Kant, Artistic Profundity and Aesthetic Ideas

Di Gabriele Tomasi

In: Aspects of Kantian Non-Conceptualism XLVIII , No. 1 ( 2019 )

Sezione Sezione tematica/ Thematic Section


The article deals with the problem of whether Kant’s conception of fine art, as it is presented in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), can account for what many art lovers consider one of the highest virtue of artworks, i.e., profundity. According to this framework, a crucial mark of artistic profundity is the impossibility of fully capturing the content of a work of art, or our response to it, conceptually. Kant’s description of our response to works of art, or more precisely to works of genius, strikes a very similar note. The possibility of a Kantian version of artistic profundity should not be taken for granted, however. In fact, we tend to think that in profound art we are offered a deep understanding or deep treatment of a topic, and we tend to assume that depth and truth are related. But it is disputable whether notions such as ‘understanding’ and ‘truth’ can find a place in a theory of art such as Kant’s, which sets a use of the reflecting power of judgment that is not cognitive as a standard of artistic success and which furthermore puts at the heart of artistic experience a class of intuitions – aesthetic ideas – that, not being fully captured by conceptual description, are not truth-apt. This seems to affect the very possibility of a Kantian account of profundity, but it will be shown that this difficulty can be overcome.