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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Comparison of the Beautiful with the Pleasant and the Good
By Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
 
From ‘The Critique of Judgment’: Translation of John Henry Bernard

AS regards the Pleasant every one is content that his judgment, which he bases upon private feeling, and by which he says of an object that it pleases him, should be limited merely to his own person. Thus he is quite contented that if he says, “Canary wine is pleasant,” another man may correct his expression and remind him that he ought to say, “It is pleasant to me.” And this is the case not only as regards the taste of the tongue, the palate, and the throat, but for whatever is pleasant to any one’s eyes and ears. To one, violet color is soft and lovely; to another, it is washed out and dead. One man likes the tone of wind instruments, another that of strings. To strive here with the design of reproving as incorrect another man’s judgment which is different from our own, as if the judgments were logically opposed, would be folly. As regards the Pleasant, therefore, the fundamental proposition is valid: Every one has his own taste,—the taste of Sense.  1
  The case is quite different with the Beautiful. It would on the contrary be laughable if a man who imagined anything to his own taste, thought to justify himself by saying, “This object [the house we see, the coat that person wears, the concert we hear, the poem submitted to our judgment] is beautiful for me.” For he must not call it beautiful if it merely pleases him. Many things may have for him charm and pleasantness; no one troubles himself at that: but if he gives out anything as beautiful, he supposes in others the same satisfaction; he judges not merely for himself, but for every one, and speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. Hence he says, “The thing is beautiful;” and he does not count on the agreement of others with this his judgment of satisfaction, because he has found this agreement several times before, but he demands it of them. He blames them if they judge otherwise; and he denies them taste, which he nevertheless requires from them. Here then we cannot say that each man has his own particular taste. For this would be as much as to say that there is no taste whatever; i.e., no æsthetical judgment which can make a rightful claim upon every one’s assent.  2
  At the same time we find as regards the Pleasant that there is an agreement among men in their judgments upon it, in regard to which we deny taste to some and attribute it to others; by this not meaning one of our organic senses, but a faculty of judging in respect of the Pleasant generally. Thus we say of a man who knows how to entertain his guests with pleasures of enjoyment for all the senses, so that they are all pleased, “He has taste.” But here the universality is only taken comparatively: and there emerge rules which are only general, like all empirical ones, and not universal; which latter the judgment of Taste upon the Beautiful undertakes or lays claim to. It is a judgment in reference to sociability, so far as this rests on empirical rules. In respect to the Good it is true that judgments make rightful claim to validity for every one; but the Good is represented only by means of a concept as the object of a universal satisfaction, which is the case neither with the Pleasant nor with the Beautiful.  3
  This particular determination of the universality of an æsthetical judgment, which is to be met with in a judgment of taste, is noteworthy, not indeed for the logician, but for the transcendental philosopher. It requires no small trouble to discover its origin; but we thus detect a property of our cognitive faculty which without this analysis would remain unknown.  4
  First we must be fully convinced of the fact that in a judgment of taste about the Beautiful, the satisfaction in the object is imputed to every one,—without being based on a concept, for then it would be the Good. Further, this claim to universal validity so essentially belongs to a judgment by which we describe anything as beautiful, that if this were not thought in it, it would never come into our thoughts to use the expression at all, but everything which pleases without a concept would be counted as pleasant. In respect of the latter, every one has his own opinion; and no one assumes in another, agreement with his judgment of taste, which is always the case in a judgment of taste about beauty.  5
  He who fears can form no judgment about the Sublime in nature; just as he who is seduced by inclination and appetite can form no judgment about the Beautiful. The former flies from the sight of an object which inspires him with awe; and it is impossible to find satisfaction in a terror that is seriously felt. Hence the pleasurableness arising from the cessation of an uneasiness is a state of joy. But this, on account of the deliverance from danger which is involved, is a state of joy when conjoined with the resolve that we shall no more be exposed to the danger; we cannot willingly look back upon our sensations of danger, much less seek the occasion for them again.  6
  Bold, overhanging, and as it were threatening, rocks; clouds piled up in the sky, moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals; volcanoes in all their violence of destruction; hurricanes with their track of devastation; the boundless ocean in a state of tumult; the lofty waterfall of a mighty river; and such like,—these exhibit our faculty of resistance as insignificantly small in comparison with their might. But the sight of them is the more attractive, the more fearful it is, provided only that we are in security; and we willingly call these objects sublime, because they raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height, and discover in us a faculty of resistance of a quite different kind, which gives us courage to measure ourselves against the apparent almightiness of nature.  7
