In Kant's Critique of Judgment (CJ), the actual mechanism of the construction of aesthetic ideas is only briefly sketched. I suggest that there may be a connection between certain aspects of Sections 49 and 59, such that the creation of aesthetic ideas can be related to the process of "symbolic hypotyposis" (§59.2). I will argue that the process of symbolic hypotyposis relates to the formation of aesthetic attributes, as symbols, through an analogical process; that a symbol acts, in effect, as one part of the four parts of an analogy, and that the aesthetic idea may result from the application of the process of analogy. I will suggest that aesthetic attributes may, in some cases, function as symbols, and induce what I will term "conceptual overflow," in which the normal contents of the symbol are supplemented through the analogical process.
A Comment on the Mechanism of the Generation of Aesthetic Ideas in Kant's Critique of Judgment
A major thrust of Kant's Critique of Judgment (Kant, 1790) is towards the relationship between beauty and morality, through consideration of the "supersensible substrate" of reality. Most commentators on this Critique have focused on this and related issues. However, I would like to consider another facet of aesthetics touched on by Kant, mainly in Sections 49 (§49) and §59, a relatively minor point concerning the actual mechanism of the construction of aesthetic ideas. In doing so, I will suspend, bracket, in effect, consideration of the supersensible and focus on Kant's explication of the creation of aesthetic ideas; I am not considering the why of aesthetic ideas, as so many commentators do, but the means by which they are produced: the how. In doing so, I will suggest that there may be a connection between certain aspects of Sections 49 and 59, such that the creation of aesthetic ideas can be related to the process of "symbolic hypotyposis" (§59.2). I will argue that the process of symbolic hypotyposis relates to the formation of aesthetic attributes, as symbols, through an analogical process; that a symbol acts, in effect, as one part of the four parts of an analogy, and that the aesthetic idea may result from the application of the process of analogy. I will suggest that aesthetic attributes may, in some cases, function as symbols, and induce what I will term "conceptual overflow," in which the normal contents of the symbol are supplemented through the analogical process. I will speculate that consideration of these processes might lead to insight into the problem of the relation between the originality of genius and the necessity that the products of genius become standards: "exemplars."
Kant (1790) starts explicating the aesthetic idea in §49.3, commenting that an aesthetic idea "prompts much thought" (Pluhar, 1987). According to Crawford (1974), the aesthetic idea arises through something very like a mistake: the artist attempts "the impossible: the achievement of the sensuous presentation of a rational idea" (p. 121), but since a rational idea cannot be represented, according to Kant, the artist must fail. The specific representation presented is an "aesthetic attribute" (Pluhar, 1987, §49.8), which "prompts the imagination to spread over a multitude of kindred presentations that arouse more thought than can be expressed in a concept determined by words" (§49.8) . For Crawford, this explains how "the artist gets the mental powers of his audience into full, imaginative activity" (Crawford, 1974, p. 122). But how is it, exactly, that the mind is "opened up" to view "an immense realm of kindred presentations" (Pluhar, 1987, §49.8)? Crawford and many other commentators seem to stop at this point in their explication of this process; the "prompting," "getting," or "quickening" the audience to "thought" or "full, imaginative activity" ends the search for the mechanism. The aesthetic idea, however, is presented in some cases through very prosaic materials and situations, and in all cases through quite definite presentations; why do these lead to more thought than can be "comprehended within a determinate concept" (§49.7)?
Kant declares that an aesthetic idea is such that, "the understanding with its concept never reaches the entire inner intuition that the imagination has and connects with a given presentation" (Pluhar, 1987, Section 57, Comment 1, Paragraph 7 [§57C1.7]) . That is, aesthetic ideas do not, in effect, complete the normal course of events, in which the understanding, through the imagination, connects a concept with a sensible presentation. Thus, Crawford terms aesthetic ideas "representations of the imagination which lie beyond the bounds of sense experience and for which, consequently, no concept is ever fully adequate" (1974, p. 120). In contrast, Kant, in the same section, speaks of rational ideas as "transcendent concepts" (Pluhar, 1987, §57C1.1) , because while the rational idea "contains" a definite concept, that concept can never be supplied with an "adequate intuition" or "experience."
