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Chapter 1 - The Art of Judgment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2021

Katalin Makkai
Bard College, Berlin


The Critique of Judgment is concerned with “judgment” as a power of the mind that is expressed in particular acts of judging. This is the sense we draw upon when we say of someone that they have good judgment, or when we put our trust in someone’s judgment. I consider Kant’s regress argument concerning judgment in the Analytic of the Principles of the first Critique. Kant has been read as concluding that if cognition is to be possible it must, on pain of infinite regress, bottom out in some non-rule-governed, “immediate” act or entity. I argue that this interpretation misconstrues the moral of Kant’s argument, as it does that of the rule-following passages in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations with which it is sometimes aligned. The point of Kant’s argument is that judgment must be exercised: this is its condition. Kant shares with Wittgenstein (properly read) an awareness of the desire that we may have to evade the exercise of judgment and the revelations of the self that it entails. Reflective judgment, as introduced in the third Critique, is a further development of the notion of judgment as necessarily exercised and reflective of a particular mind.

Kant's Critique of Taste
The Feeling of Life
, pp. 34 - 69
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

The third Critique joins the preceding two in investigating an aspect of the human capacity for cognition. The principal topic of the Critique of Pure Reason was the understanding (despite its title, or, as Kant puts it, “strictly speaking”), while that of the Critique of Practical Reason was reason (CJ V:168).Footnote 1 The Critique of Judgment now focuses on judgment. Its body is comprised of two parts, the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” and the “Critique of Teleological Judgment.” Each of these parts launches into the business heralded by its title without addressing the basic context: why they are paired, and how they together constitute a critique of the power of judgment generally. Such matters are left to the fairly elaborate frame provided by the Preface and the Introductions (that is, the Introduction to the published volume together with the earlier draft, or “First” Introduction, commonly included in contemporary editions of the work).Footnote 2 There the following claims emerge:

  1. 1. Judgment calls for its own critique, for

  2. 2. it must have a principle of its own (CJ V:169).

  3. 3. There is a reflective power of judgment as well as a determinative power of judgment (CJ V:179, FI XX:211), and

  4. 4. it is as reflective (and not determinative) that judgment has its own principle (CJ V:180, FI XX:213). Hence the critique of judgment is the critique of reflective judgment, and the principle of judgment is the principle of reflective judgment.

  5. 5. It is (only) the critique of aesthetic judgment that belongs “essentially” to a critique of judgment (CJ V:193).

These claims all sound new: until now Kant has not regarded judgment as having its own principle or as requiring critique, has never mentioned a “reflective” power of judgment, and has denied outright the possibility of a critique of aesthetic judgment (A21/B35–6). Through them Kant apparently aims to delineate the text’s internal coherence or unity, and also to situate it within a larger unified whole, that of the critical enterprise itself.Footnote 3

The grand sweep is bound to strike even the sympathetic reader as extravagant. To begin with, it is hardly obvious that aesthetics and teleology should have anything to do with one another. It is no more obvious that a study that concerns the power of judgment generally should concentrate on aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment. One is more likely, in fact, to presume aesthetic and teleological judgment to be rather special, even peripheral, modes of judgment. The notion of reflective judgment is, it turns out, supposed to address such doubts. It is insofar as they are forms of reflective judgment that aesthetic judgment and teleological judgment are supposed to be related, and to be relevant to the project of a critique of judgment. But it is far from obvious that what the frame dubs reflective judgment captures something that aesthetic and teleological judgment can be recognized to have in common, not least because it is not obvious what reflective judgment is supposed to be, or how it is even supposed to count as judgment. The waters are further muddied by the fact that both Introductions seem to foreground, under the banner of reflective judgment, what sounds like something else again: namely the judging of nature as sufficiently unified to allow us to form empirical concepts and to arrive at empirical laws and, ultimately, a complete “system” of nature (see, for example, CJ V:179–181). The way in which the body of the text unfolds could not be said to help matters, for there the framing claims are largely invisible. The “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” and the “Critique of Teleological Judgment” rarely make contact with them or with their guiding notions – the power of judgment as such, the reflective power of judgment, and the principle of reflective judgment – and when they do, the contact is glancing. Thus the body of the text appears to encourage us to treat its frame as inessential or “parergonal.”Footnote 4

Small wonder, therefore, that it has been quite standard to dismiss the systematizing ambitions expressed in the frame of the Critique of Judgment as symptomatic of an arid obsession with the architectonic, especially among philosophers working within the Anglo-American “analytic” tradition.Footnote 5 Over the past few decades, however, the English-language literature has evidenced a steadily growing interest in the setting of Kant’s study of aesthetic judgment. Initially this interest was directed mostly toward the links made within the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” between aesthetic judgment and morality.Footnote 6 More recently, a wealth of work has taken up the challenge of situating Kant’s aesthetics within the frame provided by the Preface and Introductions.Footnote 7 It has, correspondingly, become less common to look for Kant’s aesthetics in the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” alone, in isolation from that frame. But if there is more confidence today that Kant is entitled to his framing claims, they nevertheless enjoy the attention mainly of Kant scholars and historians.Footnote 8 They have not yet been received as compelling in their own right. Joining those who aim to recuperate the Critique of Judgment’s framing claims, I hope in this book to suggest the richness of (at least) some of them.

What is the point of a critique of judgment, and what does a critique of aesthetic judgment have to do with it?Footnote 9 The text’s frame assigns a special role to the critique of aesthetic judgment; this is the force of (5) above. The critique of aesthetic judgment is essential to the critique of judgment “since this [viz., the aesthetic power of judgment] alone contains a principle that the power of judgment lays at the basis of its reflection on nature entirely a priori” (CJ V:193). Yet this claim might be read quite modestly. Judgment has a principle of its own, and thus requires a critique of its own, only insofar as it is aesthetic judgment. In its other guises or modes (including the teleological), judgment has no special principle of its own and thus does not warrant critique. Once the critique of aesthetic judgment is completed there is therefore nothing left to do under the banner of the critique of judgment. Other topics and issues may be worth pursuing, but they are not, properly speaking, internal to the task named in the book’s title.Footnote 10 On this modest reading, the power of judgment as such does not really figure in the critique of judgment. A more robust reading, by contrast, would understand the critique of aesthetic judgment to be “essential” because it discloses something (further) about judgment generally. The principle of aesthetic judgment is, or leads us to, the principle of judgment as such.

In the spirit of the more robust reading, I will argue that Kant’s aesthetic judgment – specifically, the judgment of taste – models or “presents” (“exhibits”) an essential aspect of the human capacity for judgment as such. Thus I aim to take seriously the claim that the Critique of Judgment is concerned with the power of judgment as such, and the companion claim that the study of aesthetic judgment is essential to its endeavor. The key, in my view, is to appreciate the fact that the critique of judgment has to do with the capacity for judgment as we ordinarily understand it. This is also the key to grasping the significance of Kant’s nontransparent notion of reflective judgment, as well as the place of a critique of judgment in his larger critical project.

1.1 The Power of Judgment

The idea that judgment is a power of the mind that constitutes an important subject of philosophical study in its own right has not, on the whole, remained live since Kant’s work. But it has found one great champion in Hannah Arendt. Arendt planned Judging – which, save for its title page, she did not live to write – to be the third and final part of her work The Life of the Mind. In the Postscriptum to its first volume, Thinking, Arendt writes: “I shall conclude the second volume with an analysis of the faculty of judgment, and here the chief difficulty will be the curious scarcity of sources providing authoritative testimony. Not till Kant’s Critique of Judgment did this faculty become a major topic of a major thinker.”Footnote 11 Arendt thus credits Kant with bringing the topic to life in the first place. But the scarcity of texts that Arendt mentions has persisted. If Kant is interested in judgment as a particular human capacity – or with judgment as a particular kind of act, not merely product of but expressive of that capacity – then this has not yet been inherited from him.Footnote 12

What stands in the way? Kant’s stake in judgment as such might be suspected of issuing from an antiquated and unappealing “faculty psychology.” Or judgment as such might simply not seem to be a fit candidate for philosophical scrutiny.Footnote 13 Thus while one might concede the point in studying moral judgments (which would mean studying morality), or empirical judgments (so doing epistemology), or political or religious or aesthetic judgments (so working in the areas to which these respectively belong), one might not see any sense in trying to study judgment, or the “power” of judgment, simpliciter. There is nothing there to study – so it might well seem. Even if one puts aside the notion of judgment generally, as a power or dimension of the mind (a Kraft), in considering, say, moral judgment or empirical cognitive judgment it is likely to be an Urteil, a product or instance of judgment – judgment as an entity (whether epistemological, or mental, or something else) – and not a capacity for moral or empirical judgment that will seem to merit or to repay philosophical investigation. Or rather, the latter has been occluded by the former: as though the way for philosophy to study judgment as power of the mind is simply by studying judgments and their logical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic conditions as contents and as utterances. As though the capacity for judgment itself could be, at best, a subject for psychology, not philosophy.

Yet the notion of judgment as a capacity or power plays a prominent and significant role in our ordinary lives. We credit some people with having good judgment, and are wary of the poor judgment of others. Sometimes the evaluative modifier is dropped: we say of someone that she has judgment or that she lacks it. Attributing (good) judgment to someone is not the same as taking her to be a good reasoner, or to have a solid grasp of some body of knowledge or some set of facts. We don’t say admiringly of someone that she has reason, or even that she has good reason, or good understanding. We might say that she is reasonable, or that she has an understanding (of people, of sailboats, of jazz); but then, I think, what we mean is (at least in part) what we mean in saying that she has judgment. We mean, that is, that she is adept at judging something to be a reason, and adept at judging its weight and significance. (For it’s one thing to be a sharp reasoner and another to know, or to be good at knowing, what counts as a reason at all in a given case.) We mean that she’s a good judge of people, sailboats, or jazz. (For it’s one thing to have knowledge of some set of facts, but another to know what fact – what piece of knowledge – is relevant at all in a given case. Knowing what counts as a reason or a relevant fact requires judgment.) To be a good reasoner, furthermore, is not necessarily to be good at knowing what merits reasoning, or when reasoning is, or is not, what is wanted; and, similarly, one might have a mastery of a field of knowledge without being adept at seeing when knowledge is, or is not, to the point. Perceiving when reasoning, or knowledge, is to the point, and when it is not, belongs to the domain of judgment.

