The Critique of Judgement, by Immanuel Kant

Third Moment

Of Judgements of Taste, According to the Relation of the Purposes which are Brought into Consideration Therein.

§ 10.

Of purposiveness in general

If we wish to explain what a purpose is according to its transcendental determinations (without presupposing anything empirical like the feeling of pleasure) [we say that] the purpose is the object of a concept, in so far as the concept is regarded as the cause of the object (the real ground of its possibility); and the causality of a concept in respect of its Object is its purposiveness (forma finalis). Where then not merely the cognition of an object, but the object itself (its form and existence) is thought as an effect only possible by means of the concept of this latter, there we think a purpose. The representation of the effect is here the determining ground of its cause and precedes it. The consciousness of the causality of a representation, for maintaining the subject in the same state, may here generally denote what we call pleasure; while on the other hand pain is that representation which contains the ground of the determination of the state of representations into their opposite [of restraining or removing them1 ].

The faculty of desire, so far as it is determinable only through concepts, i.e. to act in conformity with the representation of a purpose, would be the Will. But an Object, or a state of mind, or even an action, is called purposive, although its possibility does not necessarily presuppose the representation of a purpose, merely because its possibility can be explained and conceived by us only so far as we assume for its ground a causality according to purposes, i.e. a will which would have so disposed it according to the representation of a certain rule. There can be, then, purposiveness without2 purpose, so far as we do not place the causes of this form in a will, but yet can only make the explanation of its possibility intelligible to ourselves by deriving it from a will. Again, we are not always forced to regard what we observe (in respect of its possibility) from the point of view of Reason. Thus we can at least observe a purposiveness according to form, without basing it on a purpose (as the material of the nexus finalis), and we can notice it in objects, although only by reflection.

1 [Second Edition. Spencer expresses much more concisely what Kant has in his mind here. “Pleasure . . . is a feeling which we seek to bring into consciousness and retain there; pain is . . . a feeling which we seek to get out of consciousness and to keep out.” Principles of Psychology, § 125 .]

2 [The editions of Hartenstein and Kirchmann omit ohne before zweck, which makes havoc of the sentence. It is correctly printed by Rosenkranz and Windelband.]

§ 11.

The judgement of taste has nothing at its basis but the form of the purposiveness of an object (or of its mode of representation)

Every purpose, if it be regarded as a ground of satisfaction, always carries with it an interest — as the determining ground of the judgement — about the object of pleasure. Therefore no subjective purpose can lie at the basis of the judgement of taste. But neither can the judgement of taste be determined by any representation of an objective purpose, i.e. of the possibility of the object itself in accordance with principles of purposive combination, and consequently it can be determined by no concept of the good; because it is an aesthetical and not a cognitive judgement. It therefore has to do with no concept of the character and internal or external possibility of the object by means of this or that cause, but merely with the relation of the representative powers to one another, so far as they are determined by a representation.

Now this relation in the determination of an object as beautiful is bound up with the feeling of pleasure, which is declared by the judgement of taste to be valid for every one; hence a pleasantness, accompanying the representation, can as little contain the determining ground [of the judgement] as the representation of the perfection of the object and the concept of the good can. Therefore it can be nothing else than the subjective purposiveness in the representation of an object without any purpose (either objective or subjective); and thus it is the mere form of purposiveness in the representation by which an object is given to us, so far as we are conscious of it, which constitutes the satisfaction that we without a concept judge to be universally communicable; and, consequently, this is the determining ground of the judgement of taste.

§ 12.

