Part One, “The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” which includes “The Analytic of the Beautiful” and “The Analytic of the Sublime.” Translated by James Creed Meredith (1911), with alterations. A note on this translation can be found at the end of this selection.

Immanuel Kant





First Moment of a Judgment of Taste, As To Its Quality

§ 1. The judgment of taste is aesthetic.

If we wish to discern whether something is beautiful or not, we do not relate the representation of it to its object by means of rational understanding. Instead, we relate the representation though imagination (acting perhaps in conjunction with reason) to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure. The judgment of taste, therefore, is not a cognitive judgment, is not logical, but is aesthetic — which means that it is one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective. Every reference of representations is capable of being objective, even that of sensations (in which case it signifies the real in an empirical representation). The one exception to this is the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. This denotes nothing in the object, but is a feeling which the subject has within itself and in the manner in which it is affected by the representation.

To apprehend a regular and appropriate building with one’s cognitive faculties, be the mode of representation clear or confused, is quite a different thing from being conscious of this representation with an accompanying sensation of delight. In the experience of delight the representation is referred wholly to the subject, and what is more to its feeling of life — under the name of the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. This forms the basis of a quite separate faculty of discriminating and estimating, that contributes nothing to knowledge. All it does is to compare the given representation in the subject with the entire faculty of representations of which the mind is conscious in the feeling of its state. Given representations in a judgment may be empirical (and therefore aesthetic); but the judgment which is pronounced by their means is logical, provided it refers them to the object. Conversely, even though the given representations were rational, the judgment itself would be aesthetic if it related solely to the subject (to its feeling).

§ 2. The delight which determines the judgment of taste is independent of all interest.

The delight which we connect with the representation of the real existence of an object is called interest. Such a delight, therefore, always involves a reference to the faculty of desire, either as its determining ground, or else as necessarily implicated with its determining ground. Now, where the question is whether something is beautiful, we do not want to know, whether we, or any one else, are, or even could be, concerned in the real existence of the thing, but rather what estimate we form of it on mere contemplation (intuition or reflection). If any one asks me whether I consider that the palace I see before me is beautiful, I may, perhaps, reply that I do not care for things of that sort that are merely made to be gaped at. Or I may reply like that Iroquois chief who said that nothing in Paris pleased him more than the restaurants. I may even go a step further and inveigh with the vigor of a Rousseau against the vigor of a great against the vanity of the of the people on such superfluous things. Or, in fine, I may quite easily persuade myself that if I found myself on an uninhabited island, without hope of ever again coming among men, and could conjure such a palace into existence by a mere wish, I should still not trouble to do so, so long as I had a hut there that was comfortable enough for me. All this may be admitted and approved; only it is not the point now at issue. All one wants to know is whether the mere representation of the object is to my liking, no matter how indifferent I may be to the real existence of the object of this representation. It is quite plain that in order to say that the object is beautiful, and to show that I have taste, everything turns on the meaning which I can give to this representation, and not on any factor which makes me dependent on the real existence of the object. Every one must allow that a judgment on the beautiful which is tinged with the slightest interest, is very partial and not a pure judgment of taste. One must not be in the least prepossessed in favour of the real existence of the thing, but must preserve complete indifference in this respect, in order to play the part of judge in matters of taste.

This proposition, which is of the utmost importance, cannot be better explained than by contrasting the pure disinterested* delight which appears in the judgment of taste with that allied to an interest — especially if we can also assure ourselves that there are no other kinds of interest beyond those presently to be mentioned.

*A judgment upon an object of our delight may be wholly disinterested but withal very interesting, i.e., it relies on no interest, but it produces one. Of this kind are all pure moral judgments. But, of themselves judgments of taste do not even set up any interest whatsoever. Only in society is it interesting to have taste — a point which will be explained in the sequel.

§ 3. Delight in the agreeable is coupled with interest.

That is agreeable which the senses find pleasing in sensation. This at once affords a convenient opportunity for condemning and directing particular attention to a prevalent confusion of the double meaning of which the word sensation is capable. All delight (as is said or thought) is itself sensation (of a pleasure). Consequently everything that pleases, and for the very reason that it pleases, is agreeable — and according to its different degrees, or its relations to other agreeable sensations, is attractive, charming, delicious, enjoyable, etc. But if this is conceded, then impressions of sense, which determine inclination, or principles of reason, which determine the will, or mere contemplated forms of intuition, which determine judgment, are all on a par in everything relevant to their effect upon the feeling of pleasure, for this would be agreeableness in the sensation of one’s state; and since, in the last resort, all the elaborate work of our faculties must issue in and unite in the practical as its goal, we could credit our faculties with no other appreciation of things and the worth of things, than that consisting in the gratification which they promise. How this is attained is in the end immaterial; and, as the choice of the means is here the only thing that can make a difference, men might indeed blame one another for folly or imprudence, but never for baseness or wickedness; for they are all, each according to his own way of looking at things, pursuing one goal, which for each is the gratification in question.

When a modification of the feeling of pleasure or displeasure is termed sensation, this expression is given quite a different meaning to that which it bears when I call the representation of a thing (through sense as a receptivity pertaining to the faculty of knowledge) sensation. For in the latter case the representation is referred to the object, but in the former it is referred solely to the subject and is not available for any cognition, not even for that by which the subject cognizes itself.

Now in the above definition the word sensation is used to denote an objective representation of sense; and, to avoid continually running the risk of misinterpretation, we shall call that which must always remain purely subjective, and is absolutely incapable of forming a representation of an object, by the familiar name of feeling. The green color of the meadows belongs to objective sensation, as the perception of an object of sense; but its agreeableness to subjective sensation, by which no object is represented; i.e., to feeling, through which the object is regarded as an object of delight (which involves no cognition of the object). Now, that a judgment on an object by which its agreeableness is affirmed, expresses an interest in it, is evident from the fact that through sensation it provokes a desire for similar objects, consequently the delight presupposes, not the simple judgment about it, but the bearing its real existence has upon my state so far as affected by such an object. Hence we do not merely say of the agreeable that it pleases, but that it gratifies. I do not accord it a simple approval, but inclination is aroused by it, and where agreeableness is of the liveliest type a judgment on the character of the object is so entirely out of place that those who are always intent only on enjoyment (for that is the word used to denote intensity of gratification) would fain dispense with all judgment.

