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A Rescued Legacy and a Jazz Model:

Mapping Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment”’s Twentieth-Century Reception


Silvestre Gristina[*]

University of Padua, Italy


Review of: Marino, Stefano, Terzi, Pietro (edited by), Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century. A Companion to Its Main Interpretations, Berlin/Boston, Walter De Gruyter, 2020, pp. 361, ISBN 978-3-11-059613-7.


“Nun war vor Törleß der Name Kant nie anders als gelegentlich und mit einer Miene ausgesprochen worden, wie der eines unheimlichen Heiligen. Und Törleß konnte gar nichts anders denken, als daß von Kant die Probleme der Philosophie endgültig gelöst seien, und diese seither eine zwecklose Beschäftigung bleibe”. This passage from Musil is well known: after a conversation with his mathematics teacher, Törleß has just taken into his hands a book by Kant, which had been lying open on a table, like a Bible. And although Musil does not write it explicitly, that book has been universally recognized as The Critique of Pure Reason. In the following pages, Musil shows us Törleß, struggling to read the first pages of the Kant. At the end of the day he is exhausted, he does not want to read a single page more, and he asks himself whether the reason for that feeling is sickness or just fear. But the most meaningful passage comes right after, when Törleß falls asleep and dreams of Kant, walking with a heavy book in his arms. And that book is so heavy that Kant has to stop every three steps to rest. The result of Törleß/Musil’s encounter with Kant was the strong belief that Kant had surely found the conceptual order for the understanding of the rational world, but refused to investigate the dimension of irrationality and the imaginary. It was probably the first Viennese step towards Canetti’s novel Die Blendung, which was originally to be entitled Kant fängt Feuer. But what if Törleß had read – for example – the Analytic of the Sublime?

Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century, edited by Stefano Marino and Pietro Terzi, could help us to rethink Törleß’s dream, drawing a map of the influence of “another” Kant, which burst into flames not because – as Canetti would have wanted –  his philosophy was unfit to address the new challenges posed by the twentieth-century, such as irrationality or blind spots of rationality, but rather because his philosophy had to become a torch to illuminate new paths through the unexplored land disclosed after the turn of the century. Let us now imagine Törleß stands symbolically for the twentieth century, and from his unconscious emerges Immanuel Kant, with his eighteenth-century ponytail, as Musil ironically writes, but this time something is different: in his arms he is carrying another book, “a complex, multi-layered, heterogeneous, discontinuous and, so to speak, ‘patchy’ work” (p.4), the Critique of the Power of Judgment. Out of metaphor, it is well known that the third Critique has deeply influenced the twentieth-century history of philosophy, nourishing debates in many philosophical disciplines. However, the volume’s editors are right when they argue that, “while the importance of the Critique of the Power of Judgment for the birth of nineteenth-century romanticism and transcendental idealism was widely acknowledged and documented early on, scholars have sometimes overlooked its far-reaching influence on twentieth-century thought” (p.4). Marino and Terzi’s editorial project takes the first important step towards the comprehension of Critique of Power of Judgment’s widespread importance in contemporary philosophy. This collective volume does not only make a first mapping – both properly geographical and chronological and conceptual – but also provides a methodological toolbox to follow the track taken. Indeed, the second paragraph of the introduction is a fresco of the history and geography of the reception, which constitutes the background on which the contributions can be organically placed. The editors follow the Wirkungsgeschichte vertically, crossing two centuries, and horizontally, looking at different cultural contexts. In this way, tracing the reception paths in Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and America, within a range of two centuries, a three-dimensional web emerges. Precisely this figure allows the editors to organize the material of the contributions, and also provides the reader with orientation within such a complex phenomenon.