The judgement of taste rests on a priori grounds

To establish a priori the connexion of the feeling of a pleasure or pain as an effect, with any representation whatever (sensation or concept) as its cause, is absolutely impossible; for that would be a [particular]1 causal relation which (with objects of experience) can always only be cognised a posteriori, and through the medium of experience itself. We actually have, indeed, in the Critique of practical Reason, derived from universal moral concepts a priori the feeling of respect (as a special and peculiar modification of feeling which will not strictly correspond either to the pleasure or the pain that we get from empirical objects). But there we could go beyond the bounds of experience and call in a causality which rested on a supersensible attribute of the subject, viz. freedom. And even there, properly speaking, it was not this feeling which we derived from the Idea of the moral as cause, but merely the determination of the will. But the state of mind which accompanies any determination of the will is in itself a feeling of pleasure and identical with it, and therefore does not follow from it as its effect. This last must only be assumed if the concept of the moral as a good precede the determination of the will by the law; for in that case the pleasure that is bound up with the concept could not be derived from it as from a mere cognition.

Now the case is similar with the pleasure in aesthetical judgements, only that here it is merely contemplative and does not bring about an interest in the Object, which on the other hand in the moral judgement it is practical.1 The consciousness of the mere formal purposiveness in the play of the subject’s cognitive powers, in a representation through which an object is given, is the pleasure itself; because it contains a determining ground of the activity of the subject in respect of the excitement of its cognitive powers, and therefore an inner causality (which is purposive) in respect of cognition in general without however being limited to any definite cognition; and consequently contains a mere form of the subjective purposiveness of a representation in an aesthetical judgement. This pleasure is in no way practical, neither like that arising from the pathological ground of pleasantness, nor that from the intellectual ground of the represented good. But yet it involves causality, viz. of maintaining the state of the representation itself, and the exercise of the cognitive powers without further design. We linger over the contemplation of the beautiful, because this contemplation strengthens and reproduces itself, which is analogous to (though not of the same kind as) that lingering which takes place when a [physical] charm in the representation of the object repeatedly arouses the attention, the mind being passive.

1 [First Edition.]

1 [Cf. Metaphysic of Morals, Introd. I. “The pleasure which is necessarily bound up with the desire (of the object whose representation affects feeling) may be called practical pleasure, whether it be cause or effect of the desire. On the contrary, the pleasure which is not necessarily bound up with the desire of the object, and which, therefore, is at bottom not a pleasure in the existence of the Object of the representation, but clings to the representation only, may be called mere contemplative pleasure or passive satisfaction. The feeling of the latter kind of pleasure we call taste.”]

§ 13.

The pure judgement of taste is independent of charm and emotion

Every interest spoils the judgement of taste and takes from its impartiality, especially if the purposiveness is not, as with the interest of Reason, placed before the feeling of pleasure but grounded on it. This last always happens in an aesthetical judgement upon anything so far as it gratifies or grieves us. Hence judgements so affected can lay no claim at all to a universally valid satisfaction, or at least so much the less claim, in proportion as there are sensations of this sort among the determining grounds of taste. That taste is still barbaric which needs a mixture of charms and emotions in order that there may be satisfaction, and still more so if it make these the measure of its assent.

Nevertheless charms are often not only taken account of in the case of beauty (which properly speaking ought merely to be concerned with form) as contributory to the aesthetical universal satisfaction; but they are passed off as in themselves beauties, and thus the matter of satisfaction is substituted for the form. This misconception, however, like so many others which have something true at their basis, may be removed by a careful definition of these concepts.

A judgement of taste on which charm and emotion have no influence (although they may be bound up with the satisfaction in the beautiful) — which therefore has as its determining ground merely the purposiveness of the form — is a pure judgement of taste.

§ 14.

Elucidation by means of examples

Aesthetical judgements can be divided just like theoretical (logical) judgements into empirical and pure. The first assert pleasantness or unpleasantness; the second assert the beauty of an object or of the manner of representing it. The former are judgements of Sense (material aesthetical judgements); the latter [as formal1 ] are alone strictly judgements of Taste.

A judgement of taste is therefore pure, only so far as no merely empirical satisfaction is mingled with its determining ground. But this always happens if charm or emotion have any share in the judgement by which anything is to be described as beautiful.

