Kant states that pleasure in beauty is not based on desire and does not produce any. But don't we usually have a desire to have things that are beautiful in our lives? Such as "this car is beautiful! I wish I owned it" or "this woman is beautiful, I want to be with her"

This is where it states the claim: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetic-judgment/#1.5

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    What is the question? I am assuming that you are asking for Kant's reasonings.
    – Cicero
    Jul 1, 2015 at 9:08
  • Kant says pleasure in beauty does not "produce" desire, but it seems like we have desire to possess things of beauty so that we can experience that pleasure longer. His claim seems refutable to me and I'm doubt the credibility of the claim. I'm looking for clarification so I can be reassured that this claim in true.
    – btrballin
    Jul 1, 2015 at 9:11

3 Answers 3


Take looking at a house.

One could think that house is beautiful and desire to have it, but this is not the beauty Kant is talking about.

Beauty in the Kantian sense is when someone observes the house and just stands there contemplating its beauty.

Perhaps you can imagine this beauty occurring in an exposition, in looking at nature, looking at your spouse (which sometimes but certainly not necessarily induces desire), etc.

  • So he's saying that while we experience the pleasure from beauty, we don't feel any desire at that moment?
    – btrballin
    Jul 1, 2015 at 23:20
  • @btrbalin yes, or at least that that's a possibility.
    – user2953
    Jul 2, 2015 at 3:56
  • Does this mean that his claim is specific to the moment we feel pleasure? Produces usually suggests that it is an outcome that proceeds afterwards. The fact that the house was beautiful produced my desire to want it.
    – btrballin
    Jul 2, 2015 at 6:06
  • I'm sorry, I don't understand the question. What Kant says about pleasure is indeed only applicable to when you experience pleasure. In the form we're talking about, there is no desire - although it isn't impossible that that pleasure degrades into a desire.
    – user2953
    Jul 2, 2015 at 6:09

First of all, I hope you understand that the notion of beauty is very subjective. The whole of Immanuel Kant's philosophy revolves around realism.

You'd argue that a person would find something beautiful because of his acquired tastes. Kant believed that there is no such thing as 'personal preferences' or 'inert desires'.

He argued that "the mind plays an active role in constituting the features of experience and limiting the mind’s access only to the empirical realm of space and time".

What this means is that whatever your brain perceives is strictly limited by past experiences and accumulated knowledge. Kant believed that what you see through your eyes isn't reality. This is why he got a lot of heat from idealists like Ayn Rand.

Kant believed that beauty does not directly trigger our impulse to own that thing. What he also said was that "the nature of objects as they are in themselves is unknowable to us--knowledge of appearances is nevertheless possible".

This is from where the desire to own something stems from. Since beauty is beyond space and time, and not part of reality, you cannot possibly desire something for its aesthetic pleasure.

Since the source of necessity and universality is in the mind of the knowing subject and not in the objects themselves, you can't really own anything. Not in the literal sense anyway.

Hope this helped!

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    First off, welcome to philosophy.se. Second, when you quote, you should also cite. I'm not sure what some of the things you wrote here have to do with answering the question asked. Kant has a rather robust treatment of beauty in the Critique of Judgment which seems to be not referenced at all here.
    – virmaior
    Jul 2, 2015 at 9:08
  • The 'Critique of Judgement' falls into philosophical grounds. The question asked has more to do with elements of epistemology. The 'Critique of Pure Reason' is the go-to book for understanding Kant's philosophy. All other books are more or less extensions of it. Jul 2, 2015 at 14:33
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    @SamparkSharma: This is clearly wrong, as Kant came to the belief that there have to be more critiques around april 1776, breaking with the appendix thought. This is shown e.g. in KANT’S Critique of Practical Reason, A Critical Guide, eds. Andrews Reath & Jens Timmermann in the first essay, The origin and aim of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason by Heiner F. Klemme, pp. 11-30. And there is a whole chapter on this in Eckart Förster's The 25 Years of Philosophy (chapter 5). Without the other two critiques, it is close to impossible to fully understand the first one.
    – Philip Klöcking
    May 4, 2016 at 11:26

Kant discusses this within the first paragraphs of his Critique of the Power of Judgement.

This is really a matter of definitions here, and as all too often, if you take Kant's definitions, the outcomes are analytically derived from them:

In order to decide whether or not something is beautiful, we do not relate the representation by means of understanding to the object for cognition, but rather relate it by means of the imagination (perhaps combined with the understanding) to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure. (5:203)

The judgement of beauty therefore links a representation [Vorstellung] to the subjective feeling it evokes. He writes regarding interest:

The satisfaction that we combine with the representation of the exis- tence of an object is called interest. (5:204)

That means that while there is a link between subjective feeling ('satisfaction') and a representation, it is the representation of the existance of the object. As he continues to argue in §2, beauty does not need the existence of the object of the representation that evokes the pleasure at all, but solely refers to the representation itself. The feeling of beauty does not need any objectivity (or even 'intentionality') thought in the representation.

Therefore, it is desinterested in this sense. And he even clarifies in a footnote on 5:205:

A judgment on an object of satisfaction can be entirely disinterested yet still very interesting, i.e., it is not grounded on any interest but it produces an interest; all pure moral judgments are like this. But the pure judgment of taste does not in itself even ground any interest. Only in society does it become interesting to have taste, the reason for which will be indicated in the sequel.

That simply is because satisfaction (and therefore interest) is thought as linked to the existance of an object (as contrasted to its representation) and the whole discourse is in the realm of existing objects, while beauty only refers to representations, no matter if they actually exist or not. The existence of the object would not change anything. Therefore, it is desinterested, because there is no satisfaction linked to the existence of its object whatsoever.

Misunderstandings mainly occur because of mixing the feeling of beauty with the satisfaction in interest as he defines it.

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