Front Page Titles (by Subject) § 53.: Comparison of the respective aesthetical worth of the beautiful arts - The Critique of Judgement
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§ 53.: Comparison of the respective aesthetical worth of the beautiful arts - 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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Comparison of the respective aesthetical worth of the beautiful arts
Of all the arts poetry (which owes its origin almost entirely to genius and will least be guided by precept or example) maintains the first rank. It expands the mind by setting the Imagination at liberty; and by offering within the limits of a given concept amid the unbounded variety of possible forms accordant therewith, that which unites the presentment of this concept with a wealth of thought, to which no verbal expression is completely adequate; and so rising aesthetically to Ideas. It strengthens the mind by making it feel its faculty—free, spontaneous and independent of natural determination—of considering and judging nature as a phenomenon in accordance with aspects which it does not present in experience either for Sense or Understanding, and therefore of using it on behalf of, and as a sort of schema for, the supersensible. It plays with illusion, which it produces at pleasure, but without deceiving by it; for it declares its exercise to be mere play, which however can be purposively used by the Understanding.— Rhetoric, in so far as this means the art of persuasion, i.e. of deceiving by a beautiful show (ars oratoria), and not mere elegance of speech (eloquence and style), is a Dialectic, which borrows from poetry only so much as is needful to win minds to the side of the orator before they have formed a judgement, and to deprive them of their freedom; it cannot therefore be recommended either for the law courts or for the pulpit. For if we are dealing with civil law, with the rights of individual persons, or with lasting instruction and determination of people’s minds to an accurate knowledge and a conscientious observance of their duty, it is unworthy of so important a business to allow a trace of any exuberance of wit and imagination to appear, and still less any trace of the art of talking people over and of captivating them for the advantage of any chance person. For although this art may sometimes be directed to legitimate and praiseworthy designs, it becomes objectionable, when in this way maxims and dispositions are spoiled in a subjective point of view, though the action may objectively be lawful. It is not enough to do what is right; we should practise it solely on the ground that it is right. Again, the mere concept of this species of matters of human concern, when clear and combined with a lively presentation of it in examples, without any offence against the rules of euphony of speech or propriety of expression, has by itself for Ideas of Reason (which collectively constitute eloquence), sufficient influence upon human minds; so that it is not needful to add the machinery of persuasion, which, since it can be used equally well to beautify or to hide vice and error, cannot quite lull the secret suspicion that one is being artfully overreached. In poetry everything proceeds with honesty and candour. It declares itself to be a mere entertaining play of the Imagination, which wishes to proceed as regards form in harmony with the laws of the Understanding; and it does not desire to steal upon and ensnare the Understanding by the aid of sensible presentation.1
After poetry, if we are to deal with charm and mental movement, I would place that art which comes nearest to the art of speech and can very naturally be united with it, viz. the art of tone. For although it speaks by means of mere sensations without concepts, and so does not, like poetry, leave anything over for reflection, it yet moves the mind in a greater variety of ways and more intensely, although only transitorily. It is, however, rather enjoyment than culture (the play of thought that is incidentally excited by its means is merely the effect of a kind of mechanical association); and in the judgement of Reason it has less worth than any other of the beautiful arts. Hence, like all enjoyment, it desires constant change, and does not bear frequent repetition without producing weariness. Its charm, which admits of universal communication, appears to rest on this, that every expression of speech has in its context a tone appropriate to the sense. This tone indicates more or less an affection of the speaker, and produces it also in the hearer; which affection excites in its turn in the hearer the Idea that is expressed in speech by the tone in question. Thus as modulation is as it were a universal language of sensations intelligible to every man, the art of tone employs it by itself alone in its full force, viz. as a language of the affections, and thus communicates universally according to the laws of association the aesthetical Ideas naturally combined therewith. Now these aesthetical Ideas are not concepts or determinate thoughts. Hence the form of the composition of these sensations (harmony and melody) only serves instead of the form of language, by means of their proportionate accordance, to express the aesthetical Idea of a connected whole of an unspeakable wealth of thought, corresponding to a certain theme which produces the dominating affection in the piece. This can be brought mathematically under certain rules, because it rests in the case of tones on the relation between the number of vibrations of the air in the same time, so far as these tones are combined simultaneously or successively. To this mathematical form, although not represented by determinate concepts, alone attaches the satisfaction that unites the mere reflection upon such a number of concomitant or consecutive sensations with this their play, as a condition of its beauty valid for every man. It is this alone which permits Taste to claim in advance a rightful authority over every one’s judgement.