Now here many objections present themselves, which fallaciously put forward charm not merely as a necessary ingredient of beauty, but as alone sufficient [to justify] a thing’s being called beautiful. A mere colour, e.g. the green of a grass plot, a mere tone (as distinguished from sound and noise) like that of a violin, are by most people described as beautiful in themselves; although both seem to have at their basis merely the matter of representations, viz. simply sensation, and therefore only deserve to be called pleasant. But we must at the same time remark that the sensations of colours and of tone have a right to be regarded as beautiful only in so far as they are pure. This is a determination which concerns their form, and is the only [element] of these representations which admits with certainty of universal communicability; for we cannot assume that the quality of sensations is the same in all subjects, and we can hardly say that the pleasantness of one colour or the tone of one musical instrument is judged preferable to that of another in the same1 way by every one.

If we assume with Euler that colours are isochronous vibrations (pulsus) of the aether, as sounds are of the air in a state of disturbance, and — what is most important — that the mind not only perceives by sense the effect of these in exciting the organ, but also perceives by reflection the regular play of impressions (and thus the form of the combination of different representations)— which I still do not doubt2 — then colours and tone cannot be reckoned as mere sensations, but as the formal determination of the unity of a manifold of sensations, and thus as beauties in themselves.

But “pure” in a simple mode of sensation means that its uniformity is troubled and interrupted by no foreign sensation, and it belongs merely to the form; because here we can abstract from the quality of that mode of sensation (abstract from the colours and tone, if any, which it represents). Hence all simple colours, so far as they are pure, are regarded as beautiful; composite colours have not this advantage, because, as they are not simple, we have no standard for judging whether they should be called pure or not.

But as regards the beauty attributed to the object on account of its form, to suppose it to be capable of augmentation through the charm of the object is a common error, and one very prejudicial to genuine, uncorrupted, well-founded taste. We can doubtless add these charms to beauty, in order to interest the mind by the representation of the object, apart from the bare satisfaction [received]; and thus they may serve as a recommendation of taste and its cultivation, especially when it is yet crude and unexercised. But they actually do injury to the judgement of taste if they draw attention to themselves as the grounds for judging of beauty. So far are they from adding to beauty that they must only be admitted by indulgence as aliens; and provided always that they do not disturb the beautiful form, in cases when taste is yet weak and untrained.

In painting, sculpture, and in all the formative arts — in architecture, and horticulture, so far as they are beautiful arts — the delineation is the essential thing; and here it is not what gratifies in sensation but what pleases by means of its form that is fundamental for taste. The colours which light up the sketch belong to the charm; they may indeed enliven1 the object for sensation, but they cannot make it worthy of contemplation and beautiful. In most cases they are rather limited by the requirements of the beautiful form; and even where charm is permissible it is ennobled solely by this.

Every form of the objects of sense (both of external sense and also mediately of internal) is either figure or play. In the latter case it is either play of figures (in space, viz. pantomime and dancing), or the mere play of sensations (in time). The charm of colours or of the pleasant tones of an instrument may be added; but the delineation in the first case and the composition in the second constitute the proper object of the pure judgement of taste. To say that the purity of colours and of tones, or their variety and contrast, seems to add to beauty, does not mean that they supply a homogeneous addition to our satisfaction in the form because they are pleasant in themselves; but they do so, because they make the form more exactly, definitely, and completely, intuitible, and besides by their charm [excite the representation, whilst they1 ] awaken and fix our attention on the object itself.

Even what we call ornaments [parerga1 ], i.e. those things which do not belong to the complete representation of the object internally as elements but only externally as complements, and which augment the satisfaction of taste, do so only by their form; as for example [the frames of pictures,1 or] the draperies of statues or the colonnades of palaces. But if the ornament does not itself consist in beautiful form, and if it is used as a golden frame is used, merely to recommend the painting by its charm, it is then called finery and injures genuine beauty.

Emotion, i.e. a sensation in which pleasantness is produced by means of a momentary checking and a consequent more powerful outflow of the vital force, does not belong at all to beauty. But sublimity [with which the feeling of emotion is bound up1 ] requires a different standard of judgement from that which is at the foundation of taste; and thus a pure judgement of taste has for its determining ground neither charm nor emotion, in a word, no sensation as the material of the aesthetical judgement.

