What is general judgment

The idea of ​​the "sensus communis" as the foundation of judgment?

Table of Contents

You can't argue about taste - or can you?
“This x is beautiful” - Kant's aesthetic judgment
What happens when you judge?
"But what does taste actually mean here?"

About the meaning of the sensus communis within the power of judgment
A taste judgment takes a stand: between Baumgarten and Hume. About a possible status of the sensus communis as a placeholder
The concept of the sensus communis
The concept of the sensus communis in Kant

The function (s) of the sensus communis

A final consideration. Or: "With this I end my whole critical business" (KU X)


Primary literature

Secondary literature

You can't argue about taste - or can you?

Beauty is relative because it is well known that there is no arguing about beauty. The tastes are and have been different at all times. We should therefore grant each person his or her own individual sense of beauty. It would be completely in vain to have a discussion about aesthetic sensations, since such personal and emotional questions are not accessible for objective arguments. Too many flavors push in different directions, the differences in the perception of beauty are too wide and the variety of tastes is too great to ever be able to formulate a general answer to the question of what is beautiful or ugly. And since, as David Hume has already stated, “this variety of tastes becomes apparent even on the most superficial examination, closer examination will reveal that it is actually even greater than it appears at first glance. Even when people speak the same language, their feelings towards beauty and ugliness of any kind tend to be different in many cases ”(Hume 1974, 43).

According to Hume, judgments about the beautiful are therefore always true because they only have individual validity. And it almost seems as if we could achieve general agreement, in the opinion that taste is a purely individual sensation, about which it is not worth arguing and about which there are therefore no general rules to be established. True to the motto: De gestibus non est disputandum.1 And it is precisely on this point, in this conception of taste, that, according to David Hume, common sense and philosophy agree, which both assume that "it is impossible to ever arrive at a rule of taste." the gap between judgment and feeling is too great. Every feeling is right because a feeling relates only to itself, and therefore every feeling of which a person becomes conscious is real. (...) Beauty is not a property of things as such. It only exists in the mind that looks at things, and each mind perceives a different beauty. (...) To seek true beauty or true ugliness is just as futile an endeavor as trying to determine what is true sweetness and what is true bitterness ”(Hume 1974, 45/46).

At this point at the latest we could be certain of the objection of a well-known critic named Immanuel Kant. Sure, we hear him say: "Everyone has his own taste" (KU 19). But only for the sake of pleasure. “It is very different with the beautiful. It would be ridiculous (just the other way around) if someone (...) intended to justify himself with this: this object (...) is to me beautiful. Because he doesn't have to beautiful name if only he pleases ”(ibid.). Charm and convenience, Kant continues, “may have many things for him, nobody cares; But if he says something is beautiful, he expects others to be equally pleased: he judges not only for himself but for everyone and then speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things. ”In my taste judgment about the beautiful must I am therefore always aware of one fact: My judgment as to whether something is beautiful is entitled to everyone's approval, as if it were objective (KU 136). And yet the taste judgment about the beautiful cannot be determined by evidence, the same as if it were just subjective (KU 140). My judgment of the beautiful always lays claim to subjective general validity.

But how do we have to imagine that? How is it possible to make a subjective, generally valid judgment (about the beautiful)? How can something be subjective and universal at the same time? How can such an “objective subjectivity” (Höffe 2008, 11) be justified? Kant himself gives a first answer at the end of § 20 of his Critique of Judgment: “So only on the assumption that there is a common sense (...), only on the assumption, I say, that such a common sense can the taste judgment will be made. "

The answer to the question of the subjective general validity of the judgment of taste seems to be based on what Kant calls “common sense” or “sensus communis”. Would the adoption of the sensus communis However, if it turns out to be untenable, then the criticism of the power of judgment as a whole would collapse. We can therefore not possibly do that sensus communis isolated as a single line of argument within Kant's theory in order to subject it to an analysis. Rather, it always requires a connection to the overall theory, which is a consideration of the sensus communis in particular as a complex undertaking. It is therefore inevitable at the beginning of this work to briefly point out the cornerstones of the critique of judgment in order to highlight the central moment of the sensus communis to be able to grasp within the power of judgment. Building on this, we want to address the questions of what role and significance the sensus communis in Kant's criticism of the power of judgment and what we are allowed to imagine under this “common sense”. For this purpose, there is a brief definition of the sensus communis in its social-historical context. Finally, we want the function of the sensus communis concretize by comparing in particular 4 different approaches in the research literature.