To possess (good) judgment is to be discerning. That is, to praise someone’s judgment is not just to appreciate her ability to render true judgments; it is to appreciate her ability to render acute, perceptive, keen, or insightful judgments. And to have judgment – that is, good judgment – is to know when and how to render judgment in the first place: it is to know what is worth, or what bears, judgment. In this light, judgment emerges as a fundamental mode of the mind, a condition of its discerning employment in any (or almost any) form. But there is another sense in which judgment is fundamental: for it is a mode that we identify with the spirit of a (particular) mind. This is crystallized in the fact that a person’s judgment (but not, say, her reason or her understanding) is open to our trust, confidence, or faith. I may find that I trust someone’s judgment, or I may put my trust in it; my trust in it may be shattered, or become a problem.Footnote 14

And what is there for philosophy to say about any of this? I’d like, in the first place, simply to propose that Kant thought philosophy had something to say about it. The Critique of Judgment is directed to the power of judgment in the rich sense that we recognize it to have in our ordinary lives. Moreover, Kant’s interest in the power of judgment in its rich and ordinary sense is not a novelty of that work. The third Critique may reflect some changes in Kant’s thinking about the power of judgment, but in treating judgment as fundamental to human thinking it is continuous with the critical project in general, and with the first Critique in particular. As the editors of the Cambridge edition put it, the Critique of Pure Reason is characterized by an “insistence on the primacy of judgment in human thought.”Footnote 15 This sort of claim is likely to be cashed out in terms of a primacy of judgments (Urteile), in line with the tendency I’ve mentioned, and – to be fair – as the initial unfolding of Kant’s text itself encourages.Footnote 16 But the first Critique also acknowledges the “primary” role of the power of judgment, in its rich and ordinary sense.

Focusing on the ordinary notion of judgment as a power of the mind opens up a fresh perspective on the relation of the third Critique to the first. I am sympathetic to a view that has increasingly been gaining traction, namely that Kant’s aesthetic account, and his account of the judgment of taste in particular, makes an important contribution to his account of cognition (his epistemology).Footnote 17 On my reading, however, this contribution does not consist of developing the “deep structure” of cognition, for example by further articulating the schematism or the synthesis that it involves.Footnote 18 Rather, the third Critique develops Kant’s account of cognition by broadening it beyond the confines proper to the Critique of Pure Reason: by considering judgment as a power exercised by individuals living in a shared world, and, in particular, by taking seriously the fact that our cognitive relation to the world is not just one of making true or correct judgments, but also of judging aptly, where this capacity is expressive or disclosive of an individual mind. (Here it is worth remembering that “cognition” and its variants, which in English sound technical or jargon-like, translate perfectly ordinary German words for “knowledge.”Footnote 19)

1.2 Judgment in the Critique of Pure Reason

From the vantage point of the Critique of Judgment, as we saw, the cognitive faculty with which the Critique of Pure Reason is mainly concerned is the understanding. “We can trace all acts of the understanding back to judgments, so that the understanding in general can be represented as a capacity to judge [Vermögen zu urteilen],” Kant remarks, adding that the understanding is “a capacity to think [Vermögen zu denken]” (A69/B94).Footnote 20 He later says that the capacity to judge and the capacity to think are one and the same (A80/B106). Notice the formulation of Kant’s remarks about the understanding: the understanding may be represented as a capacity to judge or to think, not as the capacity to judge (think). This leaves room for the idea that reason too may be a capacity to judge (think). Elsewhere, Kant indeed relates theoretical reason to judgment in much the same way. In a pre-critical essay, Kant declares that “the understanding and reason, i.e., the capacity to cognize distinctly and the one [viz., capacity] for syllogistic reasoning, are not different fundamental abilities [Grundfähigkeiten]. Both consist in the capacity to judge [Vermögen zu urteilen].”Footnote 21 And if the Critique of Pure Reason’s commitment to “the primacy of judgment in human thought” expresses the “recognition that judgment is the fundamental form of all cognitive acts,”Footnote 22 this presumably includes the cognitive acts of theoretical reason. Kant may extend the point to practical reason as well. In the Critique of Practical Reason’s Typic of the Pure Practical Power of Judgment, Kant says that “the use of moral concepts” is a matter of “the power of judgment.”Footnote 23

Part of what Kant means, in saying that the understanding is a capacity to judge, is that concepts are employed in judgments, so that the application of a concept means the formation of a judgment.Footnote 24 But, as I’ve suggested, there is more at stake. The understanding as such is the seat of (transcendental or empirical) concepts or “rules.”Footnote 25 The employment of the understanding is the activity of judging. (“The power of judgment has the greatest value. The good and bad use of the understanding rests on the power of judgment.”Footnote 26) That is, the understanding may be represented as a “capacity to judge” because in its activity the understanding is judgment. The power of judgment is, in other words, another side of the faculty of understanding; it is that faculty considered from the point of view of its activity. This is the deeper point in the thought that the understanding makes use of concepts by judging through them (A68/B93). Thus the “acts” (Handlungen) of the understanding are, properly speaking, acts of the power of judgment; and perhaps something similar can be said about the acts of reason. Then judgment is a (if not the) central mode of activity of the mind.

Urteilskraft is Kant’s name for judgment proper, that power of the mind considered in itself. In the body of the Critique of Pure Reason it is first mentioned in the Analytic of Principles, where the transcendental analytic shifts its focus from the pure concepts of the understanding to their employment in the activity of judging.Footnote 27 The Analytic of Principles opens with the following declaration: “General logic is constructed on a ground plan that coincides precisely with the division of the higher faculties of cognition. These are: understanding, the power of judgment [Urteilskraft], and reason” (A130/B169). As Béatrice Longuenesse has noted, the relationship between a Vermögen zu urteilen and Urteilskraft is illuminated by the distinction that Kant draws in his Lectures on Metaphysics between Vermögen and Kraft.Footnote 28 Following Alexander Baumgarten, Kant casts Vermögen (which translates the Latin facultas) as “the possibility of acting, or tendency to act, that is proper to a substance” and Kraft (which translates the Latin vis, or force) as the actualization of that possibility.Footnote 29

Capacity [Vermögen] and power [Kraft] must be distinguished. In capacity we represent to ourselves the possibility of an action, it does not contain the sufficient reason of the action, which is power [die Kraft], but only its possibility. … The conatus, effort [Bestrebung] is properly speaking the determination of a capacity ad actum.Footnote 30

Drawing on this distinction, Longuenesse submits that “the” Vermögen zu urteilen “can be considered as a possibility or potentiality of forming judgments,” while the Urteilskraft of the Analytic of Principles and of the Critique of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft) “is the actualization of the Vermögen zu urteilen under sensory stimulation” or “in relation to sensory perceptions.”Footnote 31

The suggestion is illuminating, although the construal I would offer of the “actualization” in which judgment consists returns it to a more ordinary register. Urteilskraft is a power of individual subjects (human beings) viewed in the context of their lives in the world and among one another. It is essentially responsive to the sensible world. Its conditions will not emerge, that is, unless we remember that the “actualization” of the potentiality of judging “under sensory stimulation” is a matter of the subject’s bringing judgment to bear on the sensible given. The point finds expression in the Critique of Pure Reason through its argument that judgment (Urteilskraft), by its very nature, must be – or, better, is – exercised.

The declaration containing the first mention (in the body of the text) of Urteilskraft, which I quoted a moment ago, launches Kant’s prefatory remarks to the Analytic of Principles. These are followed by the short Introduction, entitled “On the Transcendental Power of Judgment in General.” It begins thus:

If the understanding in general is to be declared the faculty of rules [Vermögen der Regeln], then the power of judgment is the faculty of subsuming under rules, i.e., of distinguishing whether something does or does not come under a given rule (casus datae legis). General logic contains no directions [Vorschriften] at all for the power of judgment, and indeed cannot contain any. For since it [viz., general logic] abstracts from all content of cognition, the only business that remains to it is to analytically divide the mere form of cognition into concepts, judgments, and inferences, and thereby to achieve formal rules for all use of the understanding. Now if it wanted to show generally [allgemein zeigen] how one ought to subsume under these rules, i.e., distinguish whether something does or does not come under them, this could not happen except once again through a rule. But for the very reason that it is a rule, it demands anew guidance from the power of judgment. And so it turns out that although the understanding is capable of being instructed and of being equipped with rules, the power of judgment is, rather, a special talent that cannot at all be taught, but can only be exercised [gar nicht belehrt, sondern nur geübt sein will]. That is why it [viz., the power of judgment] is also what is specific to so-called mother-wit, for the lack of which no school can compensate.


There are (at least) two arguments here. They are related but need to be teased apart. The first, corresponding with Kant’s setup, is tethered to general logic and its rules. General logic, or “merely formal logic” (A131/B170), is logic that “considers only the logical form in the relations of cognitions to one another, i.e., the form of thinking in general” (A55/B80). The passage indicates that general logic contains rules for judgment, namely “formal rules for all use of the understanding” (such as the principle of non-contradiction). As the “absolutely necessary rules of thinking, without which no use whatsoever of the understanding takes place” (A52/B76), they articulate conditions of thinking, which is to say of judging (since, as Kant said, thinking and judging are one and the same). Now if general logic sought to show or indicate in some general way how its rules ought to be applied, it would have to do so through a further rule. The application of this further rule would require the use of judgment, just because the application of rules is the remit of judgment (“the power of judgment is the faculty of subsuming under rules, i.e., of distinguishing whether something does or does not come under a given rule”). Since the rules of general logic are conditions of all judging, they are presupposed by any act of judging. As an act of judging, then, the application of the would-be further rule for the application of the rules of general logic would presuppose the capacity to apply the rules of general logic. In other words, the application of the would-be further rule for the general logic rules would presuppose just the capacity that it, the would-be further rule, was supposed to guide. Thus, general logic cannot provide rules determining the application of its rules. (Strictly speaking, it cannot provide nonredundant rules for its rules; the redundant rule for applying modus ponens, namely “apply modus ponens,” is obviously unhelpful. In what follows the qualifier “nonredundant” is left implicit.) Or, more accurately, there cannot be rules determining the application of the rules of general logic: they could be provided neither by general logic nor by anything else. It is thus particularly important to notice that as Kant is using the terms, Vorschrift and Regel are not interchangeable. Reading both as “rule,” and so reading Kant’s claim in the second sentence to be that general logic cannot provide rules for judgment, muddles the argument.Footnote 32 After all, in the very next sentence Kant explains that the arrival at (“formal”) rules for judgment is the business of general logic. The point in Kant’s second sentence is not that general logic cannot provide rules, but that it cannot provide rules for the application of its rules.

The second argument drops the tether to general logic and its rules. It is reflected in the conclusion drawn within the passage: “And so it turns out that although the understanding is capable of being instructed and of being equipped with rules, the power of judgment is, rather, a special talent that cannot be taught at all, but only exercised. That is why it is also what is specific to so-called mother-wit, for the lack of which no school can compensate.” At this point, Kant is talking about the power of judgment quite generally and about rules beyond those peculiar to general logic. In fact, as we will shortly see, the rules with which he seems now to be concerned are, paradigmatically, empirical rules and the rules characterizing empirical concepts. Again, there are several things going on in this conclusion – several conclusions, in fact – and they need to be teased apart. Kant’s first conclusion is that the power of judgment (as such, or wholesale) cannot be taught. This follows from the first argument about general logic, which may be why Kant does not spell it out. To teach something is to provide rules for it, Kant assumes. As we just saw, the rules of general logic cannot be taught, because they are conditions of judgment and so the possibility of their acquisition would presuppose their possession. If the conditions of something (here, judgment) cannot be taught, then it (judgment) cannot be taught. In a parallel passage in the Anthropology (where Kant makes explicit his assumption that teaching something is giving rules for it), Kant makes the case independently of the argument about general logic.

