Work-in-progress seminar, Saniye Vatansever

“The Cognitive Basis of Disinterested Pleasure in Kant: How and Why Works of Art Help with Mental Growth”

By Saniye Vatansever (Bilkent, Philosophy) 

Date: Friday, 8th February, 2019 

Time: 1100-1230 

Place: H-355

Abstract:  In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant claims that aesthetic judgments are based on aesthetic pleasure, which he claims is a kind of “disinterested pleasure” [uninteressiertes Wolhgefallen]. The very concept of disinterested pleasure might seem paradoxical to a casual reader. In this paper, I first explicate the nature of this phenomenon and demonstrate its coherence. More specifically, I explain the coherence of Kant’s claims that we can have pleasure (or satisfaction) even if there is not a particular interest that is satisfied. After I demonstrate the plausibility of this crucial concept, I focus on the cognitive basis of such aesthetic experience, which as Kant argues results from the harmony of the faculties of imagination and understanding. While Kant commentators usually focus on explicating what Kant means by the harmony of these faculties and how it occurs, I argue that unless we understand the nature of the conflict of the mental representations provided by the faculties of imagination and the understanding which precedes the harmony in question, we cannot grasp how the resolution of this conflict leads to the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. My analysis of the cognitive basis of Kant’s account of aesthetic pleasure also sheds some light on an interesting connection between our ability to feel aesthetic pleasure and solving representational problems in general. More specifically, I point out the similarity between the satisfaction we get from works of art and solving other kinds of representational problems. In this regard, Kant’s account of aesthetic pleasure, as I argue, can help us understand why we are motivated to seek solutions for representational problems, which ultimately stimulates mental growth.


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