In the following, Kant's statements are cited, stating the original pagination after the second edition of the Critique of Judgment (KU) in the Academy text edition. Further literature information can be found in the appendix.

Mössingen in November 2008.

Timo Nitz.

“This x is beautiful” - Kant's aesthetic judgment.

What happens when you judge?

“Beautiful” is not a property of an object; “Beautiful” is a pleasure that everyone shares!

This is how (in a very simplified way) Kant's answer to the dispute over taste can be summarized. According to Kant, when an object can be called beautiful or ugly is not a question that can be asked of the objects of reality, but of the subject itself; more precisely: of the subjective sensations that the idea of ​​an object triggers in people. Even if we can speak of an “objective” taste judgment in Kant, this does not make a judgment about the object, about the object or even about the thing itself. Even if Kant, as Kulenkampff (1994) mentions, explicitly states that the aesthetic taste judgment is about the form " this x is beautiful ”(and thus deviates from the usual form“ x is beautiful ”), he does not want to judge the specific object as such with the express use of the pronoun, but rather focus on the individual, singular judgment of the subject .

The taste judgment evaluates individual processes within the judging subject, which are described as beautiful under certain conditions. So it is not the objects themselves that are considered beautiful, but rather they are called beautiful because of the effect they have on the subject. This effect takes place in the free play of the powers of knowledge between imagination and understanding, which is felt to be pleasurable.2 To this “free

To set the game in motion, certain items are required that are more or less suitable for this game. The better this free play can unfold, the stronger our sense of pleasure, the “more beautiful” we call the object. "The judgment is made on the basis of something given, but the judgment of the person who judges is not directed towards this given thing, but rather on the emotional state - Kant calls it mind" (Felten 2004, 45).

What is assessed is a feeling of pleasure (or displeasure), which arises in the "free play" between the powers of knowledge. By "free play" Kant understands the interaction of imagination (for the composition of the manifold of perception) and understanding (for the unity of the concept in order to unite the idea), provided that no particular concept restricts it to a particular rule of knowledge (KU 28 ). It is therefore not possible for the understanding to bring the object under a concept, i.e. to "determine" it, whereby the imagination appears completely free, that is to say, unlimited, in its work. Kant describes this “harmony of cognitive faculties” in the form of an indefinite interplay between imagination and understanding as a “free game” that generates pleasure. It is a matter of pleasure that is generated at any time solely by a reflected perception and is necessarily connected with the idea of ​​an object (KU XLVI).

The beauty judgment or aesthetic judgment 3 thus always has a necessary relation to the feeling of pleasure, and that is something that distinguishes the taste judgment from cognitive judgments (Höffe 2008, 59). That means, "objects given by the senses are not beautiful in themselves, but only for us. We recite their beauty as if they were beautiful in themselves ”(Wenzel 2000, 118). And yet should all agree with my judgment. For with the idea of ​​the object “this pleasure is also judged to be necessarily connected, consequently not only for the subject who apprehends this form, but for everyone who judges in general” (KU XLV). That is, "this pleasure must necessarily be based on the same conditions in everyone" and therefore a judge can "consider his pleasure in the object, everyone else and accept his feeling as generally communicable (...)" (KU 155/156).

But with what right can I demand general approval from my subjective judgment that this x is beautiful? How can this universality be justified in the judgment about the beautiful? How can I justify a taste judgment "with a claim to everyone's approval as if it were objective"? (KU 136). Because “the taste judgment cannot be determined by evidence, just as if it were merely subjective” (KU 140).

So how can a purely subjective judgment about an individual feeling claim objective general validity? The answer here seems to lie in the assumption of a common sense. Because "the necessity of general approval, which is thought of in a taste judgment, is a subjective necessity, which is presented as objective under the presupposition of a common sense" (KU § 22) .

"But what does taste actually mean here?"

"The definition of taste (...) is: that it is the faculty of judging the beautiful" (KU 4). An expression like “oh, that's nice”, therefore, first and foremost indicates that we

To have "taste", i.e. to have a specific faculty that makes a judgment when looking at an object. For Kant, the focus of taste is a judgment or judgment. And so it is finally possible for Kant to use the “guide of logical judgment functions” to answer his question “whether something is beautiful or not” (KU § 1). His answer in the “Analysis of the Beautiful” is therefore based - analogously to the KrV - on the four moments of the judgment functions: the quantity, the quality, the relation and the modality.

