Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant

German philosopher.

Born April 1724

Related publications: Critique of the Power of Judgement (1781), Analytic of the Beautiful (1790),

Aesthetic theory, briefly:

Kant's philosophical approach is extremely metodological and this shows throughout his aesthetic theory. In his essay Analytic of the Beautiful, Kant has separated Aesthetic judgement into four "moments". Each moment represents a dimension of human aesthetic consideration.

In the first moment, "Quality", Kant establishes that taste is "the faculty of judging an object or a mode of representing it by a wholy disinterrested pleasure or displeasure. The object of such pleasure is called beautiful" (Kant 12).

In the second Moment, "Quantity", Kant expresses that the beautiful is an object of universal pleasure while staying subjective to the individual: since taste is a disinterrested pleasure, one must consider the object of such pleasure as "one that must contain a ground of pleasure for all men" eventhough "the judgement of taste ... contains merely a relation of the representation of the object, to the subject" (Kant 13). Kant also establishes that a judgement of taste can makes itself known to the subject only through sensations (Kant 22). He thus concludes that "That which we take a pleasure is universal and yet indpendent of concepts is beautiful" (23).

The third Moment concerns the "Relation" of the purposesiveness of Beauty. Here, Kant maintains that Beauty has no purpose in itself as do other sensations or objects since it is self-generating. He concludes that "Beauty is the form of the purposiveness of an object so far as this form is perceived in it without the concept of a purpose (Kant 45).

The fourth Moment relates to "Modality". By "modality", Kant means the conditions necessary for a judgement of taste. He draws from his analysis that "Beautiful is that which is recognized without concepts to be the object of a necessary pleasure" (Kant 51).


Important in Kant's aesthetic theory is the distinction between the Beautiful and the Sublime. According the Kant, the beautiful causes the senses to fit together in a certain way so to evoke a new bound sensibility characterized by pleasure and delight.

The Sublime, on the other hand, contrasts with the Beautiful as the senses it raises are related to dread, awe, overwhelming wonder. It is, contrary to the Beautiful, boundless as it goes beyond our judgement and its limits are unknown. According to Kant, the greatness of the Sublime lies in the fact that it allows a certain awareness as human beings of our place in the universe, our dignity, but also our limits.


For Kant, the Genius of an Artist lies in his ability to generate a work in a seamless manner that is not finite and can hold a meaning beyond its completion, that is never absolute and has "its own dignity" as its meaning continues to evolve and inspire distinct sensations with the passing of time.





Immanuel Kant, The Analytic of the beautiful, from the Critique of Judgement. 1790.