1 [Second Edition.]

1 [First Edition has gleiche; Second Edition has solche.]

2 [First and Second Editions have sehr zweifle; but this was corrected to nicht zweifle in the Third Edition of 1799.]

1 [Belebt machen; First Edition had beliebt.]

1 [Second Edition.]

1 [Second Edition.]

1 [Second Edition.]

1 [Second Edition.]

§ 15.

The judgement of taste is quite independent of the concept of perfection

Objective purposiveness can only be cognised by means of the reference of the manifold to a definite purpose, and therefore only through a concept. From this alone it is plain that the Beautiful, the judging of which has at its basis a merely formal purposiveness, i.e. a purposiveness without purpose, is quite independent of the concept of the Good; because the latter presupposes an objective purposiveness, i.e. the reference of the object to a definite purpose.

Objective purposiveness is either external, i.e. the utility, or internal, i.e. the perfection of the object. That the satisfaction in an object, on account of which we call it beautiful, cannot rest on the representation of its utility, is sufficiently obvious from the two preceding sections; because in that case it would not be an immediate satisfaction in the object, which is the essential condition of a judgement about beauty. But objective internal purposiveness, i.e. perfection, comes nearer to the predicate of beauty; and it has been regarded by celebrated philosophers1 as the same as beauty, with the proviso, if it is thought in a confused way. It is of the greatest importance in a Critique of Taste to decide whether beauty can thus actually be resolved into the concept of perfection.

To judge of objective purposiveness we always need not only the concept of a purpose, but (if that purposiveness is not to be external utility but internal) the concept of an internal purpose which shall contain the ground of the internal possibility of the object. Now as a purpose in general is that whose concept can be regarded as the ground of the possibility of the object itself; so, in order to represent objective purposiveness in a thing, the concept of what sort of thing it is to be must come first. The agreement of the manifold in it with this concept (which furnishes the rule for combining the manifold) is the qualitative perfection of the thing. Quite different from this is quantitative perfection, the completeness of a thing after its kind, which is a mere concept of magnitude (of totality).1 In this what the thing ought to be is conceived as already determined, and it is only asked if it has all its requisites. The formal [element] in the representation of a thing, i.e. the agreement of the manifold with a unity (it being undetermined what this ought to be), gives to cognition no objective purposiveness whatever. For since abstraction is made of this unity as purpose (what the thing ought to be), nothing remains but the subjective purposiveness of the representations in the mind of the intuiting subject. And this, although it furnishes a certain purposiveness of the representative state of the subject, and so a facility of apprehending a given form by the Imagination, yet furnishes no perfection of an Object, since the Object is not here conceived by means of the concept of a purpose. For example, if in a forest I come across a plot of sward, round which trees stand in a circle, and do not then represent to myself a purpose, viz. that it is intended to serve for country dances, not the least concept of perfection is furnished by the mere form. But to represent to oneself a formal objective purposiveness without purpose, i.e. the mere form of a perfection (without any matter and without the concept of that with which it is accordant, even if it were merely the Idea of conformity to law in general1 ) is a veritable contradiction.