In terms of quality, a taste judgment must be aesthetic, as the heading in § 1 of the KU indicates.4 Kant thus reveals the direction of his project right at the beginning of the KU: the taste and its judgment are aesthetic. In this context, “aesthetic” or “aesthetics” does not mean a theory or science of beauty (as for example in Baumgarten), but in Kant refers to his original meaning “perceive, perceive”, derived from the Greek “aio0yoıç” . The actual point of view for Kant is therefore in a “perceiving & hearing”. And what is to be “heard” here is a certain “feeling”, which Kant describes in the context of the taste judgment as a feeling of pleasure or displeasure. Kant understands a feeling as "that which must remain merely subjective at all times and absolutely cannot make up any idea of ​​an object" (KU 9).5 This means that it is a matter of a judgment “whose determinant cannot be anything other than subjective.” (KU 4) Kant seeks the answer to the question of whether something can be called beautiful, consequently not in the respective object, but rather in the judging subject itself (analogous to the Copernican turn in the KrV). According to the “quality”, that feeling must not be associated with any interest on the part of the subject in the respective object (KU § 2). The person making the judgment must therefore be devoid of any interest in the object itself in order to be able to call something beautiful.6

On the one hand, the taste element of quantity relates to the general public, i.e. the judgment must be universally valid. “Because what someone is aware of, that the pleasure in the same is in himself without any interest, the same cannot judge otherwise than in such a way that it must contain a reason for pleasure for everyone.” (KU 17). The observer of an object must feel "completely free" in terms of pleasure, without "inclination" or "any other deliberate interest" (ibid.). On the other hand, through the moment of quality, Kant arrives at the conceptlessness of the taste judgment, i.e. the judgment - in contrast to a logical judgment - is made without a concept (understanding). Accordingly, it is not a presented object (concept) that is judged, but rather the satisfaction (feeling of pleasure / displeasure) itself.

According to the relation, “the judgment of taste is based on nothing but the form of the expediency of an object (or the way it is represented)” (KU 34). According to Kant, no purposes may serve as a reason for satisfaction. Such a purposeful intention would exist, for example, in the case of pleasure in the pleasant (subjective purpose) or in the pleasure in the good in the sense of a usable (good in itself or good for others) quality of the object (objective purpose).7 The judgment on the beautiful, on the other hand, must be made completely purposeless, because “every purpose, if it is viewed as a reason for satisfaction, always has an interest, as a determining reason for the judgment on the object of pleasure” (KU 34 ). The moment of relation now determines the taste judgment in the “relation of the powers of imagination to one another”, which is connected with the feeling of pleasure (KU 34/35). An object given to us in the perception could thus be for a certain ratio of our cognitive powers or, more precisely, for a certain ratio between the imaginary

strength and the mind, in a certain sense, be purposeful. And the judgment as to whether this object is beautiful or not is made in view of this “subjective expediency”, that is, with regard to the “form of expediency” or, as Kant also says: “expediency without Purpose".

“One thinks of the beautiful,” says Kant, “that it has a necessary relation to pleasure” (KU 62). But this “necessity” is “of a special kind” (ibid) and determines the taste judgment of the modality. Kant speaks of an “exemplary” necessity, “i.e. a need for approval all to a judgment that is regarded as an example of a general rule that cannot be given ”(KU 62/63). There is thus an imaginary necessity in the taste judgment, which consists in the fact that all people should agree to my satisfaction in relation to my judgment. This generally applicable rule is “exemplary” because its validity must not be derived factually or objectively from experience, from existing terms or from a logical conclusion based on the act of understanding. And so the "necessity" (similar to expediency) also counts as a " subjective Necessity ”, which pursues a claim to general validity (KU § 19). According to Kant, however, this subjective necessity is subject to a certain condition. And “the condition (...) is the idea of ​​a common sense” (KU heading § 20), which is based on the claim “that everyone should applaud the subject matter at hand and also declare it beautiful” (KU 63).

Only if there was a common sense could the individual demand the general consent of everyone for his judgment. The sensus communis (or common sense) therefore particularly refers to the taste elements of quantity and modality. Because "s nice is what is generally pleasing without a term " (KU § 9) and at the same time "Is recognized as an object of necessary approval" (KU § 22). Adopting one sensus communis thus secures the claim to the general validity of the necessary subjective well-being.

About the meaning of the sensus communis within the power of judgment

A taste judgment takes a stand: between Baumgarten and Hume. About the possible status of the sensus communis as a placeholder.

