In the Second Moment of the Critique of Judgement, Kant writes about how the universality of the judgment of beauty is without concepts. I understand what he is doing here, but keep wondering whether it really could be possible to judge without concepts. Are there any substantial critiques on this point?

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    what do you understand him to be doing? sorry for the banal comment, thanks for the question
    – user35983
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


Kant is trying to define beauty as something universal

For those interested text of critique is here. Essentially, Kant tries to define beautiful as something satisfying, independent of senses or personal preferences, as opposed to pleasing (that does depend on senses and personal preferences) . Kant therefore denies that anything that must be sensed (pictures, music, wine and probably even women :)) could be beautiful, simply because personal tastes indeed do vary between individuals. Also, we really don't know how other people perceive the same thing (for example some people like violet color, other see it as dull etc ...)

Next step for Kant is to declare that anything determined to be beautiful using reflection (i.e. thinking) is also not universal, therefore not really beautiful, merely good. His reasoning is that reflection relies on concepts and categories, and these are just characteristics of objects. And even Kant admits that you cannot "persuade" someone to feel beauty trough objective analysis. For example Person X doesn't feel that some object is beautiful, and then you tell him "this object is beautiful because it has this and this" , and puff ... now he feels the beauty :) Or in Kant own words

If we judge Objects merely according to concepts, then all representation of beauty is lost. Thus there can be no rule according to which any one is to be forced to recognise anything as beautiful.

Having painted himself in a corner, rejecting both senses and reason, and still seeking universal beauty, Kant now relies on very convoluted explanation, his usual style :) According to Kant, we may yet see a woman and declare her to be (universally) beautiful, although in reality she is just pleasing to our senses (eyes). But what is also real is Idea of Beauty, as an faculty of the Mind. Or plainly, we see woman, she is just pleasing to our eyes (and may not be pleasing for eyes of another) . But her appearance triggers our sense of beauty (which is universal) , and this sense transforms her from pleasing experience to something much higher.

The universal voice is, therefore, only an Idea (we do not yet inquire upon what it rests). It may be uncertain whether or not the man, who believes that he is laying down a judgement of taste, is, as a matter of fact, judging in conformity with that idea; but that he refers his judgement thereto, and, consequently, that it is intended to be a judgement of taste, he announces by the expression “beauty.”

This whole essay is in line of Kant general idea to map the mind. He famously proclaimed that time and space are just functions (abilities) of the mind. Therefore, he attempted to use same hammer to solve every philosophical problem - everything that is universal must be just another part of the mind.

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    As discussed in this answer with quotes, beauty is triggered by forms that are perceived through the senses and trigger a free play of imagination. This, together with Kant's table of judgements in CPR being about objects as such (i.e. pre-conceptual) makes this answer seem weird in some respects. Perhaps showing the points with quotes supporting your view would help.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 22:58
  • is a "free play of the imagination" sufficient for beauty? @PhilipKlöcking sorry i'm sickeningly ignorant
    – user35983
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 23:33
  • I feel you're a bit quick to dismiss Kant. It is a common view that love and beauty are (in origin) not relational but universal (fundamental or independent). This is what is meant by 'God is Love' or 'All is Love'. Kant is merely groping towards the perennial view of love and beauty, which is that for most of us love would be felt as relational but when examined it's source would be found to be prior to relations. Rupert Spira explains this brilliantly on youtube.in his 2018 speech to the Foundation for World Peace. .
    – user20253
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:13
  • @PeterJ I'm not dismissing him, he simply put himself in an awkward situation by declaring beauty as universal. His philosophical mind immediately chop this idea to pieces, but his theological fears try to find some convoluted explanation so it would be saved. And unlike God, beauty supposed to be accessible in this world. This make it even harder to declare it as universal. Finally, he goes to his tried and tested solution by declaring beauty simply as a feature of mind, like he did with time and space. But in case of beauty this really doesn't hold water.
    – rs.29
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:55
  • @rs.29 - Okay. I'm with Kant on this but agree he gets into a muddle. Less of a muddle than most though.
    – user20253
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 15:02

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