A Camera is a Paintbrush: Kant contra Scruton

A Camera is a Paintbrush

It is not amiss, however, to remind the reader of this: that in all free arts something of a compulsory character is still required, or, as it is called, a mechanism, without which the spirit, which in art must be free, and which alone gives life to the work, would be bodyless and evanescent (e.g. in the poetic art there must be correctness and wealth of language, likewise prosody and metre).

Kant, Critique of Judgement, ‘Art in General’, pp. 133-134

As with his British forebears of the 18th century, Addison, Hutcheson and Burke, that which makes art aesthetic for Kant is the pleasure that is incited in the experience of art, or, as transcendentally indicated, of the harmony of the faculties conjured by the purposiveness of the object disclosed in aesthetic reflection.  The pleasure is essential in that it alone distinguishes art as aesthetic from art (making) that is merely technical (production).  However, the invocation of pleasure, for Kant, demands a clarification in the form of a distinction between fine art and agreeable art (entertainment).  The latter is an art of enjoyment oriented to sensual pleasure (and is thus not purely aesthetic), while the former is an art of reflection and is ocamerapaintbrushriented to the act of reflective judgment. 

Nevertheless, in both cases that which distinguishes art as aesthetic from art as mere mechanism is the pleasure that is invoked in the mere judging of the aesthetic object.  As Kant writes: ‘For, whether we are dealing with beauty of nature or beauty of art, we may make the universal statement: that is beautiful which pleases in the mere judging of it (not in sensation or by means of a concept).’ Fine art, in this way, manifests the pure aesthetic character as it is a free making of a free spirit, as Kant has alluded in the epigram.  Fine art, for Kant, is that which brings forth, seamlessly, an object of free making that provokes a universal esteem, the expression of which is disclosed in the articulation of a universal communicability, as the discourse of a sensus communis.

To read more of this essay, please visit A Camera is a Paintbrush

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