Now the judgement of taste is an aesthetical judgement, i.e. such as rests on subjective grounds, the determining ground of which cannot be a concept, and consequently cannot be the concept of a definite purpose. Therefore in beauty, regarded as a formal subjective purposiveness, there is in no way thought a perfection of the object, as a wouldbe formal purposiveness, which yet is objective. And thus to distinguish between the concepts of the Beautiful and the Good, as if they were only different in logical form, the first being a confused, the second a clear concept of perfection, but identical in content and origin, is quite fallacious. For then there would be no specific difference between them, but a judgement of taste would be as much a cognitive judgement as the judgement by which a thing is described as good; just as when the ordinary man says that fraud is unjust he bases his judgement on confused grounds, whilst the philosopher bases it on clear grounds, but both on identical principles of Reason. I have already, however, said that an aesthetical judgement is unique of its kind, and gives absolutely no cognition (not even a confused cognition) of the Object; this is only supplied by a logical judgement. On the contrary, it simply refers the representation, by which an Object is given, to the subject; and brings to our notice no characteristic of the object, but only the purposive form in the determination of the representative powers which are occupying themselves therewith. The judgement is called aesthetical just because its determining ground is not a concept, but the feeling (of internal sense) of that harmony in the play of the mental powers, so far as it can be felt in sensation. On the other hand, if we wish to call confused concepts and the objective judgement based on them, aesthetical, we shall have an Understanding judging sensibly or a Sense representing its Objects by means of concepts [both of which are contradictory.1 ] The faculty of concepts, be they confused or clear, is the Understanding; and although Understanding has to do with the judgement of taste, as an aesthetical judgement (as it has with all judgements), yet it has to do with it not as a faculty by which an object is cognised, but as the faculty which determines the judgement and its representation (without any concept) in accordance with its relation to the subject and the subject’s internal feeling, in so far as this judgement may be possible in accordance with a universal rule.

1 [Kant probably alludes here to Baumgarten (1714–1762), who was the first writer to give the name of Aesthetics to the Philosophy of Taste. He defined beauty as “perfection apprehended through the senses.” Kant is said to have used as a text-book at lectures a work by Meier, a pupil of Baumgarten’s, on this subject.]

1 [Cf. Preface to the Metaphysical Elements of Ethics, v.: “The word perfection is liable to many misconceptions. It is sometimes understood as a concept belonging to Transcendental Philosophy; viz. the concept of the totality of the manifold, which, taken together, constitutes a Thing; sometimes, again, it is understood as belonging to Teleology, so that it signifies the agreement of the characteristics of a thing with a purpose. Perfection in the former sense might be called quantitative (material), in the latter qualitative (formal) perfection.”]

1 [The words even if . . . general were added in the Second Edition.]

1 [Second Edition.]

§ 16.

The judgement of taste, by which an object is declared to be beautiful under the condition of a definite concept, is not pure

There are two kinds of beauty; free beauty (pulchritudo vaga) or merely dependent beauty (pulchritudo adhaerens). The first presupposes no concept of what the object ought to be; the second does presuppose such a concept and the perfection of the object in accordance therewith. The first is called the (self-subsistent) beauty of this or that thing; the second, as dependent upon a concept (conditioned beauty), is ascribed to Objects which come under the concept of a particular purpose.

Flowers are free natural beauties. Hardly any one but a botanist knows what sort of a thing a flower ought to be; and even he, though recognising in the flower the reproductive organ of the plant, pays no regard to this natural purpose if he is passing judgement on the flower by Taste. There is then at the basis of this judgement no perfection of any kind, no internal purposiveness, to which the collection of the manifold is referred. Many birds (such as the parrot, the humming bird, the bird of paradise), and many sea shells are beauties in themselves, which do not belong to any object determined in respect of its purpose by concepts, but please freely and in themselves. So also delineations à la grecque, foliage for borders or wall-papers, mean nothing in themselves; they represent nothing — no Object under a definite concept — and are free beauties. We can refer to the same class what are called in music phantasies (i.e. pieces without any theme), and in fact all music without words.

In the judging of a free beauty (according to the mere form) the judgement of taste is pure. There is presupposed no concept of any purpose, for which the manifold should serve the given Object, and which therefore is to be represented therein. By such a concept the freedom of the Imagination which disports itself in the contemplation of the figure would be only limited.

But human beauty (i.e. of a man, a woman, or a child), the beauty of a horse, or a building (be it church, palace, arsenal, or summer-house) presupposes a concept of the purpose which determines what the thing is to be, and consequently a concept of its perfection; it is therefore adherent beauty. Now as the combination of the Pleasant (in sensation) with Beauty, which properly is only concerned with form, is a hindrance to the purity of the judgement of taste; so also is its purity injured by the combination with Beauty of the Good (viz. that manifold which is good for the thing itself in accordance with its purpose).

