Kant Hegel Distinctions


As part of his major epistemological inquiries, Immanuel Kant’s philosophical mission explored aesthetic taste characteristics. He did this in The Critique of Judgment, by defining beauty as a “subjective universality.” Universality implies necessity. Experiencing all possible contingencies is impossible because experience is incomplete, identifying only a particular circumstance. Accordingly, universality is “a priori.” This specifies that a judgment of taste must always be the case without exception. The power of pure reasoning is not empirical, but rather supplies abstract universals as a criteria toward knowing. Yet aesthetic judgments of taste are a form of reflective judgment that focuses on the particular. The imagination spontaneously receives data, processing it into original forms. This requirement proceeds without a concept, yet the aesthetic universal also is devised by the free play of imagination. When a subject makes such a judgment of taste, that subject also believes all other humans ought to agree with that verdict. Universality thus implies that the individual subject projects this assessment across all other subjects collectively.

Kant’s notion of art’s “purposefulness without purpose” is defined as the totality of an object’s formal perfection in itself. Beauty is the subjective feeling of pleasure instantly experienced by a lone subject based upon receiving an external sensation, and responding with feeling. In this equation, “disinterestedness” is the subject considering only form in the judgment of taste. Hence, the purpose of art is the whole of its formal perfection defined by pleasure. So, for Kant pleasure conditions are purely formal. Pure form is eternal and ahistorical. The human subject is consequently also eternal. No aspect of the subject changes in regard to an aesthetic judgment. For Kant, truth is grounded in the ontological, as the being is eternal and fixed.

These two ideas, “purposefulness without purpose” and “disinterestedness,” thus comprise the judgment of taste as an instantaneous determination of the beautiful as a finalization of its form. This Kantian notion was used as the rationale behind modern art. Modernism is mono-centric in the purity of Platonic form. Hence significant form is required for aesthetic emotion instead of allegorical class position. Kant’s basic premise is that certain circumstances of “a priori” cognitive processing are themselves universal to all humans. Beauty assessment is one such subjective universal cognitive condition, expressed in terms of pure uncontaminated perfect form, through which pleasure bridges the capacities of understanding and action.

“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… and by comparison converting it into a concept according to the conditions determining that judgment, we can arrive at a logically universal judgment.”Immanuel Kant
Various Objects
"Various Objects" by wilson hurst 2014


Hegel’s aesthetic repudiates Kant’s notion of pure form, established as an autonomous art construction. Experience contains all reality, even the appearance of reality. To be conscious is to experience, and to be is also to be experienced. From this point of view, everything falls within experience. Truth changes dynamically in context as all things are culturally contingent in space and time. Being is becoming, embedded in time, flowing and unfixed. Restrictions are imposed by temporality of circumstances that are unavoidable as the spirit is grounded in the unknown. Subject and object are component factors, distinguishable but inseparable and irreducible. But how can thought and material objects interact? Manifestations of human Spirit are embodied in the physical objects fabricated by mankind (art), as consciousness imposing its will on existence. The historical narrative requires a memory and an ideological discourse. Disinterestedness in the Kantian sense is impossible, as humans are always informed by their cultural conditioning. It is self-recognition of spiritually that separates humans from the rest of the natural world.

An underlying characteristic of human experience embodies the individual as representative of humanity, not an incidental feature. Similar to fractal geometry branching rhizomaticly into an infinitely ceaseless pattern, human history is the process in which geist (mind/spirit or consciousness) comes to absolute self-realization. Hegel describes universal reason as a progression that unfolds dialectically through time, a dynamic interplay of the finite and infinite, as concepts develop relentlessly in a discourse with their opposites. Civilization’s progression in space and time is a conscious refinement of freedom, in terms of how the mind/spirit appears to itself. The absolute is the totality of everything, while art is an arrangement in which the absolute can be comprehended, as it comprehends itself. Human beings are thus part of the absolute idea. Ranking equally, the subject does not dominate the object any more than the object directs subject action. Consequently the principle of universality is also a principle of self-differentiation, with the conception of the absolute fully realized, "in and for itself" as Mind/Spirit.

“Everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well.”Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Internal Structure
"Internal Structure" by wilson hurst 2014
Dynamics in the PresentDynamics of History
Knowledge LimitedKnowledge Unlimited
Nature Highest AestheticArt Highest Aesthetic
Subject Separate from ObjectSubject Joined to Object
Narrative NonexistentNarrative Ever Becoming
Form SupremeForm and Content Inseparable