‘Nothing but Nonsense’: A Kantian Account of Ugliness

‘Nothing but Nonsense’: A Kantian Account of Ugliness Abstract What does it mean for something to be judged ugly? On Kant’s account of aesthetic judgment, an object judged beautiful brings about a ‘free play of the imagination and the understanding’, and is thus given as though ‘purposive without purpose’; but ugliness, Kant claims, is the ‘contrary to beauty’. Assuming Kant is correct on all counts, we would have to conclude that the object judged ugly would bring about a dynamic that is contrary to this ‘ free play’, but that is nevertheless not its mere absence—since its absence is what is exhibited in usual cognitive, non-aesthetic judgment. Likewise, an ugly object is one that would have to be given as though contrapurposive, yet without running counter to any specific end of ours. In this essay, I try to clear up what this can mean, in order to clarify the judgment of ugliness. 1. Introduction What does it mean for a thing to be ugly, or perhaps better, for something to be judged as such? We should admit that the matter is not transparent. Maybe that seems odd, since we find things ugly all the time; should not this be plain as day, then? But usually, it is what seems plainest that, in the end, is most obscure. So what, then, is ugliness? What does it mean to find something ugly? Looking to cast some light on the matter, we might consider using Kant’s well-known account of beauty as our starting point, since Kant—apparently following ‘common sense’ (in the usual, and not Kantian sense of the term)—says that ugliness is ‘contrary to beauty’.2 Assuming the adequacy of Kant’s account of the beautiful, then, we should only need to work out its ‘opposite’ to clarify ugliness. Reasonably enough, the literature is replete with attempts to understand ugliness this way. But according to Kant, an object judged beautiful brings about a ‘free play of the imagination and the understanding’ in us;3 so if this is so for the judgement of beauty, and beauty and ugliness truly are contrary, we apparently ought to conclude that an object judged ugly must simply be one that keeps our faculties from entering into any ‘free play’. And yet, is not that just how things stand for usual cognition, cognition having nothing at all to do with the ugly? A lot of the writings on a Kantian notion of ugliness thus contend that, unlike a judgement of beauty, a judgement of ugliness is no ‘pure’ aesthetic judgement, and that, really, ugliness is only unpleasantness, the contrary of what we find ‘charming’ (an issue I’ll have to touch on below). But no—Kant explicitly calls ugliness the contrary of beauty. If the Kantian account is going to help us make headway here, then, we will instead have to begin by proposing that the object judged ugly does, in fact, bring the imagination into a ‘free play’ vis-à-vis the understanding, just like the object judged beautiful does, except that in this case, it brings the two into a ‘play’ that is somehow discordant. That might clear things up—were it clear what this could even mean, that is. So perhaps a Kantian account of aesthetic experience can just have nothing at all to say about ugliness, and will be of no help in this matter? And perhaps, then, this should cause us to become suspicious of Kant’s account of aesthetic judgement in general? As though ugliness would be a ‘reductio’ for it? Henry Allison, for one, is struck by this concern.4 In this essay, I will argue that, despite appearances, the Kantian account of aesthetic judgement can help to clarify the experience of ugliness—an experience, again, which is anything but plain otherwise. My demonstration will have to be indirect, since Kant had almost nothing to say about ugliness directly, except that it is the contrary of beauty in some sense; thus, I will have to begin with the Kantian account of the judgement of beauty, and try to work out what the ‘contrary’ to this could be as I go. But after I do this, surprisingly enough, the phenomenon of ugliness will begin to make sense—provided I am clear enough about the notion of beauty, of course. 2. Delimitation of ‘Pure’ Aesthetic Judgement Where to begin? A good start would be to at least figure out what ugliness can’t be, on a Kantian account. Thus, I will begin with what beauty is not, according to Kant, to see where this leads us. According to Kant, then, ‘charm’ is no ‘necessary ingredient of beauty’, so in describing the judgement of beauty, we must be sure to keep it distinct from all judgements about the pleasantness of the sensible—of mere colours, sounds, smells, tastes, and so forth, that, all by themselves, strike us as pleasant, irrespective of any object the given sensation might serve to present to us perceptually.5 Such sensings can be part of the manifold involved in this or that judgement of beauty—e.g. we can, at times, be pleased by the smell of a rose while we simultaneously judge the rose beautiful—but on Kant’s account, they can make up no essential part of that judgement, assuming it really is a judgement of beauty.6 The judgement of beauty, instead, concerns the form of the object presented only, something about the relationship that holds between the elements making it up. What this means concretely will have to be examined below. Suffice it to say, something similar has to go for the judgement of ugliness, if it truly is contrary to the judgement of beauty qua pure aesthetic judgement: it must concern only the form of a thing, that is, irrespective of any disgusting sensations that might belong to the manifold that presents it. Were it simply a matter of smells that nauseate, colours that irritate the eyes, etc., a judgement of ugliness would be nothing other than the judgement of a thing’s being unpleasant. But just as a judgement of beauty seems to ‘transcend’ usual aesthetic judgement—i.e. that some presented object is merely pleasant to the senses—so too does the judgement of ugliness seem essentially distinct from the mere judgement that some object is sensually revolting.7 Of course, it is pleasant to occupy ourselves with something judged beautiful, and unpleasant to occupy ourselves with something judged ugly. Why? According to Kant, the beautiful object, which, qua beautiful, does not please through mere sensual gratification, does not simply please through approval, either: which is to say, through the recognition of some purpose it might bear—or does not do so in any usual sense of the term, at least. For an object to be understood as being ‘purposive’ in the usual sense, conversely, is for it to be cognized as being ‘for something’: something can be achieved by its means, we recognize, namely, some purpose or end of ours.8 What is key to the whole issue of beauty, then, is that insofar as an object is judged beautiful, no such concept is applied: the beautiful object, qua beautiful, has no purpose, or rather, is not judged in relation to one. It might be a building, which, qua building, obviously has its purpose, but the object is not really judged beautiful qua building.9 The building qua building could have just as easily been constructed without this evocative design, a design which adds nothing to the building’s usability, i.e. which is purposeless. This means that insofar as something is judged to be a beautiful object, it is not judged to be a ‘good’ one, which is to say, either judged useful for bringing about some sensual or ‘intellectual’ enjoyment (as a frying pan is judged purposive vis-à-vis our gustatorial desire, or a chess board, vis-à-vis one’s enthusiasm for the game), or else, helpful for bringing about conformity to the moral law (as, say, austere surroundings may be judged vis-à-vis our moral interest). Obviously, this does not mean that the object could not be so judged if attended to with a different ‘mindset’, nor obviously that, judged beautiful, we judge it to be bad in any of these regards. Rather, it means only that the judgement of beauty itself does not consist in any judgement of interest; the judgement is as much distinct from one about purpose as it is from a judgement of mere pleasantness. But by the same token, then, a judgement of ugliness must not consist in any judgement of interest either, assuming, again, that such judgements are, or at least can be, pure aesthetic judgements; to judge something ugly, that is, cannot be to judge it ‘bad’, or contrapurposive, in any usual sense, i.e. regarding any possible interest, whether in enjoyment or else, the moral good. To say that the judgement of beauty does not consist in any usual judgement of purposiveness—and conversely, that the judgement of ugliness does not consist in any usual judgement of contrapurposiveness—implies that it is not a ‘cognitive’ judgement. After all, cognition, on Kant’s account, means objective predication or positing—our becoming conscious of anything whatsoever as an object of this or that sort, characterized in such-and-such way, etc.—but the judgement of beauty surely has to do with a sort of pleasure, and the only way for us to judge something to be pleasing by positing anything about the object itself is for us to judge it good in some way.10 Insofar as we find an object beautiful, then, we posit nothing about it objectively: the judgement instead reflects the subject’s way of ‘taking it’, which is just why we call it aesthetic judgement (albeit, one that is ‘pure’, since once again, this is not a mere judgement of sensual pleasure). It follows from this, further, that the pleasure we find in finding something beautiful cannot possibly be that which we may take in successful cognition (whose interest, Kant says, is ultimately determined by the idea of the good11). Of course, it is often enough pleasurable to learn or, more broadly speaking, to make sense of things or ‘gain information’ about the world, whether through straightforward cognition or through the detour of cognitive reflection (about which I will say a little more later on); but the pleasure of the beautiful is, quite simply, not like this—and if there is perhaps something like a ‘making sense of things’ in its judgement, we simply equivocate if we equate this with the ‘sense making’ of cognition. The judgement of ugliness, in any event, thus cannot be a cognitive one either (assuming, once more, that it is, or can be, a pure aesthetic judgement, which I’ll hopefully demonstrate before we are through); we no more posit anything of an object itself when we find it ugly, that is, than we do when we find it beautiful. Rather, the judgement of ugliness must reflect the subject’s way of ‘taking things’ also—although here, it is evidently a way of taking them badly. And in like fashion, surely, the displeasure found by ‘taking something badly’ cannot be the mere frustration of cognitive interest, just as the pleasure we feel when we find something beautiful is not that of the satisfaction of cognition’s aims. In fact, one of the simplest ways to create a beautiful view is to place an object in the distance where, as Kant himself points out, we cannot cognize much of it at all,12 or likewise, to shroud something in mists or let it play in the shadows; while equally, one of the easiest ways to make a view into an ugly one is to display something frankly under an unsparing light.13 A view of this sort, that is, will surely turn out to be a good one for the purposes of cognition, and yet it may well turn out to be aesthetically displeasing. 3. The Perception of Beauty So what, then, can we make of the ugliness of an object judged ugly, if this is not simply sensual unpleasantness, nor ‘badness’ of any sort? Conversely—what is the beauty of an object judged beautiful, if not simply sensual gratification, or else, any sort of ‘goodness?’ On Kant’s account, once again, beauty only has to do with an object’s form. If the form of an object is such that it brings the imagination and the understanding into free play in relation to one another, then we judge the object beautiful, Kant says. Yet it is not immediately obvious what this means, or at least not to non-Kantians—and perhaps not to some avid readers of Kant also. The matter needs clarification, if we are to work out its contrary. Since I think a lot of the disagreement on the possibility of a Kantian concept of ugliness comes back to a disagreement on the Kantian concept of beauty, I am going to take a little time to go over this. But in order to really clarify the judgement of beauty, in which some sort of free play of our faculties is supposed to be brought about, we will have to return to cognition, or the usual case of perception, in which there is no such free play. (On Kant’s account, ‘cognitive’ judgement is ‘contradictory’, not ‘contrary’, to the judgement of beauty.14) The synthesis of the imagination is necessary here, for the understanding to work its magic—for us to perceive anything at all as being ‘such-and-such’—which is just to say, to have any perceptual consciousness at all if we are not using this term in a totally equivocal fashion. ‘Synthesis’, though, is not necessarily a transparent term either: various sensations, distinct in time and space, must be linked (which is partly, though not only, to say associated) in such a way that they can make manifest a single perceived being, constituting themselves as presentations (Vorstellungen) of the self-same object, as unified perception. All these sensations are ‘of’ one and the same thing; I perceive it.15 But as soon as this synthesis is in play, as soon as the stream of spatially and temporally distinct sensings (i.e. the manifold) constitutes itself as presentation of the selfsame object, I am given to understand it: I apply concepts, perceive the thing as such-and-such.16 Here, we do not need to go into the relationship between imagination and the application of concepts—especially of pure concepts—within the synthesis of apperception’s transcendental unity: it suffices to say that, in everyday perception, the imagination does its work—both apprehending the subject’s ongoing sensory experience as such, while making use of passively formed associations between the experiences—and the object perceived comes to give itself according to a stable configuration of concepts. Of course as perception goes on, and we become more familiar with the thing perceived, this configuration may develop in a number of ways. This fact is inessential to the issue of beauty (it has nothing to do with the ‘free play’ at issue, that is). What occurs, then, in the judgement of beauty? Here, the faculties enter into free play. But what does this mean? Just that the form of the object is such that, in the judgement of beauty, the synthesis of the imagination does not allow the synthesis of the understanding to issue in any concept, we will insist.17 But of course, it must, independently, have issued itself in this or that concept: for in judging something beautiful, we do not thereby find ourselves before some blank entity, a totally brute being so to speak. And even this, of course, would still require, on Kant’s account, the application of concepts—the unknown thing recognized as such—although in fact, it is usually exceedingly clear what the object is in the judgement of beauty.18 As Paul Guyer points out, in any event, this means that the free play at issue is neither a ‘precognitive’ operation nor a ‘multicognitive’ one.19 What does that mean? Those who advance a ‘multicognitive’ view of the judgement of beauty insist that an object is judged beautiful insofar as its cognition refuses to settle upon any particular concept.20 I will argue below that there is something to be said for this position; and yet taken at face value, it certainly does not describe the experience of beauty very well, for evidently, confusion about an object is not what occasions aesthetic appreciation of it (e.g. ‘Is that a vine or a snake? I really can’t tell’ does not equal the judgement of beauty). This means, then, that ugliness, assuming its judgement is a pure aesthetic one, cannot be the contrary of this sort of conceptual multiplicity… although it really is not clear what the contrary of that could be (since a deficiency, rather than excess, of conceptual application would result in an experience that did not rise to the level of consciousness at all). Ruling