In addition, the aesthetic idea, as presented in the CJ, seems almost an anomaly, in that Kant has been expounding on the aesthetic judgment as involving form, not material content; in fact, no definite contents are possible for this type of judgment beyond the well-known feeling of pleasure at the cognitive harmony occasioned by, for example, fine art. However, rather than being characterized by form, as is the aesthetic judgment, the aesthetic idea seems to be in part, at least, characterized by a kind of overflow of content, as we have seen above. Through an aesthetic idea, a concept is made richer than can be delineated; yet this richness, although not completely describable by rules (at least at that point), must in some sense be consistent with those rules which can, to some extent, describe it. Kant does not indicate here is exactly how this process takes place, except to say that it requires "genius," which is just the capability to produce such concepts, through "spirit the animating principle in the mind" (§49.1) . He does say, nonetheless, that genius is tied to the ability to have taste (e.g., "judging beautiful objects to be such requires taste," and "giving this form to a product of fine art requires merely taste" [Pluhar, 1987, §48.1, §48.6]), and taste in turn is the ability to sense the cognitive harmony between imagination and understanding. But genius does not merely have and exercise taste; genius creates works of art: presentations of aesthetic attributes.
Thus, there is still a sense, I claim, in which the explication of the aesthetic idea is incomplete, or at least incompletely stated. While in general, aesthetic ideas may originate through the attunement of genius to the "supersensible substrate," the problem of why an aesthetic idea, as presented, contains such an abundance of "partial presentations" that it cannot be encompassed in a "determinate" concept is not, I maintain, fully resolved even if the origin of that idea (or its form) is the indeterminate concept of the supersensible.
Kant does not quite characterize the "supplementary presentations" (Pluhar, 1987, §49.9) or "partial presentations" (§49.10) of the aesthetic idea as "indeterminate" concepts, but as such that "no expression that stands for a determinate concept can be found" (§49.9) for them. In fact, the aesthetic idea communicates "a concept that is original it reveals a new rule" (§49.11), and thus, post hoc, the possibility, at least, of a new determinate concept. Crawford (1974), in fact, does mention this latter point: "the artist's finished products, if successful, must display a rule-governedness thereby it creates a rule" (p. 163), but he does not explore in depth the transition between the "rule-governedness" and the creation of a rule. Gammon (1997), perhaps, approximates most closely the concern of this essay when he speaks of the "paradox" of the "union of originality and exemplarity in works of genius" (p. 563). He resolves this issue on the basis, largely, of external constraints, "powerful anchors which control the revolutionary impact of its originality" (p. 588).
I will argue that considerations internal to the productions of genius also influence and constrain this process. Cohen and Guyer (1982) also touch on this point when they state that "both the judgment and creation of a work of art require that someone have a concept of what such an object should be and mean the creation of a particular work of art requires a harmony between the imaginative presentation of an object and some rather more specific concept or idea" (p. 9). Each work of art, then, reflects not merely the felt global harmony of taste, but also the harmony between the concept "behind" the work of art (i.e., "what such an object should be and mean"), and the imaginative presentation of the work of art. Further, if this is correct, an actual work of art should reflect a harmony between the above concept, the aesthetic idea expressed by the presentation of the particular object that is the work of art, and the aesthetic presentations of the work of art.
This latter conclusion, however, if correct, has uncovered a relationship between three entities: a concept, which may or may not be a rational idea; an aesthetic idea; and the aesthetic presentations associated with the aesthetic idea. These might be understood as three members of an analogy, with the fourth to be supplied. I will argue, then, that the process of "symbolic hypotyposis" (§59.2) relates to the formation of aesthetic ideas through the analogical process, and that a symbol serves, in effect, as the fourth part of the analogy.
