The Beautiful in Kant's Third Critique and Aristotle's Poetics

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The Beautiful in Kant's Third Critique and Aristotle's Poetics

ABSTRACT: I argue that Kant's analysis of the experience of the beautiful in the third Critique entails an implicit or potential experience of the sublime, that is, the sublime as he himself describes it. Finding the sublime in the beautiful is what I call philosophical beauty. I then consider some aspects of Aristotle's analysis of tragedy in the Poetics, specifically his identification of the key elements of tragedy as those involving the experience of fear and pity, which leads to a catharsis of these emotions. Aristotle is famously unclear about what happens in this process of catharsis. I use the notion of philosophical beauty derived from Kant to suggest a possible
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I will argue that Kant's analysis of the concepts of the beautiful and the sublime yields a more complex conception of beauty than Kant himself ever articulated and I call this more complex conception of beauty philosophical beauty. I will conclude with some considerations that connect this revision of Kant's analysis of beauty with some of Aristotle's remarks on the nature of tragedy.

In the Critique of Judgement Kant contrasts the sublime and the beautiful. What it is that is beautiful for us in the beautiful Kant calls Zweckmässigkeit ohne Zweck, 'purposiveness without purpose'. (1) I will explain what I think Kant means by this. The categories of the understanding are organizing principles, they organize the sensory manifold into the usable structures of the world that we move among and employ every day. To find something useful in the world--that is, structured in a way that the organization of the thing suits both our understanding and some need of ours--is pleasurable for us. We enjoy the purposive form of a well-made hammer, for example, because of the use we know we could make of it. In the case of beauty, we identify the same pattern of purposiveness in an object, we recognize and appreciate a principle of organization, one might even say, of thought, in the object, but the object itself has no human use. Something is beautiful, as opposed to
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