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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

4 - Various senses of interest and disinterestedness


How can a pure aesthetic judgment, which according to Kant is disinterested, contribute to the interests of reason (Vernunftinteresse)? It is essential to understand the various senses of interest and disinterestedness that Kant uses in order to comprehend reason's interest in the sublime as a disinterested aesthetic judgment and as a revelation of freedom. Accordingly, this chapter elucidates various senses of interest and introduces several fundamental distinctions to see how reason can take an interest in the sublime.s


There are many ways of understanding Kant's claim that a judgment is disinterested. Indeed, part of the reason Kant's notion of disinterestedness has been criticized so widely in contemporary ethics and aesthetics is that he uses the concept in so many distinct ways. Since we can evaluate Kant's position better if we properly understand what he is actually saying, I would like to distinguish the various senses of disinterestedness and interest.

Disinterestedness, as a counterpart to interest, clearly depends on how interest is understood. Kant uses “interest” pervasively throughout his writings, though often in different ways (e.g., KrVa466/b494; a655/b683; a805/b833).