  Now, in the immensity of nature, and in the insufficiency of our faculties to take in a standard proportionate to the æsthetical estimation of the magnitude of its realm, we find our own limitation; although at the same time in our rational faculty we find a different, non-sensuous standard, which has that infinity itself under it as a unity, in comparison with which everything in nature is small, and thus in our mind we find a superiority to nature even in its immensity. And so also the irresistibility of its might, while making us recognize our own physical impotence, considered as beings of nature, discloses to us a faculty of judging independently of, and a superiority over, nature; on which is based a kind of self-preservation, entirely different from that which can be attacked and brought into danger by external nature. Thus humanity in our person remains unhumiliated, though the individual might have to submit to this dominion. In this way nature is not judged to be sublime in our æsthetical judgments in so far as it excites fear; but because it calls up that power in us, which is not nature, of regarding as small the things about which we are solicitous (goods, health, and life), and of regarding its might, to which we are no doubt subjected in respect of these things, as nevertheless without any dominion over us and our personality, to which we must bow where our highest fundamental propositions, and their assertion or abandonment, are concerned. Therefore nature is here called sublime merely because it elevates the imagination to a presentation of those cases in which the mind can make felt the proper sublimity of its destination, in comparison with nature itself.  8
  This estimation of ourselves loses nothing through the fact that we must regard ourselves as safe in order to feel this inspiriting satisfaction; and that hence, as there is no seriousness in the danger, there might be also (as might seem to be the case) just as little seriousness in the sublimity of our spiritual faculty. For the satisfaction here concerns only the destination of our faculty which discloses itself in such a case, so far as the tendency to this destination lies in our nature, whilst its development and exercise remain incumbent and obligatory. And in this there is truth and reality, however conscious the man may be of his present actual powerlessness when he turns his reflection to it.  9
  No doubt this principle seems to be too far-fetched and too subtly reasoned, and consequently seems to go beyond the scope of an æsthetical judgment; but observation of men proves the opposite, and shows that it may lie at the root of the most ordinary judgments, although we are not always conscious of it. For what is that which is, even to the savage, an object of the greatest admiration? It is a man who shrinks from nothing, who fears nothing, and therefore does not yield to danger, but rather goes to face it vigorously with the most complete deliberation. Even in the most highly civilized state this peculiar veneration for the soldier remains, though only under the condition that he exhibit all the virtues of peace, gentleness, compassion, and even a becoming care for his own person; because even by these it is recognized that his mind is unsubdued by danger. Hence whatever disputes there may be about the superiority of the respect which is to be accorded them, in the comparison of a statesman and a general, the æsthetical judgment decides for the latter. War itself, if it is carried on with order and with a sacred respect for the rights of citizens, has something sublime in it, and makes the disposition of the people who carry it on thus, only the more sublime, the more numerous are the dangers to which they are exposed, and in respect of which they behave with courage. On the other hand, a long peace generally brings about a predominant commercial spirit, and along with it, low selfishness, cowardice, and effeminacy; and debases the disposition of the people.  10
  It appears to conflict with this solution of the concept of the sublime, so far as sublimity is ascribed to might, that we are accustomed to represent God as presenting himself in his wrath and yet in his sublimity, in the tempest, the storm, the earthquake, etc.; and that it would be foolish and criminal to imagine a superiority of our minds over these works of his, and as it seems, even over the designs of such might. Hence it would appear that no feeling of the sublimity of our own nature, but rather subjection, abasement, and a feeling of complete powerlessness, is a fitting state of mind in the presence of such an object; and this is generally bound up with the idea of it during natural phenomena of this kind. In religion in general, prostration, adoration with bent head, with contrite, anxious demeanor and voice, seems to be the only fitting behavior in presence of the Godhead; and hence most peoples have adopted and still observe it. But this state of mind is far from being necessarily bound up with the idea of the sublimity of a religion and its object. The man who is actually afraid, because he finds reasons for fear in himself, whilst conscious by his culpable disposition of offending against a Might whose will is irresistible and at the same time just, is not in the frame of mind for admiring the Divine greatness. For this a mood of calm contemplation and a quite free judgment are needed. Only if he is conscious of an upright disposition pleasing to God, do those operations of might serve to awaken in him the idea of the sublimity of this Being, for then he recognizes in himself a sublimity of disposition conformable to his will; and thus he is raised above the fear of such operations of nature, which he no longer regards as outbursts of His wrath. Even humility, in the shape of a stern judgment upon his own faults,—which otherwise, with a consciousness of good intentions, could be easily palliated from the frailty of human nature,—is a sublime state of mind, consisting in a voluntary subjection of himself to the pain of remorse, in order that the causes of this may be gradually removed. In this way religion is essentially distinguished from superstition. The latter establishes in the mind, not reverence for the sublime, but fear and apprehension of the all-powerful Being to whose will the terrified man sees himself subject, without according him any high esteem. From this nothing can arise but a seeking of favor and flattery, instead of a religion which consists in a good life.  11
  Sublimity therefore does not reside in anything of nature, but only in our mind, in so far as we can become conscious that we are superior to nature within, and therefore also to nature without us, so far as it influences us. Everything that excites this feeling in us,—e.g., the might of nature which calls forth our forces,—is called then, although improperly, sublime. Only by supposing this idea in ourselves, and in reference to it, are we capable of attaining to the idea of the sublimity of that Being which produces respect in us, not merely by the might that it displays in nature, but rather by means of the faculty which resides in us of judging it fearlessly and of regarding our destination as sublime in respect of it.  12
 
 
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