out a multicognitive account of the faculties’ free play thus allows us to rule out one major reason (highlighted, e.g. by Melissa Zinkin) for thinking that the judgement of ugliness is not a pure aesthetic one.21 Neither, though, is the free play at issue anything ‘precognitive’, if by this, we mean the ‘play’ of some operation that takes place ‘prior’ to cognition, in the sense of being one of its constituent processes. Why not? Though Guyer points out that there is no conscious experience whatsoever until the faculties have all had their say and some kind of concept has been applied,22 the precognitivist can surely respond that the application of concepts in pure aesthetic judgement merely brings to light something that takes place on its own, pre-consciously, in the operation of our faculties.23 For after all, usual aesthetic judgement brings to light the sensual pain or pleasure that, according to Kant, attends every passing sensation, and surely sensation per se is precognitive. Nevertheless, Kant’s claim that the pleasure of the beautiful, unlike that of the senses, is produced by judging it so weighs against the precognitive view.24 As does the fact that we run into the ‘everything is beautiful problem’ as soon as we claim that pure aesthetic judgement just brings to light the progress of one of the precognitive operations that cognition presupposes:25 for although here, the precognitivist may again object, and claim (like Ginsborg, for instance26) that the pleasure of the judgement of beauty really only emerges given an object that is especially conducive to some underlying precognitive ‘play’ of the faculties, this objection only results in the position that the pleasure of beauty is just that of the satisfaction of the interest of cognition.27 We could say that, for the precognitivist, beauty just means ‘easily parsable’, as if aesthetic appreciation were just a matter of good cognizability, which some empirico-psychological ‘principles of composition’ might capture.28 Yet this cannot be what Kant ultimately means by beauty,29 given that as we’ve already seen, Kant insists that the judgement of beauty is not cognition, and its pleasure is not that of ‘coming to know’, which would nonetheless have to be the case if beauty were equivalent to ‘ease of cognition’, however the details of this may be hashed out.30 And conversely, then, ugliness cannot simply be a matter of bad cognizability, i.e. flaunting such principles so as to make cognition taxing31—or at least, not if Kant is right about beauty. So the ‘free’ exercise of the faculties is not precognitive either; rather, it must involve a synthesis of productive imagination (or a constitution of the manifold as a unified streaming of sense experience) that goes ‘beyond’ its usual operation, which remains bound to the understanding insofar as it merely furnishes those ‘pure’ and empirical syntheses of recognition that cognition requires (the application of concepts, or consciousness in the strict sense: I am perceiving ‘such-and-such’)—something ‘more’ than cognition occurs in the judgement of beauty, that is. But what more is there, above and beyond this operation, to which the term ‘free play’ could apply? ‘Metacognitive’ accounts of pure aesthetic judgement seek this out32—though they sadly often miss the mark, or else, remain content with far too obscure pronouncements. (Phillips accuses Guyer of doing this,33 for example, when Guyer speaks of the extra ‘unity and coherence’ that an object found beautiful exhibits.)34 Yet without really clarifying the sense in which pure aesthetic judgement does go beyond cognition, we will never be able to make any headway regarding ugliness. Kant, himself, is clear, at least, about this: ‘beauty in general’, he writes, ‘(whether it be beauty of nature or of art) can be called the expression of aesthetic ideas’.35 But what does this mean, and how is it connected with the ‘free play’ of our faculties? Occasioned by an object’s form, Kant says, an aesthetic idea is a ‘presentation of the imagination’—i.e. a manifold of experiencing, which in this case, it freely synthesizes—for which, thereby, ‘no expression designating a determinate concept can be found’.36 Over and above the ‘restricted’ play of cognitive judgement, that is (in which the manifold becomes ‘I think “x”’, where ‘x’ is something determinate of which I am thereby conscious, perceptually or otherwise), there is free play insofar as the form of the object cognized, above and beyond this ‘call’ for determinate concepts, seems, furthermore, to make us aware of something indescribable.37 It brings forth a ‘je ne sais quoi’, as Christian Wenzel puts it, as though the object here were ‘too meaningful’, or as though it evoked, or perhaps allowed us to encounter, something for which no concept could possibly be adequate.38 And so: the ship in the distance (Figure 1), sailing out into the sunset, speaks to us of longing, of wishes gone unfulfilled, of endings and new beginnings and a hundred thousand other things, such that we could keep specifying every concept that it brings to mind and still not touch the heart of the thing—it calls forth, as it were, a ‘meaning beyond meaning’, an ineffable concept and, at the limit, perhaps Idea; here, words become useless, as if for a fleeting moment, the object offered the barest glimpse of something beyond expression, or of a sort of profound and indescribable plenum of existence, forever waiting just a bit beyond our ability to grasp it. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Claude Monet, Cliffs at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Claude Monet, Cliffs at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art. To judge beauty, then, requires the imagination to be purely productive. In cognitive judgement—again: usual, ‘mundane’ consciousness—the imagination is, once more, necessarily productive, but not purely or exclusively so: for in such a case—again, the norm—the imagination is limited by its reproductive capacity, or by the ‘laws of association’, as Kant will say,39 since it is bound by the demand of the faculty of understanding for a regularity in experiencing, to which a determinate concept might be applied. Of course, under certain conditions, things can be given ‘indeterminately’—for instance, as a doubtful thing—but this thereby yields a reflective cognitive judgement, which only presents its object, surely already determinately given in some way, as in need of some concept to determine it more fully.40 As such, the imagination remains under the sway of the understanding’s demand. In the reflective judgement of beauty, however, the imagination exercises complete freedom, for here, an ‘indeterminate concept’41 of a wholly different sort is applied: the understanding ends up engaged in a totally general fashion instead,42 so that what gets unified, this ‘excessive experience’, gets unified merely as a kind of ‘fleeting glimpse’ or manifestation of an indescribable ‘presence’. The experience in no way becomes ‘I perceive x,’ that is, where ‘x’ is cognitively indeterminate, but rather, ‘I perceive x,’ where ‘x,’ something cognitively determinate, is judged as making me ‘feel’ something indeterminable: the ‘je ne sais quoi’ describes a state of my own being that, inexplicably, the object draws forth in me.43 How? Owing to the peculiarities of its form, we see, the object proves capable of stirring a great many feelings and intimations—Kant writes that ‘even an intellectual concept’ can be judged beautiful, but only through the ‘feelings’ it ‘spreads in the mind’44—which, together, serve as the occasion for the imagination to take an unprecedented step and freely synthesize a type of experience so superabundant that the understanding can only make sense of it as the presentation of an object that evokes something beyond understanding in me.45 Determinate concepts, whether expressly articulated or not, can be brought into play as part of this—which the multicognitivist intuits, with however much unclarity46—but only in order to find each one inadequate to the great profundity that the object, whether artwork or natural object, lets ‘shine forth’. To see something as beautiful, or ‘schöne’, in Kant’s German, is just to discover this ‘shining’ in it.47 What about the pleasure of the beautiful, then? The beautiful object, qua beautiful, serves no real purpose, Kant insists; and yet it is, as such, cognized as though purposive on his account. How can this be so? Kant’s claim would seem to be that, insofar as its otherwise purposeless form serves to make us ‘feel’ something indescribable, it is taken to be ‘for’ this curious quickening of the mind, and is thus understood to have a kind of purposiveness without being ‘for’ anything determinate.48 Perhaps this clarifies the issue a little. I think we can clarify it more, however, by noting that according to Kant, the peculiar aesthetic pleasure resulting from the judgement of beauty arises through the captivation somehow produced by the indescribable state the object occasions in us49—which thereby, is felt as an indescribable state of expansion or enlargement, which our cognitive faculties (particularly the understanding) undergo in this exercise.50 At which point, not incidentally, they seem to come into the closest proximity with pure reason and its ultimate vocation, in which the spontaneity of the understanding, or our ‘transcendence’ of sensible immediacy, is rooted.51 For as Kant puts it, it is ‘the intelligible’, to which: taste looks …. In this faculty the power of judgment … sees itself … as related to something in the subject itself and outside of it, which is neither nature nor freedom, but which is connected with the ground of the latter, namely the supersensible.52 Prompted by the object to free itself for its pure exercise, that is, the imagination—‘running wild’, as it were, or getting ‘carried away with itself’—nonetheless engages itself ‘in harmony with the lawfulness of the understanding in general’, since this somehow makes us aware of some great ‘profundity’ in us. And in the captivation in which this issues, the understanding also seems expanded, insofar as it gets ‘given’ in this engagement, however obscurely, as though it were approaching some unutterable source.53 Yet the purposes of cognition are not advanced one iota in this way; captivated, it is only as if something were to be gained by this apparent expansion. And thus we find a purposiveness without purpose. 4. The Perception of Ugliness But what, then, of ugliness? If ugliness really is contrary to beauty, that is, must we conceive of the judgement of ugliness as one which issues, not in an evocation of some ineffable ‘meaningfulness’ undergirding the intelligibility of the world or our understanding, but rather, in an evocation of the lack of anything of the sort, the absence of any ‘deeper significance?’ Which judges an object contrapurposive, that is, though without it necessarily running counter to any of our purposes? This is exactly how we must conceive of these judgements. To speak of an ‘insignificance’ in this way, of course, is in no way to say that the object judged ugly is a ‘mysterious’ one in any usual sense: like the object judged beautiful, it generally is not—although like the latter, there maybe is something ‘mysterious’ about the ugly in a very loose sense. Likewise, to be ‘for nothing’ here does not mean to be useless, not to mention, opposed to some end of ours. But I just claimed that an object judged ugly seems to exhibit a lack of significance or, conversely, purposiveness; what, then, can we make of this ‘lack?’ An object judged ugly seems as though it ought to ‘mean something’ to us, to evoke something profound, ‘beyond words’—but does not. There is a sort of free play of imagination, then, but rather than resulting in a sense of heightening, straining towards the rarefied airs of some pure Idea, the free play here is rather like a free fall, descending, as it were, into an abyss. ‘Meaning’, so to speak, is ‘sucked away’ into a vacuum, into the void, and precisely because the object engages the understanding in general, but without the evocation of anything ‘more’, beckoning ‘beneath’ it; it is as if the object gave us a glimpse, not of an ineffable presencing, but of a lack of anything ‘beyond’ being, so that in the end, it would only allow us to reflect upon the ‘pointlessness of it all’. Kant thus writes of the possibility that the imagination ‘produces, in its lawless freedom, nothing but nonsense’, as if the ‘freedom of the imagination’ were pushed not only up to, but past, ‘the point of the grotesque’, and similarly, claims that ‘when a cognition is to be beautiful, but this purpose is not attained, then it is ugly’.54 We can see how this works by comparing the beautiful depiction of a highly stylized and enigmatic elk (Figure 2)—which, by coupling the elk’s power and gentle gracefulness, may convey to us some profound or unfathomable depths of being—with an image, instead, of a Goblin Shark (Figure 3): an undoubtedly ugly little bugger (to the extent such claims have a claim to universality, that is). It is as if nature, in this case, were playing tricks with us, putting a huge snout, over here, a bunch of teeth, over there, all at random—and definitely more gums than should be allowed—and all of it, apparently without ‘purpose’. We judge it ugly, as if to say: ‘what was nature thinking?’ or ‘what was God playing at?’ Here, instead, there is a ‘negative’ feeling of indescribability: it is as though life were ‘a tale told by an idiot’, as Shakespeare put it, or perhaps, as though there were no teller of the tale at all.55 On that note, works of art can be ugly, too, obviously: we might compare, then, a distortion that, in a beautiful work, was intended—conveying or rather, evoking something unconveyable—with one that, in all reality, means, or accomplishes, nothing. On the one hand, then: we have Wang Jian’s knotted pines and towering, contorted cliff faces (Figure 4), which evoke for us the energy of nature, its magnitude, but also its stillness, its serenity: a poignant juxtaposition so full it could break your heart—while on the other hand, unfortunately, we have this (Figure 5). Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Still from Princess Mononoke. Directed by Hayao Miyazake. Film. Produced by Studio Ghibli, Tokyo. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Still from Princess Mononoke. Directed by Hayao Miyazake. Film. Produced by Studio Ghibli, Tokyo. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Dianne J. Bray, Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, 2011. In Fishes of Australia. Last modified 14 June 2016 (http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254). Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Dianne J. Bray, Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, 2011. In Fishes of Australia. Last modified 14 June 2016 (http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254). Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Wang Jian, Mountain Scenery with Streams and Pavilions in the Style of Fan Kuan, 1667. Ink on paper hanging scroll. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Wang Jian, Mountain Scenery with Streams and Pavilions in the Style of Fan Kuan, 1667. Ink on paper hanging scroll. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here, we want to say instead: ‘What was the painter thinking?’ The horribly rounded back (and lack of a neck, while we are at it), the gaping mouth that stretches at an angle God himself never intended a mouth to go, signify absolutely nothing, and in fact, signify nothing profound precisely where we would most expect it. For some, this flirts with blasphemy. If it has become clear enough how an object, on the basis of its form alone, can evoke a feeling of ineffability in us, it should likewise have become clear how an object can, also on the basis of its form, evoke a sort of contrary to this: which is to say, a sense of total, sickening abandonment to the sheer mundanity of things instead. The object, that is, must occasion a free activity of the imagination also, albeit one in which this faculty produces, not an aesthetic idea, but rather, synthesizes a similarly ‘excessive’ experience, though one whose juxtapositions are so fashioned as to find it an absurdity to see anything ‘more’, ‘beneath’ the object occasioning the experience, than what the object, at face value, presents. Obviously, judgements of this sort, just like those of beauty, quite readily offer themselves to be reflected upon with a specifically moral interest in mind—a matter I will clarify in more detail at the end of this essay. But just as, prior to any further consideration of the experience of beauty, the specific and sui generis pleasure of the judgement is produced hand in hand with a sense of heightening or enlargement of the understanding which in its free play, the liberated imagination is able to bring about, so the specific and sui generis pain or displeasure of the judgement of ugliness is produced, not through any further consideration of the experience either, but rather, as part of a feeling of limitation to which the understanding gets subjected by it. The thing judged ugly does not just prohibit the inexplicable captivation of beauty—then it might only be experienced as ‘everyday’56 or aesthetically ‘neutral’—but instead, inexplicably repulses. The understanding shrinks from the object, so to speak: which in this way, gets judged, ‘further’, as a glimpse of ‘nothing further’, since its refusal to allow for ecstatic flight is instead experienced as a total rivetedness to something like the ‘banality of existence’. But paradoxically, then, this restriction of the understanding—which is made to feel limited in the presence of what is thereby judged ugly—is really only a matter of holding it to what, by rights, are its proper limits, since the ugly object, cognized perfectly well for its own part, is then just judged, furthermore, as if ‘what you see is what you get’, full stop: without any ‘further depth’, or extra ‘dimension’, whatsoever. Just this, and nothing more, it says. There is thus a kind of contrapurposiveness exhibited in the ugly object that does not yet run counter to any determinate end or purpose of ours, since without hindering the understanding in any way in its proper business, it is as if the object diminished it, attenuated it to such an extent that it came forth, abandoned to mundanity, as if it, itself, merely were what it is—and nothing more.57 In the experience of beauty, that is, the understanding is made to ‘feel’ like it has frontiers, out onto sidereal realms; but here it is made to ‘feel’ like it doesn’t.58 And in fact, we see Kant striving to make the same point, particularly when he deals with the ‘loathsome’. Kant thus writes of an artwork that is: aimed merely at enjoyment, which leaves behind it nothing in the idea, and makes the spirit dull, the object by and by loathsome, and the mind, because it is aware that its disposition is contrapurposive in the judgment of reason, dissatisfied with itself and moody.59 What can we make of this ‘loathsomeness’? Trying to make sense of the idea, many commentators turn to another passage in the third Critique about it: only one kind of ugliness cannot be presented in a way adequate to nature without destroying all aesthetic satisfaction, hence beauty in art, namely, that which arouses loathing. For since in this strange sensation, resting on sheer imagination, the object is presented as if it were imposing the enjoyment which we are nevertheless forcibly resisting, the artistic presentation of the object is no longer distinguished in our sensation itself from the nature of the object itself, and it then becomes impossible for the former to be taken as beautiful.60 This second quote leads most commentators to agree that loathing, as Kant presents it, is not a pure negative aesthetic judgement (assuming the commentator in question agrees that there is such a thing at all), since here, we seem to have a moral interest to avoid the object—one understood as contrapurposive in a usual sense—which will at the least therefore reinforce our revulsion to the object, if it does not, in fact, account for the revulsion alone. What else could Kant mean, after all, when he writes that “we are nevertheless forcibly resisting’ an ‘enjoyment’? This is Guyer’s interpretation of the notion,61 and Alix Cohen’s also—the loathsome object is one which we judge ugly only because we would otherwise judge it beautiful, were it not for a moral repulsiveness that makes us resist this (‘ugliness that generates disgust [or loathing, Ekel] is due to a voluntary moral attitude …’,Cohen writes: ‘I believe that I ought not to apprehend [something] aesthetically but from a moral standpoint instead’).62 Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Cecilia Giménez and Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo, 1930/2012. Fresco. Borja: Sanctuary of Mercy Church. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Cecilia Giménez and Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo, 1930/2012. Fresco. Borja: Sanctuary of Mercy Church. But is this really what Kant means by the loathsome? The first quote above should make it clear that it is not: for as Kant describes it there, the loathsome object is one originally given as pleasant, not beautiful—it is ‘aimed merely at enjoyment’, a pleasure of the senses, contra the claim of commentators like Cohen and Guyer. Such interpretations cannot, therefore, be accurate. Worse still for them is that, apparently, the loathsome object need not be contrapurposive in a moral sense: for in the first of the two quoted passages, Kant’s description easily calls to mind an indulgent meal or ‘charming’ pop song, i.e. things whose enjoyment is not actually immoral, but which may ‘dull the spirit’, as Kant says, especially when indulged in continuously (‘by and by’, he adds). It should thus be clear that when Kant claims the loathsome object can never be presented beautifully in an artwork, he believes this is so, not because there is something morally contrapurposive about the object that leads us to refuse to experience it as beautiful, but rather, because it possesses a sort of ugliness that is inextricable from the pleasure it ‘imposes’ on the senses. Taken generally, then, we may say that an object judged loathsome (whether it be an object of nature or of art) is one that makes us feel smothered by a sort of superficial satiation, since it offers to the senses a series of immediate pleasures whose very combination strikes us as ugly, insofar as they occasion in us, on the basis of the form of their combination, the sense that there is ultimately nothing ‘deeper’, ‘beneath’ that pleasurable experience, to be encountered. In an artwork like Real Gold, a clever artist like Eduardo Paolozzi can exploit this dynamic, producing a sort of critique of consumerism by juxtaposing representations of its various ‘pleasures’ in such a way that we become struck by their ‘hollowness,’ or by their superficiality and the absolute vacuity of the mind that gets caught up in them (Figure 6). No doubt, there are reasons to avoid this vacuity, and so for reasons that we’ll examine below, a loathsome object can therefore be found contrapurposive vis-à-vis the moral interest—although the interest reason takes in avoiding the loathsome, we’ll see (one which, when frustrated, makes ‘the mind … dissatisfied with itself and moody’) is just the counterpart of an interest reason takes in contemplating the beautiful (which I will examine just below too); and just as the latter is not the cause of the pleasure immediately taken in the judgement of beauty,63 the former is not the cause of the immediate displeasure of ugliness. But then, so little is loathing an impure judgement of ugliness, that in at least some cases, we ought to call it the ‘purest’: for in such judgements, the object is found repulsive even though it does offer sensual gratification, but without this repulsion originating in some opposition to any of our purposes, moral or otherwise.64 Rather: like all objects judged ugly, the object displeases by obliging the understanding to feel riveted to itself, or by making the subject’s faculties as a whole feel limited, without reserve, to the mere mundanity of the world. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Eduardo Paolozzi, 1949. Real Gold. Printed papers on paper. London: Tate. © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2017. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Eduardo Paolozzi, 1949. Real Gold. Printed papers on paper. London: Tate. © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2017. 5. The Rational Interest Contra Ugliness The judgement of beauty, we have seen, is purposive without purpose; there is a pleasure here that answers to no interest. However, we can always discover that it is in the interest of reason for us to actually contemplate beautiful objects and take pleasure in them. This is at least mediately so for beautiful artwork, since, like beauty in nature, it occasions in us an indescribable ‘one-knows-not-what’ which, upon consideration, naturally brings to mind our own higher (moral) vocation, and makes us more receptive to its call.65 But reason can also take an interest more ‘immediately’ in the beauty of nature, given that this provides us with a kind of evidence for a claim which we could nonetheless never actually prove: that, as Kant will put it, ‘ideas also have objective reality’.66 It should thus be clear that, in like fashion, the ugly must strike us as a frustration of similar interests. Ugliness in art can be considered a sort of mediate frustration of an interest of reason, then, for just as a ‘greater receptivity’ for moral feeling can be ‘grounded upon’ the contemplation of artwork judged beautiful,67 our experience with ugly works can ‘de-inspire’ or ‘deflate’ us, which is just to say, deaden this receptivity. This is a power we can undo by laughing at ugly works, and thereby, depreciating them—through which, however, the displeasure of the ugly leads, in an only apparent paradox, to a sort of pleasure:68 for though we may enjoy viewing ugly things so thoroughly that we even seek them out, it is generally not the ugly work—which as ugly, displeases—that we find enjoyable, but rather, the mockery we make of it. Not incidentally, though, we see that to persist in such behaviour can do nothing but reinstate the work’s power to de-inspire, and will pay it back with interest often enough, since regular ridicule easily serves to coarsen the one who takes pleasure in this way.69 To linger on an artwork judged ugly, then, is to frustrate a specific interest of reason. But this frustration is not on the same level as the one discovered whenever we judge that a natural object is ugly. Why? Simply because the former need not provide any apparent counterevidence for the ‘objective reality’ of moral ideas: in the case of ugly art, we obviously can just blame its creator. Everyone makes mistakes, after all; and if the work is bad enough, but the artist seems to think it beautiful, then we can call him or her a fool and be done with it. But when it is a natural object at issue, on the other hand, we obviously can’t blame its ‘maker’ the same way—or at least, not without falling into a mindset that Kant would say is totally contrapurposive to the interest of pure reason. There thus seems to be something inherently dangerous about finding a natural object ugly, and consequently, we find it argued70 that Kant should need to claim that we ought to never find nature ugly—we would surely have to have an imperfect duty, that is, to avoid doing so on Kant’s account (though certainly, not a perfect one).71 Of course, to find a natural thing ugly is not, in and of itself, to believe that no ‘ideas’ have ‘objective reality’; and even if it leads to this, obviously nothing gets proved thereby, since this is not cognition. Nonetheless, the danger remains: for given even a little consideration, it seems just as natural for us to find ‘evidence’ for a kind of nihilism in our contemplation of an ugly natural object—and thus, for us to be conducted, beyond the mere displeasure of the ugly, into whatever despair that may occasion—as it is to see, in a beautiful natural object, some evidence of a ‘design’ or ‘plan’ at work, ‘underneath it all’. The ugly natural object can thereby arouse a specific kind of horror in us, indicating, as it were, a sort of pointlessness of existence, or the absence of any kind of ultimate mystery ‘behind’ the world: just this in life, and nothing further, it will say, as if in the end, there were nothing but brute, stupid being. ‘Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, Shakespeare wrote.72 We have seen that an object judged beautiful is one that evokes a sense of the indescribable in its judger, due to its form or the arrangement of its constituent elements. The mind races; and captivated, we inexplicably find pleasure in this quickening of cognition, through which the understanding feels expanded in a sort of deliverance to the ineffable. If the object is man-made, a work of art, then if we chance to think of its creator, we are given to think of him or her as a genius. But if the object is a natural one, then we may well imagine (without any possibility of real proof, of course) that the purposiveness objectively belongs to nature, as if nature itself were part of the purposive: or as if, beyond any of the mundane ways in which it might serve a purpose to us, nature as a whole were given over to serve the realization of that for which we ultimately are. An object judged ugly, instead—again, because of the way its elements are arranged—is one that evokes, well … nothing. The arrangement of its constitutive elements provokes the imagination also, as though the object ought to give us a glimpse of something beyond words, but on the contrary, it conveys only a sense of pure senselessness or absurdity. If the object is a man-made one, then we either think its maker a bumbler, who tries to communicate something profound but gets it horribly wrong, or else, someone who simply has ‘nothing to say’. It makes us recoil ‘inwardly’: but how much worse if it is a natural object that we judge ugly? For we may then be given to discover in our judgement a profound absurdity in nature, or in being itself: a lack of any sort of ‘higher purpose’ to existence. Struck, that is, by the total purposelessness of the thing, we might find that the meaning of being escapes us, or perhaps, that there really is no meaning to being at all. Footnotes 1 For their helpful comments on my paper, I would like to thank Prof. Thomas Teufel as well as the anonymous referees of this journal. 2 Immanuel Kant, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 24 (IV/I) Vorlesungen über Logik, 1. Hälfte, ed. Gerhard Lehmann, trans. mine (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1966), 364. This passage is also quoted by Paul Guyer, in: Paul Guyer, Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 143–144. 3 Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 103, 5:218. 4 Henry Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 54. 5 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 108, 5:224. 6 Ibid. 7 This point is much noted in the literature on Kant and ugliness (whether the author in question is for or against the view that ugliness is a pure aesthetic judgement). See for example, Guyer, Values of Beauty, 141–143, and Alix Cohen, ‘Kant on the Possibility of Ugliness’, BJA 53 (2013), 199–209, at 203–206. 8 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 105, 5:219–220; 111-112, 5:226–227. More precisely, a ‘purpose’, according to Kant, is an object, activity, or experience that is intentionally produced; while for an object to be purposive, ‘externally’, is for it to serve a purpose in some way (ibid., 293, 5:425). 9 In general, Kant thinks objects of artifice can only ever have an ‘adherent’ beauty (ibid., 114ff, 5:229ff), although for the sake of simplicity, I am avoiding the notion of adherent beauty—or ugliness—in this essay. 10 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 95, 5:210. 11 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002), 152, 5:119–120. 12 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 126, 5:243. 