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The Critique of Judgement Part I: Critique of Aesthetic Judgement

Immanuel Kant


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The Critique of Judgment, also known as the third Critique, is a 1790 philosophical work by Immanuel Kant. In it, Kant lays the foundations for modern aesthetics. In this, the first part of the book, the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant discusses the four possible reflective judgments: the agreeable, the beautiful, the sublime, and the good. He makes it clear that these are the only four possible reflective judgments, as he relates them to the Table of Judgments from the Critique of Pure Reason.

Part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set.

This book has 130 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1911.

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Excerpt from 'The Critique of Judgement Part I: Critique of Aesthetic Judgement'

Philosophy may be said to contain the principles of the rational cognition that concepts afford us of things (not merely, as with logic, the principles of the form of thought in general irrespective of the objects), and, thus interpreted, the course, usually adopted, of dividing it into theoretical and practical is perfectly sound. But this makes imperative a specific distinction on the part of the concepts by which the principles of this rational cognition get their object assigned to them, for if the concepts are not distinct they fail to justify a division, which always presupposes that the principles belonging to the rational cognition of the several parts of the science in question are themselves mutually exclusive.

Now there are but two kinds of concepts, and these yield a corresponding number of distinct principles of the possibility of their objects. The concepts referred to are those of nature and that of freedom. By the first of these, a theoretical cognition from a priori principles becomes possible. In respect of such cognition, however, the second, by its very concept, imports no more than a negative principle (that of simple antithesis), while for the determination of the will, on the other hand, it establishes fundamental principles which enlarge the scope of its activity, and which on that account are called practical. Hence the division of philosophy falls properly into two parts, quite distinct in their principles-a theoretical, as philosophy of nature, and a practical, as philosophy of morals (for this is what the practical legislation of reason by the concept of freedom is called). Hitherto, however, in the application of these expressions to the division of the different principles, and with them to the division of philosophy, a gross misuse of the terms has prevailed; for what is practical according to concepts of nature has been taken as identical with what is practical according to the concept of freedom, with the result that a division has been made under these heads of theoretical and practical, by which, in effect, there has been no division at all (seeing that both parts might have similar principles).

The will-for this is what is said-is the faculty of desire and, as such, is just one of the many natural causes in the world, the one, namely, which acts by concepts; and whatever is represented as possible (or necessary) through the efficacy of will is called practically possible (or necessary): the intention being to distinguish its possibility (or necessity) from the physical possibility or necessity of an effect the causality of whose cause is not determined to its production by concepts (but rather, as with lifeless matter, by mechanism, and, as with the lower animals, by instinct). Now, the question in respect of the practical faculty: whether, that is to say, the concept, by which the causality of the will gets its rule, is a concept of nature or of freedom, is here left quite open.

The latter distinction, however, is essential. For, let the concept determining the causality be a concept of nature, and then the principles are technically-practical; but, let it be a concept of freedom, and they are morally-practical. Now, in the division of a rational science the difference between objects that require different principles for their cognition is the difference on which everything turns. Hence technically-practical principles belong to theoretical philosophy (natural science), whereas those morally-practical alone form the second part, that is, practical philosophy (ethical science).

All technically-practical rules (i.e., those of art and skill generally, or even of prudence, as a skill in exercising an influence over men and their wills) must, so far as their principles rest upon concepts, be reckoned only as corollaries to theoretical philosophy. For they only touch the possibility of things according to concepts of nature, and this embraces, not alone the means discoverable in nature for the purpose, but even the will itself (as a faculty of desire, and consequently a natural faculty), so far as it is determinable on these rules by natural motives. Still these practical rules are not called laws (like physical laws), but only precepts. This is due to the fact that the will does not stand simply under the natural concept, but also under the concept of freedom. In the latter connection its principles are called laws, and these principles, with the addition of what follows them, alone constitute the second at practical part of philosophy.

The solution of the problems of pure geometry is not allocated to a special part of that science, nor does the art of land-surveying merit the name of practical, in contradistinction to pure, as a second part of the general science of geometry, and with equally little, or perhaps less, right can the mechanical or chemical art of experiment or of observation be ranked as a practical part of the science of nature, or, in fine, domestic, agricultural, or political economy, the art of social intercourse, the principles of dietetics, or even general instruction as to the attainment of happiness, or as much as the control of the inclinations or the restraining of the affections with a view thereto, be denominated practical philosophy-not to mention forming these latter in a second part of philosophy in general. For, between them all, the above contain nothing more than rules of skill, which are thus only technically practical-the skill being directed to producing an effect which is possible according to natural concepts of causes and effects. As these concepts belong to theoretical philosophy, they are subject to those precepts as mere corollaries of theoretical philosophy (i.e., as corollaries of natural science), and so cannot claim any place in any special philosophy called practical. On the other hand, the morally practical precepts, which are founded entirely on the concept of freedom, to the complete exclusion of grounds taken from nature for the determination of the will, form quite a special kind of precepts. These, too, like the rules obeyed by nature, are, without qualification, called laws-though they do not, like the latter, rest on sensible conditions, but upon a supersensible principle-and they must needs have a separate part of philosophy allotted to them as their own, corresponding to the theoretical part, and termed practical philosophy capable

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