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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: July 2009

5 - Notes on Aesthetics


Kant lectured on topics in the field of aesthetics, which had been so named by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, the author of the textbooks for Kant's courses in metaphysics and ethics, in his 1735 dissertation Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus (Philosophical meditations on some matters pertaining to poetry), in his courses on anthropology, which began in 1772–73, and logic, which began much earlier. The courses on anthropology, which used as their text the chapter on Psychologia empirica (§§504–699) from Baumgarten's 1739 Metaphysica (“M”), began with a detailed discussion of the human faculties of cognition, feeling, and desire – this can be seen in the seven transcriptions of Kant's lectures, from between 1772–73 and 1788–89, that were published in 1997 as volume 25 of the Akademie edition, and in the textbook on anthropology, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, which Kant published only in 1798, the year after he ceased lecturing – and so it was entirely natural for Kant to touch upon the feeling of beauty and taste in these lectures. He did that from the outset, gradually adding discussions of other topics in aesthetics such as the feeling of the sublime and the nature of artistic genius as well. The inclusion of extensive discussion of topics in aesthetics in Kant's lectures on logic may seem more surprising, but the author of the textbook that Kant used in this course, Georg Friedrich Meier, was a disciple and colleague of Baumgarten, and the discussion of the difference between “logical cognition” and “aesthetic cognition” was a central topic for both Baumgarten and Meier, and Kant therefore took it up in his lectures.