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forbidden, required or not. But one may doubt that Kant is correct when
he considers actions that are not defined by explicit, positive law, as if
they arose from an implicit convention whose violation would, con-
sequently, put an end to the very possibility of the action itself (as a
In other words, I suggest that at least in the case of some of our moral
duties, when Kant makes use of the notion of ˜˜contradiction in concep-
tion™™ he extends to the domain of morality a notion that he borrows from
the domain of right (juridical law). Some actions are defined by (jurid-
ical) law, and to universalize an exception to the rule that defines them is
to put an end to the action itself, which owes its very possibility precisely
to its definition by the rule or law. This is the case for all actions defined
by a contract. Now of course a number of actions that are not regulated
by juridical law nevertheless derive their possibility from an implicit
contract or trust between agents. The practice of the promise is the
most obvious case. But when Kant extends the criterion of ˜˜contradic-
tion in conception™™ to the use of language itself “ to take the most famous
example “ he seems to treat it like an action whose status is defined by a
contract between agents, an action whose description is in fact much
more complex.
What I have in mind here is of course Kant™s famous discussion with
Benjamin Constant.25 From the Kantian characterization of moral duty,
Benjamin Constant maintains, it follows that ˜˜it would be a crime to lie to
a murderer who asked us whether a friend of ours who is pursued by
him had taken refuge in our house™™ (this is Constant as cited by Kant,
cf. viii, 425). Kant confirms that lying under any circumstance would be
a crime (not with respect to the murderer, he says, but with respect to
˜˜humanity in general™™) (viii, 426). But surprisingly enough, a large part
of the discussion that follows deals with the question whether I would be
juridically responsible for the misery that could, as a result of my action,
befall an innocent man. Kant™s answer is roughly the following: if I did
not obey the injunction of the categorical imperative (which commands
me to not lie, since universalizing the maxim of lying would put an end to
the practice of language and communication itself), then I am respon-
sible for the misery that might result, and I am thus liable to be punished

See Immanuel Kant, ˜˜On a Supposed Right to Lie from Altruistic Motives,™™ in Critique of
Practical Reason and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy, trans. and ed. with an introduction
by Lewis White Beck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), pp. 346“51; AAviii,
pp. 425“30. Henceforth cited by volume and page number in the Akademie Ausgabe,
e.g. viii, 425“30.

by (juridical) law. If, in contrast, I obeyed the categorical imperative,
then I am not responsible for the harmful consequences that could result
from my action.
Such a reasoning seems to treat as a juridical question (no one can be
punished for obeying the law) a question that Constant took to be a
moral one. This shift from the realm of morality to that of juridical law
seems confirmed by the fact that Kant holds that the practice of language
is controlled by the implicit convention according to which we owe one
another (or more exactly, we owe ˜˜humanity in general™™ and thus first of
all, ourselves) veridical communication. To violate this convention is to
put an end to the practice of language itself.
Could Kant have said something else? Could he have treated the
situation presented by Benjamin Constant as arising from the demand,
not of a perfect and narrow duty (to tell the truth) but of an imperfect
and wide duty (to care for the welfare of others)? This would presuppose
that he not consider language as one of those activities defined by their
implicit contractual function (here: truthful communication), or lying,
therefore, as an act depending on the adoption of a maxim whose
universalization would negate the very existence of language. If he
renounced these views, there would then be no call for applying the
test of ˜˜contradiction in conception.™™ All we would have is a case for
applying the test by contradiction in the will. The result of such a test (it is
impossible to want universally that an innocent man be handed over to
the violence of a criminal) would be more in conformity with common
moral conscience, a point that should satisfy Kant.
If we generalize this result, we can suggest the following. The test by
˜˜contradiction in conception™™ applies only if the action under consid-
eration is defined by a clear convention, be it juridical or not. But most of
our actions are not of this kind. Most are such that they are candidates
for the potential ˜˜contradiction in the will™™ which would result from the
universalization of their maxim, much more than for a ˜˜contradiction in
the conception™™ of the action itself that might arise from such a univer-
salization. The reason why Kant does not see this point, I want to
suggest, is that his conception of morality is largely dependent on a
juridical model, however carefully he means to distinguish moral from
juridical evaluation. When Kant distinguishes between right and mor-
ality, the contrast he draws is between the ˜˜external™™ and constraining
character of juridical legislation on the one hand, and the ˜˜internal™™ and
autonomous character of moral legislation on the other hand (cf. vi, 220;
also 224). But this distinction between ˜˜external™™ and ˜˜internal™™

legislation does not stop him from importing into the moral domain the
juridical model of defining an action by the unambiguous convention
which determines its very possibility.
Finally, I would like to suggest that the influence of the juridical model
explains how we move from the discursive characterization of moral
judgment, which I tried to elucidate earlier (the use of logical forms of
judgment in the determination of the prescriptions that the will assigns
to itself) to its dimension of imputation and retribution. I will offer some
very brief remarks about this point, which on its own would require a
much more detailed investigation.