We could add much to a building which would immediately please the eye, if only it were not to be a church. We could adorn a figure with all kinds of spirals and light but regular lines, as the New Zealanders do with their tattooing, if only it were not the figure of a human being. And again this could have much finer features and a more pleasing and gentle cast of countenance provided it were not intended to represent a man, much less a warrior.

Now the satisfaction in the manifold of a thing in reference to the internal purpose which determines its possibility is a satisfaction grounded on a concept; but the satisfaction in beauty is such as presupposes no concept, but is immediately bound up with the representation through which the object is given (not through which it is thought). If now the judgement of Taste in respect of the beauty of a thing is made dependent on the purpose in its manifold, like a judgement of Reason, and thus limited, it is no longer a free and pure judgement of Taste.

It is true that taste gains by this combination of aesthetical with intellectual satisfaction, inasmuch as it becomes fixed; and though it is not universal, yet in respect to certain purposively determined Objects it becomes possible to prescribe rules for it. These, however, are not rules of taste, but merely rules for the unification of Taste with Reason, i.e. of the Beautiful with the Good, by which the former becomes available as an instrument of design in respect of the latter. Thus the tone of mind which is self-maintaining and of subjective universal validity is subordinated to the way of thinking which can be maintained only by painful resolve, but is of objective universal validity. Properly speaking, however, perfection gains nothing by beauty or beauty by perfection; but, when we compare the representation by which an object is given to us with the Object (as regards what it ought to be) by means of a concept, we cannot avoid considering along with it the sensation in the subject. And thus when both states of mind are in harmony our whole faculty of representative power gains.

A judgement of taste, then, in respect of an object with a definite internal purpose, can only be pure, if either the person judging has no concept of this purpose, or else abstracts from it in his judgement. Such a person, although forming an accurate judgement of taste in judging of the object as free beauty, would yet by another who considers the beauty in it only as a dependent attribute (who looks to the purpose of the object) be blamed, and accused of false taste; although both are right in their own way, the one in reference to what he has before his eyes, the other in reference to what he has in his thought. By means of this distinction we can settle many disputes about beauty between judges of taste; by showing that the one is speaking of free, the other of dependent, beauty — that the first is making a pure, the second an applied, judgement of taste.

§ 17.

Of the Ideal of beauty

There can be no objective rule of taste which shall determine by means of concepts what is beautiful. For every judgement from this source is aesthetical; i.e. the feeling of the subject, and not a concept of the Object, is its determining ground. To seek for a principle of taste which shall furnish, by means of definite concepts, a universal criterion of the beautiful, is fruitless trouble; because what is sought is impossible and self-contradictory. The universal communicability of sensation (satisfaction or dissatisfaction) without the aid of a concept — the agreement, as far as is possible, of all times and peoples as regards this feeling in the representation of certain objects — this is the empirical criterion, although weak and hardly sufficing for probability, of the derivation of a taste, thus confirmed by examples, from the deep-lying grounds of agreement common to all men, in judging of the forms under which objects are given to them.

Hence, we consider some products of taste as exemplary. Not that taste can be acquired by imitating others; for it must be an original faculty. He who imitates a model shows, no doubt, in so far as he attains to it, skill; but only shows taste in so far as he can judge of this model itself.1 It follows from hence that the highest model, the archetype of taste, is a mere Idea, which every one must produce in himself; and according to which he must judge every Object of taste, every example of judgement by taste, and even the taste of every one. Idea properly means a rational concept, and Ideal the representation of an individual being, regarded as adequate to an Idea.2 Hence that archetype of taste, which certainly rests on the indeterminate Idea that Reason has of a maximum, but which cannot be represented by concepts, but only in an individual presentation, is better called the Ideal of the beautiful. Although we are not in possession of this, we yet strive to produce it in ourselves. But it can only be an Ideal of the Imagination, because it rests on a presentation and not on concepts, and the Imagination is the faculty of presentation. — How do we arrive at such an Ideal of beauty? A priori, or empirically? Moreover, what species of the beautiful is susceptible of an Ideal?