[N]atural understanding can, through teaching [Belehrung], be enriched with many concepts and equipped with rules; but the second intellectual faculty, that of distinguishing whether something is an instance of the rule or not, the power of judgment (iudicium), cannot be taught, but only exercised [geübt]. That is why its growth is called maturity … . It is also easy to see that this could not be otherwise; because teaching takes place by means of communication of rules. Therefore, if there were to be doctrines [Lehren] for the power of judgment, then there would have to be general rules according to which one could distinguish whether something was an instance of the rule or not: which would yield a query on into infinity.Footnote 33

Imagine that an individual lacked the power of judgment altogether. He might nevertheless know rules, even many of them (according to Kant). Suppose that we wanted to provide him with rules for applying one of the rules he possesses, for, in other words, distinguishing whether or not something falls under it. Lacking the power of judgment, the pupil would not be able to apply the proffered rules, would not, that is, be able to judge how to apply the proffered rules, and so would need to be given yet further rules to settle how the initially proffered lot are to be applied. And so on, ad infinitum.Footnote 34

If one has the power of judgment at all, then it is possible, at least in principle, to develop it. Kant elaborates the point with some care a bit further on in the Analytic of Principles. There is one way in which judgment can be “sharpened,” namely through examples (A134/B173). You become a better diagnostician of thyroid disease, judge of philosophical work, and sorter of apples by encountering and assessing many, and (presumably) varied, endocrinological patients, philosophical works, and apples. As it turns out, this is the only way to improve one’s judgment. Judgment can only be improved by experience with specific cases, or, in other words, through practice. A sharpened power of judgment is simply a mature, practiced one. This is what Kant means when he says, and repeats in the Anthropology, that judgment can only be exercised: it can only be improved by being exercised. Or rather, as I now want to suggest, this is part of what he means. The other part of what he means by that slogan is in fact the nerve of the whole passage.

All of the arguments entwined within our Analytic of Principles passage hinge upon one fundamental premise: that there cannot be rules that determine or effect their own application automatically, as it were, or without the subject’s having to judge how they ought to be applied. There can be no self-determining or self-applying rules. This means that to apply a rule or, in Kant’s terms, to judge is necessarily to use one’s power of judgment – to exercise it. To judge is ipso facto to exercise one’s own judgment.Footnote 35 There is no evading the need to exercise judgment in any act of judging or thinking.

Following on the remark with which the Analytic of Principles passage as I have quoted it so far ends, the remark that “no school can compensate” for the lack of the power of judgment, Kant writes:

[F]or although such a school can offer even a limited understanding a full provision of rules borrowed from the insight of others, and as it were graft these onto it, nevertheless the faculty for making use of them rightly must belong to the learner himself; and in the absence of such a natural gift no rule that one might want to prescribe [vorschreiben] to him for this aim can ensure against misuse. A physician, therefore, a judge, or a statesman, can have many fine pathological, juridical, or political rules in his head, even to the degree that he can become a thorough teacher of them, and yet he can easily stumble in their application, either because he is lacking in natural power of judgment (although not in understanding), and to be sure understands the universal in abstracto, but cannot distinguish whether a case in concreto belongs under it, or else because he has not been adequately trained for this judgment [zu diesem Urteil] through examples and actual practice [Geschäfte].


Plainly this continues the broader argument about the power of judgment, rather than the one concerning judgment in relation to general logic. Pathological, juridical, or political rules are not rules of general logic, which “abstracts from all content of cognition,” and the point could hardly be that general logic cannot tell a doctor, judge, or statesman how to apply them: of course it can’t; nobody was in danger of thinking that it could, just as no one would imagine that what we now call formal or deductive logic might do so.Footnote 36 In fact, as the examples indicate, Kant has his eye specifically on judgment about empirical matters. And he is elaborating or expanding on the conclusions previously drawn. Now he is thinking about the person whose power of judgment is poor or dull, rather than the individual somehow lacking the power of judgment altogether (which must, of course, be a limit case; such a being would be incapable of thinking, and by Kant’s lights could hardly be recognized as a person). The shift allows Kant himself to appeal to examples “in concreto.” If one gives someone with deficient judgment a rule to guide her judgment, she will have to exercise her judgment in using it, and if, as we’re assuming, her judgment is deficient, she may well apply the proffered rule badly.Footnote 37 (In this person, the “natural gift” of judgment is “absent” in the sense that she lacks the gift for (good) judgment, or her judgment is not particularly gifted. If she lacked the power of judgment altogether, there would be no question of “misuse” here: she could neither use nor misuse any proffered rule.) The point holds equally in the case of someone whose judgment is simply inexperienced or immature (concerning the topic at issue, as with someone who has seen only a few competition-level dives, or in a more general way, as with the young). In short, no rules could take the place of good judgment.

And that’s because no rules could supplant judgment. Let us suppose that a juridical judge needs to decide whether a particular sentence for a crime is fair. In Kant’s terms, her task is to decide whether it falls under the concept or rule “fair sentence.” She might be given, or draw upon, rules for this rule. For example: the sentence for a juvenile should show leniency reflecting the youth of the perpetrator; the sentence for a violent crime should take into account the likelihood that the perpetrator will continue to pose a danger to others. These might indeed be helpful rules for applying the rule.Footnote 38 To apply the guiding rules she will have to judge whether the crime is a violent one (for example). For this she might draw upon further rules. But no rule could settle for her how she is to judge, or free her from having to use her judgment: she must exercise her judgment. And she will be more or less adept at doing so. Nothing could take over the burden of judgment. In the end – and shifting now to the first person, for reasons that will emerge – whether or not I am following directions, I have to judge; it is up to me to render judgment. No teacher can judge for me, and no directions could take over my responsibility for my judgment.

I have been focusing on the argument concerning the power of judgment generally in the Analytic of Principles passage as we have seen it unfold so far. After talking about the role of examples in sharpening judgment, Kant brings us back to the argument tethered to general logic: “But now although general logic can give no directions [Vorschriften] to the power of judgment, it is entirely different with transcendental” logic (A135/B174). With this step, Kant is directly broaching the topic signaled in the Introduction’s title, the “transcendental” power of judgment. The very ideas of transcendental logic and of transcendental powers of the mind are of course Kant’s innovations, and as such they need, as he recognizes, to be explained and justified. Kant’s earlier mention of general logic, the basic idea of which he can assume to be familiar to his audience, was really meant to prepare the contrast he is now drawing. The point of the contrast, it emerges, is that transcendental logic provides “rules” for which “it can at the same time indicate a priori the case to which the rules ought to be applied” (A135/B175). Given what I have been saying so far, this is troubling. It sounds very much as though Kant is saying that transcendental logic provides judgment with self-determining or self-applying rules, hence denying precisely the claim I have been calling the nerve of his argument, the claim that there can be no such thing. I will contend that Kant is not (cannot be) denying that claim. I begin by articulating the significance of the nerve of Kant’s argument. What is at stake in the idea that judgment is necessarily exercised in any act of judging?

1.3 Exercising Judgment

The nerve of Kant’s argument is, to repeat, that there is no such thing as an act of applying a rule that is not an act of judgment, or that there can be no such thing as a self-determining or self-applying rule. It’s worth noting that this might seem hardly to require saying. That, indeed, is why Kant’s claim about transcendental logic is liable to seem counterintuitive or paradoxical, even before we know quite what it is supposed to mean. I am calling it the nerve of Kant’s argument because it appears as that argument’s deepest premise – something that the argument takes to be self-evident. However, many of Kant’s readers take him to argue that even the rules constituting ordinary empirical concepts are, ultimately, self-determining. In fact, the very passage that we have been looking at from the Analytic of Principles has been interpreted as making that case. The nerve of Kant’s argument thus turns out very much to bear saying.

An instance of the interpretation I have in mind is to be found in an influential essay by David Bell. The argument that Bell understands Kant to propound in the Analytic of Principles passage – and that Bell endorses in its own right – is the following.

[I]f thought and judgement are to be possible, then the relation in which we stand to what we think or mean must be immediate and direct. If we are to avoid the incoherence of a regressive infinity of acts of judgement, or identification, interpretation, understanding, or thought, then at some point we must judge immediately, spontaneously – and this means without having already judged, identified, understood, or grasped a thought on the basis of any prior such act.Footnote 39

If an act of judgment requires a prior act of judgment, an infinite regress (of acts of judgment requiring prior acts of judgment) threatens, which would mean the incoherence or impossibility of judgment. If judgment is to be coherent or possible, then something must block such a regress or stop it from arising. That is: every act of judgment must be, or be grounded in, an act of judgment that does not require a prior act of judgment, an “immediate” or “spontaneous” act of judgment. Or rather, this primitive act is, strictly speaking, only something like judgment, but not judgment proper, for since it is supposed to ground the possibility of judgment in a regress-blocking way it cannot itself be, or be the result of, judgment.Footnote 40 It is, Bell says, “an awareness of ‘intrinsic,’ ‘intransitive,’ or ‘immediate’ significance or sense.”Footnote 41 In sum:

That the regressive infinity of judgements on judgements, of rules for the following of rules, can be stopped, without thereby making a mystery of my ability to judge at all, is due to the fact that at a certain point I am directly aware of an intrinsic coherence, or unity, or significance in my experience. It is because of this felt unity that the concept of an object in general can so much as find a foothold in experience. And the vicious regress is avoided because this feeling owes nothing to concepts, judgements, criteria, or rules.Footnote 42

Bell finds Ludwig Wittgenstein to record the same thought in his later work, and specifically in what are probably the most frequently cited passages of his Philosophical Investigations. The idea that the coherence or possibility of judgment depends on our being able to judge (or rather “judge”) “immediately” or “spontaneously” is, Bell writes,

at least in part, not only what Kant intended by his doctrine of “the spontaneity of thought,” but is also what lies behind Wittgenstein’s claims that “If I have exhausted the justifications [i.e. for following a rule in the way that I do] I have reached bedrock, and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: ‘This is simply what I do’,” and that “When I obey a rule, I do not choose. I obey the rule blindly.” The disturbing conclusion to which Wittgenstein would force us, then, is that an inescapable blindness lies at the very centre of our rational and cognitive capacities.Footnote 43

Citing Kant’s reference to “a blind but indispensable function of the soul, without which we should have no knowledge whatsoever” (A78/B103, in Kemp Smith’s translation), Bell proposes that “the blindness that Kant refers to is precisely that which is invoked by Wittgenstein: a state or act is ‘blind’ in so far as it remains necessarily inaccessible to prior rational and objective justification.”Footnote 44 Thus for Bell it is not only Wittgenstein but also Kant who would force us to the “disturbing conclusion” that our rational and cognitive capacities terminate, at bottom, in “inescapable blindness.”

