2 Nov 2008

Kant's Free and Adherent Beauties

Corry Shores
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Kant distinguishes two beauties: free and adherent beauty. Free beauty does not presuppose a concept of perfection for what the object is supposed to be, while adherent beauty is conditioned, because it adheres to a concept based on a particular end (§16 114a).
Certain things in nature such as flowers and birds are free beauties, because they do not represent some determinate concept. Kant thus includes decorations and “music fantasias[1]
(without a theme), indeed all music without a text” as free beauties (114b).

However, the beauty of human beings, horses, and buildings is adherent beauty, because they “presuppose a concept of the end that determines what the things should be, hence a concept of its perfection” (114d). [CS: perhaps we have a stronger concept of what horses are supposed to be for, more so than for flowers, on account of our instrumental usage of horses.]

When the representation for the object matches the concept of what it is for, that is, when we become aware of the object’s perfection, then we have deemed it beautiful (115c).

[1] OED, fantasia: 1. a. Mus. ‘A composition in a style in which form is subservient to fancy’ (Stainer and Barrett)

(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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