Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 42.: Of the intellectual interest in the Beautiful - The Critique of Judgement
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§ 42.: Of the intellectual interest in the Beautiful - Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement 
Kant’s Critique of Judgement, translated with Introduction and Notes by J.H. Bernard (2nd ed. revised) (London: Macmillan, 1914).
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Of the intellectual interest in the Beautiful
With the best intentions those persons who refer all activities, to which their inner natural dispositions impel men, to the final purpose of humanity, viz. the morally good, have regarded the taking an interest in the Beautiful in general as a mark of good moral character. But it is not without reason that they have been contradicted by others who rely on experience; for this shows that connoisseurs in taste, not only often but generally, are given up to idle, capricious, and mischievous passions, and that they could perhaps make less claim than others to any pre-eminent attachment to moral principles. Thus it would seem that the feeling for the Beautiful is not only (as actually is the case) specifically different from the Moral feeling; but that the interest which can be bound up with it is hardly compatible with moral interest, and certainly has no inner affinity therewith.
Now I admit at once that the interest in the Beautiful of Art (under which I include the artificial use of natural beauties for adornment and so for vanity) furnishes no proof whatever of a disposition attached to the morally good or even inclined thereto. But on the other hand, I maintain that to take an immediate interest in the Beauty of Nature (not merely to have taste in judging it) is always a mark of a good soul; and that when this interest is habitual it at least indicates a frame of mind favourable to the moral feeling, if it is voluntarily bound up with the contemplation of nature. It is to be remembered, however, that I here speak strictly of the beautiful forms of Nature, and I set aside the charms, that she is wont to combine so abundantly with them; because, though the interest in the latter is indeed immediate, it is only empirical.
He who by himself (and without any design of communicating his observations to others) regards the beautiful figure of a wild flower, a bird, an insect, etc., with admiration and love—who would not willingly miss it in Nature, although it may bring him some hurt, who still less wants any advantage from it—he takes an immediate and also an intellectual interest in the beauty of Nature. I.e. it is not merely the form of the product of nature which pleases him, but its very presence pleases him, the charms of sense having no share in this pleasure and no purpose whatever being combined with it.
But it is noteworthy that if we secretly deceived this lover of the beautiful by planting in the ground artificial flowers (which can be manufactured exactly like natural ones), or by placing artificially carved birds on the boughs of trees, and he discovered the deceit, the immediate interest that he previously took in them would disappear at once; though, perhaps, a different interest, viz. the interest of vanity in adorning his chamber with them for the eyes of others, would take its place. This thought then must accompany our intuition and reflection on beauty, viz. that nature has produced it; and on this alone is based the immediate interest that we take in it. Otherwise, there remains a mere judgement of taste, either devoid of all interest, or bound up with a mediate interest, viz. in that it has reference to society; which latter [interest] furnishes no certain indications of a morally good disposition.
This superiority of natural to artificial beauty in that it alone arouses an immediate interest, although as regards form the first may be surpassed by the second, harmonises with the refined and well-grounded habit of thought of all men who have cultivated their moral feeling. If a man who has taste enough to judge of the products of beautiful Art with the greatest accuracy and refinement willingly leaves a chamber where are to be found those beauties that minister to vanity or to any social joys, and turns to the beautiful in Nature in order to find, as it were, delight for his spirit in a train of thought that he can never completely evolve, we will regard this choice of his with veneration, and attribute to him a beautiful soul, to which no connoisseur or lover [of Art] can lay claim on account of the interest he takes in his [artistic] objects.— What now is the difference in our estimation of these two different kinds of Objects, which in the judgement of mere taste it is hard to compare in point of superiority?
We have a faculty of mere aesthetical Judgement by which we judge forms without the aid of concepts, and find a satisfaction in this mere act of judgement; this we make into a rule for every one, without this judgement either being based on or producing any interest.— On the other hand, we have also a faculty of intellectual Judgement which determines an a priori satisfaction for the mere forms of practical maxims (so far as they are in themselves qualified for universal legislation); this we make into a law for every one, without our judgement being based on any interest whatever, though in this case it produces such an interest. The pleasure or pain in the former judgement is called that of taste, in the latter, that of moral feeling.