13 Even assuming that the object thereby viewed is one we may generally find attractive, or even beautiful. We see it argued often enough, by the way (e.g. James Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique: A Reply to Paul Guyer’, Kant-Studien 182 (2011), 385–395, at 392–393) that ‘beautiful views’ are not actually beautiful on Kant’s account. But surely Kant does not think so—see his mention of views in Critique of the Power of Judgment, 124, 5:223, for instance. It would follow, then, that views can be ugly, too. 14 On these notions, see Kant, Lectures on Logic, ed. J. Michael Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 226–227, 24:281–282. We might well wonder if the judgement of an object as ‘aesthetically neutral’—i.e. as not beautiful, but also, not ugly—is itself a sort of pure aesthetic judgement. As this is an essay on ugliness, I will not broach the topic. But see Christian Helmut Wenzel, ‘Do Negative Judgments of Taste Have a priori Grounds in Kant?’, Kant-Studien 103 (2012), 472–493, at 473ff, as well as Wenzel, ‘Kant Finds Nothing Ugly?’, BJA 4 (1999), 416–422, at 422 (and see also n.58, in this essay). 15 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996), 166–171, 4:118–125. 16 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 156–160, 4:103–110. 17 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 5:316–317. 18 Guyer, for one, makes this point: see Guyer, Values of Beauty, 93. 19 Ibid., 87–96. 20 Fred L. Rush Jr, ‘The Harmony of the Faculties’, Kant-Studien 92 (2001), 36–81, at 52; Melissa Zinkin, ‘Kant and the Pleasure of “Mere Reflection”’, Inquiry 55 (2012), 433–453, at 448–450. 21 Zinkin, ‘Kant and the Pleasure of “Mere Reflection”’, 452. Incidentally, most of the literature on a Kantian notion of pure negative aesthetic judgement, when the essay in question does not deny the very possibility of such a judgement in Kant’s system, focuses instead on proving, against the many naysayers, that this is a possibility. Wenzel, for instance, defends the possibility of such judgements at length in ‘Do Negative Judgments’; and we see a similar intention in Dieter Lohmar, ‘Das Geschmacksurteil über das faszinierend Häßliche’, in Herman Parret (ed.), Kants Ästhetik/Kant’s Aesthetics/L’esthétique de Kant (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1998), 498–512, at 498–502.  This strategy, though, will not be my own. As I reject multicognitivist views of the judgement of beauty here, and just below, precognitivism and Guyer’s form of metacognitivism too, I thereby render irrelevant all the attacks on the possibility of pure negative aesthetic judgement that we see in the literature anyways, since (as Guyer, Values of Beauty, 80–86 should make clear) they all presuppose the accuracy of one of these views. I thus have no reason to defend the possibility of such judgements against any one of these attacks specifically. 22 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 96. 23 This is the strategy in Hud Hudson, ‘The Significance of an Analytic of the Ugly in Kant’s Deduction of Pure Judgments of Taste’, in Ralf Meerbote (ed.), Kant’s Aesthetics (Atascadero: Ridgeview, 1991), 87–103, at 99. 24 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 102, 5:217. 25 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 87–88. 26 Hannah Ginsborg, ‘Lawfulness Without a Law: Kant on the Free Play of Imagination and Understanding’, Philosophical Topics 25 (1997), 37–81, at 74. Similar ideas are present in Malcolm Budd, ‘The Pure Judgement of Taste as an Aesthetic Reflective Judgement’, BJA 41 (2001), 247–260, at 258 (an essay which I believe presents a precognitivist account also). 27 And we see again and again in the literature that ‘precognitivists’ embrace this position, with only slight qualifications: see, for instance, Theodore A. Gracyk, ‘Sublimity, Ugliness, and Formlessness in Kant’s Aesthetic Theory’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 45 (1986), 49–56, at 49–51; and Budd, ‘The Pure Judgment of Taste’, 258. 28 Just as those psychologists who advance a ‘processing fluency theory’ of aesthetic pleasure claim (as in: Rolf Reber, Norbert Schwarz, and Piotr Winkielman, ‘Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure: Is Beauty in the Perceiver’s Processing Experience?’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 8 (2004), 364–382). Of course, such principles may have some part to play in the whole experience, but the experience of beauty does not consist in the simple judgement that an object accords with them—and as often as not, in fact, we find that an object is found beautiful that breaks such ‘rules’. 29 Kant himself says as much: see for example, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 125–126 5:242. 30 Incidentally, this implies that Kant, is no formalist in the late-modern sense—which both Chignell and McMahon have both demonstrated also. See: Andrew Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste: The Role of Aesthetic Ideas’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2007), 415–433, at 415; and Jenny McMahon, ‘The Classical Trinity and Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism’, Critical Horizons 11 (2010), 419–441, at 426–430 31 A view that some precognitivists, in fact, advance: see, for example, Hudson, ‘An Analytic’, 93, and Gracyk, ‘Sublimity, Ugliness, and Formlessness’, 50, 55. 32 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 98–99. 33 Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique’, 394. 34 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 99; quoted in Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique’, 394. Were Guyer’s claim adequate—i.e. that the judgement of beauty discovers some ‘unity’ going beyond what is necessary for cognition— then the contrary experience—‘less unity’ than what is necessary for cognition—could constitute no conscious judgement (Values of Beauty, 150–151), which leads Guyer to claim that the judgement of beauty can have no real contrary (i.e. that ugliness is never ‘pure’). Yet as Phillips makes clear, this notion of ‘unity’ is vacuous. 35 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 197, 5:320; translation modified for clarity. 36 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 194 5:316; translation modified for the sake of consistent use of English terms for Kant’s technical terminology in this essay. 37 For a similar view, see McMahon, ‘The Classical Trinity and Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism’, 434–435, and Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste’, 431. Henry Allison, who also clearly recognizes the connection between aesthetic ideas and the judgement of beauty, says something similar, writing, for instance, that ‘there can be no aesthetically pleasing form apart from the expression of aesthetic ideas’ (Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, 288). However, his account is equivocal, since (as Guyer notes in Values of Beauty, 85) it includes precognitivist and multicognitivist elements, which only muddies the waters—especially when Allison turns to ugliness. 38 Wenzel, An Introduction to Kant’s Aesthetics: Core Concepts and Problems (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 1, 3, 10, 11, 58. 39 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 124, 5:240. 40 Ibid., 15, 20:211. 41 Ibid., 128, 5:244. 42 Ibid., 219, 5:344. 43 ‘The animation of both faculties (the imagination and the understanding) to an activity that is indeterminate ... is the sensation whose universal communicability is postulated by the judgement of taste’: ibid., 104, 5:219. On the quality of indeterminability, not indeterminacy, see Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, 247–248. 44 , 194, 5:316. 45 Ibid., 215–217, 5:339–341. 46 In his excellent An Introduction to Kant’s Aesthetics, Christian Wenzel offers an account of the judgement of beauty similar in many ways to the one I work with here. The two differ on crucial points, though, especially given Wenzel’s occasional leanings towards a sort of multicognitivism (e.g. Kant’s Aesthetics, 41). I do not believe, however, that Wenzel’s many great insights require this, and he would be better served, I think, to claim instead—as I do here—that the ‘play of concepts’ we sometimes see attached to the positive aesthetic judging of a ‘je ne sais quoi’ is not essential for this judgement: for as we see above, multicognitivism not only is highly problematic as a basic account of pure aesthetic judgement, but also, there is no contrary to the judgement of beauty on the usual multicognitive account—a preclusion Wenzel gets around only by making the judgement interested, which therefore distorts his descriptions of ugliness (see n. 57). 47 Kant is thus led to claim that a sort of Idea is applied in the judgement of beauty (Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 215–216 [5:239–240]), although not the sort whose basis lies in our moral vocation. Below, I will deal with the relation between the interest we take in the latter and aesthetic judging. Suffice it to say here, though, that an object judged beautiful, precisely because we judge it such, can serve such an Idea, or ‘qualifies for such an association’ (ibid., 181, 5:302). Yet it need not do so, in any given case. 48 Ibid., 112–113, 105, 5:227–229, 220. 49 Ibid., 107, 5:222. 50 Ibid., 215–216, 5:339. 51 Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 57; Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 152–155, 5:119–121. 52 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 227, 5:353. 53 Ibid., 125, 5:241; (emphasis removed). 54 Ibid., 197, 5:319; Ibid., 126, 5:242; Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Logic, 37, 24:52. 55 William Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. Stephen Orgel (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 92. 56 Kant, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 15 (III/II) Anthropologie, ed. Erich Adickes (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1969), 296. 57 This is to say that, contra almost all the literature on a Kantian notion of ugliness, the object judged ugly will not thereby interfere with cognition or the application of concepts in any way. Our understanding gets engaged in a general fashion here also—since like beauty, we have the judging of a ‘one-knows-not-what’—but instead, the understanding is made to feel limited, and not expanded, in the encounter. (Likewise, the ‘harmony’ or ‘disharmony’ of the minds’ powers in pure aesthetic judgement has simply to do with this feeling of expansion or limitation that the understanding undergoes, and not with cognition’s business.)  Christian Wenzel’s view, which is (as I note above) very similar to mine, especially on this point, nonetheless differs here in a crucial way, for though Wenzel claims that in the experience of ugliness, as opposed to that of beauty, ‘we don’t feel this expansion of ourselves pointing to the supersensible’, he contends—due to his multicognitivist leanings (‘Do Negative Judgements’, 485)—that this is because ‘we don’t meet with the happy range of potentially successful and harmonious possibilities that go beyond a single concept’ (ibid., 486). Yet this interpretation presupposes that we feel a sort of need or desire for ‘free play’, which the object judged ugly would frustrate—and in fact, Wenzel describes things just this way, claiming, for instance, that the judgement involves a failure to reach an ‘aim’ (ibid.). But if things stood as such, pure aesthetic judging would be interested: which, as we have seen, it is not; or not if Kant is right about it. 58 These are thus contraries, just as Kant says—and in opposition to the contradictory of both, i.e. simple cognitive judgement, in which there just is no ‘feeling’ of this sort one way or another.  Put in a formal language, then—where ‘a’ is an object at issue, ‘u’, the understanding, ‘L’ means ‘… is limited’, and ‘◇’ is a two part function meaning ‘the object … occasions the “feeling” that …’—we have a judgement of beauty whenever it is the case that: ◇a(~Lu); a judgement of ugliness when: ◇a(Lu); and ‘neutral’ cognitive judgement when: ~([◇a{~Lu}] ∨ [◇a{Lu}]). This makes it perfectly clear that, regarding these judgements, Kant uses the terms ‘contrary’ and ‘contradictory’ in the strictest logical sense. 59 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 203, 5:326. 60 Ibid., 190, 5: 312 (translation modified, as in n.36). 61 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 153–154. 62 Cohen, ‘The Possibility of Ugliness’, 201. (At 206–207, incidentally, Cohen argues quite convincingly, contra Guyer, that a metacognitive account should allow for negative pure aesthetic judgement. Cohen, however, does not actually attempt to clarify the relation of the faculties in such judgements, so the notion of ugliness still remains totally opaque in her paper (which she readily admits at 208).) 63 Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste’, 421–422, 426. 64 When the loathsome object is a work of art, it is just what we call kitsch. (The Paolozzi presented above is no doubt kitsch of a sort, though obviously ironically so.) 65 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 230, 5:356. 66 Ibid., 180 [5:300]. To say that ideas have ‘objective reality’, on Kant’s account, is just to say that God, Freedom, and Immortality ‘exist’. And to believe that they do is of use morally, Kant says, insofar as they assist us in living up to our moral obligations—see e.g. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 157–166, 5:124–31. But for our purposes, we can be a little more vague about the type of ‘ideas’ here at issue: for without articulating them as they have been in any particular tradition, one may yet come to posit their ‘reality’, and thereby, find oneself morally inspired, whenever the judgement of a natural beauty leads one to ‘find’ a greater purpose, ‘behind it all’. 67 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 230, 5:356. 68 For its own part, the pleasure of the beautiful can, likewise, lead to a sort of displeasure: namely, the unfulfillable longing for the unnameable that it stirs. 69 There are surely other ways that an individual can come to take pleasure in an object judged ugly. To go over all of these here would take us too far afield; one in particular, however, is worthy of note, since Lohmar makes it crucial to his account of ugliness—namely, the pleasure that we might take in being fascinated by something ugly. According to Lohmar, ‘the play [of aesthetic judging] in both cases, beauty and ugliness, is characterized as play by fascination’ (‘Das Geschmacksurteil’, 511 [my translation]); and yet to indulge in fascination is pleasurable, so ‘the disharmonious play’ of the judgement of ugliness ‘rests on a pleasure to the play’, Lohmar says (ibid., 506 [again, my translation]). Yet the pleasure of fascination cannot be an inherent part of ugliness, since after all, we can become fascinated by all sorts of things that, in the broadest sense, we take to be ‘bad’, given that an interest of the understanding—namely, to learn—can always feel frustrated when, repulsed, we turn away from something so quickly that we do not get a chance to cognize it properly. We thereby find that we ‘need’ to know just how ‘bad it gets’—even though we simultaneously do not want to know this, because really, we are repulsed. Fascination with the ugly is just a species of this, and as such, presupposes that we already find the ugly displeasing; thus, it cannot constitute an essential element of the judgement of ugliness itself. 70 See, for one, Garrett Thomson, ‘Kant’s Problems with Ugliness’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1992), 107–115. I believe this is what Thomson is ultimately getting at, at least—notwithstanding all the confusions helpfully pointed out in Paul Guyer, ‘Thomson’s Problem with Kant’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1992): 317–319. 71 Likewise, we should interpret Kant’s position to assert that we have an imperfect duty to appreciate the beauty of nature, since it makes us more receptive to the feeling of moral respect (and so, to fulfil all our moral duties, perfect and imperfect alike). 72 Shakespeare, Macbeth, 92. © British Society of Aesthetics 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved. 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‘Nothing but Nonsense’: A Kantian Account of Ugliness