In the third paragraph the editors accurately describe the state-of-the-art of the research on the reception and the interpretations of the Critique of the Power of Judgement by referring to the last three decades of conferences and publications on the topic. This thorough overview of the status quaestionis is not a mere formality, but allows the editors to show the originality of Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment in the 20th Century in the light of current scholarly debate, and also to declare the general ambition of the book. Indeed, Marino and Terzi clarify that they aimed to produce “the first comprehensive study on this missing piece in the history of contemporary philosophy, capable of cutting in a unique way across different traditions, movements, and geographical areas” (p.30). The last part of the introduction makes explicit the methodological framework used for the coordination of the seventeen contributions that compose the collective work. First, each chapter – for both methodological and historical-philosophical reasons – investigates the contemporary reception of the Critique of the Aesthetic Power, leaving out the contemporary debate on the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment. This focus allows the work to concentrate specifically on aesthetics as a field of philosophy, and its implications. Secondly, the general method of choice and organization proves to be, paradoxically, a successful non-method, since the editors explicitly declare that they restrained themselves from dictating an overreaching methodological model to the authors, with the aim of showing, practically, the complexity and variety of the phenomenon of reception of one of the most crucial texts in the history of philosophy. Indeed, the Critique of Power of Judgment is not only the fulfilment of the system of transcendental philosophy, it could be considered the core of the system, the work in which the elements that make a critique of the whole reason possible truly appear. The unedited use of the reflective judgment, the role of imagination in its free play, and the power of teleological judgment are the conceptual devices that opened new paths of thought in the history of philosophy, from Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre to Deleuze’s Transcendental Empiricism. This collection, as was anticipated, is about sketching a cartography of this web of paths, a map of a territory that has remained historically uncharted, and it is also a tool to shed light on Törleß’s multi-layered dream, in the way we have reformulated it.

The first part of the volume collects contributions regarding German philosophers. The opening one, by Arno Schubbach, discusses the interpretation of the third Critique by the most prominent representatives of the Marburg school, Hermann Cohen and Ernst Cassirer. In the first paragraph, Schubbach introduces Cohen’s “violent” reading of this Kant text as an aesthetic in the narrow sense of philosophy of art. Then, the author proceeds, showing how Cohen’s pivotal twist was to interpret Kant’s universal communicability of the pleasure of beauty as the horizon in which humanity is aesthetically revealed as a cultural community. From this point of view, Cohen could reinterpret aesthetic as the keystone of the whole Kantian system of critical philosophy, contributing, as a specific part of the system, to the plurality of cultural fields and, as the systematic pin, to the integrity of philosophy and the unity of its object, which is culture. The second paragraph is dedicated to Cassirer’s interpretation, which takes a position against the common view of the Critique of Power of Judgment as a filler of an architectonical missing piece. According to Cassirer, it is an immanent progress of the critique of reason that led to the third part of the system, since empirical knowledge could not be gained by applying general concepts, but only through a system of particular laws, which would have necessarily led to a keener and deeper formulation of apriority itself. This reading leads Cassirer to the formulation of his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, based on the concept of symbol as the vanishing point of philosophical reflection based on empirical findings. To sum up, in contrast to Cohen, Cassirer reads the examination of empirical knowledge and the reflective power of judgment not as mere elements of a philosophy of art, completing the system, but rather as fundamental devices to transform and improve critical philosophy as such.

Leaving Marburg, Günter Figal discusses Kant’s aesthetics from Heidegger’s (non)-reception to Gadamer’s interpretation and his landing to phenomenological aesthetics until today. The contribution opens with a conjecture about why Heidegger never referred explicitly to the third Critique: “since Heidegger could not seriously regard Kant’s contribution to aesthetics as marginal, he maybe skipped it because it might have been a serious challenge of Heidegger’s view on aesthetics, and thus also of his own thinking of art” (p.62). Developing this hypothesis, the author sketches Heidegger’s portrait of aesthetics, consisting in a contrast between his evocation of “true art” and a self-centred reduction of art to a stimulus of subject’s emotional states. According to Figal, this simplified picture helped Heidegger to avoid the challenge posed by Kantian aesthetics, which was, instead, accepted by Gadamer in Truth and Method. Indeed, while claiming, in the wake of Heidegger, that the only alternative to aesthetics is the truth-character of art, Gadamer develops his critical argument against Kant extensively. Finally, opposing the Heidegger-Gadamer critical arguments, Figal argues that Kantian aesthetic framework actually resists those critiques. Aesthetic experience clearly has a subjective aspect, but the pleasure gained from the contemplation of an artwork, the free views and possibilities that it opens, are by no means self-centred. Aesthetic experiences have their roots in the concrete artwork, which make them possible precisely because it is an aesthetic object.

