"Why should Nature care about our feelings of beauty?" --Freeman Dyson
For Goethe, the analogy between a work of art and a natural organism opened the possibility that its end might be considered simply as the existence of the whole. "A work of art must be treated like a work of nature," in that "the value of each must be developed out of itself and regarded in itself."
For Goethe, the arrangement of the Critique of Judgement (first published in 1790, the same year Goethe published The Metamorphosis of Plants) brought together his most diverse thoughts. "...artistic and natural production handled the same way; the powers of aesthetic and teleological judgement mutually illuminating each other...I rejoiced that poetic art and comparative natural knowledge are so closely related, since both are subject to the power of judgment." Goethe's idealized conception of form and his interpretations of organisms as striving to fulfill an ideal design did not correspond to Kant's understanding of organic development as much as Goethe might have thought. While Goethe believed that the "ideal mode" of thought allows "the eternal to be seen in the transitory," Kant held that if natural form exhibits beauty it is because of its harmony with the patterning faculties of human consciousness. Kant's interest in the organism is not so much a concern for a particular kind of object with particular properties and structures, but rather as an object that causes us particular problems when we try to explain it. (and brings us particular pleasures when we do.)
For Kant, The power of judgement is a mediating element between (theoretical) understanding and (practical) reason, between concepts of nature and concepts of freedom (natural philosophy and moral philosophy, the sensible and the supersensible), between the is and the ought.
"Judgement in general, is the faculty of thinking the particular as subsumed under the universal." (see transcendence / immanence) For Kant, "It must be possible to think of nature as being such that the lawfulness in its form will harmonize with...the possibility of achieving the purposes that we are to achieve in nature according to the laws of freedom." For Kant, "Purposiveness is the conformity to law of the contingent as such." In calling a natural object beautiful, we regard it as purposive in relation to our faculty of Judgement and its principle of aesthetic refection. Its representation makes us aware of a harmony of our cognitive faculties; and it seems to us as if nature had purposely created certain objects in order that we should become aware of this harmony which gives us pleasure. "Aesthetical purposiveness is conformity to law of the judgement in its freedom. " (Critique of Judgement, p.111)
For Kant, aesthetic judgement must be disinterested, that is to say, pure judgements of taste are unconcerned with the actual existence of beautiful objects. (Disinterestness is a notion that originated in moral philosophy and theology in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which God is not a means for human ends. If one loves God disinterestedly, one loves him, according to Shaftesbury, simply for his own sake, for his own excellence. --Gashé, The Idea of Form, p. 242 n.)
Once again, Kant begins with that inversion of the question which represents his universal methodological scheme. For him the question is not the conditions for the existence of purposive structures in nature and art, but in the particular orientation of our knowledge when it judges something as purposive, as the coinage of an inner form. (see organicism) (see also style.) Under the general conviction that the Critique of Pure Reason had established, judgement and object are strictly correlative concepts, so that in the critical sense, the truth of the object is always to be grasped and substantiated only through the truth of the judgement, once the rules of judgement have been defined.
In his "transcendental" analytic, (which concerns the mode of our knowledge of objects) pure understanding was revealed to be the "legislator for nature." In the Critique of Judgement, reason approaches the material in a more questioning manner. The relation is regulative, not constitutive, reflective, not determinative. (Constitutive principles are the conditions of the possibility of objects of experience. Regulative principles are maxims or prescriptions which we give to ourselves (not to things) concerning how best we should deal with the already constituted objects of experience. While they may seem transcendental, they are not. They are presuppositions that can turn out to be wrong.) They are a form of "as if" thinking. (and are a link between reason and ethics, between the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom.)
Michael Polanyi considered Kant's systematization of regulative principles to be"the typical device of modern intellectual prevarication." (Personal Knowledge, p. 354) "Knowledge that we hold to be true and also vital to us is made light of....We then feel entitled to continue using that knowledge, even while flattering our sense of intellectual superiority by disparaging it. And we actually go on, firmly relying on this despised knowledge to guide and lend meaning to our more exact inquiries, while pretending that these alone come up to our standards of scientific stringency."
According to Kant, when we discover in nature what we call the affinity of species and of natural forms, we are constrained by a principle of our power of judgement to seek it, but the manifold of fact seems, as it were, to meet empirical science halfway and to prove tractable to it. Kant describes this as purposiveness, as an appropriateness of appearances to the conditions of our judgement. We can consider individual objects from the point of view of their purposiveness either subjectively -- for our feelings of pleasure and displeasure in aesthetics-- or objectively for one another in the study of nature. (see Critique of Judgement, p.30)
Observation itself depends on the teleological principle that nothing about organized products of nature is gratuitous, that there is some principle of the unity of what is diverse, even though we do no t know this principle. "The harmony of nature with our cognitive power is presupposed a priori by judgment, as an aid in i ts reflection on nature in terms of empirical laws." (Intro, Sect V) (The example Kant gives of the unity of nature is the division into genera and species. According to Ernst Cassirer, in establishing the princple of formal purposiveness, Kant spoke as "the logician of Linneaeus' descriptive science, just as in the Critique of Pure Reason, he had appeared as a logician for the Newtonian system. ) According to Kant, we make the principle of the unity of nature a regulative principle in order to judge nature to be so constructed that it corresponds to our needs for order. Thus the specific principle of Judgement is that "Nature specifies its universal laws into empirical laws in accordance with the form of a logical system on beha lf of the faculty of Judgement."
see mechanism / vitalism for Kant's distinctions between machine and organism.
