Kant Questions for E492 Modern Critical Theory, Cal State Fullerton



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Assigned: Immanuel Kant. From Critique of the Power of Judgment, "Introduction" and First Book: "Analytic of the Beautiful" (411-30). Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd edition.

From Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790)

1. What is philosophical idealism? How does it describe the relationship between the mind and the external world? (general question)

2. What implications might philosophical idealism have for broader notions about politics and societal organization? Responding to this question helps one understand why the romantic poets borrowed so heavily from Kantian ideas. (general question)

From Introduction

3. Try to explain in your own words what Kant conveys by way of introduction to aesthetic judgments (i.e. judgments that some object is beautiful) and their "subjective" (rather than objective) quality. How is he beginning to make the case that what we call "beauty" isn't in objects but should instead be thought of as situated or generated in our own minds? (411-14)

From First Book. Analytic of the Beautiful

4. Describe the basic quality of what Kant calls an "aesthetic judgment" or a "judgment of taste." That is, try to explain in your own words what Kant seems to be getting at in his opening section of the first book. (414-15, Section 1)

5. Why, according to Kant, isn't it possible to make "a pure judgment of taste" as soon as "interest" enters the picture? A bit later, at 418 near the top (Section 5), Kant uses the term "disinterested." Look up this word if you're not familiar with its precise meaning – it does not mean "a state of being bored with something." How does the word encapsulate what he is saying about the purity of a proper aesthetic judgment? (415-16, Section 2)

6. How does Kant define judgments about "the agreeable" and "the good"? Why aren't these kinds of judgment aesthetic? (See 414-15 for a definition of this term.) Provide your own examples of a judgment about the agreeable and the good, respectively. (416-18, Sections 3-5)

7. Why, according to Kant, do we suppose we have the right to other people's agreement once we have declared an object beautiful? That is, we would not demand that everybody like chocolate ice cream just because we like it, but we would insist that our statement, "this rose is beautiful" is a universally correct judgment. Why? (418-21, Sections 6-8)

8. According to Kant, do we feel pleasure before making a judgment of taste, or do we make the judgment first and then feel pleasure? What reasons does he provide for his answer? (421-22, Section 9)

9. What does Kant appear to mean by the terms "design" and "form"? How do these two terms differ from "charm" and "emotion"? Why is the design of a presentation or object central to a judgment of taste? (423-25, Sections 11, 13-14)

10. Following upon question 9, what role does "sense" or "sensation" play in the making of an aesthetic judgment? Does Kant disdain sensation or sensory experience, or does his desire to abstract from it stem from some other purpose? Explain. If you are presenting on this question, also add your reflections on Kant's use of terms such as "shape," "play," "ornaments," and "decoration" towards the end of Section 14 on page 425. (423-25, Sections 13-14)

11. According to Kant, what is "free beauty" (pulchritudo vaga)? What examples does he offer? Why is it important that our liking for such objects does not refer to any definite concept, i.e. that we don't refer the object to a fixed purpose or concept? (425-27 top, Section 16)

12. What, according to Kant, can't there be an "objective rule of taste that would determine what is beautiful through concepts"? To generalize from this, why can't we set forth an ideal or archetype of "beauty" in a facilely determinate, solid manner? (427, Section 17)

13. How do you understand Kant's terms "common sense" (sensus communis) and "purposiveness without an end"? What significance do they hold for Kant's claims about the human value of aesthetic judgment? (429-30, Section 22)

From Second Book. Analytic of the Sublime

This part of the text isn't assigned, but here are the questions in case you want to do the reading anyway.

14. In what respects, according to Kant, are the beautiful and the sublime similar? What "significant differences" does Kant address between the beautiful and the sublime? Which difference is the most important, and why? (430-32, Section 23)

15. What reason does Kant give for considering the "{the concept of} the beautiful in nature" more important than the "the concept of the sublime in nature"? What can our experience of the beautiful do for us that our experience with the sublime cannot? (430-32, Section 23)

16. Following upon question 14, how does Kant's attitude towards the sublime differ from that of Longinus? (430-32, general question, Section 23)

17. How does Kant define the term "sublime"? Why is it the case that "nothing that can be an object of the senses is . . . to be called sublime"? (433, Section 25)

18. Why, according to Kant, should we most properly turn to "raw nature" and not to "products of art" (434) in explaining the sublime? (434-35, Section 26)

19. How is it that the feeling most relevant to our experience of the sublime is "respect"? What is it that we respect when we experience the sublime, and why? How does this experience entail "a feeling of displeasure" and yet also "a pleasure"? (436-37, Section 27)

20. How does Kant define nature as a "power"? Why is it necessary for a judgment of sublimity that we can "consider an object as fearful without being afraid of it" (438)? What would happen to our experience of sublimity, for instance, if -- my example -- we were clinging to a flimsy branch over the edge of Niagara Falls rather than viewing the Falls from a safe distance? (438-40, Section 28)

21. How does Kant argue that neither judgments about beauty nor judgments about the sublime are a matter of cultural "convention" (440)? What broader and more important factor is involved? (440-42, Section 29)

22. What is Kant's definition of the sensus communis, or "common sense," and why is such a capacity important to his framework for explaining aesthetic judgments? How is it, further, that (at 443 middle), "taste can be called a sensus communis with greater justice than can the healthy understanding"? (442-44, Section 40)

23. Kant wrote a famous essay called "What is Enlightenment?" How does he characterize "enlightenment" while analyzing the sensus communis? (443 top, Section 40)

24. How does Kant distinguish "art" from "nature"? What are the distinguishing characteristics of art? And how is art to be further distinguished from craft and from science? (444-45, Section 43)

25. How does Kant treat the issue of "genius"? What can the artist or genius do especially well? Does his treatment of the issue differ from your own understanding of the term? If so, how? (445-49, Sections 49-50)

26. How, according to Kant, is beauty the "symbol of the morally good"? (449-50, Section 59)