Dennis J. Schmidt’ chapter is linked to the previous one. In fact, if Figal focused on Gadamer’s criticisms to Kantian aesthetics, on the pars destruens of its interpretation, Schmidt highlights the pars costruens by claiming that Gadamer’s originality starts exactly with his reappropriation of Kant’s effort to clarify the bond between aesthetic experience and truth. In this sense, although Gadamer was not an orthodox Kantian, Kant’s third Critique has been for him an inspiration to be pressed forward on and radicalized. In order to find his hermeneutic upon a humanistic sense of truth, Gadamer isolated four concepts – Blidung, sensus communis, Urteilsckraft and Geschmack –, which are precisely Kant’s third Critique’s conceptual pillars. From these premises, the author shows how the analysis of Kant was the bridge that connected Gadamer’s hermeneutics with humanism. Gadamer himself acknowledged that he found his way to hermeneutics discussing the narrowness of the concept of knowledge that limited Kant’s position on aesthetics. Developing this argument, the author ends meaningfully the contribution claiming that “Gadamer radicalizes the phenomena and experience that Kant first exposes in the Critique of the Power of Judgment” and “can be read as one of Kant’s most loyal successors in the twentieth century” (p.90).

Haans-Peter Krüger’s original chapter is about Helmuth Plessner’s usage of the Critique of the Power of Judgment. The first part is dedicated to Plessner’s functionalization of reflective judgment for modern research procedures. Plessner was convinced that it could be possible to conceive of a new idea of philosophy in a systematic form by inverting the relation between determining and reflective judgment in Kant into a future orientation for modern research. Since, moreover, research involved not just working through known laws but, rather, revolves around the discovery and invention of the new, it was a matter of functionalizing Kant’s reflective judgment for modern research into a procedure. The reflective judgment was, indeed, able to deal with contingency, and invent new methods of representation of science, and provide new operative hypotheses. This new procedure, according to Plessner, could be applied not only to the natural sciences, but also in the field of the humanities. Following these premises, the last part of the contribution deals with Plessner’s late formulation of the ideal of dignity in the conflict among research procedures. If reflective judgment works as a device of historicization of the universal, then it could be seen as a principle of democratization as long as it is fixed on the heuristic ideal of man’s dignity.

Moving now towards Frankfurt, Tom Huhn’s essay retraces Adorno’s attempt to overcome Kantian aesthetics. First, Adorno argues that objectivity has to resist subjectivity by installing itself between the pores of subjectivity. This is why he could not accept Kant’s aesthetic model, which precludes the possibility of beauty ever attaining the status of something in itself. According to Adorno, aesthetic pleasure is a historically determined feature of aesthetic experience: “Kant’s having yoked pleasure to the aesthetic as an unavoidable element of this experience snatched […] what was a historical component of aesthetic experience and attempted to make it ahistorical and absolute” (p.118). Adorno claims that beauty cannot be a mere formal or subjective thing, but has rather to be something in the matter itself, the reason for his return to Hegel, who first set the problem of the resistance of the aesthetic matter itself to consciousness. In this sense, the success of an artwork cannot be determined by taste, which is merely subjective, but rather by the aliveness of the object itself. Resuming Adorno’s own terms, Huhn efficiently explains that the artwork is a constellation or a force-field, which means that the artwork is a living, dynamic phenomenon, while taste is a permanent capacity that would want to correspond to unchangeable features.