The sensus communis appears at first glance as a necessary answer to the search for an “in between”. We could identify him as a “placeholder” in an attempt to want to unite two opposing positions in an overall project.

In connection with the power of judgment, Kant himself speaks of a “connecting means” of theoretical and practical reason to a whole (KU XX; heading III. Chapter of the introduction) and refers to the function of “linking the laws of understanding and reason”. (KU LIII; heading IX. Chapter of the introduction). Thus the bridge was finally built in Kant's theory that bridges the gap between the independent faculties of reason and understanding. The power of judgment, as a kind of mediating authority, alternates between theoretical and practical reason and thus supports both pillars of the transcendental principle, "by which the general condition is presented a priori, under which only things can become objects of our knowledge at all." (KU XXIX)

But the function of a "middle link" can not only be within of Kant's theory. Rather, we can understand Kant's aesthetic theory itself as a kind of middle link if we look at the epistemological discourse of his time about taste. Kant already proved in the Critique of Pure Reasonthat two conceptions of the conditions of knowledge do not necessarily have to contradict each other and built a framework in which both sensory perception and the mind constitute two completely independent areas, which - although completely independent of each other - only enable human experience in interaction ( KrV A51; B75). In doing so, he sought the dispute within the philosophy of knowledge between empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), who accept nothing but sensory experience as the condition of knowledge, and rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), who only consider intellectual activity to be propagated their basis (and recognized the sensory experience merely as a kind of “subordinate”, “confused” idea) to unite in an overall project.

The main features of this project can also be found in the Critique of Judgement Find. In the philosophical debate of that time, whether aesthetic judgments were to be assigned to sensuality or to reason, Kant did not clearly choose one of these two sides, but instead asserted something between the two, namely an independent ability to judge, detached from sensuality and reason. This allows us to say that Kant's overall theory of aesthetics can also be seen as a “middle link” between empirical and rationalistic theory, which raises the question of what leads us to make a judgment according to the form “x is beautiful” , according to which Kant answers in a completely new way.


1 see also Franz von Kutschera. Aesthetics. Berlin / New York 1989. p. 26: In antiquity and in the Middle Ages, the term “taste” played no special role. It was only introduced with subjectivism in the 16th century and was the subject of aesthetics in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was discussed whether the taste is innate or whether it can be developed or learned. A central question was whether it was the so-called. There would be “good taste” that can claim to be correct. Since originally only sensuality and understanding were assumed to be cognitive faculties, the question arose as to which of these two faculties taste should be assigned. In the dispute over questions of taste, the commonplace "De gestibus non est disputandum" was usually invoked.

2 In his “Critique” Kant differentiates between three heterogeneous relationships between the ideas and the feeling of pleasure (displeasure): the pleasant, the good and the beautiful. By pleasant, Kant understands "that which pleases the senses in the sensation" (§ 3), that which gives "pleasure" and with a "desire" for the object or an "inclination", "which always only for that Enjoy “is from, is linked. So when I am pleasant, there is always a certain interest in the subject for me. Also “the pleasure in the good is connected with interest”, so Kant and describes the good as that, “what pleases by means of reason through the mere concept” (§ 4). The focus of the good is the consideration or assessment of a certain purpose of the object, "consequently a pleasure in the existence of an object" in relation to the useful, a means or also with regard to oneself. To determine the beautiful: see explanation in the text .

3 Judgments that relate to subjective sensations of pleasure and displeasure when imagining an object are called “aesthetic” by Kant (Höffe 2008, 60/61). The 3 criticisms of Kant (KrV, KpV & KU) correspond to 3 judgments: the cognitive judgment (determining power of judgment as a link between imagination and understanding; logical-determining judgment; determines properties of the object), the moral judgment by reason and the aesthetic table judgment (reflective judgment as a link between imagination and mind; directed towards the feelings of the subject)

4 "The taste judgment is aesthetic." (KU heading § 1)

5 Kant expressly speaks here of a feeling "in order not to always run the risk of being misinterpreted". With this expression he wants to distinguish himself clearly from “sensation”, which can contain an objective relation to the object. (see § 3 KU).

6 as opposed to “pleasant” (“what pleases the senses in the sensation” - § 3.7) and “good” (“good is that which, through the means of reason, pleases through the mere concept” - § 4 , 10). In contrast to the beautiful, these two judgments are each “connected with interest” (§2.7) and there is a relationship to the desire to be able to “(§ 2.5).

7 see also: Wenzel, 97ff.

End of the reading sample from 34 pages