We Are All Starlight: Thoughts on Kant’s Critique of Judgement

There is a space, which is laid in front of me. This space holds the emptiness that is my thoughts. Those thoughts are what connect the object that is between the space and I. The object has a flat surface and four sticks that hold the surface upon it. The sticks are made of shaved down, cream-colored wood; the wood comes from a tree. The flat surface is also made of shaved down wood, and it is painted with a smooth, black varnish. The paint is dry to the touch and has been dry for over a year. Atop the flat surface there is a long, thin, plastic pieced cylinder. This cylinder holds a black liquid that produces murky ink from one end. I do not touch this plastic cylinder to make letters move. Instead I touch, with the soft flesh that extends from my form of material existence a thin, light, silver piece of metal. Atop this thin, light, silver piece of metal, there are 78 white plastic pieces, which move up and down, up and down. At the touch of each plastic piece a letter appears. Fifty-three of these plastic pieces, form four lines, in a box that is what my mind believes to be called a ‘square’. Eighteen of these pieces are what my mind calls a small “rectangle”. Six of these plastic pieces are what my mind calls a large “rectangle”. Each “square” and “rectangle” that I press with my extended, material flesh produces a “letter”. These letters appear on an additional flat surface full of electrical currents, science and mathematics. They negotiate with each other to bring about “words”, these “words” form a “sentence” and these “sentences” produce the thoughts that fill your mind as you “read” from your science “machine”, my thoughts, my words, my “letters”. What does it mean? Beauty is Imagination It is all concepts but yet it is a posteriori. So which is it? The science machine, is a monitor, the silver, flat, metal piece with the plastic keys a keyboard. The cylinder with the liquid is a pen. The flat surface with the four sticks is a desk and I am the human sitting at it typing my a posteriori, my subjective and unpure experience to you, while you are simultaneously having your own a posteriori, subjective and unpure experience. The space that is between the desk (object) and I is what connects us. It is a transcendental condition. Yet the desk was a desk, because it is a general concept, just like a goat is a goat. This sort of concept is a general representation and not a particular representation. The desk, goat, pen, fingers, keys, keyboard, monitor, space, all of them are concepts. My senses of perception of these concepts are my intuition. Intuition and concepts are the bases to apriori knowledge. Before I sat in front of this desk, I had a priori knowledge that it was a desk. This is knowledge that has been taught to me second hand, it was given to me, it is not something that I experienced before but am experiencing NOW because of the fact that I was given the knowledge that this was a desk. Otherwise, I would not know to call it “desk” it would merrily be the object that is nameless that is in front of me. If I were to proclaim to you, “This tone of black upon this desk is beautiful”, it is not a judgment of beauty that can be made. For a tone of a color cannot be considered beautiful. For I may say that this is a dark, blue black and you may see it as a midnight black. How are we to know that we are seeing the same tone of color? There is no proof of it, so there for the tone cannot be beautiful. What if I were to say, “The pure color of this desk is beautiful”. This is something that could be said, as the color is pure and is black. However who am I to assume that you take the same pleasure as I do in proclaiming that the pure black of this desk is beautiful? That would make the assumption that all black objects universally are beautiful, which would be a priori. However when I call this pure black desk beautiful, it is my personal experience, which makes it a posteriori. This is my judgment of taste. This is my feeling of pleasure. I am not judging it because of the physical attributes of the blackness of the desk, or the flatness and smoothness of its surface. I am judging it based on my emotion, which is my experience, thus it is impure to the world of reason and science. Who am I to make such judgment? My pleasure is not a concept. It is not a goat. It is not a pen. It is not a desk. It is not the color black or the space between the desk and I and the words that you are reading now. It is only that, which is my pleasure. This makes my pleasure a singular taste, one taste, my own. There for the blackness of the desk cannot be beautiful, based on this alone. Beauty cannot be defined. The pleasure that I may take in making a judgment of taste is what is called disinterest. When I make the statement “the black desk is beautiful” I am expecting others to agree with me universally. The judgment is of my personal feelings without proof that the desk is actually beautiful and yet I expect all other beings to agree with me upon my judgment. There is no truth or fairness in such a judgment. Love cannot be beautiful, because it is based upon emotional experience. But I ask you what is “love” and what is “beauty” but concept. Therefor does that not make them a priori? So then can love be beautiful? What if I love the color black of this desk in front of me, and I think that it is beautiful? THERE IS NECESSITY IN NATURE, AS NATURE ABIDES BY THE LAWS OF MATHEMATICS, THIS IS A PRIORI. Is love natural? Is love beautiful? Is the love of the beautiful a necessity? Is being human only our own experiences? These experiences are a subjective territory; it is our faculty of feeling. It is a posterirori. So if there are only humans that can create ideas and concepts, and humans are a posteriori, then how is it that through our own experiences we share them with others, thus creating second hand knowledge that is given to another generation, which is equivalent to a priori. However a priori cannot be a posteriori and it cannot be argued against either. Humans are apart of nature, but we set ourselves out of nature. We can think outside of ourselves, and pounder infinity. Infinity is sublime. The sublime is something that we as humans may be in awe of but unafraid of because we cannot comprehend it; but yet we know of it. We can think of infinity but never in our lifetime experience it. Through this order of reason we over come cause and necessity, because we have the freedom to do so. This freedom gives us moral action. This makes human thought sublime. Through our own thoughts of creation and imagination, we relate to the Judgment of Taste. In Conclusion: We must come to the realization that it is a fact that we are all only particles of stardust, in the vastness that is the universe. The universe is sublime infinity. This is a priori. Yet it gives me as a human great pleasure in the beauty of the sublimity of the universe and of the concept that we are all stardust. Since this is a priori, yet beauty cannot be described, is it not a posteriori. Was Kant a genius? Was he a man of pure originality without limitation? Did he have the ability to give us the rule for art by way of nature? Or was he a mad man, who created these notions and passed them onto others, which makes him a walking contradiction to his own logic. For after all is he not just a piece of starlight himself? “It seems then that our pleasure in beauty has its origins in capacity, due to the free play of imagination, first to experience the harmonious working of our rational faculties, and secondly to project that harmony outwards onto the empirical world. We see in objects the formal unity that we discover in ourselves. This is the origin of our pleasure, and the basis of our common sense of beauty. And it is only under the presupposition…of such common sense that we are able to lay down such judgment of taste.”

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Trans James Creed Meredith. Revised & Edited by Nicholas Walker. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. © All Rights Reserved Rowynn Michelle Dumont 2013. Photo by Rowynn Dumont. Model: Maggie Lally. Costume design by: Eirik Maribaal & Rowynn Dumont. Location: Alexandria Hotel Ballroom Palm Court, DTLA.

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