What does Kant mean by the term "analogy"? In this Section, his answer is that "judgment applies the mere rule by which it reflects on that intuition to an entirely different object, of which the former object is only a symbol" (Pluhar, 1987, §59.4). In the Critique of Pure Reason, he explicates analogy in the following terms:
In philosophy, however, an analogy is the equality not of two quantitative but of two qualitative relations. Here I can from three given members cognize, and give a priori, only the relation to a fourth, but not this fourth member itself. But I do have a rule for seeking the fourth member in experience [my Italics], and a mark for discovering it there. Hence an analogy of experience will be only a rule whereby unity of experience is to arise from perceptions (not a rule saying how perception itself, as empirical intuition as such, is to arise). And such an analogy will hold, as principle of objects (i.e., appearances), not constitutively but merely regulatively (Pluhar, 1996, p. 251, A 180).
In both instances, Kant refers to the application only of a rule, employed as a "regulative" principle to enable one to seek the second member of the incomplete pair of relations in experience. This process is what Kant refers to at one point as "symbolic hypotyposis" (§59.2), at another as "symbolic exhibition" (§59.4).
In symbolic hypotyposis there is a concept which only reason can think and to which no sensible intuition can be adequate, and this concept is supplied with an intuition that judgment treats in a way merely analogous to the procedure it follows in schematizing: i.e., the treatment agrees with this procedure merely in the rule followed rather than in terms of the intuition itself, and hence merely in terms of the form of the reflection rather than its content. (Pluhar, 1987, §59.2).
In fact, the word "hypotyposis" comes from the Greek hypo: under, and typos: image, and thus hypotyposis literally means the illustration or visual representation of an idea, its visual exemplification. An object thus seems necessary for this process. Judgment first performs its normal function, in which it applies a concept to an object; then, however, it applies only the rule "the mere rule by which it reflects on that intuition" to another object (§59.4); and so it serves as "a transfer our reflection on an object of intuition to an entirely different concept" (Pluhar, 1987, §59.4).
A symbolic (in contrast with a "schematic") hypotyposis results in the symbolic exhibition of an idea that only reason can think. This explanation of "symbolic exhibition" seems to relate closely to the process of analogy:
Symbolic exhibition uses an analogy in which judgment performs a double function; it applies the concept to the objects of a sensible intuition; and then it applies the mere rule by which it reflects on that intuition to an entirely different object. (Pluhar, 1987, §59.4) [my Italics].
That is, according to Kant, this process consists, roughly speaking, in the application of the rule for a concept (the schema) which is capable of being exhibited, to another concept, one not capable of being exhibited (§59.4). Some of Kant's examples of the ideas symbolically exhibited, however, such as the despotic state and the term "depend" (§59.4), do seem capable of exhibition, to some extent, at least.
Further, and more speculatively, in §59, Kant's examples of symbolic hypotyposis seem largely linguistic, i.e., Kant states, "the words foundation (support, basis) to depend (to be held from above) express concepts not by means of a direct intuition by only according to an analogy with one" (Pluhar, 1987, §59.4). In §49, however, while Kant employs specific examples from poetry, he also points out that genius may employ "language or painting or plastic art" to "express what is ineffable in the mental state" (§49.11). The words "express concepts" in the former quote, coupled with the flexibility of the medium of expression implied by the latter, may indicate that Kant took symbolic hypotyposis, and thus analogical processes, more generally than linguistic usage, into the conceptual domain.