First, it is well to remark that the beauty for which an Ideal is to be sought cannot be vague beauty, but is fixed by a concept of objective purposiveness; and thus it cannot appertain to the Object of a quite pure judgement of taste, but to that of a judgement of taste which is in part intellectual. That is, in whatever grounds of judgement an Ideal is to be found, an Idea of Reason in accordance with definite concepts must lie at its basis; which determines a priori the purpose on which the internal possibility of the object rests. An Ideal of beautiful flowers, of a beautiful piece of furniture, of a beautiful view, is inconceivable. But neither can an Ideal be represented of a beauty dependent on definite purposes, e.g. of a beautiful dwelling-house, a beautiful tree, a beautiful garden, etc.; presumably because their purpose is not sufficiently determined and fixed by the concept, and thus the purposiveness is nearly as free as in the case of vague beauty. The only being which has the purpose of its existence in itself is man, who can determine his purposes by Reason; or, where he must receive them from external perception, yet can compare them with essential and universal purposes, and can judge this their accordance aesthetically. This man is, then, alone of all objects in the world, susceptible of an Ideal of beauty; as it is only humanity in his person, as an intelligence, that is susceptible of the Ideal of perfection.

But there are here two elements. First, there is the aesthetical normal Idea, which is an individual intuition (of the Imagination), representing the standard of our judgement [upon man] as a thing belonging to a particular animal species. Secondly, there is the rational Idea which makes the purposes of humanity, so far as they cannot be sensibly represented, the principle for judging of a figure through which, as their phenomenal effect, those purposes are revealed. The normal Idea of the figure of an animal of a particular race must take its elements from experience. But the greatest purposiveness in the construction of the figure, that would be available for the universal standard of aesthetical judgement upon each individual of this species — the image which is as it were designedly at the basis of nature’s Technic, to which only the whole race and not any isolated individual is adequate — this lies merely in the Idea of the judging [subject]. And this, with its proportions, as an aesthetical Idea, can be completely presented in concreto in a model. In order to make intelligible in some measure (for who can extract her whole secret from nature?) how this comes to pass, we shall attempt a psychological explanation.

We must remark that, in a way quite incomprehensible by us, the Imagination can not only recall, on occasion, the signs for concepts long past, but can also reproduce the image of the figure of the object out of an unspeakable number of objects of different kinds or even of the same kind. Further, if the mind is concerned with comparisons, the Imagination can, in all probability, actually though unconsciously let one image glide into another, and thus by the concurrence of several of the same kind come by an average, which serves as the common measure of all. Every one has seen a thousand full-grown men. Now if you wish to judge of their normal size, estimating it by means of comparison, the Imagination (as I think) allows a great number of images (perhaps the whole thousand) to fall on one another. If I am allowed to apply here the analogy of optical presentation, it is in the space where most of them are combined and inside the contour, where the place is illuminated with the most vivid colours, that the average size is cognisable; which, both in height and breadth, is equally far removed from the extreme bounds of the greatest and smallest stature. And this is the stature of a beautiful man. (We could arrive at the same thing mechanically, by adding together all thousand magnitudes, heights, breadths, and thicknesses, and dividing the sum by a thousand. But the Imagination does this by means of a dynamical effect, which arises from the various impressions of such figures on the organ of internal sense.) If now in a similar way for this average man we seek the average head, for this head the average nose, etc., such figure is at the basis of the normal Idea in the country where the comparison is instituted. Thus necessarily under these empirical conditions a negro must have a different normal Idea of the beauty of the [human figure] from a white man, a Chinaman a different normal Idea from a European, etc. And the same is the case with the model of a beautiful horse or dog (of a certain breed). — This normal Idea is not derived from proportions got from experience [and regarded] as definite rules; but in accordance with it rules for judging become in the first instance possible. It is the image for the whole race, which floats among all the variously different intuitions of individuals, which nature takes as archetype in her productions of the same species, but which seems not to be fully reached in any individual case. It is by no means the whole archetype of beauty in the race, but only the form constituting the indispensable condition of all beauty, and thus merely correctness in the [mental] presentation of the race. It is, like the celebrated Doryphorus of Polycletus,1 the rule (Myron’s2 Cow might also be used thus for its kind). It can therefore contain nothing specifically characteristic, for otherwise it would not be the normal Idea for the race. Its presentation pleases, not by its beauty, but merely because it contradicts no condition, under which alone a thing of this kind can be beautiful. The presentation is merely correct.3

