Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kant's idea of aesthetic judgment as applied to real world examples

Because Kant has been derided as being too abstract, not concrete enough. Briefly, his idea of aesthetic judgment locates it between two different tendencies that or ways of perceiving things: that of getting pure pleasure from something and that of completely rational reasoning. Something that is beautiful, or aesthetically pleasing, to Kant, partakes of features of both, but in a unique way.

In regards to pleasure, a true work of art shouldn't appeal to cheap shots or somewhat crude images in order to sell itself ....for instance, if you're going to do a nude painting, there's a difference between a nude painting done in the style of Playboy or Penthouse, with the model being featured purely for her features, and a work of art done with a model that, while having those features, incorporates them in such a way that they're not the main draw but are part of a bigger composition with its own meaning. If they were the draw alone, that would be art playing on the instinct of pleasure instead of justifying itself as a work of art in and of itself.

The same can be said for folks who include provocative things in their work to either be fashionable or to shock people without anything beyond it being attempted. Sure, it gets people's attention, and it gets them riled up, but unless there's more purpose behind it you're just unproductively pressing people's buttons, which gets adolescent and tiresome. See the latest of three decades of punk rock bands shocking people yet again with provocative names that include naughty words and naughty body parts.


The other side of the coin, the rational side, is art that's really about concepts and not about the piece as a piece of art. Kant emphasizes over and over again, in fact makes it the core concept of his aethetic work, that true art is not instrumental but allows a certain degree of play and interpretation on the part of the audience. If you're really just producing a piece of art to communicate a specific idea in a ham handed way, you might be better off just writing a pamphlet, because people don't get the same amount of aesthetic enjoyment from things like that are presented to them in ways that deny their ability to make their own judgments. If someone presents you with a piece of art and either implies how you should regard it, or it's very, very, obvious that the person has made it just to make a point and nothing else, there's not that much reason to look at it. Not twice, maybe not even once. It's effective propaganda, but propaganda is not art, and presenting propaganda as art is something that shouldn't be done.

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