§ 4. Delight in the good is coupled with interest.

That is good which by means of reason commends itself by its mere concept. We call that good for something which only pleases as a means; but that which pleases on its own account we call good-in-itself. In both cases the concept of an end is implied, and consequently the relation of reason to (at least possible) willing, and thus a delight in the existence of an object or action, i.e., some interest or other.

To deem something good, I must always know what sort of a thing the object is intended to be, i.e., I must have a concept of it. That is not necessary to enable me to see beauty in a thing. Flowers, free patterns, lines aimlessly intertwining — technically termed foliage — have no signification, depend upon no definite concept, and yet please. Delight in the beautiful must depend upon the reflection on an object precursory to some (not definitely determined) concept. It is thus also differentiated from the agreeable, which rests entirely upon sensation.

In many cases, no doubt, the agreeable and the good seem convertible terms. Thus it is commonly said that all (especially lasting) gratification is of itself good; which is almost equivalent to saying that to be permanently agreeable and to be good are identical. But it is readily apparent that this is merely a vicious confusion of words, for the concepts appropriate to these expressions are far from interchangeable. The agreeable, which, as such, represents the object solely in relation to sense, must in the first instance be brought under principles of reason through the concept of an end, to be, as an object of will, called good. But that the reference to delight is wholly different where what gratifies is at the same time called good, is evident from the fact that with the good the question always is whether it is mediately or immediately good, i.e., useful or good-in-itself; whereas with the agreeable this point can never arise, since the word always means what pleases immediately — and it is just the same with what I call beautiful.

Even in everyday parlance, a distinction is drawn between the agreeable and the good. We do not scruple to say of a dish that stimulates the palate with spices and other condiments that it is agreeable owning all the while that it is not good: because, while it immediately satisfies the senses, it is mediately displeasing, i.e., in the eye of reason that looks ahead to the consequences. Even in our estimate of health, this same distinction may be traced. To all that possess it, it is immediately agreeable — at least negatively, i.e., as remoteness of all bodily pains. But, if we are to say that it is good, we must further apply to reason to direct it to ends, that is, we must regard it as a state that puts us in a congenial mood for all we have to do. Finally, in respect of happiness every one believes that the greatest aggregate of the pleasures of life, taking duration as well as number into account, merits the name of a true, nay even of the highest, good. But reason sets its face against this too. Agreeableness is enjoyment. But if this is all that we are bent on, it would be foolish to be scrupulous about the means that procure it for us — whether it be obtained passively by the bounty of nature or actively and by the work of our own hands. But that there is any intrinsic worth in the real existence of a man who merely lives for enjoyment, however busy he may be in this respect, even when in so doing he serves others — all equally with himself intent only on enjoyment — as an excellent means to that one end, and does so, moreover, because through sympathy he shares all their gratifications — this is a view to which reason will never let itself be brought round. Only by what a man does heedless of enjoyment, in complete freedom, and independently of what he can procure passively from the hand of nature, does be give to his existence, as the real existence of a person, an absolute worth. Happiness, with all its plethora of pleasures, is far from being an unconditioned good.*

*An obligation to enjoyment is a patent absurdity. And the same, then, must also be said of a supposed obligation to actions that have merely enjoyment for their aim, no matter how spiritually this enjoyment may be refined in thought (or embellished), and even if it be a mystical, so-called heavenly, enjoyment.

But, despite all this difference between the agreeable and the good, they both agree in being invariably coupled with an interest in their object. This is true, not alone of the agreeable, § 3, and of the mediately good, i, e., the useful, which pleases as a means to some pleasure, but also of that which is good absolutely and from every point of view, namely the moral good which carries with it the highest interest. For the good is the object of will, i.e., of a rationally determined faculty of desire). But to will something, and to take a delight in its existence, i.e., to take an interest in it, are identical.

§ 5. Comparison of the three specifically different kinds of delight.

Both the agreeable and the good involve a reference to the faculty of desire, and are thus attended, the former with a delight pathologically conditioned (by stimuli), the latter with a pure practical delight. Such delight is determined not merely by the representation of the object, but also by the represented bond of connection between the subject and the real existence of the object. It is not merely the object, but also its real existence, that pleases. On the other hand, the judgment of taste is simply contemplative, i.e., it is a judgment which is indifferent as to the existence of an object, and only decides how its character stands with the feeling of pleasure and displeasure. But not even is this contemplation itself directed to concepts; for the judgment of taste is not a cognitive judgment (neither a theoretical one nor a practical), and hence, also, is not grounded on concepts, nor yet intentionally directed to them.

The agreeable, the beautiful, and the good thus denote three different relations of representations to the feeling of pleasure and displeasure, as a feeling in respect of which we distinguish different objects or modes of representation. Also, the corresponding expressions which indicate our satisfaction in them are different The agreeable is what GRATIFIES a man; the beautiful what simply PLEASES him; the good what is ESTEEMED (approved), i.e., that on which he sets an objective worth. Agreeableness is a significant factor even with irrational animals; beauty has purport and significance only for human beings, i.e., for beings at once animal and rational (but not merely for them as rational — intelligent beings — but only for them as at once animal and rational); whereas the good is good for every rational being in general — a proposition which can only receive its complete justification and explanation in the sequel. Of all these three kinds of delight, that of taste in the beautiful may be said to be the one and only disinterested and free delight; for, with it, no interest, whether of sense or reason, extorts approval. And so we may say that delight, in the three cases mentioned, is related to inclination, to favour, or to respect. For FAVOUR is the only free liking. An object of inclination, and one which a law of reason imposes upon our desire, leaves us no freedom to turn anything into an object of pleasure. All interest presupposes a want, or calls one forth; and, being a ground determining approval, deprives the judgment on the object of its freedom.

So far as the interest of inclination in the case of the agreeable goes, every one says “Hunger is the best sauce; and people with a healthy appetite relish everything, so long as it is something they can eat.” Such delight, consequently, gives no indication of taste having anything to say to the choice. Only when men have got all they want can we tell who among the crowd has taste or not. Similarly there may be correct habits (conduct) without virtue, politeness without good-will, propriety without honor, etc. For where the moral law dictates, there is, objectively, no room left for free choice as to what one has to do; and to show taste in the way one carries out these dictates, or in estimating the way others do so, is a totally different matter from displaying the moral frame of one’s mind. For the latter involves a command and produces a need of something, whereas moral taste only plays with the objects of delight without devoting itself sincerely to any.