See also Kant's use of the concept of epigenesis.
Kant's concept of objective purposivene ss applies to what it means to say that one thing is purposive fo r another. He observes that the science of his time used the concept of purpose where mechanism seemed insufficient. Later on he argues that the use of teleology is unavoidable, that the concept of objective purposiveness is only brought into play when an natural product seems quite accidental.
We view the phenomenon as if a concept had guided its production. "Insofar as the concept of an object also contains the basis for the object's actuality, this concept is called the thing's purpose , and a thing's harmony with that character of things which is possible only through purposes is called the purposiveness of its form." (intro Sect IV) "For we call that purposive the existence of which seems to presuppose a representation of the same thing." "Now natural laws which are so constituted and related to each other as if Judgement had designed them according to its own needs are somewhat similar to such a possibility of things as presupposes a representation of the same things as their ground."
Thus Kant's notion of "purposiveness" refers above all to a cohesiveness and correlation of parts, to harmonious unification of the parts of a manifold and is a transcendental principle. (The "maxims of judgement": principles of parsinomy, of continuity, and that principles should not be multiplied beyond necessity follow from it) Nature may contain an endless diversity of contingent empirical laws, but judgement must assume a "law-governed unity, unfathomable yet conceivable by us." Purposiveness can be found in the accidental formations of nature as well as in the strictly necessary formation of pure intuition and pure concept. Extrinsic or intentional purposiveness of natural things cannot be determined and leads to metaphysics. Instead, "We settle for regarding na tural purposes as objects that are explicable solely in terms of natural laws that must be conceived of by using the idea of purposes as principle, and that are even internally cognizable only in this way as regards their intrinsic form." (sect. 68) In the same section, Kant emphasizes that in spite of its usefulness, teleology is not an intrinsic principle of natural science, although they may help us find explanations. Explanations are mechanistic, "for we have complete insight only into what we can ourselves make and accomplish according to concepts." (this is a link to technology or at least to technoscientific progress in the moving boundary between life and non-life)
But since teleological explanations are always compatible with mechanistic ones and supplement the deficiencies of the latter so long as no objective reality is ascribed to the understanding that entertains the purpose and carries them out, (i.e. God the "supreme architect") we can admit, for example, that a purely mechanistic explanation of the organism may perhaps never be successful without abandoning mechanism as the ideal of explanation.
The subjective expression of every purposiveness that we encounter in the order of appearance is the feeling of pleasure that is connected with it. This is not a simply empirical pleasure. It is not a characteristic of the object itself, even though it can be inferred from a cognition of things. It is included in the domain which can be determined and known a priori. It is of universal significance. This pleasure is not the result of consideration of the phenomenon of art and artistic creation, but a step forward in the critique of theoretical knowledge, so that hardly anyone but a transcendental philosopher experiences it, and even then only in the universal. Kant's aesthetics is not a movement from given works of "taste" to general principles. Instead, it inquires about the basic lawfulness of consciousness upon which every aesthetic perception rests--in his words, it has a "transcendental" aim, rather than the aim to help form and cultivate taste. For Kant, the special quality of aesthetic perception is that the beautiful is what pleases in "mere contemplation."
The aesthetic function does not ask what the object may be and do, but rather what I make of its representation in me--a feeling of the free play of representation, or rather of the powers of representation. (this is a translation of vorstellung and is perhaps better rendered as presentation or Heideggerian standing before -- although in Kantian terminology, presentation is darstellung, with its emphasis on production.) The actual retreats to its real status, and into its place steps ideal determination and ideal unity of the pure image--the intuition of pure form, leaving out of consideration all the conditions and consequences which unavoidably cling to the "thing." Thus Kant's expression purposiveness without purpose, stresses the internal, unified form of the individual creation as opposed to external determination, its being rather than its results. "Purposiveness without purpose" excludes both the mundane concept of need and the idealistic concept of perfection, which would require an objective measure.
"Subjective universality" is the mark of aesthetic judgement. It does not claim objective necessity or a priori validity, but it does claim to be valid for everyone. The artistic feeling remains a feeling of self, of the basic functions that make the self into a self, but precisely as such it is at the same time a universal feeling of the world and of life. The judgement of taste does not postulate the agreement of everyone (this is reserved for logical universal judgement) but it imputes agreement, and seeks for confirmation, not in concepts, but in concurrence. For Kant, judgements of taste and of the beautiful indicate the purposiveness of objects in relation to the subject's reflective power of judgment, while an intellectual feeling of the purposiveness of the subject with regards to objects in terms of their form, or even their lack of form, in conformity with the concept of freedom, refers to the sublime. (see formless)
The experience o f the disproportion between our power of ordering and an ungraspable complexity which defines the sublime is an analogue for the situation we find ourselves in when attempting to grasp such ideas as God, Freedom, and Immortality, which as objects of knowledge lie outside its scope. (Podro, Critical Historians of Art, p.11)
"Why should Nature care about our feelings of beauty?" --Freeman Dyson