Henry Allison interprets Kant’s Analytic of Principles passage along similar lines, although without involving Wittgenstein.

[T]he stipulation of rules for the application of rules obviously leads to an infinite regress. Thus, at some level the very possibility of cognition (and practical deliberation as well) requires that one simply be able to see whether or not a datum or state of affairs instantiates a certain rule. The capacity for such nonmediated “seeing,” or, as we shall later see, “feeling,” apart from which rules could not be applied, is precisely what Kant understands by judgment, which he famously describes as a “peculiar talent which can be practiced only, and cannot be taught.”Footnote 45

Or, in slightly greater detail:

Kant there defines judgment as the “faculty of subsuming under rules, that is, of distinguishing whether something does or does not stand under a given rule” (A132/B171); and he further claims that there can be no rules for judgment, so conceived. The latter is the case because the assumption that rules are necessary to determine whether something falls under a rule (and keep in mind that concepts are rules) leads to an infinite regress. But it follows from this that the subsumability of an intuition under a concept must be immediately seen, that is, “felt.” And this is why Kant insists that judgment (unlike understanding) is a “peculiar talent which can be practiced only, and cannot be taught.”Footnote 46

On pain of infinite regress, judgment is or depends on “immediate” acts of “seeing” or “feeling” the applicability of rules, that is, acts of “seeing” or “feeling” the applicability of rules that do not themselves appeal to or depend on rules.Footnote 47

It is with respect to the relevance of Kant’s aesthetics to the first Critique’s Analytic of Principles argument that Bell and Allison part ways. As Bell construes it, Kantian aesthetic experience is itself a preconceptual awareness of “unity” and hence fits the profile of the regress-blocking act that must underlie an instance of judging.Footnote 48 Aesthetic experience “models” or provides an “analogy” for the basis of judgment or thought, so that the heart of Kant’s aesthetics bears directly on a prima facie separate issue that is crucial for his theory of cognition.Footnote 49 Allison, by contrast, resists reading Kant’s aesthetics as purporting to solve an epistemological problem. There are connections between Kant’s aesthetics and his epistemology or his account of cognition, in Allison’s view, but they are much more indirect.Footnote 50

Bell and Allison thus share an interpretation of Kant on which he argues that judgment is (must be) grounded on acts of applying rules, “feeling” their applicability, that are not themselves acts of judging and that do not depend on further acts of applying rules or acts of judging or feeling their applicability. As I have argued, however, the nerve of Kant’s argument is precisely that there can be no such act. It is an object of fantasy. There is no getting around the need to exercise judgment in the application of rules or concepts. Otherwise put: for Bell and Allison, the point of Kant’s argument is that judgment would be impossible unless there were self-determining rules. What I am proposing Kant’s argument to show is that the notion of self-determining rules is itself impossible.

There is value in appealing to Wittgenstein, as Bell does, in thinking about Kant’s argument. But Wittgenstein does not, in my view, propound the kind of argument that Bell attributes to him. In fact, and like Kant, Wittgenstein contests just such an argument, and he does it, moreover, in the very passages to which Bell appeals. The specter of a regress of rules does indeed play an important role in the Investigations. In focusing on rules, Wittgenstein, again like Kant, has in mind more than just our practices of following explicit rules. For both Kant and Wittgenstein, rule-following bears on the meanings of words or of the concepts they express, however mundane these may be. The meanings of words or concepts seem to be, or to be like, rules; that is, their use seems to be rule-governed (since there are correct and incorrect ways to use them). At a certain point in Wittgenstein’s Investigations, a question is felt to arise: How do we know how to use a word, so to follow a rule? For that matter, what makes it the case that this counts as following a particular rule, but not that? Something must fix the content of the rule; otherwise nothing would count as following it either correctly or incorrectly. One is likely to light on “interpretation” as supplying the wanted something: what the rule involves, and what following it correctly depends on, is determined by the correct interpretation of it. But then the questions arise anew for the posited interpretation. What determines its meaning, and how do we know what that is? If we reach again for the notion of interpretation, we face an infinite regress of interpretations. Any interpretation of a rule is itself subject to interpretation, and so “every interpretation hangs in the air together with what it interprets, and cannot give it any support.”Footnote 51 What are we to conclude? We might conclude that if a ruinous skepticism about meaning is to be avoided, something must stop the looming regress: so that what grounds a rule is a way of grasping it that requires no interpretation because it is self-interpreting. This conclusion finds expression in the remark that “there is a way of grasping a rule which is not an interpretation, but which, from case to case of application, is exhibited in what we call ‘following the rule’ and ‘going against it’.”Footnote 52 Readers like Bell suppose that Wittgenstein offers the remark in order to endorse it, and understand his talk of “agreement” or “attunement” (Übereinstimmung) in “form of life,” in “language,” or in “judgments” to refer to the ways in which the capacity to perform these immediate graspings of rules, or of proceeding “blindly,” is shared by us and ensures that we line up with one another.Footnote 53 But while the Investigations seeks to make such conclusions feel inevitable, it does so in the name of uncovering and disarming their appeal.

Consider Wittgenstein’s remark about following a rule “blindly” that Bell approvingly cites. Bell has plucked it out of its setting. Investigations §219 reads in full:

“All the steps are really already taken” means: I no longer have any choice. The rule, once stamped with a particular meaning, traces the lines along which it is to be followed through the whole of space.——But if something of this sort really were the case, how would it help me?

No; my description made sense only if it was to be understood symbolically.—I should say: This is how it strikes me.

When I follow the rule, I do not choose.

I follow the rule blindly.

Wittgenstein is calling rule-following blind, but not in full voice.Footnote 54 Rather, he is voicing a way in which the very notion of a rule “strikes” him, or is apt to strike him (in certain moments or moods), and which crystallizes in that phrase. It is a signature gesture. Wittgenstein voices how something (here, rule-following) strikes him, in order to invite us to see whether we too find that we are so struck, whether the inclination he voices is one that we can find in ourselves. A rule seems to have a sort of inexorable power. It is not up to me to decide what counts as following it; I must simply submit to its decrees, extending as they do to cover all possibilities; there is nothing left for me but blind obedience.Footnote 55 If I am so struck, Wittgenstein suggests, I too will find myself turning to certain “symbolic” or “mythological” expressions, for example casting rule-following as “blind.” (“My symbolical expression was really a mythological description of the use of a rule.”Footnote 56)

Why does Wittgenstein bother with this sort of thing? After all, the Investigations suggests some straightforward ways in which the “solution” that Wittgenstein and Kant are read as offering, to the “problem” that the regress argument is understood to raise, is no solution at all. The notion of something that is not an act of judgment but functions exactly like an act of judgment, or of an interpretation that it not itself subject to interpretation, is mysterious, indeed paradoxical. Worse, it is empty. For it is identified entirely in terms of the role that it is supposed to play in stopping the regress. Allowing of no separate explanation or elaboration, it cannot itself bear the explanatory weight for which it is invoked. It is just the sort of thing that Wittgenstein calls an idle wheel.Footnote 57 Merely stipulating that it is a “feeling” does not help. Nor, for that matter, does it succeed at warding off the regress. How does one know, or what makes it the case, that the “feeling” one has is the feeling of the applicability of this rule (plus), and not that of another (quus)? Here, of course, there is no appealing to a rule, since this would return us to the original looming regress: the whole point of the stipulated act is that it is supposed to neither need nor allow of determination by a rule. Another feeling? Then the regress reappears.Footnote 58

Such considerations might seem impressive and decisive, real meat-and-potatoes philosophical work, but in Wittgenstein’s hands they are preliminaries at best. That is, Wittgenstein does not imagine that they have the power simply to dissolve the apparent regress argument, revealing it to be a red herring, or an empty philosophical construction, that poses no genuine danger to our ordinary practices (in which we carry on anyway without experiencing any sense of missing foundations) – although he is often so read. To put it another way, Wittgenstein recognizes that the person who finds that the regress must be blocked has not simply neglected to anticipate such obvious difficulties. To that person, the conclusion is a hard one that forces itself upon us as the only alternative to an unacceptable skepticism, despite its disconcerting weirdness (Bell calls it “disturbing”). From her point of view, to rest content with these straightforward objections is to blithely fail, or willfully refuse, to face the situation.Footnote 59

Wittgenstein wants to take this point of view seriously, which means taking seriously the problem it finds to be gripping. But as with many things people find themselves gripped by, taking it seriously does not necessarily mean taking it at face value. It may mean taking seriously what it is for. Doing so begins by tracing the point of view back to a pivotal moment: the moment in which it seems that something “must” be the case – here: something must fix the meaning of a rule, or else it is unfixed and founders. Wittgenstein asks us to consider whether this moment draws its force from hidden, or half-hidden, sources it encodes. This would mean that uncovering those sources, so making it possible to acknowledge them as sources, is meaningful philosophical work. The sources that Wittgenstein’s procedures propose to lay bare turn out to be anxieties and disappointments about our places in the world and our lives with others, or what we might call the human condition. Anxieties and disappointments that cannot be dispelled as soon as they are named are apt to produce fears and fantasies of evasion. They may be intellectualized: distorted into theoretical or abstract concerns. The burden of Wittgenstein’s reflections is to bring to light such paths of flight, and to show that philosophy in one guise may serve as deflective intellectualization (while what is needed to meet it is philosophy in another guise).

It is of the greatest importance, for the reading of Wittgenstein I am advancing, that the wishes to evade the ordinary conditions of our lives with which he is concerned are not exotica confined to a disciplinary or institutional hothouse. That is, those wishes are not only responsive to our ordinary lives; they are also natural responses to our ordinary lives, and to that extent are a natural part, or possibility, of them. In order to feel their pull, one needs, in principle, only to be human.Footnote 60 (Being susceptible to their pull, and so to philosophy (in both of its guises), might thus be said to be a mark of the human condition.) This means that the questions Wittgenstein would have us ask about the would-be regress argument of the Investigations are these: What is it about the conditions of our lives in judgment – or, better, our vision of those conditions – that it is natural to wish to cover over or deny? What anxiety does the would-be argument intellectualize? What is the truth that is being distorted in being intellectualized, the distortion of which is the very point of intellectualization?