Definition of the Beautiful derived from the First Moment:

Taste is the faculty of estimating an object or a mode of representation by means of a delight or aversion apart from any interest. The object of such a delight is called beautiful.


Second Moment of Judgment of Taste, As To Its Quantity.


§ 6. The beautiful is that which, apart from concepts, is represented as the Object of a universal delight.

This definition of the beautiful is deducible from the foregoing definition of it as an object of delight apart from any interest. For where any one is conscious that his delight in an object is with him independent of interest, it is inevitable that he should look on the object as one containing a ground of delight for all men. For, since the delight is not based on any inclination of the subject (or on any other deliberate interest), but the subject feels himself completely free in respect of the liking which he accords to the object, he can find as reason for his delight no personal conditions to which his own subjective self might alone be party. Hence he must regard it as resting on what he may also presuppose in every other person; and therefore he must believe that he has reason for demanding a similar delight from every one. Accordingly he will speak of the beautiful as if beauty were a quality of the object and the judgment logical (forming a cognition of the object by concepts of it); although it is only aesthetic, and contains merely a reference of the representation of the object to the subject; because it still bears this resemblance to the logical judgment, that it may be presupposed to be valid for all men. But this universality cannot spring from concepts. For from concepts there is no transition to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure (save in the case of pure practical laws, which, however, carry an interest with them; and such an interest does not attach to the pure judgment of taste). The result is that the judgment of taste, with its attendant consciousness of detachment from all interest, must involve a claim to validity for all men, and must do so apart from universality attached to objects, i.e., there must be coupled with it a claim to subjective universality.

§ 7. Comparison of the beautiful with the agreeable and the good by means of the above characteristic.

As regards the agreeable, every one concedes that his judgment, which he bases on a private feeling, and in which he declares that an object pleases him, is restricted merely to himself personally. Thus he does not take it amiss if, when he says that Canary-wine is agreeable, another corrects the expression and reminds him that he ought to say: “It is agreeable to me.” This applies not only to the taste of the tongue, the palate, and the throat, but to what may with any one be agreeable to eye or ear. A violet color is to one soft and lovely, to another dull and faded. One man likes the tone of wind instruments, another prefers that of strings. To quarrel over such points with the idea of condemning another’s judgment as incorrect when it differs from our own, as if the opposition between the two judgments were logical, would be folly. With the agreeable, therefore, the axiom holds good: every one has his own taste (that of sense).

The beautiful stands on quite a different footing. It would, on the contrary, be ridiculous if any one who plumed himself on his taste were to think of justifying himself by saying: “This object (the building we see, the dress that person has on, the concert we hear, the poem submitted to our criticism) is beautiful for me.” For if it merely pleases him, be must not call it beautiful. Many things may for him possess charm and agreeableness — no one cares about that; but when he puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful, he demands the same delight from others. He judges not merely for himself, but for all men, and then speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. Thus he says the thing is beautiful; and it is not as if he counted on others agreeing in his judgment of liking owing to his having found them in such agreement on a number of occasions, but he demands this agreement of them. He blames them if they judge differently, and denies them taste, which he still requires of them as something they ought to have; and to this extent it is not open to men to say: “Every one has his own taste.” This would be equivalent to saying that there is no such thing at all as taste, i.e., no aesthetic judgment capable of making a rightful claim upon the assent of all men.

Yet even in the case of the agreeable, we find that the estimates men form do betray a prevalent agreement among them, which leads to our crediting some with taste and denying it to others, and that, too, not as an organic sense but as a critical faculty in respect of the agreeable generally. So of one who knows how to entertain his guests with pleasures (of enjoyment through all the senses) in such a way that one and all are pleased, we say that he has taste. But the universality here is only understood in a comparative sense; and the rules that apply are, like all empirical rules, general only, not universal, the latter being what the judgment of taste upon the beautiful deals or claims to deal in. It is a judgment in respect of sociability so far as resting on empirical rules. In respect of the good, it is true that judgments also rightly assert a claim to validity for every one; but the good is only represented as an object of universal delight by means of a concept, which is the case neither with the agreeable nor the beautiful.

§ 8. In a judgment of taste the universality of delight is only represented as subjective.

This particular form of the universality of an aesthetic judgment, which is to be met in a judgment of taste, is a significant feature, not for the logician certainly, but for the transcendental philosopher. It calls for no small effort on his part to discover its origin, but in return it brings to light a property of our cognitive faculty which, without this analysis, would have remained unknown.

First, one must get firmly into one’s mind that by the judgment of taste (upon the beautiful) the delight in an object is imputed to every one, yet without being founded on a concept (for then it would be the good), and that this claim to universality is such an essential factor of a judgment by which we describe anything as beautiful, that were it not for its being present to the mind it would never enter into any one’s head to use this expression, but everything that pleased without a concept would be ranked as agreeable. For in respect of the agreeable, every one is allowed to have his own opinion, and no one insists upon others agreeing with his judgment of taste, which is what is invariably done in the judgment of taste about beauty. The first of these I may call the taste of sense, the second, the taste of reflection: the first laying down judgments merely private, the second, on the other hand, judgments ostensibly of general validity (public), but both alike being aesthetic (not practical) judgments about an object merely in respect of the bearings of its representation on the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. Now it does seem strange that while with the taste of sense it is not alone experience that shows that its judgment (of pleasure or displeasure in something) is not universally valid, but every one willingly refrains from imputing this agreement to others (despite the frequent actual prevalence of a considerable consensus of general opinion even in these judgments), the taste of reflection, which, as experience teaches, has often enough to put up with a rude dismissal of its claims to universal validity of its judgment (upon the beautiful), can (as it actually does) find it possible for all that to formulate judgments capable of demanding this agreement in its universality. Such agreement it does in fact require from every one for each of its judgments of taste the persons who pass these judgments not quarreling over the possibility of such a claim, but only failing in particular cases to come to terms as to the correct application of this faculty.

