Selections from Kant's
Critique of Aesthetic Judgment

   Note: These selected paragraphs were originally published in 1790 in Kant's Critique of Judgment and were translated into English by J. C. Meredith in 1911. This translation is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced. Spellings have been modernized.

For the complete Meredith translation of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,
click here.

Paragraph numbering was included in the original text. The hyperlinks and annotations are the work of Theodore Gracyk. (Copyright Theodore Gracyk 2002)

Ellipses ( . . . ) indicate where material has been cut.
Brackets [ . . . ] indicate my editorial changes, based on the German text and other translations.
Asterisks (*) indicate original placement of Kant's foot notes. The text of that note will then be the next paragraph beginning with an asterisk.


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  • 43 Art in general.
  • 44. Fine art.
  • 45. Fine art is an art, so far as it has at the same 
    time the appearance of being nature
  • 46. Fine art is the art of genius
  • 47. Elucidation of the explanation of genius. 
  • 48. The relation of genius to taste.
  • 49. The faculties of the mind which constitute genius.
  • 50. The combination of taste and genius in fine art. 
  • 51. The division of the fine arts
  • 52. The combination of the fine arts in one and 
    the same product
  • 53. Comparative estimate of the fine arts.


43. Art in general

(1.) Art is distinguished from nature as making (facere) is from 
acting or operating in general (agere), and the product or the 
result of the former is distinguished from that of the latter as work 
(opus) from operation (effectus). 

By right it is only production through freedom, i.e., through an act 
of will that places reason at the basis of its action, that should 
be termed art. . . .  But where anything is called absolutely a work of  
art, to distinguish it from a natural product, then some work of man is 
always understood. 

(2.) Art, as human skill, is distinguished also from science (as 
ability from knowledge), as a practical from a theoretical faculty, as 
technique from theory (as the art of surveying from geometry).  . . . 

(3.) Art is further distinguished from handicraft. The first is 
called free, the other may be called industrial art. We look on the 
former as something which could only prove final (be a success) as 
play, i.e., an occupation which is agreeable on its own account; but 
on the second as labor, i.e., a business, which on its own account is 
disagreeable (drudgery), and is only attractive by means of what it 
results in (e.g., the pay), and which is consequently capable of being 
a compulsory imposition. Whether in the list of arts and crafts we are 
to rank watchmakers as artists, and smiths on the contrary as 
craftsmen, requires a standpoint different from that here adopted-one, 
that is to say, taking account of the proposition of the talents which 
the business undertaken in either case must necessarily involve.  . . .

 44. Fine art 

 . . .Where art, merely seeking to actualize a possible object to the 
cognition of which it is adequate, does whatever acts are required 
for that purpose. then it is mechanical. But should the feeling of 
pleasure be what it has immediately in view, it is then termed 
aesthetic art. As such it may be either agreeable or fine art. The 
description "agreeable art" applies where the end of the art is that 
the pleasure should accompany the representations considered as 
mere sensations, the description "fine art" where it is to accompany 
them considered as modes of cognition. 

Agreeable arts are those which have mere enjoyment for their object. 
Such are all the charms that can gratify a dinner party: 
entertaining narrative, the art of starting the whole table in 
unrestrained and sprightly conversation, or with jest and laughter 
inducing a certain air of gaiety. Here, as the saying goes, there 
may be much loose talk over the glasses, without a person wishing to 
be brought to book for all he utters, because it is only given out for 
the entertainment of the moment, and not as a lasting matter to be 
made the subject of reflection or repetition. (Of the same sort is 
also the art of arranging the table for enjoyment, or, at large 
banquets, the music of the orchestra-a quaint idea intended to act 
on the mind merely as an agreeable noise fostering a genial spirit, 
which, without any one paying the smallest attention to the 
composition, promotes the free flow of conversation between guest 
and guest.) In addition must be included play of every kind which is 
attended with no further interest than that of making the time pass by 

Fine art, on the other hand, is a mode of representation which is 
intrinsically final, and which, although devoid of an end, has the 
effect of advancing the culture of the mental powers in the 
interests of social communication. 

The universal communicability of a pleasure involves in its very 
concept that the pleasure is not one of enjoyment arising out of 
mere sensation, but must be one of reflection. Hence aesthetic art, 
as art which is beautiful, is one having for its standard the 
reflective judgment and not organic sensation. 

45. Fine art is an art, so far as it has at the same 
time the appearance of being nature

A product of fine art must be recognized to be art and not 
nature. Nevertheless the finality in its form must appear just as free 
from the constraint of arbitrary rules as if it were a product of mere 
nature. Upon this feeling of freedom in the play of our cognitive 
faculties-which play has at the same time to be final rests that 
pleasure which alone is universally communicable without being based 
on concepts. Nature proved beautiful when it wore the appearance of 
art; and art can only be termed beautiful, where we are conscious of 
its being art, while yet it has the appearance of nature.  . . .

