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This introductory chapter motivates and sketches the book’s approach. The chapter identifies the heart of the problem that the judgment of taste poses in terms of its apparent presumptuousness in demanding pleasure. Many scholars read Kant’s Critique of Judgment as adumbrating an account of the aesthetic that has little connection with our actual aesthetic experiences or with our ways of explaining and supporting aesthetic judgments. Among art historians, critics, and theorists, Kant is regarded as the source of a distorting notion of the aesthetic that chooses affect or pleasure over meaning. For example, Kantian aesthetics is widely taken to entail a specific approach to art criticism, viz. a narrow formalism. My interpretation aims to show that the judgment of taste is a contentful engagement with an object the terms of which are not specifiable in advance. To enter a judgment of taste is to expose one’s sense of what matters. This is why a risk of presumptuousness is characteristic of the judgment of taste. It is also why the judgment of taste is exemplary of judgment generally
Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment is widely recognized as a founding document of modern aesthetics, but its legacy has fallen into disrepute. In this book Katalin Makkai calls for the rediscovery of Kant's aesthetics, showing that its centerpiece, his investigation of the judgment of taste, paints a compelling portrait of our relationships with works of art that we love. At its heart is a scene of aesthetic encounter in which one feels oneself to be 'animated' - brought to life - by an object, finding there to be something in one's experience of it, beyond what there is to know about it, that one wants to explore and articulate. Tracing Kant's insight that to judge is to reveal one's sense of what bears judging, and hence of what matters, Makkai situates Kant's aesthetics within his larger study, begun in the first Critique, of judgment's fundamental role in the life of the mind.
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