An aesthetic idea is one to which no "determinate concept" can be adequate (§49.3), but which is presented through a sensible intuition. A symbolic hypotyposis, on the other hand, involves as one of its terms a rational idea, for which no sensible intuition can be adequate (§59.2), but for which, seemingly, a determinate concept could be adequate. As Kant states, "just as in the case of a rational idea the imagination with its intuitions does not reach the given concept, so in the case of an aesthetic idea the understanding with its concepts never reaches the entire inner intuition that the imagination has" (Pluhar, 1987, §57C1.7). These entities, then, are in a sense the converse of each other. In addition, there is no necessary implication, in the case of the rational idea in symbolic hypotyposis, of the "conceptual overflow" which is essential to the aesthetic idea; and conversely, Kant does not state in Section 49 that the aesthetic idea must involve metaphor, or symbolic hypotyposis. To put this another way, the aesthetic idea seems to be distinguished by its involvement with content as contrasted with form; and symbolic hypotyposis seems to be involved with form as contrasted with content. I am suggesting, however, that there is a relation between the two: the aesthetic idea and the rational term in the symbolic hypotyposis. There is a hint of an answer, perhaps, in Genova's statement: "aesthetic counterparts to rational ideas are represented in sensible intuition analogous to the procedure of schematism what is analogous is not the content but the form" (1985, p. 304).
I would like to suggest that if one analyzes the application of the form of the analogy inherent in the symbolic hypotyposis one may find the connection, in the reciprocity of form and content. Let us return to Cohen and Guyer's statement that "both the judgment and creation of a work of art require that someone have a concept of what such an object should be and mean the creation of a particular work of art requires a harmony between the imaginative presentation of an object and some rather more specific concept or idea" (1982, p. 9). If this is correct, an actual work of art should reflect a harmony between the above concept, the aesthetic idea expressed by the presentation of the particular object that is the work of art, and the aesthetic presentations of the work of art. We can now speculate on the application of symbolic hypotyposis to the analogical relationship between the concept, which may or may not be a rational idea; an aesthetic idea, and the aesthetic presentations associated with the aesthetic idea.
Suppose that we take Kant's example of the handmill (§59.4). Someone wants this sensible object to symbolize the despotic state in, say, the expression, "The handmill of the state has but one handle." There is, first, the concept of the handmill: a small hand-turned grinder for, say, corn. What the concept of the handmill "should be and mean," is the state. The form of the concept of the handmill is the "rule" that is "applied" to the idea of the state. What is this causal (§59.4) rule? Perhaps something like: the turning of the handle results in the uniform grinding of the grain. But applying this rule to a "despotic state" necessitates the removal of content from it: the handle, the grain, even the turning motion as such are not present in a state. What remains, perhaps, is something like: one person forces a reduction to uniformity. The form of the idea of the despotic state, then, is now that form. But this is not sufficient for the analogical process. We have not completed the analogy; it requires a fourth term. There is the handmill, the symbol, which has both (A) form and (B) content; and the despotic state, which has, for the sake of argument, only form (C). The term (D), then, must be the content of this idea. But while in this particular example the despotic state may be an idea with content, according to Kant this process should be generally applicable to any idea, including a rational idea with no content. Yet Kant, as we have seen, compares this to the process of creating an analogy, which requires a fourth term.
Although Kant does not explicitly say so, he may have allowed means by which content can be supplied in this process. In the passage above from the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant states, speaking of analogy, that
But I do have a rule for seeking the fourth member in experience, and a mark for discovering it there. Hence an analogy of experience will be only a rule whereby unity of experience is to arise from perceptions (not a rule saying how perception itself, as empirical intuition as such, is to arise). And such an analogy will hold, as principle of objects (i.e., appearances), not constitutively but merely regulatively. (Pluhar, 1996, p. 251, A180 [see Footnote 8])
The key phrases in the above are, I believe, in the first and last sentences: "a rule for seeking the fourth member in experience will hold, as principle of objects, not constitutively but merely regulatively." Perhaps this passage could be interpreted, in the context of symbolic hypotyposis, as allowing the fourth member of the analogy above not to be contents transferred from the symbol to the rational idea, as its form is transferred (i.e., "not constitutive" of the object), but as allowing the fourth member to be the contents of the symbol. That is, the artist seeks in experience those contents and thus creates the work of art in order to find them. This would imply that the symbol's contents and/or form, after the process of symbolic hypotyposis, have to some extent changed, in order to supply the fourth term of the analogy. When, for example, Kant speaks of "Jupiter's eagle with the lightning in its claws" as "an attribute of the mighty king of heaven" (Pluhar, 1987, §49.8), Kant is indicating that the eagle, as one of a set of aesthetic attributes which "yield an aesthetic idea" (§49.8), has been "conjoined with a given concept" (§49.10) and in addition "connected" with "a multiplicity of partial presentations " (§49.10). The eagle, then, cannot, as aesthetic attribute (and thus, I argue, as symbol), retain precisely the same form and content as before it became an aesthetic attribute. At the least, the "partial presentations" with which it is now connected were not previously associated with that attribute. Similarly, the handmill, as symbol, is not merely the mundane handmill of everyday use.
