that is borrowed from another science.
“Every science is a system in its own right; and it is not sufficient that in it we construct according to principles, and so proceed technically, but we must also set to work architectonically with it as a separate and independent building. We must treat it as a self-subsisting whole, and not as a wing or section of another building—although wre may subsequently make a passage to or fro from one part to another.
“Hence if we supplement natural science by introducing the concept of God into its context for the purpose of rendering the purposiveness of nature explicable, and if, having done so, we turn round and use this purposiveness in order to prove that there is a God, then both natural science and theology are deprived of all intrinsic substance. This deceptive crossing and re-crossing from one side to the other involves both in uncertainty, because their boundaries are thus allowed to overlap.”

Kant, Critique [Oxford] 209 §68

" Kant seems to be saying that the principles of a science, such as chemistry, are inherent in the science itself, or else they come from outside the science. Further, the sciences are independent of each other, but the sciences may at some point connect. In Kant's view it is illegitimate to introduce theology into a science in order to solve problems in that science.

"On the other hand, it is an equally necessary maxim of reason not to overlook the principle of ends in the products of nature. For although this principle does not make the way in which such products originate any more comprehensible to us, yet it is a heuristic principle for the investigation of the particular laws of nature. And this remains true even though it be understood that, as we confine ourselves rigorously to the term natural ends, even where such products manifestly exhibit a designed purposive unity, we do not intend to make any use of the principle in order to explain nature itself— that is to say, in speaking of natural ends, pass beyond the bounds of nature in quest of the source of the possibility of those products. However, inasmuch as the question of this possibility must be addressed sooner or later, it is just as necessary to conceive a special type of causality for it—one not to be found in nature—as to allow that the mechanical activity of natural causes has its special type. For the receptivity for different forms over and above those which matter is capable of producing by virtue of such mechanism must be supplemented by a spontaneity of some cause—which cannot, therefore, be matter—as in its absence no reason can be assigned for those forms. Of course before reason takes this step it must exercise due caution and not seek to explain as teleological every technic of nature— meaning by this a formative capacity of nature which displays (as in the case of regularly constructed bodies) purposiveness of structure for our mere apprehension. On the contrary it must continue to regard such technic as possible on purely mechanical principles. But to go so far as to exclude the teleological principle, and to want to keep always to mere mechanism, even where reason, in its investigation into the manner in which natural forms are rendered possible by their causes, finds a purposiveness of a character whose relation to a different type of causality is apparent beyond all denial, is equally unscientific. It inevitably sends reason on a fantastical and roving expedition among powers of nature that are only cobwebs of the brain and quite unthinkable, in just the same way as a merely teleological mode of explanation that pays no heed to the mechanism of nature would turn reason visionary.”

Kant, Critique [Oxford] 239 §78

" Kant sees an organism as having an end, a purpose, so that for example the stomach has a purpose, digestion, and this purpose is a natural one. The principle allows us to investigate the laws of nature so that we can ask why there is a stomach, i.e., what is its purpose, or function. However, the teleology of the organ does not allow us to leap to the idea that nature itself has a purpose. The cause of variation must be something other than matter.

"We have shown in the preceding section that, looking to principles of reason, there is ample ground—for reflective, though not of course for determining, judgement—for letting us judge man as not merely a natural end, such as all organized beings are, but as the being upon this earth who is the ultimate end of nature, and the one in relation to whom all other natural things constitute a system of ends. What now is the end in man, and the end which, as such, is intended to be promoted by means of his connexion with nature? If this end is something which must be found in man himself, it must either be of such a kind that man himself may be satisfied by means of nature and its beneficence, or else it is the aptitude and skill for all manner of ends for wrhich he may employ nature both external and internal. The former end of nature would be the happiness of man, the latter his culture.”

Kant, Critique [Oxford] 258 §83

" Kant postulates here that man is the ultimate end of nature. It may be that here Kant anticipates what in modern cosmology is called the anthropic principle. That, at present, exists in two forms, the weak and the strong. The interested read can Google the term. But if man is the end (purpose) of nature, then what is the end (purpose) of man? Man is either satisfied by natural means, which would appear to mean that his biological needs are taken care of, or through the development of culture.

Much of what Kant has to say has implications for topics such as biology and the conflict over intelligent design versus randomness. Kant would appear to discount randomness, which would put him on the side of intelligent design, but it does not necessarily put him on the side of its proponents, who may be to some extent fundamentalists. Interestingly, it raises the question as to whether intelligent design should be considered as a religious thing, or as a philosophical thing. If Kant, who might be politely described as an agnostic, includes the possibility of intelligent design then is it allowable as a discussion of Kant's approach to a biological question. Are religion and philosophy to be considered as separate things in judging this?

There's a lot more to say about Kant and his critiques, and I might try a second reading of the critiques in a year or two, but for now I'm going to move on.

Next up, John Ringo and his third zombie novel.