In 1796 a German politico-philosophical manifesto proclaims the 'highest act of reason' as an 'aesthetic act'. The ways in which this transformation relates to the development of some of the major directions in modern philosophy is the focus of this book. The book focuses on the main accounts of the human subject and on the conceptions of art and language which emerge within the Kantian and post-Kantian history of aesthetics. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement, forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason. The early Romantics, who, after all, themselves established the term, can be characterized in a way which distinguishes them from later German Romanticism. The 'Oldest System Programme of German Idealism', is a manifesto for a new philosophy and exemplifies the spirit of early Idealism, not least with regard to mythology. The crucial question posed by the Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling of the System of Transcendental Idealism (STI) is how art relates to philosophy, a question which has recently reappeared in post-structuralism and in aspects of pragmatism. Despite his undoubted insights, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's insufficiency in relation to music is part of his more general problem with adequately theorising self-consciousness, and thus with his aesthetic theory. Friedrich Schleiermacher argues in the hermeneutics that interpretation of the meaning of Kunst is itself also an 'art'. The book concludes with a discussion on music, language, and Romantic thought.
Modern philosophy and
the emergence of aesthetic theory:
Self-consciousness, knowledge and freedom
The importance attributed to aesthetic questions in recent philosophy becomes
easier to grasp if one considers the reasons for the emergence of modern aesthetic theory. Kant’s main work on aesthetics, the ‘third Critique’, the Critique
of Judgement (CJ) (1790), forms part of his response to unresolved questions
which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) (1781) and CritiqueofPracticalReason (1787).1 In order to understand the signiﬁcance of the CJ
area of private
life as possible over which the state has no right to trespass. Indeed, he
declared that the right to the greatest possible degree of freedom was
second only to the right to life.
Running through Kant’s many
works, most notably Critique of Pure Reason (1781), CritiqueofPracticalReason (1788), Critique of Judgement (1790), is the
precedent of L. W. Beck. See Beck, A Commentary on Kant’s CritiqueofPracticalReason
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), ch. XII, and for an account of the reasons
for its particular place in the architectonic of the second critique see Banham, Kant, ch. 1.
It is almost a commonplace for contemporary critics of Kant to suggest that he has little
room for feeling in his account of moral motivation, an accusation that seems to me quite
false. For a critical assessment of Kant’s position see N. Sherman, ‘The place of emotions
in Kantian morality’ in O. Flanagan
indeed to Adorno’s recasting of Kantian antinomy as dialectic of enlightenment
see G. Rose, Hegel contra Sociology (London: Athlone, 1981).
8 The notion of antinomy here has a history going back to the writings of Kant, in his
Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), in which he analyses the antinomies of the understanding with respect to the deployment of concepts. Kant sets out an antinomy of practical reason in his CritiqueofPracticalReason, which concerns the diﬀerent trajectories of an
analysis of virtue and of happiness respectively. The argument considers the