Hence the finality in the product of fine art, intentional though it 
be, must not have the appearance of being intentional; i.e., fine 
art must be clothed with the aspect of nature, although we recognize 
it to be art. But the way in which a product of art seems like 
nature is by the presence of perfect exactness in the agreement with 
rules prescribing how alone the product can be what it is intended 
to be, but with an absence of labored effect (without academic form 
betraying itself), i.e., without a trace appearing of the artist 
having always had the rule present to him and of its having fettered 
his mental powers. 

46. Fine art is the art of genius

Genius is the talent (natural endowment) which gives the rule to 
art. Since talent, as an innate productive faculty of the artist, 
belongs itself to nature, we may put it this way: Genius is the innate 
mental aptitude (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art. 
Whatever may be the merits of this definition, and whether it is 
merely arbitrary, or whether it is adequate or not to the concept 
usually associated with the word genius (a point which the following 
sections have to clear up), it may still be shown at the outset 
that, according to this acceptation of the word, fine arts must 
necessarily be regarded as arts of genius. 

For every art presupposes rules which are laid down as the 
foundation which first enables a product, if it is to be called one of 
art, to be represented as possible. The concept of fine art, 
however, does not permit of the judgment upon the beauty of its 
product being derived from any rule that has a concept for its 
determining ground, and that depends, consequently, on a concept of 
the way in which the product is possible. Consequently fine art cannot 
of its own self exclude the rule according to which it is to effectuate 
its product. But since, for all that, a product can never  be called art
unless there is a preceding rule, it follows that nature in the individual 
(and by virtue of the harmony of his faculties) must give the rule to art, 
i.e., fine art is only possible as a product of genius.

From this it may be seen that genius (1) is a talent for producing 
that for which no definite rule can be given, and not an aptitude in 
the way of cleverness for what can be learned according to some 
rule; and that consequently originality must be its primary 
property. (2) Since there may also be original nonsense, its 
products must at the same time be models, i.e., be exemplary; and, 
consequently, though not themselves derived from imitation, they 
must serve that purpose for others, i.e., as a standard or rule of 
estimating. (3) It cannot indicate scientifically how it brings 
about its product, but rather gives the rule as nature. Hence, where 
an author owes a product to his genius, he does not himself know 
how the ideas for it have entered into his head, nor has he it in his 
power to invent the like at pleasure, or methodically, and communicate 
the same to others in such precepts as would put them in a position to 
produce similar products.  . . .

47. Elucidation and confirmation of the above 
explanation of genius. 

Every one is agreed on the point of the complete opposition 
between genius and the spirit of imitation. Now since learning is 
nothing but imitation, the greatest ability, or aptness as a pupil 
(capacity), is still, as such, not equivalent to genius. . . .

Seeing, then, that the natural endowment of art (as fine art) must 
furnish the rule, what kind of rule must this be? It cannot be one set 
down in a formula and serving as a precept-for then the judgment upon
the beautiful would be determinable according to concepts. Rather 
must the rule be gathered from the performance, i.e., from the product,
which others may use to put their own talent to the test, so as to let 
it serve as a model, not for imitation, but for following. The possibility 
of this is difficult to explain. The artist's ideas arouse like ideas on the
part of his pupil, presuming nature to have visited him with a like 
proportion of the mental Powers. For this reason, the models of 
fine art are the only means of handing down this art to posterity. 
This is something which cannot be done by mere descriptions 
(especially not in the line of the arts of speech), and in these arts, 
furthermore, only those models can become classical of which the 
ancient, dead languages, preserved as learned, are the medium. 

Despite the marked difference that distinguishes mechanical art, 
as an art merely depending upon industry and learning, from fine 
art, as that of genius, there is still no fine art in which something 
mechanical, capable of being at once comprehended and 
followed in obedience to rules, and consequently something academic, 
does not constitute the essential condition of the art. . . . Now, seeing
 that originality of talent is one (though not the sole) essential factor 
that goes to make up the character of genius, shallow minds fancy that 
the best evidence they can give of their being full-blown geniuses 
is by emancipating themselves from all academic constraint of rules, 
in the belief that one cuts a finer figure on the back of an 
ill-tempered than of a trained horse. Genius can do no more than 
furnish rich material for products of fine art; its elaboration and 
its form require a talent academically trained, so that it may be 
employed in such a way as to stand the test of judgment. But, for a 
person to hold forth and pass sentence like a genius in matters that 
fall to the province of the most patient rational investigation, is 
ridiculous in the extreme. One is at a loss to know whether to 
laugh more at the impostor who envelops himself in such a cloud--in 
which we are given fuller scope to our imagination at the expense of 
all use of our critical faculty--or at the simple-minded public which 
imagines that its inability clearly to cognize and comprehend this 
masterpiece of penetration is due to its being invaded by new truths 
en masse, in comparison with which, detail, due to carefully weighed 
exposition and an academic examination of root principles, seems to it 
only the work of a beginner. 
48. The relation of genius to taste

For estimating beautiful objects, as such, what is required is taste; 
but for fine art, i.e., the production of such objects, one needs 
genius. . . .  A beauty of nature is a beautiful thing; beauty of art is 
beautiful representation of a thing. . . .

