Monday, January 28, 2013

Kant's Aesthetics of Communicability in 300 Words

Kant uses the idea of communicability in several texts, but its sustained development is the early sections of Critique of Pure Judgement where he develops his theory of what I will call here the indifferent universality of subjective taste, moment 2, and that aesthetic judgement is indifferently pleasurable, moment 4. 

In the third critique, the second and fourth moments put to the reader a complex theory of communicability. Placed together the moments present the concept that every subject is capable of judging something as beautiful or not, and that in so doing they are also capable of communicating this judgement to every other subject through the establishment of a sensus communis of pleasure attained from aesthetic judgement. 

Communicability then is the ability of every subject to make a singular judgement on an object as beautiful, and to confirm the validity of making such and such a judgement first because they gain pleasure from the judgement, pleasure gained from a realisation that their will is attainable in the world at large, freedom, and second because they can confirm that the faculty of gaining pleasure from judging beauty is shared with every other subject, confirming that the world at large is always under the sway of the rules of reason. 

We are left then with what is, in fact, both a classic statement of communicability and indifference. Aesthetic judgement, as described in our introduction, is the faculty or capacity of every subject to freely respond to an aesthetic object that is pleasurable, combined with the rule that in doing so they must turn to their neighbour and ask: “Do you find this beautiful?” Their neighbour is then free to respond: “No I don’t find that beautiful, but I do find other things beautiful.” 

Communicability here then is the manner in which a free subjective response is entirely communicable with every other subject even if they do not agree with the choice of object for said response. 

Communicability is then represented in Foucault as intelligibility, in Habermas as communicative action, and in Agamben as communicability of signatures. 

It is, to my mind, one of the key concepts of our age and I hope after my indifferece project to move on to the relevancy of communicability to epistemology at large.

Tags: Kant, Foucault, Habermas, Agamben, aesthetics, third critique, communicability, intelligibility

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