A Kantian Theory of Art Criticism

  • Author / Creator
    Tuna, Emine Hande
  • My dissertation explores the role of art criticism within Immanuel Kant’s aesthetic theory and its relevance for the particularism-generalism debate in contemporary aesthetics. In doing so, it provides a Kantian answer to the meta-critical question that generated the particularism-generalism divide in the first place, namely whether or not our aesthetic appraisals of artworks are based on natural facts concerning the non-aesthetic properties of those artworks. This is an examination of a neglected area in Kant scholarship since it is standardly assumed that a theory of criticism flies in the face of some of Kant’s most central aesthetic tenets, such as his rejection of aesthetic testimony and general objective principles of taste. If art criticism is an enterprise of providing evaluations of artworks supported by reasons, then it is hard to see what the Kantian art critic can do for us. It does not seem to matter whether the critic provides evaluations since we cannot defer to them. Likewise, any reasons the critic provides by referring to the non-aesthetic properties of artworks would seem completely arbitrary in the absence of general principles governing the relation between aesthetic evaluations and non-aesthetic properties. Nevertheless, the assumption that these Kantian tenets preclude the possibility of art criticism is mistaken and it is my aim to show how this can be. The project has two phases. In the first phase I develop a new interpretation of Kant’s theory of artistic beauty. In the second phase I make use of this interpretation to put forward a Kantian account of art criticism, an essentially particularist account which integrates generalist elements. Central to my interpretation is the notion that judgments of perfection, which are non-aesthetic evaluations of artworks’ success in meeting or exceeding our expectations regarding works of that kind, inform our aesthetic assessments. It is precisely this underappreciated role of judgments of perception that I exploit in making room for Kantian art criticism. Critics’ reasons are not arbitrary because these reasons, listing non-aesthetic properties of the work, support non-aesthetic evaluations of success value which in turn contribute to the determination of aesthetic value of artworks. In short, I propose that Kant’s aesthetic theory yields a fruitful theory of art criticism and that this theory presents an alternative to both existing theories of his time and to contemporary theories.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
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  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Zuckert, Rachel (Philosophy)
    • Welchman, Jennifer (Philosophy)
    • Schmitter, Amy (Philosophy)
    • Nye, Howard (Philosophy)