Where fine art evidences its superiority is in the beautiful 
descriptions it gives of things that in nature would be ugly or 
displeasing. The Furies, diseases, devastations of war, and the 
like, can (as evils) be very beautifully described, nay even 
represented in pictures. . . . The art  of sculpture, again, since in its
products art is almost confused with nature, has excluded from its 
creations the direct representation of  ugly objects, and, instead, only 
sanctions, for example, the representation of death (in a beautiful 
genius), or of the warlike spirit (in Mars), by means of an allegory, or 
attributes which wear a pleasant guise, and so only indirectly, through 
an interpretation on the part of reason, and not for the pure aesthetic 

So much for the beautiful representation of an object, which is 
properly only the form of the presentation of a concept and the 
means by which the latter is universally communicated. To give this 
form, however, to the product of fine art, taste merely is required. 
By this the artist, having practiced and corrected his taste by a 
variety of examples from nature or art, controls his work and, after 
many, and often laborious, attempts to satisfy taste, finds the form 
which commends itself to him. Hence this form is not, as it were, a 
matter of inspiration, or of a free swing of the mental powers, but 
rather of a slow and even painful process of improvement, directed 
to making the form adequate to his thought without prejudice to the 
freedom in the play of those powers. 

Taste is, however, merely a critical, not a productive faculty; 
and what conforms to it is not, merely on that account, a work of fine 
art. It may belong to useful and mechanical art, or even to science, 
as a product following definite rules which are capable of being 
learned and which must be closely followed. But the pleasing form 
imparted to the work is only the vehicle of communication and a 
mode, as it were, of execution, in respect of which one remains to a 
certain extent free, notwithstanding being otherwise tied down to a 
definite end. So we demand that table appointments, or even a moral 
dissertation, and, indeed, a sermon, must bear this form of fine 
art, yet without its appearing studied. But one would not call them on 
this account works of fine art. A poem, a musical composition, a 
picture-gallery, and so forth, would, however, be placed under this 
head; and so in a would-be work of fine art we may frequently 
recognize genius without taste, and in another taste without genius. 

49. The faculties of the mind which constitute genius. 

Of certain products which are expected, partly at least, to stand on 
the footing of fine art, we say they are soulless; and this, 
although we find nothing to censure in them as far as taste goes. A 
poem may be very pretty and elegant, but is soulless. A narrative 
has precision and method, but is soulless. A speech on some festive 
occasion may be good in substance and ornate withal, but may be 
soulless. Conversation frequently is not devoid of entertainment, 
but yet soulless. Even of a woman we may well say, she is pretty, 
affable, and refined, but soulless. Now what do we here mean by 

Soul (Geist) in an aesthetical sense, signifies the animating 
principle in the mind. But that whereby this principle animates the soul
--the material which it employs for that purpose--is that which sets the 
mental powers into a swing that is final, i.e., into a play which is 
self-maintaining and which strengthens those powers for such activity.

Now my proposition is that this principle is nothing else than the 
faculty of presenting aesthetic ideas. But, by an aesthetic idea I 
mean that representation of the imagination which induces much 
thought, yet without the possibility of any definite thought whatever, 
i.e., concept, being adequate to it, and which language, consequently, 
can never get quite on level terms with or render completely 
intelligible. It is easily seen, that an aesthetic idea is the counterpart 
(pendant) of a rational idea, which, conversely, is a  concept, 
to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be 
adequate. . . .

Such representations of the imagination may be termed ideas. This is 
partly because they at least strain after something lying out beyond 
the confines of experience, and so seek to approximate to a 
presentation of rational concepts (i.e., intellectual ideas), thus 
giving to these concepts the semblance of an objective reality. But, 
on the other hand, there is this most important reason, that no 
concept can be wholly adequate to them as internal intuitions. The 
poet essays the task of interpreting to sense the rational ideas of 
invisible beings, the kingdom of the blessed, hell, eternity, 
creation, etc. Or, again, as to things of which examples occur in 
experience, e.g., death, envy, and all vices, as also love, fame, 
and the like, transgressing the limits of experience he attempts 
with the aid of an imagination which emulates the display of reason in 
its attainment of a maximum, to body them forth to sense with a 
completeness of which nature affords no parallel; and it is in' fact 
precisely in the poetic art that the faculty of aesthetic ideas can 
show itself to full advantage. This faculty, however, regarded 
solely on its own account, is properly no more than a talent' (of 
the imagination). . . .