The process could then be diagrammed as follows: (A) form of the handmill is to (B) content of the handmill as (C) form of the despotic state is to (D) content of the handmill as symbol of the despotic state.
One might still object to this on the grounds that the contents of the symbol, despite the altered use of the object, have no means of changing: no basis in content; that what has changed is perhaps only a feeling we have about the symbol. This might be the case if the rational idea whose form we are altering has in actuality no content. However, there are several of Kant's examples, including the one above, in which that object being symbolized, e.g., the despotic state, does in fact have sensible presentations one can exhibit, and thus content. One can read about, see images of, or even visit, if one is so inclined, despotic states. Another example might be love: this is not only a feeling, but, as with the despotic state, a complex of feelings, behaviors, and so forth, for some of which, at least, there are contents. One can point to couples in love, to the love of mother for child, and so forth as very specific examples of this idea. There is a source, then, for the alteration of content of the symbol, in such cases, at least.
In §49, then, Kant states that "if a concept is provided with a presentation of the imagination such that, even though this presentation belongs to the exhibition of the concept, yet it prompts, even by itself, so much thought and thereby expands the concept itself" (Pluhar, 1987, §49.7). Further, he states, "If forms do not constitute the exhibition of a given concept itself, but are only supplementary presentation of the imagination then they are called (aesthetic) attributes of an object whose concept is a rational idea" (§49.8). Relating these passages to the example of the handmill and the process of symbolic hypotyposis, I suggest that we might find a result such as the following: if we supplement the imaginative presentation of the handmill with the forms of the despotic state, then these (presentations of the handmill) have become the aesthetic attributes of the despotic state, whose concept cannot be exhibited adequately. When these presentations are conjoined with that concept they become "connected, when we use imagination in its freedom, with such a multiplicity of partial presentations that no expression that stands for a determinate concept can be found for it" (§49.10). Thus, in this example, because of the resulting partial presentations connected with it, the content, at least, of the handmill has changed; and because of the supplementation of its form with the form of the despotic state, its form has also changed. It now exhibits (inadequately) the idea of the despotic state. The presentations of the handmill employed in this process, then, are both symbols, because of their initial analogical function through symbolic hypotyposis; and aesthetic attributes, because of their final state as exhibitions of the idea of the despotic state. Thus, if these speculations are sound, Sections 49 and 59 are intimately connected through these processes, which result in the prompting of reason by creative imagination to "think more than what can be apprehended and made distinct in the presentation" (§49.7).
This process might continue, generating new material, until a definite concept, in some minds, at least, results. The aesthetic idea then will have become institutionalized, in effect, and can now be analyzed, criticized, and employed as an exemplar. Thus, Gammon's statement that "in the Critique of Judgment, Kant further distinguishes the influence of the genius on future artists as also igniting an inner talent, but which is guided by a rule" (1997, p. 591), so that "a 'new rule is won' for aesthetic instruction, but not for genius itself" (p. 592) is understandable in these terms. The genius creates the aesthetic idea before the rule can be formulated, by the processes above; finally, after those processes have run their course (which will perhaps never entirely end for many pieces), the new rule is created, the piece is understood, by some, at least, and future artists can be instructed.
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