First of all we have here to note that a universality which does not rest upon concepts of the object (even though these are only empirical) is in no way logical, but aesthetic, i.e., does not involve any objective quantity of the judgment, but only one that is subjective. For this universality I use the expression general validity, which denotes the validity of the reference of a representation, not to the cognitive faculties, but to the feeling of pleasure or displeasure for every subject. (The same expression, however, may also be employed for the logical quantity of the judgment, provided we add objective universal validity, to distinguish it from the merely subjective validity which is always aesthetic.)

Now a judgment that has objective universal validity has always got the subjective also, i.e., if the judgment is valid for everything which is contained under a given concept, it is valid also for all who represent an object by means of this concept. But from a subjective universal validity, i.e., the aesthetic, that does not rest on any concept, no conclusion can be drawn to the logical; because judgments of that kind have no bearing upon the object. But for this very reason the aesthetic universality attributed to a judgment must also be of a special kind, seeing that it does not join the predicate of beauty to the concept of the object taken in its entire logical sphere, and yet does extend this predicate over the whole sphere of judging subjects.

In their logical quantity, all judgments of taste are singular judgments. For, since I must present the object immediately to my feeling of pleasure or displeasure, and that, too, without the aid of concepts, such judgments cannot have the quantity of judgments with objective general validity. Yet by taking the singular representation of the object of the judgment of taste, and by comparison converting it into a concept according to the conditions determining that judgment, we can arrive at a logically universal judgment. For instance, by a judgment of the taste I describe the rose at which I am looking as beautiful. The judgment, on the other hand, resulting from the comparison of a number of singular representations: “Roses in general are beautiful,” is no longer pronounced as a purely aesthetic judgment, but as a logical judgment founded on one that is aesthetic. Now the judgment, “The rose is agreeable” (to smell) is also, no doubt, an aesthetic and singular judgment, but then it is not one of taste but of sense. For it has this point of difference from a judgment of taste, that the latter imports an aesthetic quantity of universality, i.e., of validity for everyone which is not to be met with in a judgment upon the agreeable. It is only judgments upon the good which, while also determining the delight in an object, possess logical and not mere aesthetic universality; for it is as involving a cognition of the object that “they are valid of it, and on that account valid for everyone.

In forming an estimate of objects merely from concepts, all representation of beauty goes by the board. There can, therefore, be no rule according to which any one is to be compelled to recognize anything as beautiful. Whether a dress, a house, or a flower is beautiful is a matter upon which one declines to allow one’s judgment to be swayed by any reasons or principles. We want to get a look at the object with our own eyes, just as if our delight depended on sensation. And yet, if upon so doing, we call the object beautiful, we believe ourselves to be speaking with a universal voice, and lay claim to the concurrence of everyone, whereas no private sensation would be decisive except for the observer alone and his liking.

Here, now, we may perceive that nothing is postulated in the judgment of taste but such a universal voice in respect of delight that it is not mediated by concepts; consequently, only the possibility of an aesthetic judgment capable of being at the same time deemed valid for everyone. The judgment of taste itself does not postulate the agreement of everyone (for it is only competent for a logically universal judgment to do this, in that it is able to bring forward reasons); it only imputes this agreement to everyone, as an instance of the rule in respect of which it looks for confirmation, not from concepts, but from the concurrence of others. The universal voice is, therefore, only an idea — resting upon grounds the investigation of which is here postponed. It may be a matter of uncertainty whether a person who thinks he is laying down a judgment of taste is, in fact, judging in conformity with that idea; but that this idea is what is contemplated in his judgment, and that, consequently, it is meant to be a judgment of taste, is proclaimed by his use of the expression “beauty.” For himself he can be certain on the point from his mere consciousness of the separation of everything belonging to the agreeable and the good from the delight remaining to him; and this is all for which be promises himself the agreement of everyone — a claim which, under these conditions, he would also be warranted in making, were it not that he frequently sinned against them, and thus passed an erroneous judgment of taste.


Definition of the Beautiful drawn from the Second Moment:

The beautiful is that which pleases universally without a concept.


Third Moment of Judgments of Taste: Moment of the relation of Purposes Brought under Review in Such Judgments.

§ 10. Purposiveness in general.

Let us define the meaning of “a purpose” in transcendental terms (i.e., without presupposing anything empirical, such as the feeling of pleasure). A purpose is the object of a concept so far as this concept is regarded as the cause of the object (the real ground of its possibility); and the causality of a concept in respect of its object is purposiveness (forma finalis). Where, then, not the cognition of an object merely, but the object itself (its form or real existence) as an effect, is thought to be possible only through a concept of it, there we imagine a purpose. The representation of the effect is here the determining ground of its cause and takes the lead of it. The consciousness of the causality of a representation in respect of the state of the subject as one tending to preserve a continuance of that state, may here be said to denote in a general way what is called pleasure; whereas displeasure is that representation which contains the ground for converting the state of the representations into their opposite (for hindering or removing them).

The faculty of desire, so far as determinable only through concepts, i.e., so as to act in conformity with the representation of a purpose, would be the Will. But an object, or state of mind, or even an action may, although its possibility does not necessarily presuppose the representation of a purpose, be called purposive simply on account of its possibility being only explicable and intelligible for us by virtue of an assumption on our part of fundamental causality according to purposes, i.e., a will that would have so ordained it according to a certain represented rule. Purposiveness, therefore, may exist apart from a purpose, in so far as we do not locate the causes of this form in a will, but yet are able to render the explanation of its possibility intelligible to ourselves only by deriving it from a will. Now we are not always obliged to look with the eye of reason into what we observe (i.e., to consider it in its possibility). So we may at least observe a purposiveness of form, and trace it in objects — though by reflection only — without basing it on a purpose (as the material of the nexus finalis).

§ 11. The sole foundation of the judgment of taste is the form of purposiveness of an object (or mode of representing it).

Whenever an end is regarded as a source of delight, it always imports an interest as determining ground of the judgment on the object of pleasure. Hence the judgment of taste cannot rest on any subjective end as its ground. But neither can any representation of an objective end, i.e., of the possibility of the object itself on principles of purposive connection, determine the judgment of taste, and, consequently, neither can any concept of the good. For the judgment of taste is an aesthetic and not a cognitive judgment, and so does not deal with any concept of the nature or of the internal or external possibility, by this or that cause, of the object, but simply with the relative bearing of the representative powers so far as determined by a representation.