            Staying within the Frankfurt School, Nicola Emery’s contribution focuses on Horkheimer’s original interpretation of Kantian aesthetic judgment in Art and Mass Culture. According to Horkheimer, the question of aesthetic judgment is immediately a question about the possible community. From this point of view, in the judgment of taste, egoism is overcome, and a social space is opened. Theoretically, “by arousing this enlarged communitarian dynamic […], the reflecting judgment draws the open space in which the subject’s movement develops and fights its historical affliction, combats the expropriation of its cum and its dynamis (p. 139), but, in historical reality, “capitalistically, increasingly burdened by a mortage […] the incomplete reflecting-judging life, with is secret communitarian sense, is entirely foreclosed” (p.140). To sum up, Emery argues that Kant’s aesthetic-political community was the constant term of orientation in Horkheimer’s research. In fact, if in a capitalistic society the subject, isolated and separated, is deprived of the possibility of opening communitarian worlds, the aesthetic experience, with its anti-dogmatic feature, assumes an emancipatory office of resistance against capital’s burdens, and a driving function towards a communitarian future, the ideal of the aesthetic-moral community. In this sense, art effectively becomes the possible opening of forms of critical life.

            The following chapter, by Serena Feloj, investigates Hannah Arendt’s interpretation, focusing on those elements that define the very nature of judgment. In line with Horkheimer’s interpretation, according to Arendt, judging is the most political of men’s mental abilities and, for this reason, the third Critique has to be considered Kant’s most political work.  Moreover, its core concept lies in the need for a social life and for the comparison with other human beings. Feloj effectively presents Arendt’s conception of the linguistic nature of language and her notion of Weltbetrachter, but she also sharply detects Arendt’s forcing and weakening of Kantian thought. It has to be acknowledged that, embracing a realistic perspective, Arendt misses the transcendental feature of Kantian judgment, implementing a detranscendatalization of Kant’s aesthetics. However, considering these problematic differences, Feloj insists on the importance of Arendt’s interpretation, recognizing its historical and theoretical value in having re-elaborated and politically actualized Kant’s concepts, and in having produced an intense debate, which led to a renaissance of the studies on the Critique of the Power of Judgment.

            Patrice Canivez’s contribution, presenting the interpretation of Eric Weil – German, naturalized French – is the juncture between Germany and France. Weil’s interpretation revolves around the Kantian gap between nature and liberty, which the philosopher rethinks in terms of facts and meanings. According to Weil, the major discovery of the third Critique is the existence of facts that are meaningful in themselves, the discovery of the reality of meanings. Weil’s Logique de la philosophie starts, indeed, “with a pure attitude that is a way of experiencing the real as a meaningful whole” (p.189), but in order to maintain this idea, the word “meaning” has to be understood in the enlarged sense of an overall signification that does not have to be necessarily linked to the pursuit of an end. However, in the last part of his Logique, Weil retrieves the notion of finality and the Kantian notion of a moral end to human action. In this sense, crossing the connected categories of meaning and action, Canivez concludes his contribution showing that, according to Weil’s definitive reading of the third Critique, the world exists only for human beings, and reality without humans is an abstraction that would reveal itself to be incomprehensible as soon as it would been taken seriously.

            Opening a proper French section, Anne Sauvagnargues focuses on Deleuze’s interpretation of the Critique of the Power of Judgment as a general doctrine of the faculties, which would be the kernel of the transcendental method. In this perspective, Deleuze could arrange the three Critiques as different sides of a three-faceted system of the regulation of faculties, even though, soon after, he re-evaluated the status of the third critique, putting it clearly in a prominent role because of the turning point of the Analytic of the Sublime. That section marks the passage from a harmonic synthesis of faculties to a dissonant one, an unstable equilibrium of the faculties. This disequilibrium, after a Proust crossing, allows Deleuze to turn the involuntary into the highest mode of exercise of a faculty, which has to encounter the contingency to be forced to create and release the conditions of creativity of thought. The Deleuzian discovery of the potential of Kant’s Sublime brought him to the formulation of the main features of his transcendental empiricism and – combining the power of judgment to Bergson’s Matter and memory – to most of the categories he used to develop his philosophy of cinema. In this sense, Sauvagnargues sums up, writing that “the sublime does not simply define the relationship between thought and sensibility, philosophy and art, [but] also ensures the conversion of the well-known, of the sensorimotor clichés and the doxic behaviors, into a discovery of the new, in this irruptive and violent mode that Deleuze attributes to creation” (p.205).

