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Kant’s Aesthetics and the ‘Empty Cognitive Stock’

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It is sometimes assumed that Kant’s claim that a judgement of taste is grounded in a pleasure ‘without concepts’ leaves little room for any credible account of critical judgements of art. I argue that even Kant’s conception of free (as opposed to dependent) beauty can provide the framework for an analysis of aesthetic judgements about art works. It is a matter of understanding what roles for concepts Kant prohibits in his analysis of pure judgements of taste: conceptual cognition must be neither what gives rise to the subject’s pleasure nor part of the evidential basis for the subject’s judgement. But this does not entail that the subject encounters the object in a wholly ‘concept–free’ manner. Kant’s account of free beauty is quite different from Schopenhauer’s superficially similar theory, and is compatible with the thought that increased conceptual knowledge can enhance critical judgements of art.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Birkbeck College, University of London

Publication date: 1997-10-01

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