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A Study in Kant’s Notion of Aesthetic Imagination

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2010, 31(), pp.297-335
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Published : June 30, 2010

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1대구 카톨릭대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The imagination in Kant’s philosophy has ever since been dealt with as something secondary and aporetic in comparison to reason, understanding, or judgment. It would be responsible for his consistent assertion that imagination, albeit spontaneous and active, should be denied a high cognitive faculty and accordingly be teated as the third faculty of mediating high cognitive faculties. As a matter of fact, Kant dealt with imagination as a mediative faculty of facilitating the applicability of the concept of understanding to the intuition of sensibility in the Critique of Pure Reason. In this epistemological vein, exegetists have not usually taken Kant to conceive of imagination as more than a faculty of assisting the making of a judgment of taste in the Critique of Judgment. This approach is just an extension of the traditional systematic standpoint according to which Kant’s critical aesthetics was intended to be a vehicle for unifying his (supposedly separated) philosophies of nature and freedom. However, I set myself to elucidate the proper status and role of aesthetic imagination from the autonomous thrust of judgments of taste established in the Analytic of the Beautiful in the third Critique, indeed, against such systematic approach that I consider to have either obfuscated or distorted Kant’s insight into the way imagination acts in judgments of taste. The basis on which my approach rests lies in demonstrating that determinate and reflective judgments as their respective matrixes of cognitive and aesthetic judgments are generically different from each other, and specifically the respective relations of the faculties as the grounds of cognitive determinate judgment and aesthetic reflective judgment are of a dynamically different order. What boils down to here is to proving that there is a significant difference between the harmony of imagination and understanding as the basis of a judgment of taste and that of imagination and understanding as the basis of a cognitive judgment. For this purpose, I seek to show that the harmony of the former characteristically is “free, playful, and lawlessly lawful”, following Guyer’s analysis, on the basis of the “metacognitive” interpretation (according to which the harmony of the faculties in a judgment of taste “goes beyond” any determinate concepts of understanding)-which is in line with the autonomous standpoint-in contrast with both the “precognitive” interpretation (according to which the harmony of the faculties as the ground of a judgment of taste is a state of mind just prior to the application of the concept to the intuition, and the “multicognitive” one (according to which the concept, leading to the harmony of the faculties as the ground of a judgment of taste, is among an indeterminate multitude of concepts-both of which pass as the established systematic approach. What I want to ascertain in terms of this line of reasoning is that aesthetic imagination in a judgment of taste works for the harmony of the faculties in such a way as to bring about a feeling of pleasure and simultaneously plays a pivotal role in apprehending and exhibiting the aesthetic form in the object; for this reason, aesthetic imagination can lay claim to a pseudo-high cognitive faculty. That is to say, aesthetic imagination in Kant's theory of taste is free from the restraints of all high mental faculties, and thus is in free play for its spontaneous intentionality; what aesthetic imagination spontaneously intends for is no other than a feeling of pleasure, say, beauty. The reason that Kant describes the feeling of pleasure as ‘free’, ‘playful’, ‘reflective’, and ‘purposive’ is because this pleasure is the very pleasure of imagination, and because the imagination runs through all the moments of a judgment of taste. This is why to understand imagination as a spontaneous and leading faculty, i.e., a pusedo-high faculty(rather than simply a mediative faculty in accordance with his systematic thrust) in Kant’s theory of taste is more appropriate to have access to his unrestrained insight into the nature of taste.

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