But in the charm and mental movement produced by Music, Mathematic has certainly not the slightest share. It is only the indispensable condition (conditio sine qua non) of that proportion of the impressions in their combination and in their alternation by which it becomes possible to gather them together and prevent them from destroying one another, and to harmonise them so as to produce a continual movement and animation of the mind, by means of affections consonant therewith, and thus a delightful personal enjoyment.
If, on the other hand, we estimate the worth of the Beautiful Arts by the culture they supply to the mind, and take as a standard the expansion of the faculties which must concur in the Judgement for cognition, Music will have the lowest place among them (as it has perhaps the highest among those arts which are valued for their pleasantness), because it merely plays with sensations. The formative arts are far before it in this point of view; for in putting the Imagination in a free play, which is also accordant with the Understanding, they at the same time carry on a serious business. This they do by producing a product that serves for concepts as a permanent self-commendatory vehicle for promoting their union with sensibility and thus, as it were, the urbanity of the higher cognitive powers. These two species of art take quite different courses; the first proceeds from sensations to indeterminate Ideas, the second from determinate Ideas to sensations. The latter produce permanent, the former only transitory impressions. The Imagination can recall the one and entertain itself pleasantly therewith; but the other either vanish entirely, or if they are recalled involuntarily by the Imagination they are rather wearisome than pleasant.1 Besides, there attaches to Music a certain want of urbanity from the fact that, chiefly from the character of its instruments, it extends its influence further than is desired (in the neighbourhood), and so as it were obtrudes itself, and does violence to the freedom of others who are not of the musical company. The Arts which appeal to the eyes do not do this; for we need only turn our eyes away, if we wish to avoid being impressed. The case of music is almost like that of the delight derived from a smell that diffuses itself widely. The man who pulls his perfumed handkerchief out of his pocket attracts the attention of all round him, even against their will, and he forces them, if they are to breathe at all, to enjoy the scent; hence this habit has gone out of fashion.1
Among the formative arts I would give the palm to painting; partly because as the art of delineation it lies at the root of all the other formative arts, and partly because it can penetrate much further into the region of Ideas, and can extend the field of intuition in conformity with them further than the others can.
[1 ]I must admit that a beautiful poem has always given me a pure gratification; whilst the reading of the best discourse, whether of a Roman orator or of a modern parliamentary speaker or of a preacher, has always been mingled with an unpleasant feeling of disapprobation of a treacherous art, which means to move men in important matters like machines to a judgement that must lose all weight for them on quiet reflection. Readiness and accuracy in speaking (which taken together constitute Rhetoric) belong to beautiful art; but the art of the orator (ars oratoria), the art of availing oneself of the weaknesses of men for one’s own designs (whether these be well meant or even actually good does not matter) is worthy of no respect. Again, this art only reached its highest point, both at Athens and at Rome, at a time when the state was hastening to its ruin and true patriotic sentiment had disappeared. The man who along with a clear insight into things has in his power a wealth of pure speech, and who with a fruitful Imagination capable of presenting his Ideas unites a lively sympathy with what is truly good, is the vir bonus dicendi peritus, the orator without art but of great impressiveness, as Cicero has it; though he may not always remain true to this ideal.
[1 ][From this to the end of the paragraph, and the next note, were added in the Second Edition.]
[1 ]Those who recommend the singing of spiritual songs at family prayers do not consider that they inflict a great hardship upon the public by such noisy (and therefore in general pharisaical) devotions; for they force the neighbours either to sing with them or to abandon their meditations. [Kant suffered himself from such annoyances, which may account for the asperity of this note. At one period he was disturbed by the devotional exercises of the prisoners in the adjoining jail. In a letter to the burgomaster “he suggested the advantage of closing the windows during these hymn-singings, and added that the warders of the prison might probably be directed to accept less sonorous and neighbour-annoying chants as evidence of the penitent spirit of their captives” (Wallace’s Kant, p. 42).]