Now this relation, present when an object is characterized as beautiful, is coupled with the feeling of pleasure. This pleasure is by the judgment of taste pronounced valid for every one; hence an agreeableness attending the representation is just as incapable of containing the determining ground of the judgment as the representation of the perfection of the object or the concept of the good. We are thus left with the subjective purposiveness in the representation of an object, exclusive of any end (objective or subjective) — consequently the bare form of purposiveness in the representation whereby an object is given to us, so far as we are conscious of it as that which is alone capable of constituting the delight which, apart from any concept, we estimate as universally communicable, and so of forming the determining ground of the judgment of taste.


§ 13. The pure judgment of taste is independent of charm and emotion.

Every interest vitiates the judgment of taste and robs it of its impartiality. This is especially so where, instead of, like the interest of reason, making purposiveness take the lead of the lead of the feeling of pleasure, it grounds it upon this feeling — which is what always happens in aesthetic judgments upon anything so far as it gratifies or pains. Hence judgments so influenced can either lay no claim at all to a universally valid delight, or else must abate their claim in proportion as sensations of the kind in question enter into the determining grounds of taste. Taste that requires an added element of charm and emotion for its delight, not to speak of adopting this as the measure of its approval, has not yet emerged from barbarism.

And yet charms are frequently not alone ranked with beauty (which ought properly to be a question merely of the form) as supplementary to the aesthetic universal delight, but they have been accredited as intrinsic beauties, and consequently the matter of delight passed off for the form. This is a misconception which, like many others that have still an underlying element of truth, may be removed by a careful definition of these concepts.

A judgment of taste which is uninfluenced by charm or emotion (though these may be associated with the delight in the beautiful), and whose determining ground, therefore, is simply purposiveness of form, is a pure judgment of taste.


§ 16. A judgment of taste by which an object is described as beautiful, under the condition of a definite concept, is not pure.

There are two kinds of beauty: free beauty (pulchritudo vaga), or beauty which is merely dependent (pulchritudo adhaerens). The first presupposes no concept of what the object should be; the second does presuppose such a concept and, with it, an answering perfection of the object. Those of the first kind are said to be (self-subsisting) beauties of this thing or that thing; the other kind of beauty, being attached to a concept (conditioned beauty), is ascribed to objects which come under the concept of a particular end.

Flowers are free beauties of nature. Hardly anyone but a botanist knows the true nature of a flower, and even he, while recognizing in the flower the reproductive organ of the plant, pays no attention to this natural end when using his taste to judge of its beauty. Hence no perfection of any kind — no internal purposiveness, as something to which the arrangement of the manifold is related — underlies this judgment. Many birds (the parrot, the hummingbird, the bird of paradise), and a number of crustaceans, are self-subsisting beauties which are not appurtenant to any object defined with respect to its end, but please freely and on their own account. So designs à la grecque, foliage for framework or on wallpapers, etc., have no intrinsic meaning; they represent nothing — no object under a definite concept — and are free beauties. We may also rank in the same class what in music are called fantasias (without a theme), and, indeed, all music that is not set to words.

In the estimate of a free beauty (according to mere form) we have the pure judgment of taste. No concept is here presupposed of any end for which the manifold should serve the given object, and which the latter, therefore, should represent — an incumbrance which would only restrict the freedom of the imagination that, as it were, is at play in the contemplation of the outward form.

But the beauty of man (including under this head that of a man, woman, or child), the beauty of a horse, or of a building (such as a church, palace, arsenal, or summer house), presupposes a concept of the end that defines what the thing has to be, and consequently a concept of its perfection; and is therefore merely appendant beauty. Now, just as it is a clog on the purity of the purity of the judgment of taste to have the agreeable (of sensation) joined with beauty to which properly only the form is relevant, so to combine the good with beauty (the good, namely, of the manifold to the thing itself according to its end) mars its purity.

Maori facial tattooing (moko). This 1774 Sidney Parkinson engraving may be the very picture that prompted Kant’s remark about the New Zealanders.

Much might be added to a building that would immediately please the eye, were it not intended to be a church. A figure might be beautified with all manner of flourishes and light but regular lines, as is done by the New Zealanders with their tattooing, were we dealing with anything but the figure of a human being. And here is one whose rugged features might be softened and given a more pleasing aspect, only he has got to be a man, or is, perhaps, a warrior who has to have a warlike appearance.

Now the delight in the manifold of a thing, in reference to the internal end that determines its possibility, is a delight based on a concept, whereas delight in the beautiful is such as does not presuppose any concept, but is immediately coupled with the representation through which the object is given (not through which it is thought). If, now, the judgment of taste in respect of the latter delight is made dependent upon the end involved in the former delight as a judgment of reason, and is thus placed under a restriction, then it is no longer a free and pure judgment of taste.

Taste, it is true, stands to gain by this combination of intellectual delight with the aesthetic. For it becomes fixed, and, while not universal, it enables rules to be prescribed for it in respect of certain definite final objects. But these rules are then not rules of taste, but merely rules for establishing a union of taste with reason, i.e., of the beautiful with the good — rules by which the former becomes available as an intentional instrument in respect of the latter, for the purpose of bringing that temper of the mind which is self-sustaining and of subjective universal validity to the support and maintenance of that mode of thought which, while possessing objective universal validity, can only be preserved by a resolute effort. But, strictly speaking, perfection neither gains by beauty, nor beauty by perfection. The truth is rather this, when we compare the representation through which an object is given to us with the object (in respect of what it is meant to be) by means of a concept, we cannot help reviewing it also in respect of the sensation in the subject. Hence there results a gain to the entire faculty of our representative power when harmony prevails between both states of mind.

In respect of an object with a definite internal end, a judgment of taste would only be pure where the person judging either has no concept of this end, or else makes abstraction from it in his judgment. But in cases like this, although such a person should lay down a correct judgment of taste, since he would be estimating the object as a free beauty, he would still be found fault with by another who saw nothing in its beauty but a dependent quality (i.e., who looked to the end of the object) and would be accused by him of false taste, though both would, in their own way, be judging correctly: the one according to what he had present to his senses, the other according to what was present in his thoughts. This distinction enables us to settle many disputes about beauty on the part of critics; for we may show them how one side is dealing with free beauty, and the other with that which is dependent: the former passing a pure judgment of taste, the latter one that is applied intentionally.*

*My own analytical examination of competing interpretations of Kant’s notion of free and dependent beauty can be found here. —D.D.