We must yet distinguish the normal Idea of the beautiful from the Ideal, which latter, on grounds already alleged, we can only expect in the human figure. In this the Ideal consists in the expression of the moral, without which the object would not please universally and thus positively (not merely negatively in a correct presentation). The visible expression of moral Ideas that rule men inwardly, can indeed only be got from experience; but to make its connexion with all which our Reason unites with the morally good in the Idea of the highest purposiveness — goodness of heart, purity, strength, peace, etc. — visible as it were in bodily manifestation (as the effect of that which is internal), requires a union of pure Ideas of Reason with great imaginative power, even in him who wishes to judge of it, still more in him who wishes to present it. The correctness of such an Ideal of beauty is shown by its permitting no sensible charm to mingle with the satisfaction in the Object and yet allowing us to take a great interest therein. This shows that a judgement in accordance with such a standard can never be purely aesthetical, and that a judgement in accordance with an Ideal of beauty is not a mere judgement of taste.

1 Models of taste as regards the arts of speech must be composed in a dead and learned language. The first, in order that they may not suffer that change which inevitably comes over living languages, in which noble expressions become flat, common ones antiquated, and newly created ones have only a short currency. The second, because learned languages have a grammar which is subject to no wanton change of fashion, but the rules of which are preserved unchanged.

2 [This distinction between an Idea and an Ideal, as also the further contrast between Ideals of the Reason and Ideals of the Imagination, had already been given by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason, Dialectic, bk. ii. c. iii. § 1 .]

1 [Polycletus of Argos flourished about 430 b.c. His statue of the Spearbearer (Doryphorus), afterwards became known as the Canon; because in it the artist was supposed to have embodied a perfect representation of the ideal of the human figure.]

2 [This was a celebrated statue executed by Myron, a Greek sculptor, contemporary with Polycletus. It is frequently mentioned in the Greek Anthology.]

3 It will be found that a perfectly regular countenance, such as a painter might wish to have for a model, ordinarily tells us nothing; because it contains nothing characteristic, and therefore rather expresses the Idea of the race than the specific [traits] of a person. The exaggeration of a characteristic of this kind, i.e. such as does violence to the normal Idea (the purposiveness of the race) is called caricature. Experience also shows that these quite regular countenances commonly indicate internally only a mediocre man; presumably (if it may be assumed that external nature expresses the proportions of internal) because, if no mental disposition exceeds that proportion which is requisite in order to constitute a man free from faults, nothing can be expected of what is called genius, in which nature seems to depart from the ordinary relations of the mental powers on behalf of some special one.

Explanation of the Beautiful Derived from this Third Moment

Beauty is the form of the purposiveness of an object, so far as this is perceived in it without any representation of a purpose.1

1 It might be objected to this explanation that there are things, in which we see a purposive form without cognising any [definite] purpose in them, like the stone implements often got from old sepulchral tumuli with a hole in them as if for a handle. These, although they plainly indicate by their shape a purposiveness of which we do not know the purpose, are nevertheless not described as beautiful. But if we regard a thing as a work of art, that is enough to make us admit that its shape has reference to some design and definite purpose. And hence there is no immediate satisfaction in the contemplation of it. On the other hand a flower, e.g. a tulip, is regarded as beautiful; because in perceiving it we find a certain purposiveness which, in our judgement, is referred to no purpose at all.

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:48