Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Natural Beauty, Abstract Beauty, Human Beauty, more Kant

I part ways with him on this. Kant links the sense of beauty to the imaginative faculty. What he means by that is this: when we look at something, we form an impression of it in our minds that we then make judgments about. When we consider something from an aesthetic point of view, though, we don't just form an exact impression, rather, we apply our imagination to it, altering it and then we make our judgments about that altered conception. It's the power of imagination, of our ability to abstract from reality, both in terms of patterns with visual art and in terms of story when you're dealing with writing, that powers our aesthetic judgment. We like pieces of art because we can see pleasant patterns and ideas in them that, although they might be implied, we ultimately make ourselves as part of the art's "meaning".

Kant believes that there is a generic imaginative faculty that makes, or can make, completely abstract objects up that are aesthetically pleasing, and these things are the base of art. Abstract designs in the outside world like Celtic knots, Islamic calligraphy, are examples of this pure imaginative faculty put into action.

Where Kant and I part paths is his conception of possible preconceived Ideals or embodiments of a personal Idea of beauty. He thinks that the only real Ideal we have in our heads comes from the human form. This is not just because we're human and can completely relate to subject, but because we can see the subject as having a "purpose", as being something other than abstract patterns. But, of course, there is more in the world than just abstract shapes, humans, and things that humans have made (which are also purposive). There is Nature itself and the forms of nature, which are as surely applications to an ideal of the abstract idea of Beauty as is the application of the abstract idea to human beings. We seem to be set up to see an inherent Ideal of beauty in Nature, even though it does not appear "purposive" to us. There is no apparent "purposiveness" in beautiful mountains, or forests. Yet perhaps purposiveness is not the only criteria for an applied, concrete, idea of beauty. Whatever Nature is, or has within it, both goes beyond abstraction and appears to resonate with us according to an ideal or ideals of beauty that we've most likely evolved through countless years of living in the natural world, which is our home, after all.

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