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Abstract

Abstract What does it mean for something to be judged ugly? On Kant’s account of aesthetic judgment, an object judged beautiful brings about a ‘free play of the imagination and the understanding’, and is thus given as though ‘purposive without purpose’; but ugliness, Kant claims, is the ‘contrary to beauty’. Assuming Kant is correct on all counts, we would have to conclude that the object judged ugly would bring about a dynamic that is contrary to this ‘ free play’, but that is nevertheless not its mere absence—since its absence is what is exhibited in usual cognitive, non-aesthetic judgment. Likewise, an ugly object is one that would have to be given as though contrapurposive, yet without running counter to any specific end of ours. In this essay, I try to clear up what this can mean, in order to clarify the judgment of ugliness. 1. Introduction What does it mean for a thing to be ugly, or perhaps better, for something to be judged as such? We should admit that the matter is not transparent. Maybe that seems odd, since we find things ugly all the time; should not this be plain as day, then? But usually, it is what seems plainest that, in the end, is most obscure. So what, then, is ugliness? What does it mean to find something ugly? Looking to cast some light on the matter, we might consider using Kant’s well-known account of beauty as our starting point, since Kant—apparently following ‘common sense’ (in the usual, and not Kantian sense of the term)—says that ugliness is ‘contrary to beauty’.2 Assuming the adequacy of Kant’s account of the beautiful, then, we should only need to work out its ‘opposite’ to clarify ugliness. Reasonably enough, the literature is replete with attempts to understand ugliness this way. But according to Kant, an object judged beautiful brings about a ‘free play of the imagination and the understanding’ in us;3 so if this is so for the judgement of beauty, and beauty and ugliness truly are contrary, we apparently ought to conclude that an object judged ugly must simply be one that keeps our faculties from entering into any ‘free play’. And yet, is not that just how things stand for usual cognition, cognition having nothing at all to do with the ugly? A lot of the writings on a Kantian notion of ugliness thus contend that, unlike a judgement of beauty, a judgement of ugliness is no ‘pure’ aesthetic judgement, and that, really, ugliness is only unpleasantness, the contrary of what we find ‘charming’ (an issue I’ll have to touch on below). But no—Kant explicitly calls ugliness the contrary of beauty. If the Kantian account is going to help us make headway here, then, we will instead have to begin by proposing that the object judged ugly does, in fact, bring the imagination into a ‘free play’ vis-à-vis the understanding, just like the object judged beautiful does, except that in this case, it brings the two into a ‘play’ that is somehow discordant. That might clear things up—were it clear what this could even mean, that is. So perhaps a Kantian account of aesthetic experience can just have nothing at all to say about ugliness, and will be of no help in this matter? And perhaps, then, this should cause us to become suspicious of Kant’s account of aesthetic judgement in general? As though ugliness would be a ‘reductio’ for it? Henry Allison, for one, is struck by this concern.4 In this essay, I will argue that, despite appearances, the Kantian account of aesthetic judgement can help to clarify the experience of ugliness—an experience, again, which is anything but plain otherwise. My demonstration will have to be indirect, since Kant had almost nothing to say about ugliness directly, except that it is the contrary of beauty in some sense; thus, I will have to begin with the Kantian account of the judgement of beauty, and try to work out what the ‘contrary’ to this could be as I go. But after I do this, surprisingly enough, the phenomenon of ugliness will begin to make sense—provided I am clear enough about the notion of beauty, of course. 2. Delimitation of ‘Pure’ Aesthetic Judgement Where to begin? A good start would be to at least figure out what ugliness can’t be, on a Kantian account. Thus, I will begin with what beauty is not, according to Kant, to see where this leads us. According to Kant, then, ‘charm’ is no ‘necessary ingredient of beauty’, so in describing the judgement of beauty, we must be sure to keep it distinct from all judgements about the pleasantness of the sensible—of mere colours, sounds, smells, tastes, and so forth, that, all by themselves, strike us as pleasant, irrespective of any object the given sensation might serve to present to us perceptually.5 Such sensings can be part of the manifold involved in this or that judgement of beauty—e.g. we can, at times, be pleased by the smell of a rose while we simultaneously judge the rose beautiful—but on Kant’s account, they can make up no essential part of that judgement, assuming it really is a judgement of beauty.6 The judgement of beauty, instead, concerns the form of the object presented only, something about the relationship that holds between the elements making it up. What this means concretely will have to be examined below. Suffice it to say, something similar has to go for the judgement of ugliness, if it truly is contrary to the judgement of beauty qua pure aesthetic judgement: it must concern only the form of a thing, that is, irrespective of any disgusting sensations that might belong to the manifold that presents it. Were it simply a matter of smells that nauseate, colours that irritate the eyes, etc., a judgement of ugliness would be nothing other than the judgement of a thing’s being unpleasant. But just as a judgement of beauty seems to ‘transcend’ usual aesthetic judgement—i.e. that some presented object is merely pleasant to the senses—so too does the judgement of ugliness seem essentially distinct from the mere judgement that some object is sensually revolting.7 Of course, it is pleasant to occupy ourselves with something judged beautiful, and unpleasant to occupy ourselves with something judged ugly. Why? According to Kant, the beautiful object, which, qua beautiful, does not please through mere sensual gratification, does not simply please through approval, either: which is to say, through the recognition of some purpose it might bear—or does not do so in any usual sense of the term, at least. For an object to be understood as being ‘purposive’ in the usual sense, conversely, is for it to be cognized as being ‘for something’: something can be achieved by its means, we recognize, namely, some purpose or end of ours.8 What is key to the whole issue of beauty, then, is that insofar as an object is judged beautiful, no such concept is applied: the beautiful object, qua beautiful, has no purpose, or rather, is not judged in relation to one. It might be a building, which, qua building, obviously has its purpose, but the object is not really judged beautiful qua building.9 The building qua building could have just as easily been constructed without this evocative design, a design which adds nothing to the building’s usability, i.e. which is purposeless. This means that insofar as something is judged to be a beautiful object, it is not judged to be a ‘good’ one, which is to say, either judged useful for bringing about some sensual or ‘intellectual’ enjoyment (as a frying pan is judged purposive vis-à-vis our gustatorial desire, or a chess board, vis-à-vis one’s enthusiasm for the game), or else, helpful for bringing about conformity to the moral law (as, say, austere surroundings may be judged vis-à-vis our moral interest). Obviously, this does not mean that the object could not be so judged if attended to with a different ‘mindset’, nor obviously that, judged beautiful, we judge it to be bad in any of these regards. Rather, it means only that the judgement of beauty itself does not consist in any judgement of interest; the judgement is as much distinct from one about purpose as it is from a judgement of mere pleasantness. But by the same token, then, a judgement of ugliness must not consist in any judgement of interest either, assuming, again, that such judgements are, or at least can be, pure aesthetic judgements; to judge something ugly, that is, cannot be to judge it ‘bad’, or contrapurposive, in any usual sense, i.e. regarding any possible interest, whether in enjoyment or else, the moral good. To say that the judgement of beauty does not consist in any usual judgement of purposiveness—and conversely, that the judgement of ugliness does not consist in any usual judgement of contrapurposiveness—implies that it is not a ‘cognitive’ judgement. After all, cognition, on Kant’s account, means objective predication or positing—our becoming conscious of anything whatsoever as an object of this or that sort, characterized in such-and-such way, etc.—but the judgement of beauty surely has to do with a sort of pleasure, and the only way for us to judge something to be pleasing by positing anything about the object itself is for us to judge it good in some way.10 Insofar as we find an object beautiful, then, we posit nothing about it objectively: the judgement instead reflects the subject’s way of ‘taking it’, which is just why we call it aesthetic judgement (albeit, one that is ‘pure’, since once again, this is not a mere judgement of sensual pleasure). It follows from this, further, that the pleasure we find in finding something beautiful cannot possibly be that which we may take in successful cognition (whose interest, Kant says, is ultimately determined by the idea of the good11). Of course, it is often enough pleasurable to learn or, more broadly speaking, to make sense of things or ‘gain information’ about the world, whether through straightforward cognition or through the detour of cognitive reflection (about which I will say a little more later on); but the pleasure of the beautiful is, quite simply, not like this—and if there is perhaps something like a ‘making sense of things’ in its judgement, we simply equivocate if we equate this with the ‘sense making’ of cognition. The judgement of ugliness, in any event, thus cannot be a cognitive one either (assuming, once more, that it is, or can be, a pure aesthetic judgement, which I’ll hopefully demonstrate before we are through); we no more posit anything of an object itself when we find it ugly, that is, than we do when we find it beautiful. Rather, the judgement of ugliness must reflect the subject’s way of ‘taking things’ also—although here, it is evidently a way of taking them badly. And in like fashion, surely, the displeasure found by ‘taking something badly’ cannot be the mere frustration of cognitive interest, just as the pleasure we feel when we find something beautiful is not that of the satisfaction of cognition’s aims. In fact, one of the simplest ways to create a beautiful view is to place an object in the distance where, as Kant himself points out, we cannot cognize much of it at all,12 or likewise, to shroud something in mists or let it play in the shadows; while equally, one of the easiest ways to make a view into an ugly one is to display something frankly under an unsparing light.13 A view of this sort, that is, will surely turn out to be a good one for the purposes of cognition, and yet it may well turn out to be aesthetically displeasing. 3. The Perception of Beauty So what, then, can we make of the ugliness of an object judged ugly, if this is not simply sensual unpleasantness, nor ‘badness’ of any sort? Conversely—what is the beauty of an object judged beautiful, if not simply sensual gratification, or else, any sort of ‘goodness?’ On Kant’s account, once again, beauty only has to do with an object’s form. If the form of an object is such that it brings the imagination and the understanding into free play in relation to one another, then we judge the object beautiful, Kant says. Yet it is not immediately obvious what this means, or at least not to non-Kantians—and perhaps not to some avid readers of Kant also. The matter needs clarification, if we are to work out its contrary. Since I think a lot of the disagreement on the possibility of a Kantian concept of ugliness comes back to a disagreement on the Kantian concept of beauty, I am going to take a little time to go over this. But in order to really clarify the judgement of beauty, in which some sort of free play of our faculties is supposed to be brought about, we will have to return to cognition, or the usual case of perception, in which there is no such free play. (On Kant’s account, ‘cognitive’ judgement is ‘contradictory’, not ‘contrary’, to the judgement of beauty.14) The synthesis of the imagination is necessary here, for the understanding to work its magic—for us to perceive anything at all as being ‘such-and-such’—which is just to say, to have any perceptual consciousness at all if we are not using this term in a totally equivocal fashion. ‘Synthesis’, though, is not necessarily a transparent term either: various sensations, distinct in time and space, must be linked (which is partly, though not only, to say associated) in such a way that they can make manifest a single perceived being, constituting themselves as presentations (Vorstellungen) of the self-same object, as unified perception. All these sensations are ‘of’ one and the same thing; I perceive it.15 But as soon as this synthesis is in play, as soon as the stream of spatially and temporally distinct sensings (i.e. the manifold) constitutes itself as presentation of the selfsame object, I am given to understand it: I apply concepts, perceive the thing as such-and-such.16 Here, we do not need to go into the relationship between imagination and the application of concepts—especially of pure concepts—within the synthesis of apperception’s transcendental unity: it suffices to say that, in everyday perception, the imagination does its work—both apprehending the subject’s ongoing sensory experience as such, while making use of passively formed associations between the experiences—and the object perceived comes to give itself according to a stable configuration of concepts. Of course as perception goes on, and we become more familiar with the thing perceived, this configuration may develop in a number of ways. This fact is inessential to the issue of beauty (it has nothing to do with the ‘free play’ at issue, that is). What occurs, then, in the judgement of beauty? Here, the faculties enter into free play. But what does this mean? Just that the form of the object is such that, in the judgement of beauty, the synthesis of the imagination does not allow the synthesis of the understanding to issue in any concept, we will insist.17 But of course, it must, independently, have issued itself in this or that concept: for in judging something beautiful, we do not thereby find ourselves before some blank entity, a totally brute being so to speak. And even this, of course, would still require, on Kant’s account, the application of concepts—the unknown thing recognized as such—although in fact, it is usually exceedingly clear what the object is in the judgement of beauty.18 As Paul Guyer points out, in any event, this means that the free play at issue is neither a ‘precognitive’ operation nor a ‘multicognitive’ one.19 What does that mean? Those who advance a ‘multicognitive’ view of the judgement of beauty insist that an object is judged beautiful insofar as its cognition refuses to settle upon any particular concept.20 I will argue below that there is something to be said for this position; and yet taken at face value, it certainly does not describe the experience of beauty very well, for evidently, confusion about an object is not what occasions aesthetic appreciation of it (e.g. ‘Is that a vine or a snake? I really can’t tell’ does not equal the judgement of beauty). This means, then, that ugliness, assuming its judgement is a pure aesthetic one, cannot be the contrary of this sort of conceptual multiplicity… although it really is not clear what the contrary of that could be (since a deficiency, rather than excess, of conceptual application would result in an experience that did not rise to the level of consciousness