Kant on revolution

  • Kant was well aware of conflict. An extract from the paper posted on Deleuze’s Aesthetics and another paper on Animals and Politics in the OnLine Journal PhanEx.

    First, there is the encounter with rude Nature, then the shock of submission, and finally, the joy of realizing our supersensible nature, all made possible, of course, only through the encounter with Nature. Our mind feels elevated, abandoning itself to Imagination’s freedom from limits which comes only thanks to the Ideas of Reason. Imagination’s greatest effort, which is, to refer to something absolutely great, arises only by reference to the laws of Reason, a correspondence with Rational Laws. As such, the mind is moved, vibrating between attraction and repulsion, dis-harmonious through their contrast. In this manner the two poles of vibration might be said to form a disjunctive synthesis, a disharmony of the faculties. This is how Imagination and Reason generate the subjective purposiveness of our mental powers; they do it by means of conflict.(CJ 27 120-1).

    But Kant (who opposed revolution) is worried about disintegration of the person and of society:

    Kant posits the universal moral maxim derived from reason that there shall be no war, that peace is an absolute moral duty, thereby making any and all revolutions unjust. This is fine as long as rulers openly declare and act on the recognition of the rights of their citizens, but when they do not, we are left with a conflict between morality and politics,

    However: in the Critique of Judgment, Book II, Analytic of the Sublime, Kant also defines sense as the feeling of pleasure and the public sense as taste, “the faculty of estimating what makes our feeling in a given representation universally communicable.”

    But if tastes change, how is it possible that they change?

    Kant disapproves of revolution and given his principles, even gradual change might appear to be immoral if not irrational . . . unless, of course, it is somehow implemented by Nature itself. To implement this, something special is needed, something that calls for genius.

    Artists who create beautiful art must have taste which supplies them with guidance, clearness and order, as well as talent cultivated in schools, and also genius, such that beautiful art may even present ugly things as beautiful! This sort of transformation occurs because the work of art is not distinguishable from the object in our sensation, our inner sense, and so the artist may use allegory or pleasing attributes to make something ugly into something beautiful.

    The beautiful work of art is the product of spirit, the animating principle of the mind, the faculty of aesthetical Ideas, which are the counterpart of rational Ideas. Aesthetical Ideas are the product of Imagination, which operates analogically, and for which no concept is adequate. Analogically, Imagination creates another nature when experience is too commonplace and what we feel is our freedom from the law of association ([p. q.r)] = [(p.q).r)]. The means by which genius accomplishes this is to generate an Idea associated with a concept but bound up with a multiplicity of partial representations such that no single definite concept is implicated and the association of empirical representations is defeated. Imagination thereby provides Understanding with abundant new material to quicken and possibly challenge cognitive powers but without violently overthrowing them.

    But why limit genius to art? Is not the originator of political ideas, ideas that are then able to be the foundation of the political community also the work of a spectator, actor genius?

    This, I think is Kant’s response .

    Wow, what an insightful and prescient response to my question on behalf of and through a Kantian analysis! Thank you so much for taking the time to do that!

    It’s so interesting that Kant posited conflict between imagination and reason as generative of the subjective purposefulness of our mental power! It’s so interesting that this conflict surfaces as genius and particularly artistic genius naturally for Kant and that imagination «provides understanding with abudant new material to quiken and possibly challenge cognitive power without violently overthrowing them,». This is so exciting to me from a prospective of non-violence even with my preferance for revolution! I really like the way you pushed the limits of this form of genius to just art and expand the production of political ideas and political community to include a spectator actor genius! Wow! What great oppertunities that opens up!

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