Definition of the Beautiful Derived from the Third Moment.

Beauty is the form of purposiveness of an object, so far as perceived apart from the object’s purpose.*


§ 40. Taste as a kind of sensus communis.

The name of sense is often given to judgment where what attracts attention is not so much its reflective act as merely its result. So we speak of a sense of truth, of a sense of propriety, or of justice, etc. And yet, of course, we know, or at least ought well enough to know, that a sense cannot be the true abode of these concepts, not to speak of its being competent, even in the slightest degree, to pronounce universal rules. On the contrary, we recognize that a representation of this kind, be it of truth, propriety, beauty, or justice, could never enter our thoughts were we not able to raise ourselves above the level of the senses to that of higher faculties of cognition. Common human understanding which as mere sound (not yet cultivated) understanding, is looked upon as the least we can expect from any one claiming the name of man, has therefore the doubtful honor of having the name of common sense (sensus communis) bestowed upon it; and bestowed, too, in an acceptation of the word common (not merely in our own language, where it actually has a double meaning, but also in many others) which makes it amount to what is vulgar — what is everywhere to be met with — a quality which by no means confers credit or distinction upon its possessor.

However, by the name sensus communis is to be understood the idea of a public sense, i.e., a critical faculty which in its reflective act takes account (a priori) of the mode of representation of everyone else, in order, as it were, to weigh its judgment with the collective reason of mankind, and thereby avoid the illusion arising from subjective and personal conditions which could readily be taken for objective, an illusion that would exert a prejudicial influence upon its judgment. This is accomplished by weighing the judgment, not so much with actual, as rather with the merely possible, judgments of others, and by putting ourselves in the position of everyone else, as the result of a mere abstraction from the limitations which contingently affect our own estimate. This, in turn, is effected by so far as possible letting go the element of matter, i.e., sensation, in our general state of representative activity, and confining attention to the formal peculiarities of our representation or general state of representative activity. Now it may seem that this operation of reflection is too artificial to be attributed to the faculty which we call common sense. But this is an appearance due only to its expression in abstract formulae. In itself nothing is more natural than to abstract from charm and emotion where one is looking for a judgment intended to serve as a universal rule.

While the following maxims of common human understanding do not properly come in here as constituent parts of the critique of taste, they may still serve to elucidate its fundamental propositions. They are these: (I) to think for oneself; (2) to think from the standpoint of everyone else; (3) always to think consistently. The first is the maxim of unprejudiced thought, the second that of enlarged thought, the third that of consistent thought. The first is the maxim of a never-passive reason. To be given to such passivity, consequently to heteronomy of reason, is called prejudice; and the greatest of all prejudices is that of fancying nature not to be subject to rules which the understanding by virtue of its own essential laws lays at its basis, i.e., superstition. Emancipation from superstition is called enlightenment;* for although this term applies also to emancipation from prejudices generally, still superstition deserves pre-eminently (in sensu eminenti) to be called a prejudice. For the condition of blindness into which superstition puts one, which is as much as demands from one as an obligation, makes the need of being led by others, and consequently the passive state of the reason, pre-eminently conspicuous. As to the second maxim belonging to our habits of thought, we have quite got into the way of calling a man narrow (narrow, as opposed to being broad-minded) whose talents fall short of what is required for employment upon work of any magnitude (especially that involving intensity). But the question here is not one of the faculty of cognition, but of the mental habit treating everything in terms of a purpose. This, however small the range and degree to which man’s natural endowments extend, still indicates a man of enlarged mind: if he detaches himself from the subjective personal conditions of his judgment, which cramp the minds of so many others, and reflects upon his own judgment from a universal standpoint (which he can only determine by shifting his ground to the standpoint of others). The third maxim — that, namely, of consistent thought — is the hardest of attainment, and is only attainable by the union of both the former, and after constant attention to them has made one at home in their observance. We may say: the first of these is the maxim of understanding, the second that of judgment, the third of that reason.

*We readily see that enlightenment, while easy, no doubt, in thesi, in hypothesis is difficult and slow of realization. For not to be passive with one’s reason, but always to be self — legislative, is doubtless quite an easy matter for a man who only desires to be adapted to his essential end, and does not seek to know what is beyond his understanding. But as the tendency in the latter direction is hardly avoidable, and others are always coming and promising with full assurance that they are able to satisfy one’s curiosity, it must be very difficult to preserve or restore in the mind (and particularly in the public mind) that merely negative attitude (which constitutes enlightenment proper).

I resume the thread of the discussion interrupted by the above digression, and I say that taste can with more justice be called a sensus communis than can sound understanding; and that the aesthetic, rather than the intellectual, judgment can bear the name of a public sense,* i.e., taking it that we are prepared to use the word sense of an effect that mere reflection has upon the mind; for then by sense we mean the feeling of pleasure. We might even define taste as the faculty of estimating what makes our feeling in a given representation universally communicable without the mediation of a concept.

*Taste may be designated a sensus communis aestheticus, common human understanding a sensus communis logicus.

The aptitude of men for communicating their thoughts requires, also, a relation between the imagination and the understanding, in order to connect intuitions with concepts, and concepts, in turn, with intuitions, which both unite in cognition. But there the agreement of both mental powers is according to law, and under the constraint of definite concepts. Only when the imagination in its freedom stirs the understanding, and the understanding apart from concepts puts the imagination into regular play, does the representation communicate itself not as thought, but as an internal feeling of a purposive state of the mind.

Taste is, therefore, the faculty of forming an a priori estimate of the communicability of the feeling that, without the mediation of a concept, are connected with a given representation.

Supposing, now, that we could assume that the mere universal communicability of our feeling must of itself carry with it an interest for us (an assumption, however, which we are not entitled to draw as a conclusion from the character of a merely reflective judgment), we should then be in a position to explain how the feeling in the judgment of taste comes to be exacted from everyone as a sort of duty.


§ 46. Fine art is the art of genius.

Genius is the talent (natural endowment) which gives the rule to art. Since talent, as an innate productive faculty of the artist, belongs itself to nature, we may put it this way: Genius is the innate mental aptitude (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art.