Stanley Cavell traces the notion of a private language, through which the Investigations develops the rule-following reflections, to anxieties and disappointments with ordinary expression that coalesce around the conditions of making oneself, or one’s meaning, known.Footnote 61 The fantasy or fear of a private language is motivated by – is imagined to protect me from – the fact that I (must) make myself known, that I might be misunderstood, or that I might be understood all too well. The fantasy of a private language is a fantasy of necessary inexpressiveness, which “would solve,” or rather is imagined to solve,

a simultaneous set of metaphysical problems: It would relieve me of the responsibility for making myself known to others – as though if I were expressive that would mean continuously betraying my experiences, incessantly giving myself away; it would suggest that my responsibility for self-knowledge takes care of itself – as though the fact that others cannot know my (inner) life means that I cannot fail to. It would reassure my fears of being known, though it may not prevent my being under suspicion; it would reassure my fears of not being known, though it may not prevent my being under indictment.Footnote 62

The suggestion is that the fantasy of necessary inexpressiveness corresponds to a fear of necessary expressiveness, a sense that expressiveness would mean total exposure: that “what I express is beyond my control.”Footnote 63 But of course necessary expressiveness can just as easily become an object of fantasy, something desired. Then what necessary expressiveness promises is that I might be transparent, that I do not need to make myself known (even to myself) – there is nothing that I need do. And then the notion of a private language will be colored by a fear or horror of necessary inexpressiveness, of a world “in which I am not merely unknown, but in which I am powerless to make myself known.”Footnote 64

Both the fantasy and the fear of a private language express a wish to cut myself out of the picture.Footnote 65 Cavell makes a similar suggestion in connection with Wittgenstein’s rule-following reflections. Appreciating his point depends on noting that he returns those reflections to their original starting point in the Investigations, an imagined scene of encounter with another person whom I am trying to teach a rule.Footnote 66 (In interpretations of the Bell variety, this dimension disappears.) What is at stake is therefore not (just) the intelligibility of one’s own rule-following, but the possibility of communication and attunement with others. I am to imagine that my pupil has not cottoned on despite my best efforts, and that I have run out of justifications that I can produce for following the rule the right way, my way. “I have reached bedrock, and my spade is turned.” On Bell’s reading, what justifies me is the regress-stopping act that grounds – is the bedrock of – my judgment. Cavell’s take is this:

What justifies what I do and say is, I feel like saying, me – the fact that I can respond to an indefinite range of responses of the other, and that the other, for my spade not to be stopped, must respond to me, in which case my justification may be furthered by keeping still. The requirement of purity imposed by philosophy now looks like a wish to leave me out, I mean each of us, the self, with its arbitrary needs and unruly desires.Footnote 67

Here the wish to leave myself out expresses the desire for protection from the fact that it is up to me to judge when my justifications have run out, and what their running out means, and how to respond to the other, and where we then are. And, of course, the fact that it is up to the other to do so as well.Footnote 68 Consider, again, the vision of a rule as intractably subjugating, commanding blind obedience. It might appear straightforwardly fearsome. But my sense is that it is more compelling as an object of fantasy, something desired (the fearsomeness functioning as a cover for its attractiveness). “I can do nothing but submit” means that I am relieved of responsibility, and that can be a relief, the lifting of what I experience as a burden.Footnote 69

The “solution” of cutting myself out in any of these ways costs more than it is worth: as though the way to save myself were to eliminate myself. It must also be profoundly disappointing, in the first place because the attempt to cut myself out will obviously be impossible, paradoxical; but also because the fantasies offer only imaginary, not real, protection from the ordinary facts that motivated them: that it is not in my power to ensure that I am understood, or that I am not understood; that my expressiveness is neither totally up to me nor totally out of my hands; that attunement must be found; and that it is up to each of us to judge what its apparent absence means.

The idea that there must be acts of applying rules that are not themselves acts of judging but that make judging possible, the idea at work in Bell and Allison, is just what Wittgenstein, properly understood, wants us to feel the pull of and yet find profoundly disappointing. As I said, I agree with Bell that Wittgenstein’s thought bears instructively on Kant’s treatment of judgment, although I envision a rather different bearing. The regress that Bell and Allison read Kant as forestalling would, in fact, only arise, or threaten to arise, if Kant were committed to a certain premise, namely that in order to apply a rule judgment always needs another rule. But Kant makes no indication that he accepts that premise; just the contrary.Footnote 70 Yet I would urge that interpreters of the Bell and Allison stripe are not simply misreading Kant or making some sort of simple error. They find that there must be a rule determining the application of a rule, and it is this “must” that produces the dilemma: either judgment is impossible or incoherent, or there is a regress-blocking act. This “must” is very like the one that Wittgenstein brings to light and traces to its sources. Here we come up against a fundamental difference between Kant and Wittgenstein. For Wittgenstein, it is crucial to show that, and how, it would be natural to feel that there must be something that fixes the meaning of rules. Kant says nothing of the kind. In my view, however, appreciating the nerve of the Analytic of Principles passage, that there can be no self-determining or self-applying rules, so that (as I’m putting it) judgment is essentially exercised, depends on being able to feel the pull of the idea that it repudiates. And the idea it repudiates draws its power from anxieties that it distorts about the exercising of judgment, anxieties that are rooted in the ordinary.

My proposal, then, is this. The idea that my judgment is, or is grounded in, an act that lies beyond justification and reason expresses a fantasy of evading the conditions of judgment: that the justification of my judgment hinges on my willingness and ability to justify it, and on my judging when my justifications have come to an end and what position that puts me in with others. More generally, it bespeaks a desire to cut the subject (me) out. A consequence of (or, better, another way of putting) the fact that judgment must be exercised is that I must judge for myself. Here this is not a piece of advice or counsel against unthinkingly following convention – the “Sapere aude!” of the “Enlightenment” essay.Footnote 71 What it conveys besides is the expressive or first-personal nature of judgment: my judgment is inevitably expressive of me, whether or not I wish to be revealed.Footnote 72 The fact that is being avoided here is a fact that Kant is bringing to our attention, namely that my judgment is mine, that it is expressive of me. The reading of the Bell/Allison variety seeks to convert this fact into a metaphysical and epistemological problem, in supposed response to which it postulates a mysterious act that obscures this fact or denies it. I am suggesting that this may be the point: the conversion gives a kind of shelter to anxiety about the expressiveness of judgment that Kant exposes.

Suppose someone tells me that a situation calls for the exercise of judgment: “You’re going to have to use your (own) judgment”; “That’s a (your) judgment call.” My determination of something is called for; I am to assess, hence characterize, some situation or state of affairs; I need to make some decision, or to arrive at some view of the matter at hand. It may be that the situation leaves something undetermined that it is up to me to determine. It is my opportunity, or my burden, and my responsibility. It may be that the case that I have to decide is unclear. But it needn’t be unclear; it may be indeterminate, or simply as yet undetermined. Or it may be something that no one can determine for me. It is in this spirit that the Critique of Pure Reason persistently calls on the reader to subject the work to her judgment, not merely its particular findings but also its methodology.Footnote 73 I may need to engage in an imaginative consideration of something, finding my own way in thinking about it and following – perhaps testing, perhaps discovering – my own convictions and relying on my own sensibility. But Kant’s idea is that even when this is not the case, judging is determining something, and it requires, or expresses, the exercising of judgment. Judgment is exercised in every act of judging. “Judgment must be (is) exercised” is a logical or (borrowing Wittgenstein’s term) grammatical remark. The point is that the exercising of judgment is essential to judging. And every act of thinking is an act of judging.

The figure of the physician, juridical judge, or statesman is thus supposed to dramatize the position of the subject in any instance of judging (thinking). In some ways, the comparison might be regarded (rightly, I think) as unhappy. The physician, juridical judge, or statesman is an official or quasi-official. His judgment is often based on deliberation, and is expressed in a publically entered verdict; whereas many, if not most, of our ordinary judgments – which, for Kant, means our ordinary thinking, since thinking is judging – are not. In other ways, however, the dramatization registers something important. The official’s verdict makes a difference, has a real impact (consider the judge’s issuing of a sentence, or the physician’s diagnosis). Our ordinary judgments do not usually determine the course of things in just the same way, but Kant’s insight – one that Wittgenstein shares – is that they may be no less fateful in determining the world. We do things with our words, we make our world, not only in talking but already in thinking.Footnote 74 (Herein lies one dimension of the significance of the recurrence of juridical notions in Kant’s treatment of judgment.Footnote 75)

Judgment involves adopting a stance, however provisional or fleeting, on the matter at hand, however plain or trivial. Specifically, to judge is to take the measure of something (an object, a creature, a person, a state of affairs), so to determine what it is. To judge is to open oneself to the question of whether one’s judgment is fair, or does justice to the thing it determines. This is why the greatest significance of a person’s judgment may lie in what it reveals about that person’s character.Footnote 76 (Hence the importance of the possessive: I use “my judgment, even “my own judgment.”) We speak of trusting someone’s judgment, and this means trusting that person, at least with regard to the matter at hand. In short, in determining an object the exercise of judgment also serves (or may serve) to determine a subject. Judgment is revelatory of what the subject finds to matter. Recall that Allison described the object of the regress-blocking feeling as “the subsumability of an intuition under a concept.” But registering the sheer applicability of a concept is not enough in order to come to judgment. After all, many – indefinitely many – concepts will be applicable to a given manifold of intuition. What is also required is a sense of what concept, hence what judgment, is apt here and now, and, relatedly but more generally, of what (if anything) bears judgment or even calls for judgment here and now.Footnote 77

In her book on the trials following the Second World War, Hannah Arendt writes that “countless theories” have been invoked to explain the atrocities the trials were meant to address, theories trading on generality and emptiness. What these theories “have in common,” she remarks, is “that they make judgment superfluous and that to utter them is devoid of all risk.”Footnote 78 As Arendt argues, however, the desire to avoid judgment is not manifested only in such acute situations of legal or political judgment. It is a feature of social life itself, at least in “the modern age.”

In fact, all the traits that crowd psychology has meanwhile discovered in mass man: his loneliness – and loneliness is neither isolation nor solitude – regardless of his adaptability; his excitability and lack of standards; his capacity for consumption, accompanied by inability to judge, or even to distinguish; above all, his egocentricity and that fateful alienation from the world which since Rousseau is mistaken for self-alienation – All these traits first appeared in good society, where there was no question of masses, numerically speaking.Footnote 79

In a state of conformity, we lose the ability to judge. I take it that Arendt means not merely that we do not judge well, but also, and more fundamentally, that we are not capable of passing judgment at all. For the efforts of conformity are efforts to give up the risks and the responsibilities that accompany the self-expressive dimension of judgment. And yet this attempt can only be partially successful. If I let someone else be my guide – let someone else control or direct my judgment – then in one sense I am not using my own judgment; I’m failing to do so. But in a larger sense that is my way of directing my judgment. I direct it by giving it over to someone else. And that reveals the position that I am taking.Footnote 80

1.4 From the First Critique to the Third

This is the moment to pick up a loose thread. As we saw, Kant suggests that although general logic cannot give directions to judgment, transcendental logic does. In fact, he claims that the “peculiar thing about transcendental philosophy is this: that in addition to the rule (or rather the general condition for rules), which is given in the pure concept of the understanding, it can at the same time indicate a priori the case to which the rules ought to be applied” (A135/B174–175). Does this contradict the claim I am attributing to Kant, that judgment must be exercised?

