ART

IMMANUEL KANT ABOUT FINE ART

Kant argues that art can be tasteful and yet be ‘soulless’ – lacking that certain something that would make it more than just an artificial version of a beautiful natural object. What provides soul in fine art is an aesthetic idea. An aesthetic idea is a counterpart to a rational idea: where the latter is a concept that could never adequately be exhibited sensibly, the former is a set of sensible presentations to which no concept is adequate. An aesthetic idea, then, is as successful an attempt as possible to ‘exhibit’ the rational idea. It is the talent of genius to generate aesthetic ideas, but that is not all. First, the mode of expression must also be tasteful – for the understanding’s ‘lawfulness’ is the condition of the expression being in any sense universal and capable of being shared. The genius must also find a mode of expression which allows a viewer not just to ‘understand’ the work conceptually, but to reach something like the same excited yet harmonious state of mind that the genius had in creating.