 In this way Jupiter's eagle, with the lightning in its claws, is an attribute 
of the mighty king of heaven, and the peacock of its stately queen. They 
do not, like logical (aesthetic) attributes of an object, the concept of the 
sublimity and majesty of creation, but rather something else-something 
that gives the imagination an incentive to spread its flight over a 
whole host of kindred representations that provoke more thought than 
admits of expression in a concept determined by words. They furnish 
an aesthetic idea, which serves the above rational idea as a substitute 
for logical presentation, but with the proper function, however, of 
animating the mind by opening out for it a prospect into a field of 
kindred representations stretching beyond its ken. But it is not alone 
in the arts of painting or sculpture, where the name of attribute is 
customarily employed, that fine art acts in this way; poetry and 
rhetoric also drive the soul that animates their work wholly from 
the aesthetic attributes of the objects-attributes which go hand in 
hand with the logical, and give the imagination an impetus to bring 
more thought into: play in the matter, though in an undeveloped 
manner, than allows of being brought within the embrace of a 
concept, or, therefore, of being definitely formulated in language. . . .

In a word, the aesthetic idea is a representation of the 
imagination, annexed to a given concept, with which, in the free 
employment of imagination, such a multiplicity of partial 
representations are bound up, that no expression indicating a definite 
concept can be found for it one which on that account allows a concept 
to be supplemented in thought by much that is indefinable in words, 
and the feeling of which quickens the cognitive faculties, and with 
language, as a mere thing of the letter, binds up the spirit (soul) 

The mental powers whose union in a certain relation constitutes 
genius are imagination and understanding. Now, since the 
imagination, in its employment on behalf of cognition, is subjected to 
the constraint of the understanding and the restriction of having to 
be conformable to the concept belonging' thereto, whereas 
aesthetically it is free to furnish of its own accord, over and 
above that agreement with the concept, a wealth of undeveloped 
material for the understanding, to which the latter paid no regard 
in its concept, but which it can make use of, not so much 
objectively for cognition, as subjectively for quickening the 
cognitive faculties, and hence also indirectly for cognitions, it 
may be seen that genius properly consists in the happy relation, which 
science cannot teach nor industry learn, enabling one to find out 
ideas for a given concept, and, besides, to hit upon the expression 
for them-the expression by means of which the subjective mental 
condition induced by the ideas as the concomitant of a concept may 
be communicated to others. This latter talent is properly that which 
is termed soul. For to get an expression for what is indefinable in 
the mental state accompanying a particular representation and to 
make it universally communicable-be the expression in language or 
painting or statuary-is a "thing requiring a faculty for laying hold 
of the rapid and transient play of the imagination, and for unifying 
it in a concept (which for that very reason is original, and reveals a 
new rule which could not have been inferred from any preceding 
principles or examples) that admits of communication without any 
constraint of rules. 

If, after this analysis, we cast a glance back upon the above 
definition of what is called genius, we find: First, that it is a 
talent for art-not one for science, in which clearly known rules 
must take the lead and determine the procedure. Secondly, being a 
talent in the line of art, it presupposes a definite concept of the 
product-as its end. Hence it presupposes understanding, but, in 
addition, a representation, indefinite though it be, of the 
material, i.e., of the intuition, required for the presentation of 
that concept, and so a relation of the imagination to the 
understanding. Thirdly, it displays itself, not so much in the working 
out of the projected end in the presentation of a definite concept, as 
rather in the portrayal, or expression of aesthetic ideas containing a 
wealth of material for effecting that intention. Consequently the 
imagination is represented by it in its freedom from all guidance of 
rules, but still as final for the presentation of the given concept. 
Fourthly, and lastly, the unsought and undesigned subjective 
finality in the free harmonizing of the imagination with the 
understanding's conformity to law presupposes a proportion and 
accord between these faculties such as cannot be brought about by 
any observance of rules, whether of science or mechanical imitation, 
but can only be produced by the nature of the individual. 

Genius, according to these presuppositions, is the exemplary 
originality of the natural endowments of an individual in the free 
employment of his cognitive faculties. On this showing, the product 
of  a genius (in respect of so much in this product as is attributable 
to genius, and not to possible learning or academic instruction) is an 
example, not for imitation (for that would mean the loss of the 
element of genius, and just the very soul of the work), but to be 
followed by another genius-one whom it arouses to a sense of his 
own originality in putting freedom from the constraint of rules so into 
force in his art that for art itself a new rule is won-which is what 
shows a talent to be exemplary. Yet, since the genius is one of 
nature's elect-a type that must be regarded as but a rare 
phenomenon-for other clever minds his example gives rise to a 
school, that is to say a methodical instruction according to rules, 
collected, so far as the circumstances admit, from such products of 
genius and their peculiarities. And, to that extent, fine art is for 
such persons a matter of imitation, for which nature, through the 
medium of a genius gave the rule. 