The rules of transcendental logic are the principles of pure understanding, which are based on the pure concepts of the understanding or the categories. They articulate conditions of the possibility of experience: how we must judge objects (as governed by causal laws, for example), and – the other side of the coin that is transcendental idealism – what it is for something to be an object (to be governed by causal laws, for example).Footnote 81 Through the transcendental schemata, the principles specify a priori conditions for applying the rules to instances. This is what Kant means by the claim that transcendental logic “can at the same time indicate a priori the case to which the rules ought to be applied.” Just what this comes to is a notoriously thorny matter that I cannot take up here. What is clear, however, is that it cannot entail that the principles specify how they are to apply in particular cases. The principles legislate to nature, but taking “into consideration only the conditions of the possibility of an experience in general as far as its form is concerned” (FI XX:210). The “universal laws of nature yield … an interconnection among things with respect to their genera, as things of nature in general, but not specifically, as such and such particular beings in nature” (CJ V:183). Consider, again, the principle of causality. The principle cannot tell us whether fire warms the stone, or instead cools it, or has no effect on it at all.Footnote 82 Nor, of course, can it tell us what to count as an instance of fire or of stone, or warming, or cooling. Whatever the sense in which transcendental logic gives directions to judgment, those directions cannot be ones that tell judgment what particular empirical judgments to render in any given case. To make these determinations, one must exercise judgment. Nothing – not transcendental rules governing objects in general – can replace the need to exercise judgment in order to actually come to judgment about particulars.

There is another way in which transcendental logic cannot circumvent the work of judgment in actually coming to judgment about particulars. The Analytic of Principles passage considers judgment as the capacity to distinguish whether or not something falls under a given rule, and, as we saw, Kant’s examples highlight the “rules” constituted by empirical concepts. This capacity presupposes the capacity to find empirical concepts for things. Something else is needed to arrive at empirical concepts for “given appearances” (FI XX:213–214). The Critique of Judgment addresses this presupposition and in this respect, among others, takes up where the Critique of Pure Reason leaves off. It introduces a new pair of terms articulating two dimensions of the power of judgment.

The power of judgment in general is the capacity to think the particular as contained under the universal. If the universal (the rule, the principle, the law) is given, then the power of judgment, which subsumes the particular under it (even if, as the transcendental power of judgment, it provides the conditions a priori in accordance with which alone anything can be subsumed under that universal), is determinative. But if only the particular is given, for which it [viz., the power of judgment] is to find the universal, then the power of judgment is merely reflective.

(CJ V:179)

It is for the reflective power of judgment to discern what concept or rule to apply to a particular. As I will argue, reflective judgment is not just the power of judging what concept – or, rather, concepts – something falls under. It is also, and most importantly, the power of discerning what concept is most fitting (the need for which I mentioned toward the end of the previous section).

In the first Critique, Kant says, as we saw, that the power of judgment is the essence of what is colloquially known as mother-wit (Mutterwitz). Witz, now, is an important topic for Kant’s Anthropology.Footnote 83 The term has been translated as “intelligence,” perhaps due to the worry that “wit” would convey to contemporary ears a capacity to engage in clever banter, and so only a part of its full but somewhat antiquated sense.Footnote 84 I would hazard that the real issue is that wit so construed is likely to seem rather frivolous, as if it were a seasoning of sorts that imparts an amusing but unnecessary piquancy. But the humor of wit and the pleasure it affords (and takes) are rooted in its aptness and acumen. Wit can be telling, incisive, or cutting. It has to do with a sharpness of mind manifesting discernment and insight, and a quickness or readiness to make illuminating connections. In the Anthropology, Kant characterizes wit as “the capacity to think up the universal for the particular.”Footnote 85 He thus identifies wit in just the terms in which the Critique of Judgment identifies reflective judgment. And so one might wonder whether the first Critique’s association of Urteilskraft, the power of judgment, with wit (through the trope of mother-wit) suggests – in a roundabout way and through the Anthropology – an association of the power of judgment with reflective judgment. Is the Critique of Judgment picking up the first Critique’s conception of judgment in the shape of what it calls reflective judgment? But the idea seems quickly to unravel. Kant’s characterization of judgment in the Analytic of Principles (“the power of judgment is the faculty of subsuming under rules, i.e., of distinguishing whether something does or does not come under a given rule”) corresponds to what the third Critique calls determinative judgment, rather than reflective judgment. And what the Anthropology says, more fully, is this: “Just as the capacity to figure out the particular for the universal (the rule) is judgment [Urteilskraft], so the capacity to think up the universal for the particular is wit (ingenium).”Footnote 86 Not only does wit correspond to reflective judgment, but it is contrasted with “judgment,” which is characterized in terms corresponding to determinative judgment and to what the Analytic of Principles calls judgment.

I would like to suggest that there is nevertheless something to the roundabout associative leap. There is an interesting and important dimension of continuity between the power of judgment as that is developed in the first Critique and what the third Critique calls reflective judgment, and not only in the sense that the former turns out to presuppose the latter. It is specifically in the context of the point that judgment must be exercised that Kant speaks of it as “mother-wit.” Judgment as exercised is a responsiveness to the particular that no rule can replace (“Does this sentence take account of the perpetrator’s situation?”). Think of the ineliminable role for experience with examples in the cultivation of judgment. Judgment as exercised, judgment as mother-wit, reveals the individual’s sense of what matters. Reflective judgment, the power of judging aptness (which, when exercised, is itself more or less apt), shares these features. To judge what conceptualization of a state of affairs does it justice is also to manifest a responsiveness to particulars that no rule can replace, and that is expressive of the individual’s power of judgment and her sense of what matters. Reflective judgment, in other words, is also a matter of exercising judgment. With its exploration of reflective judgment, then, the third Critique turns to another dimension of the essential exercising of judgment. Thus the reflective power of judgment as it appears in the third Critique represents a development of the notion of the power of judgment (as necessarily exercised) that Kant elaborates in the first. I am tempted to see a hint to this effect in the association, in the First Introduction, of the reflective power of judgment with the capacity for appraisal that marks the juridical judge: “The reflective power of judgment is the one that is also called the faculty for judging [Beurteilungsvermögen] (facultas diiudicandi)” (FI XX:211). “Judgment deals with particulars, and when the thinking ego moving among generalities emerges from its withdrawal and returns to the world of particular appearances, it turns out that the mind needs a new ‘gift’ to deal with them,”Footnote 87 Arendt writes. The “new” gift Arendt has in mind is what the third Critique calls “reflective judgment.” But the “gift” that it names is not entirely new. It names a first-personal responsiveness to given particulars that is continuous with the conception of the power of judgment as necessarily exercised that serves as the nerve of the Analytic of Principles passage from the Critique of Pure Reason.

There is a final aspect of Kant’s remarks about judgment in the Analytic of Principles that I want to touch on, and that is their invocation of the natural. Kant speaks of judgment as a “natural power” and a “natural gift,” and he seems to get to these ideas from the consideration that judgment cannot be taught or replaced by a supply of instructions. What can cause disappointment here is the impression that Kant is invoking the natural – matters of empirical psychology – in a way that is contrary to the spirit of Kantian critical philosophy. It is just this sort of naturalizing reading, incidentally, to which one is driven when one takes the regress argument in the Analytic of Principles in the way suggested by Bell and Allison, as pointing to the need for some special mental act (of immediately “feeling” significance) at the base of all judgment.Footnote 88 Such talk of a natural power may also seem to threaten the possibility of genuine agency in judgment.

Here, too, following the trail of associations from judgment as Mutterwitz to wit is suggestive. Notice that in the Anthropology passage that we saw a moment ago, Kant glossed wit parenthetically as ingenium. Kant offers the same parenthetical gloss when he introduces the notion of genius in the third Critique (CJ V:307). Kant’s characterization of judgment in the Analytic of Principles is gently but intriguingly echoed by some aspects of his characterization of genius in the third Critique. Thus Kant argues that making a work of art depends on a preceding rule, and that the source of beautiful art must be “nature in the subject” or “genius” (CJ V:307).Footnote 89 Genius cannot be taught (provided wholesale through instruction), and can only be cultivated through experience and consideration of examples. But now the relation of genius to nature is complex. Kant’s formulations sometimes suggest that nature operates in and through the artist (“Genius is the inborn predisposition of the mind (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art” (CJ V:307)): as if the artist were merely a conduit for nature’s doings, so that the resulting works seem not strictly to be a matter of his own agency. It can sound as if genius is not merely natural (as a trait or feature may be natural), but is itself, somehow, nature. But so far as genius is nature, it is, Kant says, the nature of the subject – that particular subject. (Kant traces the word, and so the concept, to the Latin “genius, in the sense of the particular spirit given to a person at birth, which protects and guides him” (CJ V:308).) And the role of genius does not seem to undercut the artist’s claim to authorship, in Kant’s eyes. The “author of a product that he owes to his genius” is still its author. Beautiful art may spring from the subject’s nature, but it manifests her freedom: “genius is the exemplary originality of a subject’s natural gift [Naturgabe] in the free use of his cognitive faculties” (CJ V:318; Kant’s emphasis). On Kant’s vision, as we will see, judgment is related in a similarly ambiguous, or doubled, way to nature.


1 The whole critical enterprise can also be called “a critique of pure reason, i.e., of our faculty for judging according to a priori principles” (CJ V:168).

2 See pp. xlii–xliii of the Editor’s Introduction to the Cambridge edition of the Critique of Judgment for evidence that Kant replaced the First Introduction only for reasons of length, and that he continued to endorse its content even after the publication of the Critique of Judgment.

3 The frame also articulates a claim that sounds prima facie different: the power of judgment “provides the mediating concept between the concepts of nature and the concept of freedom, which makes possible the transition from the purely theoretical to the purely practical” (CJ V:196). I haven’t the space here to discuss it, or its relation to the framing claims I do discuss. For a reading that identifies it as the main framing claim of the Critique of Judgment, see Fiona Hughes, Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgement (London: Continuum, 2010), especially pp. 3–4 and 10–12.

4 A parergon is “that which belongs in the whole representation of the object not as an internal constituent, but externally, as an addition” (CJ V:226). Kant’s notion of a parergon, rendered famous by Jacques Derrida (The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987)), appears in a passage in which Kant briefly discusses “ornaments” that are added to works of art; his examples are “borders of paintings, draperies on statues, or colonnades around magnificent buildings,” and a painting’s “gilt frame” (CJ V:226). As ornaments, they remain extrinsic to the works of art themselves, as well as to their beauty. For Kant’s use of the term parergon in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, see Henry Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 348, n. 26.

