The speaker Prof. Han Shuifa

Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Judgment” is one of the most important books in the human history of aesthetics and has inspired many modern philosophers and thinkers. On the evening of December 27, 2017, a series of lectures on “The Great Moment of Western Philosophy” invited Prof. Han Shuifa to give a lecture on “Genius and Art Rules – One of the Explanations of Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgment’” at the red chair lecture hall of Building 7 in CAFA. Prof. Li Jun was the moderator and introduced the speaker to the audience. Han Shuifa is now a professor and doctoral tutor at the Department of Philosophy of Peking University, Director of the Academic Committee, a member of the Department of Humanities at Peking University, Deputy Director of the German Research Center, and Changjiang Scholar Distinguished Professor in 2011. He is engaged in the research of Kant’s philosophy and German philosophy, modern Western philosophy, political philosophy, and he has published a variety of monographs & translations and dozens of theses. At this lecture, he introduced several important concepts of Kant’s aesthetics from a contemporary perspective.

The moderator Prof. Li Jun

Kant’s “Three Critiques” constitute his great philosophical system, including a “Critique of Pure Reason”, “Critique of Practical Reason”, and “Critique of Judgment”. “Critique of Pure Reason” has initiated the revolution of modern philosophy, and discussed the basic problems of philosophy. The “Critique of Practical Reason” discussed the moral norms of humans. The former is a field of nature, and the latter is a field of freedom, between them there is a gap, and the critique of judgment sets a bridge between both. This is one of the purposes of Kant’s “Critique of Judgment”. In the field of aesthetics, people use their free imagination to face nature. In Kant’s opinion, the art and aesthetics are the results of people freely using their imagination.

Prof. Han Shuifa criticised Gadamer in the search for the difference between art and cognition, and then to stipulate the field of aesthetics. Gadamer’s opinion is that art is looking for the truth. Prof. Han Shuifa said that, he neither understood Kant’s “Critique of Judgment” nor did he understand the essence of art. Depending on Kant’s opinion, and combined with his own experience of art, Prof. Han Shuifa believed that art was a cooperation between the free movement of people’s minds and emotions and the discovery of a rational rule, developing a form of art. It has nothing to do with the truth, while the truth, goodness and beauty cannot exist in real life, and the reunification is accidental. Of course, Prof. Han pointed out that the translation of “truth” itself was also problematic. Neither “Truth” from English nor “Wahrheit” from German, referred to the “fact” that there is the nature of a true thing. Art does not recognize the real thing that is the task of understanding.

First of all, it is necessary to determine the definition of “beauty”. For Leibniz, Baumgarten and Kant, the original philosophical meaning of aesthetics has been exposed, and it is the question of how do people feel. Baumgarten called it “Ästhetik”, intending to separate aesthetic from cognition in epistemology. From a philosophical perspective, it was Kant who transformed the aesthetic that was attached or unrelated mental activity or conceptual activity into a discipline of a particular ability, form, principle and scope. Ästhetik is both the aesthetics and the perceptual study, which is a whole-hearted activity that includes both the principle of reason and the acceptance of the perceptual.

View of the lecture

Kant devoted a great deal of time to analyze aesthetic and judge the characteristics of beauty. Kant’s “Critique of Judgment” is divided into two parts, including the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” and the “Critique of Teleological Judgment”. The critique of aesthetic judgment includes “analysis of beauty” and “analysis of the sublime”. In the analytical theory, Kant started from the analyses of four aspects of the appreciation & judgment – quality, quantity, the relationship with the purpose, and the agreeable situation, to find the unprofitable pleasure of beauty, the universality without a concept, and the purposiveness without purpose, and the necessity without concept. “The purposiveness without purpose” is the most abstract and difficult concept to understand in Kant’s philosophy, describing the artist’s spiritual features when they have a creation and appreciation of the art. Prof. Han Shuifa took an example to help people understand it: Young men and women hope to look for an ideal lover, but there is not any book that can tell what kind of person is the perfect lover or partner, but he (she) often inadvertently encounters a person who matches his (her) purpose. The process of accidentally encountering this person is accidental and purposeless, nor according to rules or dogma. This purpose can’t be preconstructed in a conceptual way, and artistic appreciation and creation are in line with this process.

View of the lecture

“Analysis of the sublime” contains Kant’s aesthetics in the genius and art, where Kant focused on the creation of art. The definition of “genius” is the ability to offer rules to the art. In Kant’s opinion, “genius is the talent (natural gift) that gives the rules to art, since talent, as the innate productive faculty of the artist, belongs itself to Nature, we could thus also say that genius is the innate disposition of the mind by means of which nature gives the rule to art.” The level of art is determined by the level of genius, but it is inversely proportional to the rules. The judgment of cognition is a prescriptive judgment, and the rule is ahead of the cognition. The judgment of art is a reflective judgment, and it finds it a beautiful form only after seeing the object of art. The role of genius is to practice the possible form of beauty and the form can be appreciated, implied in nature. Kant’s theory explains the uniqueness of artistic creation. This process is not easy. In a nutshell, Kant made a provision for the genius from four aspects: that is, geniuses are unruly and ingenious; geniuses are not imparted by people; the rules only can be glimpsed from geniuses’ works; geniuses are limited to the field of art and does not exist in science; genius works are all exemplary, they can be used as a model for others to imitate.

Prof. Han Shuifa started from the concept to vividly explain the important aesthetic concepts of “Critique of Judgment” at this lecture, and offered a contemporary background for Kant’s aesthetics. However, is it reasonable to use contemporary ideas to explain Kant’s philosophy? Does the modern art that has a relationship with the truth have a contradiction with Kant’s idea? Prof. Li Jun and the audience, together with the speaker, had a warm exchange.

Text by Wu Huixia, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO

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