But this imitation becomes aping when the pupil copies everything 
down to the deformities which the genius only of necessity suffered to 
remain, because they could hardly be removed without loss of force 
to the idea. This courage has merit only in the case of a genius. A 
certain boldness of expression and, in general, many a deviation 
from the common rule becomes him well, but in no sense is it a thing 
worthy of imitation. On the contrary it remains all through 
intrinsically a blemish, which one is bound to try to remove, but 
for which the genius is, as it were, allowed to plead a privilege, 
on the ground that a scrupulous carefulness would spoil what is 
inimitable in the impetuous ardor of his soul. Mannerism is another 
kind of aping-an aping of peculiarity (originality) in general, for 
the sake of removing oneself as far as possible from imitators, 
while the talent requisite to enable one to be at the same time 
exemplary is absent.  . . .

50. The combination of taste and genius in 
products of fine art. 

To ask whether more stress should be laid in matters of fine art 
upon the presence of genius or upon that of taste, is equivalent to 
asking whether more turns upon imagination or upon judgment. 
Now, imagination rather entitles an art to be called an inspired 
(geistreiche) than a fine art. It is only in respect of judgment that 
the name of fine art is deserved. Hence it follows that judgment, 
being the indispensable condition (conditio sine qua non), is at least 
what one must look to as of capital importance in forming an 
estimate of art as fine art. So far as beauty is concerned, to be 
fertile and original in ideas is not such an imperative requirement as 
it is that the imagination in its freedom should be in accordance with 
the understanding's conformity to law. For, in lawless freedom, 
imagination, with all its wealth, produces nothing but nonsense; the 
power of judgment, on the other hand, is the faculty that makes it 
consonant with understanding.
Taste, like judgment in general, is the discipline (or  corrective) of 
genius. It severely clips its wings, and makes it orderly or polished; 
but at the same time it gives it guidance directing and controlling its 
flight, so that it may preserve its character of finality. It introduces a 
clearness and order into the plenitude of thought, and in so doing 
gives stability to the ideas, and qualifies them at once for permanent 
and universal approval, for being followed by others, and for a 
continually progressive culture. And so, where the interests of both 
these qualities clash in a product, and there has to be a sacrifice of 
something, then it should rather be on the side of genius; and judgment, 
which in matters of fine art bases its decision on its own proper 
principles, will more readily endure an abatement of the freedom and 
wealth of the imagination than that the understanding should be 
The requisites for fine art are, therefore, imagination, understanding, 
soul, and taste.* 

*The first three faculties are first brought into union by means 
of the fourth. Hume, in his history, informs the English that although 
they are second in their works to no other people in the world in 
respect the evidences they afford of the three first qualities separately 
considered, still in what unites them they must yield to their neighbors, 
the French. 

51. The division of the fine arts.

Beauty (whether it be of nature or of art) may in general be 
termed the expression of aesthetic ideas. But the provision must be 
added that with beauty of art this idea must be excited through the 
medium of a concept of the object, whereas with beauty of nature the 
bare reflection upon a given intuition, apart from any concept of what 
the object is intended to be, is sufficient for awakening and 
communicating the idea of which that object is regarded as the 

Accordingly, if we wish to make a division of the fine arts, we 
can choose for that purpose, tentatively at least, no more 
convenient principle than the analogy which art bears to the mode of 
expression of which men avail themselves in speech with a view to 
communicating themselves to one another as completely as possible, 
i.e., not merely in respect of their concepts but in respect of their 
sensations also. Such expression consists in word, gesture, and tone 
(articulation, gesticulation, and modulation). It is the combination of 
these three modes of expression which alone constitutes a complete 
communication of the speaker. For thought, intuition, and sensation 
are in this way conveyed to others simultaneously and in conjunction. 

Hence there are only three kinds of fine art: the art of speech, 
formative [visual] art, and the art of the play of sensations (as external 
sense impressions). This division might also be arranged as a 
dichotomy, so that fine art would be divided into that of the 
expression of thoughts or intuitions, the latter being subdivided 
according to the distinction between the form and the matter 
(sensation). It would, however, in that case appear too abstract, 
and less in line with popular conceptions. 

(1) The arts of speech are rhetoric and poetry. Rhetoric is the art 
of transacting a serious business of the understanding as if it were 
a free play of the imagination; poetry that of conducting a free play of 
the imagination as if it were a serious business of the understanding. 

Thus the orator announces a serious business, and for the purpose of 
entertaining his audience conducts it as if it were a mere play with 
ideas. The poet promises merely an entertaining play with ideas, and 
yet for the understanding there enures as much as if the promotion 
of its business had been his one intention. The combination and 
harmony of the two faculties of cognition, sensibility and 
understanding, which, though doubtless indispensable to one another, 
do not readily permit of being united without compulsion and 
reciprocal abatement, must have the appearance of being undesigned 
and a spontaneous occurrence-otherwise it is not fine art. For this 
reason what is studied and labored must be here avoided. For fine art 
must be free art in a double sense: i.e., not alone in a sense opposed to 
contract work, as not being a work the magnitude of which may be 
estimated, exacted, or paid for, according to a definite standard, but 
free also in the sense that, while the mind, no doubt, occupies 
itself, still it does so without ulterior regard to any other end, and 
yet with a feeling of satisfaction and stimulation (independent of 

The orator, therefore, gives something which he does not promise, 
viz., an entertaining play of the imagination. On the other hand, 
there is something in which he fails to come up to his promise, and 
a thing, too, which is his avowed business, namely, the engagement 
of the understanding to some end. The poet's promise, on the contrary,
is a modest one, and a mere play with ideas is all he holds out to us, 
but he accomplishes something worthy of being made a serious 
business, namely, the using of play to provide food for the 
understanding, and the giving of life to its concepts by means of the 
imagination. Hence the orator in reality performs less than he 
promises, the poet more. 

