Sunday, 6 May 2018

Kant’s Connection Between The Aesthetic and The Ethical

In Ancient Greece, the philosophers did not recognize any difference between the aesthetic and the ethical. For instance, Plato believed that poetry can have corrupting influence on his guardians and he has talked about banning poetry from his republic.

According to Paul Guyer, line between the aesthetic and the ethical got drawn in the 18th century. Here’s an excerpt from Guyer’s essay, “Ethical Value of the Aesthetic: Kant, Alison, and Santayana,” (Chapter 8; Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics):
The separation of the aesthetic and the ethical is usually thought to have been introduced into modern philosophy in the eighteenth century by such thinkers as the Third Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutchinson, but above all by Immanuel Kant, whose “Analytic of the Beautiful” in his third great critique, the Critique of the Power of Judgement of 1790, opens with the claim that the “satisfaction that determines the judgement of taste is without any interest,” thus that the satisfaction “of the taste for the beautiful is a disinterested and free satisfaction; for no interest, neither that of the senses, nor that of reason, extorts approval.” 
But Kant has also emphasized there are several ways by which the aesthetic can facilitate the achievement of morality while not being indispensable to that effort. Here’s Guyer’s perspective on this point:
Kant’s assertion of the disinterestedness of judgements of taste is only the beginning of a complex analysis of aesthetic experience, aesthetic judgement, and the nature of art, which ends up by drawing a large number of beneficial connections between aesthetic experience and moral conduct. Kant thus undermines the idea that there can or should be a rigid barrier between the aesthetic and ethical even before it gets off the ground and indeed introduces some connections between them…
The harmony that we find in the content, form, and material of the successful works of fine arts is according to Kant capable of inspiring ethical values. He suggests that aesthetic experience can be conducive to the development of sound politics as well as personal ethics.

5 comments:

skye said...

if you haven't looked into this yet, you might be interested in On The Aesthetic Education of Man by Friedrich Schiller (one of Rand's favorites). This is from the editor's introduction:

“It is surely one of the curiosities of the history of philosophy that one of the most cherished notions of this great man [Plato] has never been taken seriously by any of his followers, Schiller alone being an exception. Scholars have played with his thesis as with a toy: they have acknowledged its beauty, its logic, its completeness; but never for a moment have they considered its feasibility. They have treated Plato’s most passionate ideal as an idle paradox, only to be understood in the context of a lost civilization. The thesis is that art should be the basis of education.”

skye said...

“The aim of imaginative education… is to give the individual a concrete sensuous awareness of all living bodies and plants, which is the formal basis of all works of art, to the end that the child, in its life and activities, shall partake of the same organic grace and beauty. By means of such education we instill into the child that ‘instinct of relationship’ which, even before the advent of reason, enables it to distinguish the beautiful from the ugly, the right pattern of behavior from the wrong pattern, the noble person from the ignoble.”

-https://www.amazon.com/Aesthetic-Education-Dover-Western-Philosophy/dp/0486437396/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1525710486&sr=8-2&keywords=on+the+aesthetic+education+of+man&dpID=41WtgsxvuML&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

Anoop Verma said...

Skye,

Thanks for the information. A few years ago, I went through a couple of letters of Friedrich Schiller. But I didn't know that Rand was inspired by him. I will try to read the entire book.

skye said...

this is what reminded me of it in your post:
"The harmony that we find in the content, form, and material of the successful works of fine arts is according to Kant capable of inspiring ethical values. He suggests that aesthetic experience can be conducive to the development of sound politics as well as personal ethics."

i think aesthetics is a big key to turning society around! the idea may have had something to do with why Rand was so interested in film and writing novels. this lecture of Peikoff's is great on the subject as well- https://estore.aynrand.org/p/105/survival-value-of-great-though-philosophically-false-art-mp3-download

Anoop Verma said...

Skye, you are right. I think the idea that art can influence a man's political and social thinking got developed in the Enlightenment era, and that was used with devastating effect by the Postmodernists. In the last 100 years, the postmodernists have glorified wrong kind of art, to distort people's thinking and this has distorted the political and social system. I have not seen this lecture by Peikoff. But I will check.