But it also interests Reason that the Ideas (for which in moral feeling it arouses an immediate interest) should have objective reality; i.e. that nature should at least show a trace or give an indication that it contains in itself some ground for assuming a regular agreement of its products with our entirely disinterested satisfaction (which we recognise a priori as a law for every one, without being able to base it upon proofs). Hence Reason must take an interest in every expression on the part of nature of an agreement of this kind. Consequently, the mind cannot ponder upon the beauty of Nature without finding itself at the same time interested therein. But this interest is akin to moral, and he who takes such an interest in the beauties of nature can do so only in so far as he previously has firmly established his interest in the morally good. If, therefore, the beauty of Nature interests a man immediately we have reason for attributing to him, at least, a basis for a good moral disposition.
It will be said that this account of aesthetical judgements, as akin to the moral feeling, seems far too studied to be regarded as the true interpretation of that cipher through which Nature speaks to us figuratively in her beautiful forms. However, in the first place, this immediate interest in the beautiful is actually not common; but is peculiar to those whose mental disposition either has already been cultivated in the direction of the good or is eminently susceptible of such cultivation. In that case the analogy between the pure judgement of taste which, independently of any interest, causes us to feel a satisfaction, and also represents it a priori as suitable to humanity in general, and the moral judgement that does the same thing from concepts without any clear, subtle, and premeditated reflection—this analogy leads to a similar immediate interest in the objects of the former as in those of the latter; only that in the one case the interest is free, in the other it is based on objective laws. To this is to be added our admiration for Nature, which displays itself in its beautiful products as Art, not merely by chance, but as it were designedly, in accordance with a regular arrangement, and as purposiveness without purpose. This latter, as we never meet with it outside ourselves, we naturally seek in ourselves; and, in fact, in that which constitutes the ultimate purpose of our being, viz. our moral destination. (Of this question as to the ground of the possibility of such natural purposiveness we shall first speak in the Teleology.)
It is easy to explain why the satisfaction in the pure aesthetical judgement in the case of beautiful Art is not combined with an immediate interest as it is in the case of beautiful Nature. For the former is either such an imitation of the latter that it reaches the point of deception and then produces the same effect as natural beauty (for which it is taken); or it is an art obviously directed designedly to our satisfaction. In the latter case the satisfaction in the product would, it is true, be brought about immediately by taste, but it would be only a mediate interest in the cause lying at its root, viz. an art that can only interest by means of its purpose and never in itself. It will, perhaps, be said that this is also the case, if an Object of nature interests us by its beauty only so far as it is associated with a moral Idea. But it is not the Object itself which immediately interests us, but its character in virtue of which it is qualified for such association, which therefore essentially belongs to it.
The charms in beautiful Nature, which are so often found, as it were, blended with beautiful forms, may be referred to modifications either of light (colours) or of sound (tones). For these are the only sensations that imply not merely a sensible feeling but also reflection upon the form of these modifications of Sense; and thus they involve in themselves as it were a language by which nature speaks to us, which thus seems to have a higher sense. Thus the white colour of lilies seems to determine the mind to Ideas of innocence; and the seven colours in order from the red to the violet seem to suggest the Ideas of (1) Sublimity, (2) Intrepidity, (3) Candour, (4) Friendliness, (5) Modesty, (6) Constancy, (7) Tenderness. The song of birds proclaims gladsomeness and contentment with existence. At least so we interpret nature, whether it have this design or not. But the interest which we here take in beauty has only to do with the beauty of Nature; it vanishes altogether as soon as we notice that we are deceived and that it is only Art—vanishes so completely that taste can no longer find the thing beautiful or sight find it charming. What is more highly praised by poets than the bewitching and beautiful note of the nightingale in a lonely copse on a still summer evening by the soft light of the moon? And yet we have instances of a merry host, where no such songster was to be found, deceiving to their great contentment the guests who were staying with him to enjoy the country air, by hiding in a bush a mischievous boy who knew how to produce this sound exactly like nature (by means of a reed or a tube in his mouth). But as soon as we are aware that it is a cheat, no one will remain long listening to the song which before was counted so charming. And it is just the same with the songs of all other birds. It must be Nature or be regarded as Nature, if we are to take an immediate interest in the Beautiful as such; and still more is this the case if we can require that others should take an interest in it too. This happens as a matter of fact when we regard as coarse and ignoble the mental attitude of those persons who have no feeling for beautiful Nature (for thus we describe a susceptibility to interest in its contemplation), and who confine themselves to eating and drinking—to the mere enjoyments of sense.