5 Through most of the twentieth century, the Critique of Judgment was neglected by the Anglo-American “analytic” tradition. Ignoring its frame, not to mention its second part, that tradition took the text to boil down to a work in aesthetics, a field of philosophy that it particularly marginalized. For its European readers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the third Critique’s marking out of aesthetics as an important philosophical subject, together with its unifying and systematizing claims – especially insofar as they seemed to place aesthetics at the center or basis of philosophy – were enormously influential. Not surprisingly, therefore, in the twentieth century it was the “continental” tradition that was readier and quicker to take the Critique of Judgment’s self-presentation seriously. See, for example, Gilles Deleuze, La philosophie critique de Kant (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963) and Paul de Man, “Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant,” in Hermeneutics: Questions and Prospects, eds. Gary Shapiro and Alan Sica (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984).

6 See R. K. Elliott, “The Unity of Kant’s ‘Critique of Aesthetic Judgement’,” British Journal of Aesthetics 8 (1968). Elliott’s title indicates that the question of unity, of how the text holds together, arises for the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” itself. See also Donald Crawford, Kant’s Aesthetic Theory (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974); Kenneth F. Rogerson, “The Meaning of Universal Validity in Kant’s Aesthetics,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 40 (1981); and Dieter Henrich, Aesthetic Judgment and the Moral Image of the World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992).

7 See Rudolf Makkreel, Imagination and Interpretation in Kant: The Hermeneutical Import of the Critique of Judgment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Hannah Ginsborg, The Role of Taste in Kant’s Theory of Cognition (New York: Garland, 1990) and the essays collected in The Normativity of Nature: Essays on Kant’s Critique of Judgement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Robert Pippin, “The Significance of Taste: Kant, Aesthetic and Reflective Judgment,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (1996); Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste; Rebecca Kukla, ed., Aesthetics and Cognition in Kant’s Critical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Fiona Hughes, “On Aesthetic Judgment and Our Relation to Nature: Kant’s Concept of Purposiveness,” Inquiry 49 (2006) and Kant’s Aesthetic Epistemology (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007); and Rachel Zuckert, Kant on Beauty and Biology: An Interpretation of the Critique of Judgment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

8 The third Critique’s contributions are still overlooked even among Kant scholars. Hannah Ginsborg notes that “discussions of Kant’s ‘theory of judgment’ have typically taken little or no account of Kant’s treatment of judgment in the third Critique, suggesting thereby that Kant’s views on judgment are exhausted by his account of cognitive (in particular non-aesthetic) judgments in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Logic” (“Kant’s Aesthetics and Teleology,” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta, Fall 2014 edn, Ginsborg cites as an example the same Encyclopedia’s entry on “Kant’s Theory of Judgment,” written by Robert Hanna (Winter 2018 edn,

9 I thus leave aside the “Critique of Teleological Judgment.” See Zuckert, Kant on Beauty and Biology, for a reading on which the third Critique’s aesthetics and teleology, together with (what I am calling) its frame, trace a unified argument.

10 This is how I understand Allison’s claim that the modes of purposiveness involved in the judging of nature as hospitable to our cognitive powers (discussed in the Introductions) and in teleological judgment “by themselves do not warrant a separate critique or division of philosophy. On the contrary, [Kant] insists that an investigation of them ‘could at most have formed an appendix, including a critical restriction on such judging, to the theoretical part of philosophy’ [CJ V:170]. Thus, again, it is only taste or the capacity for aesthetic judgment, through which judgment legislates to the feeling of pleasure and displeasure, that necessitates a separate critique. Or, as Kant puts it in the Second Introduction, ‘In a critique of judgment, the part that deals with aesthetic judgment belongs to it essentially’” (Kant’s Theory of Taste, p. 5).

11 Hannah Arendt, Postscriptum to Thinking, in Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, ed. Ronald Beiner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 4.

12 On the whole, I mean. Welcome exceptions include Samuel Fleischacker, A Third Concept of Liberty: Judgment and Freedom in Kant and Adam Smith (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); and Linda M. G. Zerilli, A Democratic Theory of Judgment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), which takes up Arendt’s interpretation, in Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, of Kant’s account of the judgment of taste. Fleischacker and (following Arendt) Zerilli focus on judgment in political contexts. I read Kant as thinking about the power of judgment more broadly, so including ordinary empirical thoughts and claims to knowledge, but as I will focus on the freedom that judgment more broadly involves, there will be an important strand of continuity with such politically inflected interpretations of Kant on judgment. Hannah Ginsborg also reads Kant as taking up the topic of the power of judgment generally, and seems sometimes to endorse the views she attributes to him as contributions to current philosophical issues (see Ginsborg’s Introduction to The Normativity of Nature, pp. 1–9). The conception of judgment that emerges from Ginsborg’s reading is, however, quite far from the ordinary. I discuss Ginsborg’s interpretation in Chapter 3.

13 A recent essay opens as follows: “It is fair to say that the [Critique of Judgment] does not hold the same importance for us as” the two preceding Critiques, in large part because “judgement as such is discussed only in the Introduction and is in any case for us a topic in philosophical logic, which is certainly not Kant’s concern here, while the notion of a ‘power’ or ‘faculty’ of judgement does not resonate with our concerns” (Sebastian Gardner, “Kant’s Third Critique: The Project of Unification,” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 78 (2016), p. 161).

14 I can lay my trust in someone’s understanding of (say) sailboats, but then the object of my trust is not just her store of knowledge but her ability to apply it in judgment. I can entrust myself to her understanding or to her reason, but there I am expressing my sense of being subject to her and my hope for her good treatment of me. When I trust her judgment, what I trust is its gaze out into the world; I need not (though I may) feel myself to be in its field of vision at all.

15 Editors’ Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, ed. and trans. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 29. Emphasis added.

16 This is the case with the remark just quoted from the Editors’ Introduction.

17 The strongest version of this view holds that Kant’s account of empirical cognition depends on his account of taste. See the Introduction to Kukla, ed., Aesthetics and Cognition in Kant’s Critical Philosophy; Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” which I discuss in this chapter; and Ginsborg, The Role of Taste in Kant’s Theory of Cognition, which I discuss in Chapter 3.

18 I borrow the term “deep structure” from Hughes, Kant’s Aesthetic Epistemology.

19 To be fair, Kant’s use of the terms does – as is well known – diverge from the ordinary. In particular, he allows for such a thing as a false Erkenntnis (A58/B93). Hence I follow the practice of using “cognition,” “cognitive,” and so on.

20 I translate Vermögen in the Vermögen zu construction (e.g., Vermögen zu urteilen) as “capacity” (e.g., capacity to judge). Otherwise, I usually translate it as “faculty,” as in Erkenntnisvermögen (cognitive faculties) or Vermögen der Regeln (faculty of rules).

21 “False Subtlety of the Four Syllogistic Figures” II:59. Guyer and Wood quote the passage in the Editors’ Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, p. 29, using the translation by David Walford in Kant, Theoretical Philosophy 1755–1771 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 103. I have modified the translation, and the bracketed additions are mine.

22 Guyer and Wood, Editors’ Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, p. 29. Emphasis added.

23 Critique of Practical Reason V:71. Kant goes on to claim that only “rationalism with regard to the power of judgment” will do justice to “the use of moral concepts” (V:71).

24 “Thinking is cognition through concepts. Concepts … [are] predicates of possible judgments” (A69/B94).

25 “[A]s far as its form is concerned [a concept] is always something general, and something that serves as a rule” (A106).

26 Anthropology Collins XXV:175.

27 Up to this moment, Kant speaks rather of a Vermögen zu urteilen, as in the passages we’ve just seen, with one exception (that I know of) in a footnote to the following remark: “Problematic judgments are those in which one takes assertion or denial as merely possible (arbitrary). Assertoric [judgments are those in which] it is considered actual (true). Apodictic [judgments are those] in which it is regarded as necessary.” The footnote reads: “Just as if thought were in the first case a function of the understanding, in the second of the power of judgment [Urteilskraft], and in the third of reason. A remark that awaits its elucidation in the sequel” (A75/B100).

28 Béatrice Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge: Sensibility and Discursivity in the Transcendental Analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Charles T. Wolfe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 7.

29 Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge, p. 7.

30 Metaphysics Volckmann XXVIII:434. Quoted in Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge, p. 7, n. 12. Kant makes a similar distinction in the Lectures on Anthropology: “The powers [Kräfte] are sources of acts of exercising [Ausübungen], and the faculty [Vermögen] is the sufficiency for certain acts” (Anthropology Collins XXV:16). (Ausübungen is tricky to translate in this context. “Exercises” won’t work. A plural form of the English gerund “exercising” would come closest, even though the German term is not a gerund. The Cambridge edition opts for “execution,” making Kant’s phrase “sources of execution.”)

31 Longuenesse, Kant and the Capacity to Judge, pp. 7–8. As the subtitle of her book indicates, Longuenesse is primarily concerned with “the” Vermögen zu urteilen or “capacity to judge” of the first Critique, which she interprets in terms of the formation of empirical concepts and identifies with what the third Critique calls reflective judgment (on this last point, see pp. 163–166). As Longuenesse cautions, there are limits to the pertinence of the Lectures on Metaphysics distinction. Its context is a substance metaphysics of the mind, which the first Critique expressly rejects. Longuenesse adds another caveat: when Kant writes, in the Critique of Judgment, that “the subjective condition of all judgments is the capacity to judge itself [das Vermögen zu urteilen selbst], or the power of judgment [Urteilskraft]” (CJ V:287), he fails to observe the distinction between “the” Vermögen zu urteilen and Urteilskraft. On my reading, there is no conflation here. The definite article and selbst make all the difference. The understanding is a capacity to judge. The capacity to judge itself, or as such, is the power of judgment.

32 Kemp Smith translates both as “rule.” Guyer and Wood render Vorschrift as “precept,” which, in this context, strikes me as unnecessarily formal.

33 Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View VII:199. The passage, together with its surrounding context, is quite free of any mention of, or allusion to, logic, “general” or otherwise.

34 The argument can be recast in terms of circularity, parallel to the first argument about general logic. To make use of any proffered rules, the pupil would have to apply them, which would require the very capacity, the power of judgment, that the rules were meant to furnish. (That first argument about general logic can also be recast as an infinite regress argument).

35 I prefer “judgment can only be exercised” to “judgment can only be practiced,” contra Guyer and Wood, because the former seems to better convey both registers I am identifying: judgment can only be improved through exercise; judgment is necessarily exercised (roughly: employed) in any act of judging. “Practiced” conveys the first register, but less distinctly the second. (However, some constructions built on “practice” convey the second distinctly and perhaps exclusively, e.g., “to put into practice” or “practicing lawyer.”)

36 “[S]ince the mere form of cognition, however well it may agree with logical laws, is far from sufficing to constitute the material (objective) truth of the cognition, nobody can dare to judge about objects and to assert anything about them merely with logic, without having antecedently made a well-founded inquiry outside of logic” (A60/B85).

37 In a footnote, Kant writes that deficient judgment “is really what one calls stupidity, and for such a failing there is no remedy. A dull or limited head lacking nothing but the needed degree of understanding and the concepts proper to it may well be equipped through learning, even to the point of becoming learned. But since he would commonly still lack the power of judgment (the secunda Petri), it is no uncommon thing to meet very learned men who in the use of their knowledge [Wissenschaft] frequently reveal that deficiency, which is never to be ameliorated” (A133–134/B172–173).