Whatever may be the merits of this definition, and whether it is merely arbitrary, or whether it is adequate or not to the concept usually associated with the word genius (a point which the following sections have to clear up), it may still be shown at the outset that, according to this acceptation of the word, fine arts must necessarily be regarded as arts of genius.

For every art presupposes rules which are laid down as the foundation which first enables a product, if it is to be called one of art, to be represented as possible. The concept of fine art, however, does not permit of the judgment upon the beauty of its product being derived from any rule that has a concept for its determining ground, and that depends, consequently, on a concept of the way in which the product is possible. Consequently fine art cannot of its own self excogitate the rule according to which it is to effectuate its product. But since, for all that, a product can never be called art unless there is a preceding rule, it follows that nature in the individual (and by virtue of the harmony of his faculties) must give the rule to art, i.e., fine art is only possible as a product of genius.

From this it may be seen that genius (1) is a talent for producing that for which no definite rule can be given, and not an aptitude in the way of cleverness for what can be learned according to some rule; and that consequently originality must be its primary property. (2) Since there may also be original nonsense, its products must at the same time be models, i.e., be exemplary; and, consequently, though not themselves derived from imitation, they must serve that purpose for others, i.e., as a standard or rule of estimating. (3) It cannot indicate scientifically how it brings about its product, but rather gives the rule as nature. Hence, where an author owes a product to his genius, he does not himself know how the ideas for it have entered into his head, nor has he it in his power to invent the like at pleasure, or methodically, and communicate the same to others in such precepts as would put them in a position to produce similar products. (Hence, presumably, our word Genie is derived from genius, as the peculiar guardian and guiding spirit given to a man at his birth, by the inspiration of which those original ideas were obtained.) (4) Nature prescribes the rule through genius not to science but to art, and this also only in so far as it is to be fine art.

§ 47. Elucidation and confirmation of the above explanation of genius.

Every one is agreed on the point of the complete opposition between genius and the spirit of imitation. Now since learning is nothing but imitation, the greatest ability, or aptness as a pupil (capacity), is still, as such, not equivalent to genius. Even though a man weaves his own thoughts or fancies, instead of merely taking in what others have thought, and even though he go so far as to bring fresh gains to art and science, this does not afford a valid reason for calling such a man of brains, and often great brains, a genius, in contradistinction to one who goes by the name of shallow-pate, because he can never do more than merely learn and follow a lead. For what is accomplished in this way is something that could have been learned. Hence it all lies in the natural path of investigation and reflection according to rules, and so is not specifically distinguishable from what may be acquired as the result of industry backed up by imitation. So all that Newton bas set forth in his immortal work on the Principles of Natural Philosophy may well be learned, however great a mind it took to find it all out, but we cannot learn to write in a true poetic vein, no matter how complete all the precepts of the poetic art may be, or however excellent its models. The reason is that all the steps that Newton had to take from the first elements of geometry to his greatest and most profound discoveries were such as he could make intuitively evident and plain to follow, not only for himself but for every one else. On the other hand, no Homer or Wieland can show how his ideas, so rich at once in fancy and in thought, enter and assemble themselves in his brain, for the good reason that he does not himself know, and so cannot teach others. In matters of science, therefore, the greatest inventor differs only in degree from the most laborious imitator and apprentice, whereas he differs specifically from one endowed by nature for fine art. No disparagement, however, of those great men, to whom the human race is so deeply indebted, is involved in this comparison of them with those who on the score of their talent for fine art are the elect of nature. The talent for science is formed for the continued advances of greater perfection in knowledge, with all its dependent practical advantages, as also for imparting the same to others. Hence scientists can boast a ground of considerable superiority over those who merit the honor of being called geniuses, since genius reaches a point at which art must make a halt, as there is a limit imposed upon it which it cannot transcend. This limit has in all probability been long since attained. In addition, such skill cannot be communicated, but requires to be bestowed directly from the hand of nature upon each individual, and so with him it dies, awaiting the day when nature once again endows another in the same way — one who needs no more than an example to set the talent of which he is conscious at work on similar lines.

Seeing, then, that the natural endowment of art (as fine art) must furnish the rule, what kind of rule must this be? It cannot be one set down in a formula and serving as a precept — for then the judgment upon the beautiful would be determinable according to concepts. Rather must the rule be gathered from the performance, i.e., from the product, which others may use to put their own talent to the test, so as to let it serve as a model, not for imitation, but for following. The possibility of this is difficult to explain. The artist’s ideas arouse like ideas on the part of his pupil, presuming nature to have visited him with a like proportion of the mental powers. For this reason, the models of fine art are the only means of handing down this art to posterity. This is something which cannot be done by mere descriptions (especially not in the line of the arts of speech), and in these arts, furthermore, only those models can become classical of which the ancient, dead languages, preserved as learned, are the medium.

Despite the marked difference that distinguishes mechanical art, as an art merely depending upon industry and learning, from fine art, as that of genius, there is still no fine art in which something mechanical, capable of being at once comprehended and followed in obedience to rules, and consequently something academic, does not constitute the essential condition of the art. For the thought of something as end must be present, or else its product would not be ascribed to an art at all, but would be a mere product of chance. But the effectuation of an end necessitates determinate rules which we cannot venture to dispense with. Now, seeing that originality of talent is one (though not the sole) essential factor that goes to make up the character of genius, shallow minds fancy that the best evidence they can give of their being full-blown geniuses is by emancipating themselves from all academic constraint of rules, in the belief that one cuts a finer figure on the back of an ill-tempered than of a trained horse. Genius can do no more than furnish rich material for products of fine art; its elaboration and its form require a talent academically trained, so that it may be employed in such a way as to stand the test of judgment. But, for a person to hold forth and pass sentence like a genius in matters that fall to the province of the most patient rational investigation, is ridiculous in the extreme. One is at a loss to know whether to laugh more at the impostor who envelops himself in such a cloud — in which we are given fuller scope to our imagination at the expense of all use of our critical faculty — or at the simple-minded public which imagines that its inability clearly to cognize and comprehend this masterpiece of penetration is due to its being invaded by new truths en masse, in comparison with which, detail, due to carefully weighed exposition and an academic examination of root principles, seems to it only the work of a numbskull.

§ 48. The relation of genius to taste.

