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Why Kant Got It Right

(p.15) 1 Overture
Aesthetics at Large
Thierry de Duve
University of Chicago Press

What are aesthetic judgments according to Kant? How do they work? What do they mean to us? Why do we make them? In simple terms, this chapter argues that in supposing the presence of the faculty of taste in each of us, judgments about natural beauty postulate that all humans are endowed with what Kant called sensus communis, here interpreted as the faculty of agreeing by dint of feeling. However, being a postulate, our endowment with sensus communis in the empirical world is forever indemonstrable. It is and remains an idea of reason, theoretically necessary and ethically mandatory. That admitted, the “Kant after Duchamp approach” consists in asking ourselves if anything fundamental would have to be changed to Kant’s thesis if we updated Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment for “post-Duchamp” times by substituting an artifact for a natural object and replacing the judgment “this is beautiful” with “this is art.” The answer is no.

Keywords:   aesthetic judgment, Immanuel Kant, Kant after Duchamp approach, Marcel Duchamp, sensus communis

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