(2) The formative [visual] arts, or those for the expression of ideas in 
sensory intuition (not by means of representations of mere 
imagination that are excited by words) are arts either of sensuous 
truth or of sensuous semblance. The first is called plastic art, the 
second painting. Both use figures in space for the expression of 
ideas: the former makes figures discernible to two senses, sight and 
touch (though, so far as the latter sense is concerned, without regard 
to beauty), the latter makes them so to the former sense alone. The 
aesthetic idea (archetype, original) is the fundamental basis of 
both in the imagination. . . . 

To plastic art, as the first kind of formative [visual] fine art, belong 
sculpture and architecture. The first is that which presents 
concepts of things corporeally, as they might exist in nature 
(though as fine art it directs its attention to aesthetic finality). 
The second is the art of presenting concepts of things which are 
possible only through art, and the determining ground of whose form 
is not nature but an arbitrary end-and of presenting them both with a 
view to this purpose and yet, at the same time, with aesthetic 
finality. In architecture the chief point is a certain use of the 
artistic object to which, as the condition, the aesthetic ideas are 
limited. In sculpture the mere expression of aesthetic ideas is the 
main intention. Thus statues of men, gods, animals, etc., belong to 
sculpture; but temples, splendid buildings for public concourse, or 
even dwelling-houses, triumphal arches, columns, mausoleums, etc., 
erected as monuments, belong to architecture, and in fact all 
household furniture (the work of cabinetmakers, and so forth-things 
meant to be used) may be added to the list, on the ground that 
adaptation of the product to a particular use is the essential element 
in a work of architecture. On the other hand, a mere piece of 
sculpture is made simply to be looked at and intended to please on 
its own account,  . . . 

Painting, as the second kind of formative art, which presents the 
sensory semblance in artful combination with ideas, I would divide 
into that of the beautiful Portrayal of nature, and that of the 
beautiful arrangement of its products. The first is painting proper
the second landscape gardening. Painting gives only the semblance 
of  bodily extension; whereas landscape gardening, giving this, no 
doubt, according to its truth, gives only the semblance of utility and 
employment for ends other than the play of the imagination in the 
contemplation of its forms. The latter consists in no more than 
decking out the ground with the same manifold variety (grasses, 
flowers, shrubs, and trees, and even water, hills, and dales) as 
that with which nature presents it to our view, only arranged 
differently and in obedience to certain ideas. The beautiful 
arrangement of corporeal things, however, is also a thing for the 
eye only, just like painting-the sense of touch can form no intuitable 
representation of such a form, In addition I would place under the 
head of painting, in the wide sense, the decoration of rooms by 
means of hangings, ornamental accessories, and all beautiful furniture 
the sole function of which is to be looked at; and in the same way the 
art of tasteful dressing (with rings, snuffboxes, etc.). For a 
parterre of various flowers, a room with a variety of ornaments 
(including even the ladies' attire), go to make at a festal 
gathering a sort of picture which, like pictures in the true sense 
of the word (those which are not intended to teach history or 
natural science), has no business beyond appealing to the eye, in 
order to entertain the imagination in free play with ideas, and to 
engage actively the aesthetic judgment independently of any 
definite end. No matter how heterogeneous, on the mechanical side, 
may be the craft involved in all this decoration, and no matter what a 
variety of artists may be required, still the judgment of taste, so 
far as it is one upon what is beautiful in this art, is determined in 
one and the same way: namely, as a judgment only upon the forms 
(without regard to any end) as they present themselves to the eye, 
singly or in combination, according to their effect upon the 
imagination. The justification, however, of bringing [visual] art (by 
analogy) under a common head with gesture in a speech, lies in the 
fact that through these figures the soul of the artists furnishes a 
bodily expression for the substance and character of his thought, 
and makes the thing itself speak, as it were, in mimic language--a 
very common play of our fancy, that attributes to lifeless things a soul 
suitable to their form, and that uses them as its mouthpiece. 

