on Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste ..
'The beautiful is that which.., is represented as the object of universal delight'. Explain and evaluate Kant's reasons for this claim. Kant's theory of aesthetics is most elaborately expounded in his Critique of Judgement. In it, Kant asserts that beauty is neither subjective nor objective in the simple senses often made use of by his philosophical predecessors since Plato, rather asserting that a third possible position existed, and that it was here that beauty lies. Whilst Kant's claim in the title quotation refers only to universality, which might be taken to be asserting an objectivist understanding of beauty, he intends in fact to assert both that beauty is something acknowledged in objects by all, when properly perceived, but also that the existence of this beauty in an object cannot be proven or falsified, and further, that beauty is not tied to or based upon any determinative concept. Kant's reasons for this claim, then, come chiefly from his assessment of what is required for us to call an object beautiful, which he asserts comprises four component requirements. We should, then, analyse this assessment, and consider whether it delivers as comprehensive a survey of when an object is and is not beautiful as Kant endeavours to give us. I will conclude that whilst Kant's reasoning clarifies and asserts a number of things valuable to the continued study of aesthetics, his account is ultimately too variously flawed to be an acceptable or legitimate answer to the question of the nature of beauty. Kant's work on aesthetics in the Critique of Judgement are grounded in his understanding of 'judgement' as a faculty or power of the mind, and in a particular conception of the mind that involves two distinct elements, 'sensibility' and 'understanding'. Sensibility, for Kant, is the passive capacity to receive sensations below the level of meaningful thought or experience. Understanding is the 'active faculty of producing thoughts', that works with general, identifying concepts. These mental elements work to bring about ordinary experience thus: the object sensed comes to be understood as belonging under a particular concept, thus resulting in a judgement. For example 'This [the thing I am looking at that is consequently providing me with visual sensation' is a pen'. A judgement is just an experience that results in an assertion, or a simple awareness that something is the case. The faculty of judgement, then, is the ability to consider 'the particular under the universal', and is tied to Kant's understanding of 'concepts'. Judgement is the ability to assign particular elements of our environment to more general 'concepts' or sets, and judgements come in two main forms. Determining judgements subsume particulars and instances under general concepts already known or given, but in this role judgement does not operate as an independent faculty, rather as an element of the understanding. Reflective judgements entail the reverse - 'finding the universal for the given particular', and Kant assigns a special role to the exercise of aesthetic judgement as a subset of reflective judgements, specifically what he labels 'judgements of taste' or 'judgements of the beautiful'. Thus Kant sets out to describe what is special about judgements of taste, essentially answering the question 'what is required in order to call an object beautiful?'. Kant divides this requirement into four successive 'moments', of quality, quantity, relation and modality. In order to call an object beautiful, Kant argues, one must first form a judgement of that object that is entirely 'disinterested'. Kant's conception of 'interest' in this case entails that we habitually judge objects to be pleasurable or appealing on the grounds