at all). Ruling out a multicognitive account of the faculties’ free play thus allows us to rule out one major reason (highlighted, e.g. by Melissa Zinkin) for thinking that the judgement of ugliness is not a pure aesthetic one.21 Neither, though, is the free play at issue anything ‘precognitive’, if by this, we mean the ‘play’ of some operation that takes place ‘prior’ to cognition, in the sense of being one of its constituent processes. Why not? Though Guyer points out that there is no conscious experience whatsoever until the faculties have all had their say and some kind of concept has been applied,22 the precognitivist can surely respond that the application of concepts in pure aesthetic judgement merely brings to light something that takes place on its own, pre-consciously, in the operation of our faculties.23 For after all, usual aesthetic judgement brings to light the sensual pain or pleasure that, according to Kant, attends every passing sensation, and surely sensation per se is precognitive. Nevertheless, Kant’s claim that the pleasure of the beautiful, unlike that of the senses, is produced by judging it so weighs against the precognitive view.24 As does the fact that we run into the ‘everything is beautiful problem’ as soon as we claim that pure aesthetic judgement just brings to light the progress of one of the precognitive operations that cognition presupposes:25 for although here, the precognitivist may again object, and claim (like Ginsborg, for instance26) that the pleasure of the judgement of beauty really only emerges given an object that is especially conducive to some underlying precognitive ‘play’ of the faculties, this objection only results in the position that the pleasure of beauty is just that of the satisfaction of the interest of cognition.27 We could say that, for the precognitivist, beauty just means ‘easily parsable’, as if aesthetic appreciation were just a matter of good cognizability, which some empirico-psychological ‘principles of composition’ might capture.28 Yet this cannot be what Kant ultimately means by beauty,29 given that as we’ve already seen, Kant insists that the judgement of beauty is not cognition, and its pleasure is not that of ‘coming to know’, which would nonetheless have to be the case if beauty were equivalent to ‘ease of cognition’, however the details of this may be hashed out.30 And conversely, then, ugliness cannot simply be a matter of bad cognizability, i.e. flaunting such principles so as to make cognition taxing31—or at least, not if Kant is right about beauty. So the ‘free’ exercise of the faculties is not precognitive either; rather, it must involve a synthesis of productive imagination (or a constitution of the manifold as a unified streaming of sense experience) that goes ‘beyond’ its usual operation, which remains bound to the understanding insofar as it merely furnishes those ‘pure’ and empirical syntheses of recognition that cognition requires (the application of concepts, or consciousness in the strict sense: I am perceiving ‘such-and-such’)—something ‘more’ than cognition occurs in the judgement of beauty, that is. But what more is there, above and beyond this operation, to which the term ‘free play’ could apply? ‘Metacognitive’ accounts of pure aesthetic judgement seek this out32—though they sadly often miss the mark, or else, remain content with far too obscure pronouncements. (Phillips accuses Guyer of doing this,33 for example, when Guyer speaks of the extra ‘unity and coherence’ that an object found beautiful exhibits.)34 Yet without really clarifying the sense in which pure aesthetic judgement does go beyond cognition, we will never be able to make any headway regarding ugliness. Kant, himself, is clear, at least, about this: ‘beauty in general’, he writes, ‘(whether it be beauty of nature or of art) can be called the expression of aesthetic ideas’.35 But what does this mean, and how is it connected with the ‘free play’ of our faculties? Occasioned by an object’s form, Kant says, an aesthetic idea is a ‘presentation of the imagination’—i.e. a manifold of experiencing, which in this case, it freely synthesizes—for which, thereby, ‘no expression designating a determinate concept can be found’.36 Over and above the ‘restricted’ play of cognitive judgement, that is (in which the manifold becomes ‘I think “x”’, where ‘x’ is something determinate of which I am thereby conscious, perceptually or otherwise), there is free play insofar as the form of the object cognized, above and beyond this ‘call’ for determinate concepts, seems, furthermore, to make us aware of something indescribable.37 It brings forth a ‘je ne sais quoi’, as Christian Wenzel puts it, as though the object here were ‘too meaningful’, or as though it evoked, or perhaps allowed us to encounter, something for which no concept could possibly be adequate.38 And so: the ship in the distance (Figure 1), sailing out into the sunset, speaks to us of longing, of wishes gone unfulfilled, of endings and new beginnings and a hundred thousand other things, such that we could keep specifying every concept that it brings to mind and still not touch the heart of the thing—it calls forth, as it were, a ‘meaning beyond meaning’, an ineffable concept and, at the limit, perhaps Idea; here, words become useless, as if for a fleeting moment, the object offered the barest glimpse of something beyond expression, or of a sort of profound and indescribable plenum of existence, forever waiting just a bit beyond our ability to grasp it. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Claude Monet, Cliffs at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Claude Monet, Cliffs at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art. To judge beauty, then, requires the imagination to be purely productive. In cognitive judgement—again: usual, ‘mundane’ consciousness—the imagination is, once more, necessarily productive, but not purely or exclusively so: for in such a case—again, the norm—the imagination is limited by its reproductive capacity, or by the ‘laws of association’, as Kant will say,39 since it is bound by the demand of the faculty of understanding for a regularity in experiencing, to which a determinate concept might be applied. Of course, under certain conditions, things can be given ‘indeterminately’—for instance, as a doubtful thing—but this thereby yields a reflective cognitive judgement, which only presents its object, surely already determinately given in some way, as in need of some concept to determine it more fully.40 As such, the imagination remains under the sway of the understanding’s demand. In the reflective judgement of beauty, however, the imagination exercises complete freedom, for here, an ‘indeterminate concept’41 of a wholly different sort is applied: the understanding ends up engaged in a totally general fashion instead,42 so that what gets unified, this ‘excessive experience’, gets unified merely as a kind of ‘fleeting glimpse’ or manifestation of an indescribable ‘presence’. The experience in no way becomes ‘I perceive x,’ that is, where ‘x’ is cognitively indeterminate, but rather, ‘I perceive x,’ where ‘x,’ something cognitively determinate, is judged as making me ‘feel’ something indeterminable: the ‘je ne sais quoi’ describes a state of my own being that, inexplicably, the object draws forth in me.43 How? Owing to the peculiarities of its form, we see, the object proves capable of stirring a great many feelings and intimations—Kant writes that ‘even an intellectual concept’ can be judged beautiful, but only through the ‘feelings’ it ‘spreads in the mind’44—which, together, serve as the occasion for the imagination to take an unprecedented step and freely synthesize a type of experience so superabundant that the understanding can only make sense of it as the presentation of an object that evokes something beyond understanding in me.45 Determinate concepts, whether expressly articulated or not, can be brought into play as part of this—which the multicognitivist intuits, with however much unclarity46—but only in order to find each one inadequate to the great profundity that the object, whether artwork or natural object, lets ‘shine forth’. To see something as beautiful, or ‘schöne’, in Kant’s German, is just to discover this ‘shining’ in it.47 What about the pleasure of the beautiful, then? The beautiful object, qua beautiful, serves no real purpose, Kant insists; and yet it is, as such, cognized as though purposive on his account. How can this be so? Kant’s claim would seem to be that, insofar as its otherwise purposeless form serves to make us ‘feel’ something indescribable, it is taken to be ‘for’ this curious quickening of the mind, and is thus understood to have a kind of purposiveness without being ‘for’ anything determinate.48 Perhaps this clarifies the issue a little. I think we can clarify it more, however, by noting that according to Kant, the peculiar aesthetic pleasure resulting from the judgement of beauty arises through the captivation somehow produced by the indescribable state the object occasions in us49—which thereby, is felt as an indescribable state of expansion or enlargement, which our cognitive faculties (particularly the understanding) undergo in this exercise.50 At which point, not incidentally, they seem to come into the closest proximity with pure reason and its ultimate vocation, in which the spontaneity of the understanding, or our ‘transcendence’ of sensible immediacy, is rooted.51 For as Kant puts it, it is ‘the intelligible’, to which: taste looks …. In this faculty the power of judgment … sees itself … as related to something in the subject itself and outside of it, which is neither nature nor freedom, but which is connected with the ground of the latter, namely the supersensible.52 Prompted by the object to free itself for its pure exercise, that is, the imagination—‘running wild’, as it were, or getting ‘carried away with itself’—nonetheless engages itself ‘in harmony with the lawfulness of the understanding in general’, since this somehow makes us aware of some great ‘profundity’ in us. And in the captivation in which this issues, the understanding also seems expanded, insofar as it gets ‘given’ in this engagement, however obscurely, as though it were approaching some unutterable source.53 Yet the purposes of cognition are not advanced one iota in this way; captivated, it is only as if something were to be gained by this apparent expansion. And thus we find a purposiveness without purpose. 4. The Perception of Ugliness But what, then, of ugliness? If ugliness really is contrary to beauty, that is, must we conceive of the judgement of ugliness as one which issues, not in an evocation of some ineffable ‘meaningfulness’ undergirding the intelligibility of the world or our understanding, but rather, in an evocation of the lack of anything of the sort, the absence of any ‘deeper significance?’ Which judges an object contrapurposive, that is, though without it necessarily running counter to any of our purposes? This is exactly how we must conceive of these judgements. To speak of an ‘insignificance’ in this way, of course, is in no way to say that the object judged ugly is a ‘mysterious’ one in any usual sense: like the object judged beautiful, it generally is not—although like the latter, there maybe is something ‘mysterious’ about the ugly in a very loose sense. Likewise, to be ‘for nothing’ here does not mean to be useless, not to mention, opposed to some end of ours. But I just claimed that an object judged ugly seems to exhibit a lack of significance or, conversely, purposiveness; what, then, can we make of this ‘lack?’ An object judged ugly seems as though it ought to ‘mean something’ to us, to evoke something profound, ‘beyond words’—but does not. There is a sort of free play of imagination, then, but rather than resulting in a sense of heightening, straining towards the rarefied airs of some pure Idea, the free play here is rather like a free fall, descending, as it were, into an abyss. ‘Meaning’, so to speak, is ‘sucked away’ into a vacuum, into the void, and precisely because the object engages the understanding in general, but without the evocation of anything ‘more’, beckoning ‘beneath’ it; it is as if the object gave us a glimpse, not of an ineffable presencing, but of a lack of anything ‘beyond’ being, so that in the end, it would only allow us to reflect upon the ‘pointlessness of it all’. Kant thus writes of the possibility that the imagination ‘produces, in its lawless freedom, nothing but nonsense’, as if the ‘freedom of the imagination’ were pushed not only up to, but past, ‘the point of the grotesque’, and similarly, claims that ‘when a cognition is to be beautiful, but this purpose is not attained, then it is ugly’.54 We can see how this works by comparing the beautiful depiction of a highly stylized and enigmatic elk (Figure 2)—which, by coupling the elk’s power and gentle gracefulness, may convey to us some profound or unfathomable depths of being—with an image, instead, of a Goblin Shark (Figure 3): an undoubtedly ugly little bugger (to the extent such claims have a claim to universality, that is). It is as if nature, in this case, were playing tricks with us, putting a huge snout, over here, a bunch of teeth, over there, all at random—and definitely more gums than should be allowed—and all of it, apparently without ‘purpose’. We judge it ugly, as if to say: ‘what was nature thinking?’ or ‘what was God playing at?’ Here, instead, there is a ‘negative’ feeling of indescribability: it is as though life were ‘a tale told by an idiot’, as Shakespeare put it, or perhaps, as though there were no teller of the tale at all.55 On that note, works of art can be ugly, too, obviously: we might compare, then, a distortion that, in a beautiful work, was intended—conveying or rather, evoking something unconveyable—with one that, in all reality, means, or accomplishes, nothing. On the one hand, then: we have Wang Jian’s knotted pines and towering, contorted cliff faces (Figure 4), which evoke for us the energy of nature, its magnitude, but also its stillness, its serenity: a poignant juxtaposition so full it could break your heart—while on the other hand, unfortunately, we have this (Figure 5). Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Still from Princess Mononoke. Directed by Hayao Miyazake. Film. Produced by Studio Ghibli, Tokyo. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Still from Princess Mononoke. Directed by Hayao Miyazake. Film. Produced by Studio Ghibli, Tokyo. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Dianne J. Bray, Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, 2011. In Fishes of Australia. Last modified 14 June 2016 (http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254). Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Dianne J. Bray, Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, 2011. In Fishes of Australia. Last modified 14 June 2016 (http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254). Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Wang Jian, Mountain Scenery with Streams and Pavilions in the Style of Fan Kuan, 1667. Ink on paper hanging scroll. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Wang Jian, Mountain Scenery with Streams and Pavilions in the Style of Fan Kuan, 1667. Ink on paper hanging scroll. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here, we want to say instead: ‘What was the painter thinking?’ The horribly rounded back (and lack of a neck, while we are at it), the gaping mouth that stretches at an angle God himself never intended a mouth to go, signify absolutely nothing, and in fact, signify nothing profound precisely where we would most expect it. For some, this flirts with blasphemy. If it has become clear enough how an object, on the basis of its form alone, can evoke a feeling of ineffability in us, it should likewise have become clear how an object can, also on the basis of its form, evoke a sort of contrary to this: which is to say, a sense of total, sickening abandonment to the sheer mundanity of things instead. The object, that is, must occasion a free activity of the imagination also, albeit one in which this faculty produces, not an aesthetic idea, but rather, synthesizes a similarly ‘excessive’ experience, though one whose juxtapositions are so fashioned as to find it an absurdity to see anything ‘more’, ‘beneath’ the object occasioning the experience, than what the object, at face value, presents. Obviously, judgements of this sort, just like those of beauty, quite readily offer themselves to be reflected upon with a specifically moral interest in mind—a matter I will clarify in more detail at the end of this essay. But just as, prior to any further consideration of the experience of beauty, the specific and sui generis pleasure of the judgement is produced hand in hand with a sense of heightening or enlargement of the understanding which in its free play, the liberated imagination is able to bring about, so the specific and sui generis pain or displeasure of the judgement of ugliness is produced, not through any further consideration of the experience either, but rather, as part of a feeling of limitation to which the understanding gets subjected by it. The thing judged ugly does not just prohibit the inexplicable captivation of beauty—then it might only be experienced as ‘everyday’56 or aesthetically ‘neutral’—but instead, inexplicably repulses. The understanding shrinks from the object, so to speak: which in this way, gets judged, ‘further’, as a glimpse of ‘nothing further’, since its refusal to allow for ecstatic flight is instead experienced as a total rivetedness to something like the ‘banality of existence’. But paradoxically, then, this restriction of the understanding—which is made to feel limited in the presence of what is thereby judged ugly—is really only a matter of holding it to what, by rights, are its proper limits, since the ugly object, cognized perfectly well for its own part, is then just judged, furthermore, as if ‘what you see is what you get’, full stop: without any ‘further depth’, or extra ‘dimension’, whatsoever. Just this, and nothing more, it says. There is thus a kind of contrapurposiveness exhibited in the ugly object that does not yet run counter to any determinate end or purpose of ours, since without hindering the understanding in any way in its proper business, it is as if the object diminished it, attenuated it to such an extent that it came forth, abandoned to mundanity, as if it, itself, merely were what it is—and nothing more.57 In the experience of beauty, that is, the understanding is made to ‘feel’ like it has frontiers, out onto sidereal realms; but here it is made to ‘feel’ like it doesn’t.58 And in fact, we see Kant striving to make the same point, particularly when he deals with the ‘loathsome’. Kant thus writes of an artwork that is: aimed merely at enjoyment, which leaves behind it nothing in the idea, and makes the spirit dull, the object by and by loathsome, and the mind, because it is aware that its disposition is contrapurposive in the judgment of reason, dissatisfied with itself and moody.59 What can we make of this ‘loathsomeness’? Trying to make sense of the idea, many commentators turn to another passage in the third Critique about it: only one kind of ugliness cannot be presented in a way adequate to nature without destroying all aesthetic satisfaction, hence beauty in art, namely, that which arouses loathing. For since in this strange sensation, resting on sheer imagination, the object is presented as if it were imposing the enjoyment which we are nevertheless forcibly resisting, the artistic presentation of the object is no longer distinguished in our sensation itself from the nature of the object itself, and it then becomes impossible for the former to be taken as beautiful.60 This second quote leads most commentators to agree that loathing, as Kant presents it, is not a pure negative aesthetic judgement (assuming the commentator in question agrees that there is such a thing at all), since here, we seem to have a moral interest to avoid the object—one understood as contrapurposive in a usual sense—which will at the least therefore reinforce our revulsion to the object, if it does not, in fact, account for the revulsion alone. What else could Kant mean, after all, when he writes that “we are nevertheless forcibly resisting’ an ‘enjoyment’? This is Guyer’s interpretation of the notion,61 and Alix Cohen’s also—the loathsome object is one which we judge ugly only because we would otherwise judge it beautiful, were it not for a moral repulsiveness that makes us resist this (‘ugliness that generates disgust [or loathing, Ekel] is due to a voluntary moral attitude …’,Cohen writes: ‘I believe that I ought not to apprehend [something] aesthetically but from a moral standpoint instead’).62 Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Cecilia Giménez and Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo, 1930/2012. Fresco. Borja: Sanctuary of Mercy Church. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Cecilia Giménez and Elías García Martínez, Ecce Homo, 1930/2012. Fresco. Borja: Sanctuary of Mercy Church. But is this really what Kant means by the loathsome? The first quote above should make it clear that it is not: for as Kant describes it there, the loathsome object is one originally given as pleasant, not beautiful—it is ‘aimed merely at enjoyment’, a pleasure of the senses, contra the claim of commentators like Cohen and Guyer. Such interpretations cannot, therefore, be accurate. Worse still for them is that, apparently, the loathsome object need not be contrapurposive in a moral sense: for in the first of the two quoted passages, Kant’s description easily calls to mind an indulgent meal or ‘charming’ pop song, i.e. things whose enjoyment is not actually immoral, but which may ‘dull the spirit’, as Kant says, especially when indulged in continuously (‘by and by’, he adds). It should thus be clear that when Kant claims the loathsome object can never be presented beautifully in an artwork, he believes this is so, not because there is something morally contrapurposive about the object that leads us to refuse to experience it as beautiful, but rather, because it possesses a sort of ugliness that is inextricable from the pleasure it ‘imposes’ on the senses. Taken generally, then, we may say that an object judged loathsome (whether it be an object of nature or of art) is one that makes us feel smothered by a sort of superficial satiation, since it offers to the senses a series of immediate pleasures whose very combination strikes us as ugly, insofar as they occasion in us, on the basis of the form of their combination, the sense that there is ultimately nothing ‘deeper’, ‘beneath’ that pleasurable experience, to be encountered. In an artwork like Real Gold, a clever artist like Eduardo Paolozzi can exploit this dynamic, producing a sort of critique of consumerism by juxtaposing representations of its various ‘pleasures’ in such a way that we become struck by their ‘hollowness,’ or by their superficiality and the absolute vacuity of the mind that gets caught up in them (Figure 6). No doubt, there are reasons to avoid this vacuity, and so for reasons that we’ll examine below, a loathsome object can therefore be found contrapurposive vis-à-vis the moral interest—although the interest reason takes in avoiding the loathsome, we’ll see (one which, when frustrated, makes ‘the mind … dissatisfied with itself and moody’) is just the counterpart of an interest reason takes in contemplating the beautiful (which I will examine just below too); and just as the latter is not the cause of the pleasure immediately taken in the judgement of beauty,63 the former is not the cause of the immediate displeasure of ugliness. But then, so little is loathing an impure judgement of ugliness, that in at least some cases, we ought to call it the ‘purest’: for in such judgements, the object is found repulsive even though it does offer sensual gratification, but without this repulsion originating in some opposition to any of our purposes, moral or otherwise.64 Rather: like all objects judged ugly, the object displeases by obliging the understanding to feel riveted to itself, or by making the subject’s faculties as a whole feel limited, without reserve, to the mere mundanity of the world. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Eduardo Paolozzi, 1949. Real Gold. Printed papers on paper. London: Tate. © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2017. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Eduardo Paolozzi, 1949. Real Gold. Printed papers on paper. London: Tate. © Trustees of the Paolozzi Foundation, Licensed by DACS/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2017. 5. The Rational Interest Contra Ugliness The judgement of beauty, we have seen, is purposive without purpose; there is a pleasure here that answers to no interest. However, we can always discover that it is in the interest of reason for us to actually contemplate beautiful objects and take pleasure in them. This is at least mediately so for beautiful artwork, since, like beauty in nature, it occasions in us an indescribable ‘one-knows-not-what’ which, upon consideration, naturally brings to mind our own higher (moral) vocation, and makes us more receptive to its call.65 But reason can also take an interest more ‘immediately’ in the beauty of nature, given that this provides us with a kind of evidence for a claim which we could nonetheless never actually prove: that, as Kant will put it, ‘ideas also have objective reality’.66 It should thus be clear that, in like fashion, the ugly must strike us as a frustration of similar interests. Ugliness in art can be considered a sort of mediate frustration of an interest of reason, then, for just as a ‘greater receptivity’ for moral feeling can be ‘grounded upon’ the contemplation of artwork judged beautiful,67 our experience with ugly works can ‘de-inspire’ or ‘deflate’ us, which is just to say, deaden this receptivity. This is a power we can undo by laughing at ugly works, and thereby, depreciating them—through which, however, the displeasure of the ugly leads, in an only apparent paradox, to a sort of pleasure:68 for though we may enjoy viewing ugly things so thoroughly that we even seek them out, it is generally not the ugly work—which as ugly, displeases—that we find enjoyable, but rather, the mockery we make of it. Not incidentally, though, we see that to persist in such behaviour can do nothing but reinstate the work’s power to de-inspire, and will pay it back with interest often enough, since regular ridicule easily serves to coarsen the one who takes pleasure in this way.69 To linger on an artwork judged ugly, then, is to frustrate a specific interest of reason. But this frustration is not on the same level as the one discovered whenever we judge that a natural object is ugly. Why? Simply because the former need not provide any apparent counterevidence for the ‘objective reality’ of moral ideas: in the case of ugly art, we obviously can just blame its creator. Everyone makes mistakes, after all; and if the work is bad enough, but the artist seems to think it beautiful, then we can call him or her a fool and be done with it. But when it is a natural object at issue, on the other hand, we obviously can’t blame its ‘maker’ the same way—or at least, not without falling into a mindset that Kant would say is totally contrapurposive to the interest of pure reason. There thus seems to be something inherently dangerous about finding a natural object ugly, and consequently, we find it argued70 that Kant should need to claim that we ought to never find nature ugly—we would surely have to have an imperfect duty, that is, to avoid doing so on Kant’s account (though certainly, not a perfect one).71 Of course, to find a natural thing ugly is not, in and of itself, to believe that no ‘ideas’ have ‘objective reality’; and even if it leads to this, obviously nothing gets proved thereby, since this is not cognition. Nonetheless, the danger remains: for given even a little consideration, it seems just as natural for us to find ‘evidence’ for a kind of nihilism in our contemplation of an ugly natural object—and thus, for us to be conducted, beyond the mere displeasure of the ugly, into whatever despair that may occasion—as it is to see, in a beautiful natural object, some evidence of a ‘design’ or ‘plan’ at work, ‘underneath it all’. The ugly natural object can thereby arouse a specific kind of horror in us, indicating, as it were, a sort of pointlessness of existence, or the absence of any kind of ultimate mystery ‘behind’ the world: just this in life, and nothing further, it will say, as if in the end, there were nothing but brute, stupid being. ‘Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, Shakespeare wrote.72 We have seen that an object judged beautiful is one that evokes a sense of the indescribable in its judger, due to its form or the arrangement of its constituent elements. The mind races; and captivated, we inexplicably find pleasure in this quickening of cognition, through which the understanding feels expanded in a sort of deliverance to the ineffable. If the object is man-made, a work of art, then if we chance to think of its creator, we are given to think of him or her as a genius. But if the object is a natural one, then we may well imagine (without any possibility of real proof, of course) that the purposiveness objectively belongs to nature, as if nature itself were part of the purposive: or as if, beyond any of the mundane ways in which it might serve a purpose to us, nature as a whole were given over to serve the realization of that for which we ultimately are. An object judged ugly, instead—again, because of the way its elements are arranged—is one that evokes, well … nothing. The arrangement of its constitutive elements provokes the imagination also, as though the object ought to give us a glimpse of something beyond words, but on the contrary, it conveys only a sense of pure senselessness or absurdity. If the object is a man-made one, then we either think its maker a bumbler, who tries to communicate something profound but gets it horribly wrong, or else, someone who simply has ‘nothing to say’. It makes us recoil ‘inwardly’: but how much worse if it is a natural object that we judge ugly? For we may then be given to discover in our judgement a profound absurdity in nature, or in being itself: a lack of any sort of ‘higher purpose’ to existence. Struck, that is, by the total purposelessness of the thing, we might find that the meaning of being escapes us, or perhaps, that there really is no meaning to being at all. Footnotes 1 For their helpful comments on my paper, I would like to thank Prof. Thomas Teufel as well as the anonymous referees of this journal. 2 Immanuel Kant, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 24 (IV/I) Vorlesungen über Logik, 1. Hälfte, ed. Gerhard Lehmann, trans. mine (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1966), 364. This passage is also quoted by Paul Guyer, in: Paul Guyer, Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 143–144. 3 Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 103, 5:218. 4 Henry Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 54. 5 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 108, 5:224. 6 Ibid. 7 This point is much noted in the literature on Kant and ugliness (whether the author in question is for or against the view that ugliness is a pure aesthetic judgement). See for example, Guyer, Values of Beauty, 141–143, and Alix Cohen, ‘Kant on the Possibility of Ugliness’, BJA 53 (2013), 199–209, at 203–206. 8 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 105, 5:219–220; 111-112, 5:226–227. More precisely, a ‘purpose’, according to Kant, is an object, activity, or experience that is intentionally produced; while for an object to be purposive, ‘externally’, is for it to serve a purpose in some way (ibid., 293, 5:425). 9 In general, Kant thinks objects of artifice can only ever have an ‘adherent’ beauty (ibid., 114ff, 5:229ff), although for the sake of simplicity, I am avoiding the notion of adherent beauty—or ugliness—in this essay. 10 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 95, 5:210. 11 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002), 152, 5:119–120. 12 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 126, 5:243. 