(3) The art of the beautiful play of sensations (sensations that 
arise from external stimulation), which is a play of sensations that 
has nevertheless to permit of universal communication, can only be 
concerned with the proportion of the different degrees of tension in 
the sense to which the sensation belongs, i.e., with its tone. In this 
comprehensive sense of the word, it may be divided into the artificial 
play of sensations of hearing and of sight, consequently into music 
and the art of color. It is of note that these two senses, over and 
above such susceptibility for impressions as is required to obtain 
concepts of external objects by means of these impressions, also admit 
of a peculiar associated sensation of which we cannot well determine 
whether it is based on sense or reflection; and that this 
sensibility may at times be wanting, although the sense, in other 
respects, and in what concerns its employment for the cognition of 
objects, is by no means deficient but particularly keen. In other 
words, we cannot confidently assert whether a color or a tone (sound) 
is merely an agreeable sensation, or whether they are in themselves 
a beautiful play of sensations, and in being estimated aesthetically, 
convey, as such, a delight in their form. . . .  According to the
interpretation [that music involves the play of forms], alone, would 
music be represented out and out as a fine art, whereas according to 
the other [that music is a  play of agreeable sensations] it would be 
represented as (in part at least) an agreeable art. 

52. The combination of the fine arts in one and 
the same product

Rhetoric may in a drama be combined with a pictorial presentation 
as well of its subjects as of objects; as may poetry with music in a 
song; and this again with a pictorial (theatrical) presentation in 
an opera; and so may the play of sensations in a piece of music with 
the play of figures in a dance, and so on. Even the presentation of 
the sublime, so far as it belongs to fine art, may be brought into 
union with beauty in a tragedy in verse, a didactic poem or an 
oratorio, and in this combination fine art is even more artistic. 
Whether it is also more beautiful (having regard to the multiplicity 
of different kinds of delight which cross one another) may in some 
of these instances be doubted. Still in all fine art the essential 
element consists in the form which is final for observation and for 
estimating. Here the pleasure is at the same time culture, and 
disposes the soul to ideas, making it thus susceptible of such 
pleasure and entertainment in greater abundance. The matter of 
sensation (charm or emotion) is not essential. Here the aim is 
merely enjoyment, which leaves nothing behind it in the idea, and 
renders the soul dull, the object in the course of time distasteful, 
and the mind dissatisfied with itself and ill-humored, owing to a 
consciousness that in the judgment of reason its disposition is 

Where fine arts are not, either proximately or remotely, brought 
into combination with moral ideas, which alone are attended with a 
self-sufficing delight, the above is the fate that ultimately awaits 
them. They then only serve for a diversion, of which one continually 
feels an increasing need in proportion as one has availed oneself of 
it as a means of dispelling the discontent of one's mind, with the 
result that one makes oneself ever more-and more unprofitable and 
dissatisfied with oneself. With a view to the purpose first named, the 
beauties of nature are in general the most beneficial, if one is early 
habituated to observe, estimate, and admire them. 

 53. Comparative estimate of the aesthetic worth 
of the fine arts

Poetry (which owes its origin almost entirely to genius and is least 
willing to be led by precepts or example) holds the first rank among 
all the arts. It expands the mind by giving freedom to the imagination 
and by offering, from among the boundless multiplicity of possible 
forms accordant with a given concept, to whose bounds it is 
restricted, that one which couples with the presentation of the 
concept a wealth of thought to which no verbal expression is 
completely adequate, and by thus rising aesthetically to ideas. It 
invigorates the mind by letting it feel its faculty-free, spontaneous, 
and independent of determination by nature of regarding and estimating 
nature as phenomenon in the light of aspects which nature of itself 
does not afford us in experience, either for sense or understanding, 
and of employing it accordingly in behalf of, and as a sort of 
schema for, the supersensible. It plays with semblance, which it 
produces at will, but not as an instrument of deception; for its 
avowed pursuit is merely one of play, which, however, understanding 
may turn to good account and employ for its own purpose. Rhetoric, 
so far as this is taken to mean the art of persuasion, i.e., the art 
of deluding by means of a fair semblance (as ars oratoria), and not 
merely excellence of speech (eloquence and style), is a dialectic, 
which borrows from poetry only so much as is necessary to win over 
men's minds to the side of the speaker before they have weighed the 
matter, and to rob their verdict of its freedom. Hence it can be 
recommended neither for the bar nor the pulpit. . . .  the machinery of 
persuasion, which, being equally available for the purpose of 
putting a fine gloss or a cloak upon vice-and error, fails to rid 
one completely of the lurking suspicion that one is being artfully 
hoodwinked. In poetry everything is straight and above board. It 
shows its hand: it desires to carry on a mere entertaining play with the 
imagination, and one consonant, in respect of form, with the laws of 
understanding, and it does not seek to steal upon and ensnare the 
understanding with a sensuous presentation.* 