            In his chapter, Pietro Terzi follows Derrida’s reading of the third Critique, suggesting that his interest in it was not related to art or aesthetics per se, since they were mere pretexts to deal with questions intimately concerning his own “encyclopedic” concern. In this sense, according to Terzi, what Derrida found in Kant’s work was a “chance of questioning a founding text where the conditions of a philosophical discourse on art are fully and paradigmatically deployed” (p.210). After all, the Critique of the Power of Judgment was the implementation of the legislative function of philosophy, the actualization of the question quid juris, the founding gesture of a system of transcendental philosophy. And if the “era of deconstruction” had announced itself as a challenge to the subordination of all the fields of questioning to the onto-encyclopedic instance, then the third Critique was, according to Derrida, the paradigmatic example of philosophy on which deconstruction had to work. After have faced the main conceptual hearts of Derrida’s encounter with Kant, Terzi exhaustively concludes by arguing that, also thanks to Kant, “Derrida was able […] to deploy a more general account of how deconstruction works and which stance it adopts towards the philosophical tradition: in principle, in fact, deconstruction is a questioning of the frames, a supplement of reflexivity that obliges philosophy to unveil and “denaturalize” its own conceptual frameworks and their inner economy” (p.227).

            Completing this French section, Dario Cecchi proposes an analysis of Lyotard’s reading of the Kantian Sublime. Enthusiasm is the text in which Lyotard deals systematically with an aspect of Kantian philosophy, wondering whether the third Critique provides a fitter framework for Kant’s political philosophy than his works properly dedicated to the philosophy of rights. Specifically, the sublime is what, according to Lyotard, unveils the paradox of reflective judgments as “dispute,” which might produce enthusiasm. This concept of “dispute” is the condition of possibility of the evaluation of the disproportion between general political ideas and their realization, which prompts the question of the legitimacy of revolutions. In this sense, “enthusiasm is an ambivalent feeling: it incites to action as much as it invites the critical discrimination of events” (p.243). Referring to enthusiasm and melancholy, Cecchi interestingly shows how Lyotard’s attempt is to establish a transcendental transition by which ideas – such as justice, freedom, moral law – could be embodied through the exposition of the fact of absence. Applying this concept to cinema and painting, it is clear that Lyotard’s philosophy of art is not based on Kant’s theory of genius, but rather develops a new theory of sublime art. In this sense, every artistic element, insofar as it is sublime, symbolically refers to the presence of a transcending thing, by exhibiting absence.

In his contribution, Claudio Paolucci deals with Umberto Eco’s interpretation of the third Critique, providing the opportunity for a short Italian stopover. The starting point of Kant and the Platypus is Eco’s conviction that there is a connection between Kant’s reflective judgment and Pierce’s idea of abduction. According to Eco, once the reflective judgment comes to be introduced in the system, it overturns the whole structure of Kantian critical philosophy. As a consequence of these assumptions, abduction should result in having a primacy for cognition and knowledge. In this sense, empirical knowledge is only possible thanks to a predictive process, implemented by the reflective judgment/abduction, which works by hypothesis and confirmations. That is where the Kantian als ob enters the stage: according to Eco, it is necessary to interpret the world as if it is coherent or as if our hypothesis can guess its real structure. In a suggestive passage of the essay, Paolucci shows how this “as if” principle actually founds the conception of the world as a story or a text. And even if the predictive hypothesis can always be susceptible to error, even if there is nothing in the structure of the world that guarantees the success of our abductive techniques grounded on reflective judgment, without this regulative method we wouldn’t be able to gain experience.

