2 Nov 2008

Kant’s Beauty of Color, Sound, and Form

by Corry Shores
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Normally a sensuous experience of color or sound cannot be considered beautiful, because only universally communicable non-subjective judgments may deem something as beautiful. However, they can be judged beautiful if they are considered pure: colors and sounds are vibrations or pulses whose effect is not merely their immediate impression on our eyes and ears, but as well results from our synthesizing the play of impressions into a representation of the sound or color. Because such a representation can be universally communicated, sounds and colors in this pure form may be deemed beautiful (§14 108-109).

Because in order for these representations to be pure there cannot be any disturbances or interruptions of other sensations: “all simple colors, insofar as they are pure, are held then beautiful; those that are mixed do not have this advantage” (109c).

But what is essential in all the arts is ‘drawing,’ which provides form. “All form of the objects of the senses (of the outer as well as, mediately, the inner) is either shape or play: in the latter case, either play of shapes (in space, mime, and dance), or mere play of sensations (in time).” Even though the charm of colors may be added, it remains the drawing or form that is essential in judging something as beautiful (110b).

(page numbers from: Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. Transls. & Eds. Paul Guyer & Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.)

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