13 Even assuming that the object thereby viewed is one we may generally find attractive, or even beautiful. We see it argued often enough, by the way (e.g. James Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique: A Reply to Paul Guyer’, Kant-Studien 182 (2011), 385–395, at 392–393) that ‘beautiful views’ are not actually beautiful on Kant’s account. But surely Kant does not think so—see his mention of views in Critique of the Power of Judgment, 124, 5:223, for instance. It would follow, then, that views can be ugly, too. 14 On these notions, see Kant, Lectures on Logic, ed. J. Michael Young (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 226–227, 24:281–282. We might well wonder if the judgement of an object as ‘aesthetically neutral’—i.e. as not beautiful, but also, not ugly—is itself a sort of pure aesthetic judgement. As this is an essay on ugliness, I will not broach the topic. But see Christian Helmut Wenzel, ‘Do Negative Judgments of Taste Have a priori Grounds in Kant?’, Kant-Studien 103 (2012), 472–493, at 473ff, as well as Wenzel, ‘Kant Finds Nothing Ugly?’, BJA 4 (1999), 416–422, at 422 (and see also n.58, in this essay). 15 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1996), 166–171, 4:118–125. 16 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 156–160, 4:103–110. 17 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 5:316–317. 18 Guyer, for one, makes this point: see Guyer, Values of Beauty, 93. 19 Ibid., 87–96. 20 Fred L. Rush Jr, ‘The Harmony of the Faculties’, Kant-Studien 92 (2001), 36–81, at 52; Melissa Zinkin, ‘Kant and the Pleasure of “Mere Reflection”’, Inquiry 55 (2012), 433–453, at 448–450. 21 Zinkin, ‘Kant and the Pleasure of “Mere Reflection”’, 452. Incidentally, most of the literature on a Kantian notion of pure negative aesthetic judgement, when the essay in question does not deny the very possibility of such a judgement in Kant’s system, focuses instead on proving, against the many naysayers, that this is a possibility. Wenzel, for instance, defends the possibility of such judgements at length in ‘Do Negative Judgments’; and we see a similar intention in Dieter Lohmar, ‘Das Geschmacksurteil über das faszinierend Häßliche’, in Herman Parret (ed.), Kants Ästhetik/Kant’s Aesthetics/L’esthétique de Kant (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1998), 498–512, at 498–502.  This strategy, though, will not be my own. As I reject multicognitivist views of the judgement of beauty here, and just below, precognitivism and Guyer’s form of metacognitivism too, I thereby render irrelevant all the attacks on the possibility of pure negative aesthetic judgement that we see in the literature anyways, since (as Guyer, Values of Beauty, 80–86 should make clear) they all presuppose the accuracy of one of these views. I thus have no reason to defend the possibility of such judgements against any one of these attacks specifically. 22 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 96. 23 This is the strategy in Hud Hudson, ‘The Significance of an Analytic of the Ugly in Kant’s Deduction of Pure Judgments of Taste’, in Ralf Meerbote (ed.), Kant’s Aesthetics (Atascadero: Ridgeview, 1991), 87–103, at 99. 24 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 102, 5:217. 25 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 87–88. 26 Hannah Ginsborg, ‘Lawfulness Without a Law: Kant on the Free Play of Imagination and Understanding’, Philosophical Topics 25 (1997), 37–81, at 74. Similar ideas are present in Malcolm Budd, ‘The Pure Judgement of Taste as an Aesthetic Reflective Judgement’, BJA 41 (2001), 247–260, at 258 (an essay which I believe presents a precognitivist account also). 27 And we see again and again in the literature that ‘precognitivists’ embrace this position, with only slight qualifications: see, for instance, Theodore A. Gracyk, ‘Sublimity, Ugliness, and Formlessness in Kant’s Aesthetic Theory’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 45 (1986), 49–56, at 49–51; and Budd, ‘The Pure Judgment of Taste’, 258. 28 Just as those psychologists who advance a ‘processing fluency theory’ of aesthetic pleasure claim (as in: Rolf Reber, Norbert Schwarz, and Piotr Winkielman, ‘Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure: Is Beauty in the Perceiver’s Processing Experience?’, Personality and Social Psychology Review 8 (2004), 364–382). Of course, such principles may have some part to play in the whole experience, but the experience of beauty does not consist in the simple judgement that an object accords with them—and as often as not, in fact, we find that an object is found beautiful that breaks such ‘rules’. 29 Kant himself says as much: see for example, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 125–126 5:242. 30 Incidentally, this implies that Kant, is no formalist in the late-modern sense—which both Chignell and McMahon have both demonstrated also. See: Andrew Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste: The Role of Aesthetic Ideas’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2007), 415–433, at 415; and Jenny McMahon, ‘The Classical Trinity and Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism’, Critical Horizons 11 (2010), 419–441, at 426–430 31 A view that some precognitivists, in fact, advance: see, for example, Hudson, ‘An Analytic’, 93, and Gracyk, ‘Sublimity, Ugliness, and Formlessness’, 50, 55. 32 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 98–99. 33 Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique’, 394. 34 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 99; quoted in Phillips, ‘Placing Ugliness in Kant’s Third Critique’, 394. Were Guyer’s claim adequate—i.e. that the judgement of beauty discovers some ‘unity’ going beyond what is necessary for cognition— then the contrary experience—‘less unity’ than what is necessary for cognition—could constitute no conscious judgement (Values of Beauty, 150–151), which leads Guyer to claim that the judgement of beauty can have no real contrary (i.e. that ugliness is never ‘pure’). Yet as Phillips makes clear, this notion of ‘unity’ is vacuous. 35 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 197, 5:320; translation modified for clarity. 36 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 194 5:316; translation modified for the sake of consistent use of English terms for Kant’s technical terminology in this essay. 37 For a similar view, see McMahon, ‘The Classical Trinity and Kant’s Aesthetic Formalism’, 434–435, and Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste’, 431. Henry Allison, who also clearly recognizes the connection between aesthetic ideas and the judgement of beauty, says something similar, writing, for instance, that ‘there can be no aesthetically pleasing form apart from the expression of aesthetic ideas’ (Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, 288). However, his account is equivocal, since (as Guyer notes in Values of Beauty, 85) it includes precognitivist and multicognitivist elements, which only muddies the waters—especially when Allison turns to ugliness. 38 Wenzel, An Introduction to Kant’s Aesthetics: Core Concepts and Problems (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), 1, 3, 10, 11, 58. 39 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 124, 5:240. 40 Ibid., 15, 20:211. 41 Ibid., 128, 5:244. 42 Ibid., 219, 5:344. 43 ‘The animation of both faculties (the imagination and the understanding) to an activity that is indeterminate ... is the sensation whose universal communicability is postulated by the judgement of taste’: ibid., 104, 5:219. On the quality of indeterminability, not indeterminacy, see Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, 247–248. 44 , 194, 5:316. 45 Ibid., 215–217, 5:339–341. 46 In his excellent An Introduction to Kant’s Aesthetics, Christian Wenzel offers an account of the judgement of beauty similar in many ways to the one I work with here. The two differ on crucial points, though, especially given Wenzel’s occasional leanings towards a sort of multicognitivism (e.g. Kant’s Aesthetics, 41). I do not believe, however, that Wenzel’s many great insights require this, and he would be better served, I think, to claim instead—as I do here—that the ‘play of concepts’ we sometimes see attached to the positive aesthetic judging of a ‘je ne sais quoi’ is not essential for this judgement: for as we see above, multicognitivism not only is highly problematic as a basic account of pure aesthetic judgement, but also, there is no contrary to the judgement of beauty on the usual multicognitive account—a preclusion Wenzel gets around only by making the judgement interested, which therefore distorts his descriptions of ugliness (see n. 57). 47 Kant is thus led to claim that a sort of Idea is applied in the judgement of beauty (Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 215–216 [5:239–240]), although not the sort whose basis lies in our moral vocation. Below, I will deal with the relation between the interest we take in the latter and aesthetic judging. Suffice it to say here, though, that an object judged beautiful, precisely because we judge it such, can serve such an Idea, or ‘qualifies for such an association’ (ibid., 181, 5:302). Yet it need not do so, in any given case. 48 Ibid., 112–113, 105, 5:227–229, 220. 49 Ibid., 107, 5:222. 50 Ibid., 215–216, 5:339. 51 Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 57; Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 152–155, 5:119–121. 52 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 227, 5:353. 53 Ibid., 125, 5:241; (emphasis removed). 54 Ibid., 197, 5:319; Ibid., 126, 5:242; Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Logic, 37, 24:52. 55 William Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. Stephen Orgel (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 92. 56 Kant, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 15 (III/II) Anthropologie, ed. Erich Adickes (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1969), 296. 57 This is to say that, contra almost all the literature on a Kantian notion of ugliness, the object judged ugly will not thereby interfere with cognition or the application of concepts in any way. Our understanding gets engaged in a general fashion here also—since like beauty, we have the judging of a ‘one-knows-not-what’—but instead, the understanding is made to feel limited, and not expanded, in the encounter. (Likewise, the ‘harmony’ or ‘disharmony’ of the minds’ powers in pure aesthetic judgement has simply to do with this feeling of expansion or limitation that the understanding undergoes, and not with cognition’s business.)  Christian Wenzel’s view, which is (as I note above) very similar to mine, especially on this point, nonetheless differs here in a crucial way, for though Wenzel claims that in the experience of ugliness, as opposed to that of beauty, ‘we don’t feel this expansion of ourselves pointing to the supersensible’, he contends—due to his multicognitivist leanings (‘Do Negative Judgements’, 485)—that this is because ‘we don’t meet with the happy range of potentially successful and harmonious possibilities that go beyond a single concept’ (ibid., 486). Yet this interpretation presupposes that we feel a sort of need or desire for ‘free play’, which the object judged ugly would frustrate—and in fact, Wenzel describes things just this way, claiming, for instance, that the judgement involves a failure to reach an ‘aim’ (ibid.). But if things stood as such, pure aesthetic judging would be interested: which, as we have seen, it is not; or not if Kant is right about it. 58 These are thus contraries, just as Kant says—and in opposition to the contradictory of both, i.e. simple cognitive judgement, in which there just is no ‘feeling’ of this sort one way or another.  Put in a formal language, then—where ‘a’ is an object at issue, ‘u’, the understanding, ‘L’ means ‘… is limited’, and ‘◇’ is a two part function meaning ‘the object … occasions the “feeling” that …’—we have a judgement of beauty whenever it is the case that: ◇a(~Lu); a judgement of ugliness when: ◇a(Lu); and ‘neutral’ cognitive judgement when: ~([◇a{~Lu}] ∨ [◇a{Lu}]). This makes it perfectly clear that, regarding these judgements, Kant uses the terms ‘contrary’ and ‘contradictory’ in the strictest logical sense. 59 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 203, 5:326. 60 Ibid., 190, 5: 312 (translation modified, as in n.36). 61 Guyer, Values of Beauty, 153–154. 62 Cohen, ‘The Possibility of Ugliness’, 201. (At 206–207, incidentally, Cohen argues quite convincingly, contra Guyer, that a metacognitive account should allow for negative pure aesthetic judgement. Cohen, however, does not actually attempt to clarify the relation of the faculties in such judgements, so the notion of ugliness still remains totally opaque in her paper (which she readily admits at 208).) 63 Chignell, ‘Kant on the Normativity of Taste’, 421–422, 426. 64 When the loathsome object is a work of art, it is just what we call kitsch. (The Paolozzi presented above is no doubt kitsch of a sort, though obviously ironically so.) 65 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 230, 5:356. 66 Ibid., 180 [5:300]. To say that ideas have ‘objective reality’, on Kant’s account, is just to say that God, Freedom, and Immortality ‘exist’. And to believe that they do is of use morally, Kant says, insofar as they assist us in living up to our moral obligations—see e.g. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 157–166, 5:124–31. But for our purposes, we can be a little more vague about the type of ‘ideas’ here at issue: for without articulating them as they have been in any particular tradition, one may yet come to posit their ‘reality’, and thereby, find oneself morally inspired, whenever the judgement of a natural beauty leads one to ‘find’ a greater purpose, ‘behind it all’. 67 Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, 230, 5:356. 68 For its own part, the pleasure of the beautiful can, likewise, lead to a sort of displeasure: namely, the unfulfillable longing for the unnameable that it stirs. 69 There are surely other ways that an individual can come to take pleasure in an object judged ugly. To go over all of these here would take us too far afield; one in particular, however, is worthy of note, since Lohmar makes it crucial to his account of ugliness—namely, the pleasure that we might take in being fascinated by something ugly. According to Lohmar, ‘the play [of aesthetic judging] in both cases, beauty and ugliness, is characterized as play by fascination’ (‘Das Geschmacksurteil’, 511 [my translation]); and yet to indulge in fascination is pleasurable, so ‘the disharmonious play’ of the judgement of ugliness ‘rests on a pleasure to the play’, Lohmar says (ibid., 506 [again, my translation]). Yet the pleasure of fascination cannot be an inherent part of ugliness, since after all, we can become fascinated by all sorts of things that, in the broadest sense, we take to be ‘bad’, given that an interest of the understanding—namely, to learn—can always feel frustrated when, repulsed, we turn away from something so quickly that we do not get a chance to cognize it properly. We thereby find that we ‘need’ to know just how ‘bad it gets’—even though we simultaneously do not want to know this, because really, we are repulsed. Fascination with the ugly is just a species of this, and as such, presupposes that we already find the ugly displeasing; thus, it cannot constitute an essential element of the judgement of ugliness itself. 70 See, for one, Garrett Thomson, ‘Kant’s Problems with Ugliness’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1992), 107–115. I believe this is what Thomson is ultimately getting at, at least—notwithstanding all the confusions helpfully pointed out in Paul Guyer, ‘Thomson’s Problem with Kant’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 50 (1992): 317–319. 71 Likewise, we should interpret Kant’s position to assert that we have an imperfect duty to appreciate the beauty of nature, since it makes us more receptive to the feeling of moral respect (and so, to fulfil all our moral duties, perfect and imperfect alike). 72 Shakespeare, Macbeth, 92. © British Society of Aesthetics 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved. 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