            Moving to America, Scott R. Stroud presents John Dewey’s challenge to Kantian aesthetics, arguing that Dewey’s account of aesthetics can be seen as an explicit rejection of Kant’s perspective. According to the American philosopher, the main problem of Kant’s aesthetics is the alleged contemplative character of the reflective judgment. In other words, Kant errs in the extreme separation of desire and emotion from the experience of art. In fact, in total opposition, Dewey’s naturalist perspective does not separate emotional dimension from the rational thought. The aesthetic has to be considered as an immediate “consummatory experience,” which involves the whole human life and its relationship with his environment, synthetizing all the previous parts of experience, and also the anticipated future part of it. For Kant, aesthetic experience – in its disinterestedness – is generally separated from practical activity, from actual liveliness, being generated by a contemplative approach to the artwork. In reverse, Dewey believes that the aesthetic experience is a total absorption, which involves the human being in its entirety. However, at the end of his contribution, Stroud makes also clear the area in which Kant and Dewey seem to overlap. For both authors, indeed, the experience of aesthetic phenomena invigorates and encourages humans, disclosing their moral dimension or making them feel wholly united with their environment, and therefore fully alive.

            Diarmuid Costello’s essay focuses on the relation between Kant’s aesthetic and art theory from Greenberg to Danto and de Duve. First, the author shows how Greenberg distorted Kant’s theory of aesthetic judgment, overlapping Kant’s criterion of “disinterest” with his own, psychologist conception of “aesthetic distance.” Then, Costello presents de Duve’s “Kant after Duchamp” approach. According to his view, De Duve believes that making Kant’s aesthetic “actual,” “up to date,” involves “substituting the judgment ‘this is art’ for the judgment ‘this is beautiful,’, thereby capturing the transformation in the nature of art embodied by Duchamp’s Readymades” (p.288). In direct contrast to de Duve, instead, Danto rejects entirely what he calls the two “Kantian tenets,” grounding Greenberg and de Duve’s writings: “genius must be unconstrained by rules” and “the critic’s practised eye is at home everywhere.” In fact, starting from the criticism against these alleged “tenets,” Danto argues that Kant conflates natural and artistic beauty, considering this overlapping as the demonstration of the inadequacy of Kant’s aesthetics as a basis of a theory of art. Finally, in the last part of his contribution, Costello tries to amend some of these misunderstandings, pointing out some resources in Kant’s theory of art, which according to him, has remained neglected in art theory.

The last American contribution, by Thomas Teufel, gives an overview of Stanley Cavell’s constant confrontation with Kant. Cavell focuses on Kant’s idea that in the absence of empirical verification, the judge of taste speaks with a “universal voice,” which solves the problem of the lack of empirical grounding by revealing transcendental warrant for her judgment. Cavell is convinced that something similar to this universal voice can be found in ordinary language philosophy’s meta-linguistic pronouncements, especially in the similarities between self-reporting and the reflective nature of judgment. There would be, then, a strict connection between Cavell’s conception of the meta-linguistic claims of ordinary language philosophy and Kant’s idea of judgment in the Critique of the Power of Judgment.  This is why Cavell relies on “Kant’s view that the source and legitimacy of that voice traces to the heautonomy of the principle of nature’s purposiveness present in reflecting aesthetic judgments” (p. 312). Teufel, then, concludes his contribution by discussing the problem of authority in Cavell’s thought. Since there is no empirical evidence on which language could be grounded, the ordinary language philosopher is claiming something as true in itself, as an authority. After all, only the Kantian principle of heautonomy could yield the authority to build a “thin net over the abyss,” and show meta-linguistics the way to ground the language.

Opening the last section, dedicated to some examples of contemporary debates, Alessandro Bertinetto and Stefano Marino discuss the possible relations between Kant’s concept of power of judgment and the logic of artistic improvisation. The contribution aims to show that the reflective judgment could shed light on some of the creative processes operating in improvisation and, on the other side, that improvisation could be read as a paradigm of the artistic creativity. The principle of heautonomy, the capacity of the power of reflective judgment to legislate over itself, might be considered the grounding principle of improvisation as such. According to the authors, this self-regulatory and recursive structure represents the clear link between improvisational practices and the notions of reflective judgment and genius. But this link is so strict that if the aesthetic judgment permits improvisation, it is because the reflective judgment itself works in an improvisatory way, inventing abductively the norms valid for the single empirical cases. Furthermore, the improvisatory structure of the reflective judgment grounds the possibility of communities, which are produced by the inventive and intersubjective development of a common normativity in the practice. And, finally, improvisation seems to be the very nature of genius, since it creates without knowing the rule, with heautonomy its only rule. Thanks to this grounding (on itself) principle, which does not follow any pre-established plan and does not have a prefixed goal, “artworks are, in a way, the concretizations of the ‘free play’ of imagination and understanding that describe the proper dimension of the aesthetic experience, according to Kant” (p.335).