For judging beautiful objects, what is required is taste; but for the production of fine art, one needs genius.

If we consider genius as the talent for fine art (which the proper signification of the word imports), and if we would analyse it from this point of view into the faculties which must concur to constitute such a talent, it is imperative at the outset accurately to determine the difference between beauty of nature, which it only requires taste to estimate, and beauty of art, which requires genius for its possibility (a possibility to which regard must also be paid in estimating such an object).

A beauty of nature is a beautiful thing; beauty of art is a beautiful representation of a thing.

To enable me to estimate a beauty of nature, as such, I do not need to be previously possessed of a concept of what sort of a thing the object is intended to be, i.e., I am not obliged to know its material purposiveness (its purpose), but, rather, in forming an estimate of it apart from any knowledge of the end, the mere form pleases on its own account. If, however, the object is presented as a product of art, and is as such to be declared beautiful, then, seeing that art always presupposes an end in the cause (and its causality), a concept of what the thing is intended to be must first of all be laid at its basis. And, since the agreement of the manifold in a thing with an inner character belonging to it as its end constitutes the perfection of the thing, it follows that in estimating beauty of art the perfection of the thing must be also taken into account — a matter which in estimating a beauty of nature, as beautiful, is quite irrelevant. It is true that in forming an estimate, especially of animate objects of nature, e.g., of a man or a horse, objective purposiveness [purpose] is also commonly taken into account with a view to judgment upon their beauty; but then the judgment also ceases to be purely aesthetic, i.e., a mere judgment of taste. Nature is no longer estimated as it appears like art, but rather in so far as it actually is art, though superhuman art; and the teleological judgment serves as a basis and condition of the aesthetic, and one which the latter must regard. In such a case, where one says, for example, “That is a beautiful woman,” what one in fact thinks is only this, that in her form nature excellently portrays the ends present in the female figure. For one has to extend one’s view beyond the mere form to a concept, to enable the object to be thought in such manner by means of an aesthetic judgment logically conditioned.

Where fine art evidences its superiority is in the beautiful descriptions it gives of things that in nature would be ugly or displeasing. The Furies, diseases, devastations of war, and the like, can (as evils) be very beautifully described, nay even represented in pictures. One kind of ugliness alone is incapable of being represented conformably to nature without destroying all aesthetic delight, and consequently artistic beauty, namely, that which excites disgust. For, as in this strange sensation, which depends purely on the imagination, the object is represented as insisting, as it were, upon our enjoying it, while we still set our face against it, the artificial representation of the object is no longer distinguishable from the nature of the object itself in our sensation, and so it cannot possibly be regarded as beautiful. The art of sculpture, again, since in its products art is almost confused with nature, has excluded from its creations the direct representation of ugly objects, and, instead, only sanctions, for example, the representation of death (in a beautiful genius), or of the warlike spirit (in Mars), by means of an allegory, or attributes which wear a pleasant guise, and so only indirectly, through an interpretation on the part of reason, and not for the pure aesthetic judgment.

So much for the beautiful representation of an object, which is properly only the form of the presentation of a concept and the means by which the latter is universally communicated. To give this form, however, to the product of fine art, taste merely is required. By this the artist, having practised and corrected his taste by a variety of examples from nature or art, controls his work and, after many, and often laborious, attempts to satisfy taste, finds the form which commends itself to him. Hence this form is not, as it were, a matter of inspiration, or of a free swing of the mental powers, but rather of a slow and even painful process of improvement, directed to making the form adequate to his thought without prejudice to the freedom in the play of those powers.

Taste is, however, merely a critical, not a productive faculty; and what conforms to it is not, merely on that account, a work of fine art. It may belong to useful and mechanical art, or even to science, as a product following definite rules which are capable of being learned and which must be closely followed. But the pleasing form imparted to the work is only the vehicle of communication and a mode, as it were, of execution, in respect of which one remains to a certain extent free, notwithstanding being otherwise tied down to a definite end. So we demand that table appointments, or even a moral dissertation, and, indeed, a sermon, must bear this form of fine art, yet without its appearing studied. But one would not call them on this account works of fine art. A poem, a musical composition, a picture — gallery, and so forth, would, however, be placed under this head; and so in a would — be work of fine art we may frequently recognize genius without taste, and in another taste without genius.


Note on the translation, by Denis Dutton

This version of the first part of Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” is designed for student use. It was created by me from open text versions of James Creed Meredith’s 1911 translation for Oxford University Press (now in the public domain). As I continue to use this version in teaching, I will incorporate corrections of typos, add missing italics, check formatting against the original Akademie edition, and so forth. I would be more than delighted to hear from anyone who spots errors: I can be contacted here.

I will also be working regularly to update and modernize this 1911 text. Scholarship is one thing, and there is no pretense on my part that a cobbled-together and tinkered-with translation of the Critique of Judgment represents an advance for serious Kant studies. On the other hand, there is much to be said for making freely available a readable version of what is in my opinion the greatest work of philosophical aesthetics ever written.

My tinkering is work in progress. It is governed by the notion that it is hard enough already for English-speaking students to wrap their minds around Kant: there should be no more Verfremdungseffekt in the translation than is absolutely necessary. For example, the first change I made to this version was in § 2. It is true that the ethnologically-informed Kant speaks of an Iroquois sachem. But all sachem means in English is chief, so why not render it thus? And why the obsolete eating-house for Garküchen? Kant wrote, “...wie jener Irokesische Sachem, ihm gefalle in Paris nichts besser als die Garküchen.” I think it best to let it go as “ that Iroquois chief who said that nothing in Paris pleased him more than the restaurants.”

I also plan to include illustrations where desirable, such as that of the Maori moko (tattoo is actually a Tahitian word) in § 16. Many of Kant’s references to art are literary, but here and there opportunities arise for useful illustrative material. Again, reader suggestions are most welcome.

One major change incorporated here is the uniform translation of Zweckmäßigkeit as purposiveness, rather than Meredith’s finality. Along with this, Zweck is translated both as purpose and as end, depending on context (in one or two places, I’ve left it as final). As I continue to read over this translation, I hope to clarify passages that use these terms.

For anyone who wishes seriously to probe Kant’s aesthetics, I heartily recommend Werner S. Pluhar’s complete translation, which includes his own introduction: Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, foreward by Mary J. Gregor (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987).