38 I italicize insistently for two reasons: because Kant does not, to my mind, admit these facts openly enough; and because Kant is sometimes taken to argue, in the very passages we are looking at, that there can be no rules for applying rules. (We will see Henry Allison saying this, for example.) But patently there can be and are. Asking you to pick the best apples, I might say: choose those that are fresh and firm.

39 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” p. 226. Bell attributes the argument to Kant on p. 227.

40 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” p. 229.

41 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” p. 241.

42 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” p. 239.

43 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” p. 226. The bracketed interpolation is Bell’s. Bell is quoting §§217 and 219 of the 1974 edition of Philosophical Investigations, eds. G. E. M. Anscombe, R. Rhees, and G. H. von Wright, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell).

44 Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” pp. 226–227.

45 Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, p. 14. (In the sentences just preceding and immediately following, Allison says that the argument establishes that general logic cannot provide judgment with rules for applying its rules. But this is a conflation of Kant’s two arguments, the first tethered to general logic and the second free of that tether.)

46 Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste, p. 154. Something is going wrong with the remark that Kant “claims that there can be no rules for judgment.” It does not follow from what Allison presents as making it “the case.” Although Allison does not mention general logic in this gloss of the Analytic of Principles passage, perhaps the conflation of Kant’s two arguments mentioned in my previous footnote is intruding again.

47 The point of saying that the primitive act is a “feeling” is, for both Bell and Allison, to distinguish it from a judgment or the application of a concept (without such a distinction there would, of course, be no hope of blocking the regress). Allison takes Kant to conclude that the act consists of a feeling via argument by elimination: with concepts out of bounds, feeling is the only option left (Kant’s Theory of Taste, p. 154).

48 The construal of the judgment of taste in terms of a preconceptual awareness of unity is quite widely shared. See Crawford, Kant’s Aesthetic Theory, pp. 88–89; Paul Crowther, “The Significance of Kant’s Pure Aesthetic Judgment,” British Journal of Aesthetics 36 (1996), p. 114; Guyer, Kant and the Claims of Taste, p. 76; and Hannah Ginsborg, “Lawfulness without a Law: Kant on the Free Play of Imagination and Understanding,” Philosophical Topics 25, no. 1 (1997), pp. 46 and 76, n. 15.

49 For “model,” see Bell, “The Art of Judgement,” pp. 231–232; for “analogy,” see p. 239. In Bell’s view, the Analytic of Principles passage raises natural questions – How can there be such a thing as the act needed to block the regress? How can this “blindness” not reduce to “mindlessness” (p. 227)? – which the Schematism chapter, the first chapter of the Analytic of Principles, is designed to address. But Bell thinks that the answers the Schematism chapter offers are unsatisfactory at best, and that the Critique of Judgment’s account of aesthetic judgment (the judgment of taste) is meant to be its improved replacement. Bell goes so far as to say that “paradoxically,” the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is “not primarily or fundamentally a work in aesthetics at all” (p. 232).

50 I discuss Allison’s position on the connection between Kant’s aesthetics and his theory of cognition in Chapter 4.

51 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, eds. P. M. S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker, and Joachim Schulte, revised 4th edn. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), §198.

52 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §201.

53 See Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §§241 and 242.

54 Stanley Cavell points this out in “The Argument of the Ordinary: Scenes of Instruction in Wittgenstein and in Kripke,” in Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 71. As its title indicates, Cavell’s essay is (in part) a response to Saul Kripke, who entertains a reading of Wittgenstein similar to Bell’s in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language: An Elementary Exposition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

55 This impression of rules makes it especially natural to inflect “following” a rule as “obeying” it, as in the earlier edition of the Investigations that Bell cites.

56 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §221.

57 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Remarks, ed. Rush Rhees, trans. Raymond Hargreaves and Roger White (Oxford: Blackwell, 1964), §1. (Wittgenstein likely took the term from Heinrich Hertz.) The move effectively says that the regress is stopped by a regress-stopper, which we access in a regress-stopping way. It might be put in terms that sound more respectable – the regress is stopped by an intrinsically significant entity that we grasp immediately – but since those terms are not cashed out, they are only placeholders for the more obviously unenlightening ones.

58 See Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, pp. 87–88. As Kripke makes explicit, the regress argument generalizes readily. For whatever we might turn to as fixing the application of a rule – interpretation, or previous behavior (linguistic and nonlinguistic), or previous mental history, or dispositions, or something else – the regress will arise.

59 She will likewise be unimpressed, and rightly so, by the reply (often advanced as Wittgensteinian) that the question of what constitutes the meaning of a rule is to be dismissed as bad, illegitimate, or unintelligible.

60 This point, through which Austin’s appeal to the ordinary is made deeper and more radical, is one of Stanley Cavell’s most significant insights. Yet it is often missed or neglected, even among those most inspired by Cavell’s writing on Wittgenstein. It is absent, perhaps ruled out, in John McDowell’s use of Cavell, and the difference that makes is, I would argue, immense and irrecoverable. (McDowell cites Cavell in “Virtue and Reason,” Mind, Value, and Reality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 60.) The interpretation I am offering of Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations diverges in some ways from Cavell’s, but this is not the place to pursue those differences.

61 “The words of this language are to refer to what only the speaker can know – to his immediate private sensations. So another person cannot understand the language” (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §243).

62 Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p. 351.

63 Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p. 351.

64 Cavell, The Claim of Reason, p. 351.

65 See Cavell, The Claim of Reason, pp. 351–352.

66 Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, §217.

67 Cavell, “The Argument of the Ordinary,” p. 77.

68 Hence there is also an anxiety about dependence on (the responsiveness of) the other at work in the scene of instruction. The fantasy or fear of a private language similarly turns upon the experience of a form of dependence on others as intolerable but indispensable: I want to be understood and known; I fear being understood and known.

69 “If I accept the invitation blindly I fail to take into consideration certain more or less obvious risks (of status, awkwardness, misunderstanding) in doing so. If I obey someone’s order blindly I reluctantly or gladly give over responsibility for my actions. If I take blind assurance from a prophecy, I fail to see that it can be taken in another way” (Cavell, “The Argument of the Ordinary,” p. 71). In acting blindly I may be blinding myself to what I am doing.

70 In the Anthropology passage, Kant writes that an infinite regress ensues “if there were to be doctrines for the power of judgment,” hence “general rules according to which one could decide whether something was an instance of the rule or not” (emphasis added). But Kant nowhere indicates that there must be such doctrines or general rules. He rejects that idea, and that is why he concludes that judgment therefore cannot be taught, and can only be exercised.

71 “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” VIII:35.

72 Someone might protest: “My reason and my understanding are equally mine to employ, ‘grammatically.’ Why doesn’t Kant make parallel claims about reason and understanding? Why does he isolate judgment?” Here it is important to remember Kant’s idea that judgment is the (or a central) mode of the employment of the mind in general, and so of the employment of the understanding and reason. Kant is indeed claiming that my reason and my understanding are mine to employ in the relevant sense, but he is doing so through the more general claim about judgment.

73 For example, at Axv and xxi.

74 See also J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, eds. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisà, 2nd edn. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 98, for the idea that to say something meaningful is to do something in saying it (illocutionary act), and possibly also by saying it (perlocutionary act).

75 We saw, in addition to the example of the juridical judge, Kant’s parenthetical gloss of the power of judgment as iudicium in the Anthropology passage, and of its role of distinguishing whether something does or does not come under a given rule as casus datae legis in the Analytic of Principles passage, where, a bit later, he glosses “missteps in judgment,” again parenthetically, as lapsus judici (A135/B174). There are many more examples. I thus agree with Dieter Henrich that Kant’s invocations of the juridical in the Critique of Pure Reason are significant, although I see a different, perhaps complementary, significance that is specifically tied to the power of judgment. Henrich argues that Kant enlists legal terms and concepts of his day to do crucial metaphorical work, and, in particular, that the transcendental deduction of the first Critique must be understood in terms of legal Deduktionsschriften, which sought to establish claims to rightful possession of land or usage of a title. See “Kant’s Notion of a Deduction and the Methodological Background of the First Critique,” in Kant’s Transcendental Deductions: The Three ‘Critiques’ and the ‘Opus postumum, ed. Eckart Förster (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), p. 32.

76 “By his manner of judging, the person discloses to an extent also himself, what kind of person he is” (Arendt, “The Crisis in Culture,” in Between Past and Future (New York: Viking Press, 1968), p. 223).

77 I pursue this in Chapters 2 and 4.

78 Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (New York: Viking Press, 1965), p. 297. For Arendt, the refusal to judge, which may be couched in condemnation (!) of “people who ‘dare sit in judgment’” (p. 296), “touches upon one of the central moral questions of all time, namely upon the nature and function of human judgment” (p. 295).

79 Arendt, “The Crisis in Culture,” p. 199.

80 Compare Kant’s idea that I cannot act otherwise than under the idea of my freedom in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals IV:448. Kant’s point is not that I must believe that I am free, but that in any of my choices and actions, including my ostensible refusal to choose or act, I manifest – indeed cannot escape – my own commitment to my freedom. Although I cannot make the case here, this is, in my view, one of the ideas that Jean-Paul Sartre appropriates from Kant. He explores it under the rubric of anguish as the consciousness of freedom, and of the “bad faith” attempts at evasion that it may provoke, in Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956), p. 65ff.

81 “All alterations occur in accordance with the law of the connection of cause and effect” (B232).

82 I’m adapting an objection of Maimon’s in which he turns Kant’s example of a “judgment of experience,” in Prolegomena IV:301, against him. See Gideon Freudenthal, “Maimon’s Subversion of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason,” in Salomon Maimon: Rational Dogmatist, Empirical Skeptic, ed. Gideon Freudenthal (New York: Springer, 2003), pp. 148–149.

83 Wit is frequently mentioned in the Anthropology and in the corresponding sections of the Reflections on Anthropology, and receives sustained discussion at Anthropology VII:201, 204, 220–223, and Reflections on Anthropology XV:189, 219, 232.

84 Witz is rendered as “intelligence” in the edition translated by Victor Lyle Dowdell (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1978).

85 Anthropology VII:201.

86 Anthropology VII:201.

87 Arendt, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, p. 4.

88 That is not to say that an interpretation of Kant as adducing foundational claims about the nature of human beings evidences “naturalism,” at least in its now familiar (if difficult to pin down) sense. See, for example, Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity, ed. Onora O’Neill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 160 and 161.

89 Kant uses the term schöne Kunst in two ways. Sometimes the term refers to art that is beautiful. Sometimes the term marks a distinction from other practices that Kant counts as “art,” including what we would call craft (see CJ V:304), making it similar to beaux arts or “fine art,” although broader than both, since it encompasses poetry and literature. The two senses are internally related, since schöne Kunst in the latter sense aspires to beauty.

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