Concluding this long summary of the volume’s content, the last essay, by Thomas W. Leddy, deals with the importance of Kant in everyday aesthetics. In this recent field of philosophical aesthetics, the most common point of debate over Kant concerns the notion of “disinterestedness,” which could allow for anything to be considered beautiful. But starting from this point, Leddy’s contribution crosses everyday aesthetics’ internal debate, reaching some interesting conclusions. Kant could have a multifarious usage in everyday aesthetics, that is the reason why the best application of Kant’s concepts for everyday aesthetics “would move beyond a narrow focus on one of these ways to recognize a complex layering of ways based on […] various dimensions” (p. 357): the agreeable, the pure beauty, the dependent beauty, the ideal beauty, the intellectual interest in beauty, and the aesthetics idea based on nature and everyday life.

With this detailed review of each contribution we hope to have given a general overview of the volume’s content, in the attempt of replicating on a reduced scale the panoramic view that characterizes Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century. The map of the uncharted land of the third Critique’s reception in the twentieth century is drawn by authors with different research interests, ages and backgrounds, but the result is solid and harmonious. In this sense, the objective of providing a descriptive and interpretative mapping seems to have been successfully achieved. Avoiding the risk of a mere classification, the editors manage to orchestrate the numerous and heterogeneous material, keeping and communicating the idea of the dynamism and plurality of the different interpretations. Indeed, the result of this very refined work is not a picture gallery, on whose walls are hanging figures locked in their frames, but a living web of connections, in which the elements illuminate each other. Therefore, if it is certainly true that this kind of ambitious collective work might easily run into many problems, appearing, for instance, disjointed and approximate, Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century succeeds in supplying a selective and synoptic view, which stands out for its consistency and its deepening in each of its components. Furthermore, all the theoretical problems listed in the very last part of the introduction do not seem to destabilize the work’s inner logic, but become the opportunity to test a research method. It is true that it might be difficult, if not impossible, for a thorough selection to distinguish between major and minor authors or to decide which interpretation has to be considered more influential than others. And it could also be quite difficult to evaluate the impact of a philosophical object, avoiding the risk of slipping into naïve teleologies, or pre-fixed schemes, which would probably weaken this kind of work. But one of Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century’s strengths is to have addressed and resolved these critical problems of method, offering a practical clear example of a sophisticated methodological approach to the history of philosophy. The result aimed at by the editors was meant to be the picture of “a constellation of major points that may serve as a scheme to be fitted with further, larger and more in-depth analyses” (p. 32), a “first step towards the comprehension of the historical and conceptual elements that have made the third Critique such an interesting text for its readers over two centuries in various geographical and cultural milieus” (p. 33). But far from being an excusatio non petita to prevent eventual criticism of partiality or approximation, the renunciation to provide a complete account makes this work avant-garde and a headlamp for the research. It is an open mapping, that has to be completed. Incorporating reflective judgment’s operativeness, this important book provides an open structure, able to adapt to the individual case. As a jazz model, Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the 20th Century offers a method and a first in-depth example of its use, opening up multiple possible research paths and directions. This volume not simply rescues the Critique of the Power of Judgment’s twentieth-century legacy and helps us to reinvent Törleß’ Kantian dream, but also makes itself an open scheme on which other scholars are invited to “improvise” in order to map the rest of this uncharted land.


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[*] PhD Fellow in Philosophy at University of Padua, Italy. Contact: [email protected]

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