*I confess to the pure delight which I have ever been afforded by 
a beautiful poem; whereas the reading of the best speech of a Roman 
forensic orator, a modern parliamentary debater, or a preacher, has 
invariably been mingled with an unpleasant sense of disapproval of 
an insidious art that knows how, in matters of moment, to move men 
like machines to a judgment that must lose all its weight with them 
upon calm reflection. Force and elegance of speech (which together 
constitute rhetoric) belong to fine art; but oratory (ars oratoria), 
being the art of playing for one's own purpose up-the weaknesses of 
men (let this purpose be ever so good in intention or even in fact) 
merits no respect whatever. Besides, both at Athens and at Rome, it 
only attained its greatest height at a time when the state was hastening  
to its decay, and genuine patriotic sentiment was a thing of  the past. 
One who sees the issue clearly, and who has a command of  language 
in its wealth and its purity, and who is possessed of an imagination 
that is fertile and effective in presenting his ideas, and whose heart, 
withal, turns with lively sympathy to what is truly good--he is the 
vir bonus dicendi peritus
, the orator without art, but of great 
impressiveness, Cicero would have him, though he may not himself 
always always remained faithful to this ideal. 

After poetry, if we take charm and mental stimulation into account, 
I would give the next place to that art which comes nearer to it 
than to any other art of speech, and admits of very natural union 
with it, namely the art of tone. For though it speaks by means of mere 
sensations without concepts, and so does not, like poetry, leave 
behind it any food for reflection, still it moves the mind more 
diversely, and, although with transient, still with intenser effect. 
It is certainly, however, more a matter of enjoyment than of 
culture--the play of thought incidentally excited by it being merely 
the effect of a more or less mechanical association--and it possesses 
less worth in the eyes of reason than any other of the fine arts. 
Hence, like all enjoyment, it calls for constant change, and does 
not stand frequent repetition without inducing weariness. Its charm, 
which admits of such universal communication, appears to rest on the 
following facts. Every expression in language has an associated tone 
suited to its sense. This tone indicates, more or less, a mode in 
which the speaker is affected, and in turn evokes it in the hearer 
also, in whom conversely it then also excites the idea which in 
language is expressed with such a tone. Further, just as modulation 
is, as it were, a universal language of sensations intelligible to 
every man, so the art of tone wields the full force of this language 
wholly on its own account, namely, as a language of the affections, 
and in this way, according to the law of association, universally 
communicates the aesthetic ideas that are naturally combined 
therewith. But, further, inasmuch as those aesthetic ideas are not 
concepts or determinate thoughts, the form of the arrangement of these 
sensations (harmony and melody), taking the place of the place of 
the form of a language, only serves the purpose of giving an 
expression to the aesthetic idea of an integral whole of an 
unutterable wealth of thought that fills the measure of a certain 
theme forming the dominant affection in the piece.  . . . 
If, on the other hand, we estimate the worth of the fine arts by the 
culture they supply to the mind, and adopt for our standard the 
expansion of the faculties whose confluence, in judgment, is 
necessary for cognition, music, then, since it plays merely with 
sensations, 'has the lowest place among the fine arts-just as it has 
perhaps the highest among those valued at the same time for their 
agreeableness. Looked at in this light, it is far excelled by the [visual]
formative arts. For, in putting the imagination into a play which is 
at once free and adapted to the understanding, they all the while 
carry on a serious business, since they execute a product which serves 
the Concepts of understanding as a vehicle, permanent and appealing 
to us on its own account, for effectuating their union with 
sensibility, and thus for promoting, as it were, the urbanity of the 
higher powers of cognition. The two kinds of art pursue completely 
different courses. Music advances from sensations to indefinite ideas: 
formative [visual] art from definite ideas to sensations. The latter gives 
a lasting impression, the former one that is only fleeting. The former 
sensations imagination can recall and agreeably entertain itself with, 
while the latter either vanish entirely, or else, if involuntarily 
repeated by the imagination, are more annoying to us than agreeable. 
Over and above all this, music has a certain lack of urbanity about 
it. For owing chiefly to the character of its instruments, it scatters 
its influence abroad to an uncalled-for extent (through the 
neighborhood), and thus, as it were, becomes obtrusive and deprives 
others, outside the musical circle, of their freedom. This is a 
thing that the arts that address themselves to the eye do not do, 
for if one is not disposed to give admittance to their impressions, 
one has only to look the other way. The case is almost on a par with 
the practice of regaling oneself with a perfume that exhales its 
odors far and wide. The man who pulls his perfumed handkerchief 
from his pocket gives a treat to all around whether they like it or 
not, and compels them, if they want to breathe at all, to be parties 
to the enjoyment, and so the habit has gone out of fashion.* 

*Those who have recommended the singing of hymns at family prayers 
have forgotten the amount of annoyance which they give to the 
general public by such noisy (and, as a rule, for that very reason, 
pharisaical) worship, for they compel their neighbors either to 
join in the singing or else abandon their meditations. 

Among the formative [visual] arts I would give the palm to painting: 
partly  because it is the art of design and, as such, the groundwork of 
all  the other formative arts; partly because it can penetrate much 
further  into the region of ideas, and in conformity with them give a 
greater extension to the field of intuition than it is open to the others 
to do. 



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Last updated December 12, 2002