Moral judgment, imputation, retribution
An action is morally good only if it is performed ˜˜out of respect for the
law.™™ This means, in particular, that an action conforming to duty, but
performed in the hope of reward or for fear of punishment, would not
have moral value. In contrast, juridical legislation involves a system of
external constraints that motivate the will to obey the law (cf. vi, 219“20).
In the introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant defines imputation
(˜˜the judgment by which someone is regarded as the author of an
action™™), expounds the grounds for evaluating the merit or fault of an
action, and explains how punishment and reward are appropriately
adjudicated (vi, 227). If the first two points (the imputation and the
evaluation of merit or fault) are relevant both to morality and to juridical
law, the third belongs more specifically to the domain of right, i.e.
juridical law (law that establishes a system of constraints to insure that
˜˜the choice of one can be united with the choice of another in accordance
with a universal law of freedom,™™ cf. vi, 230). In other words, consid-
erations of reward and punishment belong to the domain of right, or
external law, not to that of morality strictly speaking, or internal law-
And yet the demand of pure practical reason, that the Highest Good,
i.e. the union of virtue and happiness, be realized, is a demand for
reward, which can be satisfied only by the Supreme Judge, God. By
Kant™s own admission, this is what makes the difference between the
ancient concept of summum bonum and his own concept of Highest Good.
For the Ancients, the virtuous life just is the highest form of happiness (in
the Aristotelian or in the Stoic version of the Highest Good), or the
reasoned search for happiness just is the virtuous life (in the Epicurean
version of the Highest Good). But for Kant, virtue is nothing else than

˜˜moral intention in struggle™™ (cf. v, 84), i.e. the resolution to motivate
one™s actions by respect for the moral law, in spite of the obstacles
presented by our passive, sensible nature. Only a supreme judge can
insure that virtue be justly rewarded, and pure practical reason cannot
but want such reward, even if it must not allow this desire to be a
determining motivation for the moral action. My suggestion is thus the
following: Kant™s Highest Good is a limit case, on the scale of humanity as
a whole, of the juridical model of retribution. This prevalence of the
juridical model for Kant™s view of morality did not escape Hegel, nor did
it escape Nietzsche. Each of them made this aspect of Kant™s moral
philosophy a central theme of their interpretation and criticism.26 It
may explain the prevalence of the so-called test by ˜˜contradiction in
conception™™ in Kant™s account of what we ought to do.

Concluding remarks
According to Kant, the discursive capacities of the thinking subject,
whose role in cognition has been analyzed in the Critique of Pure
Reason, play an equally essential role in the determination of action: in
the agent™s reflection on the relation of ends and means (in the self-
prescription of hypothetical imperatives) on the one hand, and in the
higher demands of morality (the evaluation of subjective maxims and
precepts under the objective principle of the categorical imperative) on
the other hand. Just as in the domain of its theoretical use, so too in the
domain of its practical use the role of reason is to promote a standpoint
on the whole (here, a ˜˜kingdom of ends™™ where every human being
would be, as such, a legislator), which calls upon rational capacities
shared by all. The role of practical reason is not to generate a represen-
tation of good and evil by pure concepts, but to order our empirical/
sensible ends under the discriminating principle of the categorical

In his Principles of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel presents ˜˜morality,™™ namely the Kantian
moral view, as an internalization of the demands of ˜˜abstract right,™™ namely juridical law:
see G. W. F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, ed. Allen W. Wood, trans. H. B. Nisbet
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), part II: Morality, esp. x135, pp. 162“3.
Nietzsche, on the other hand, traces both juridical law and Kantian morality back to the
age-old practice of Schuld, debt (note that the German word Schuld means both debt
and guilt). See Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann
(New York: Random House, Vintage Books edition, 1989), essay 2, esp. xx5“6, pp. 64“7 ;
xx20“1, pp. 90“2.

I suggested that the application of this principle takes a very different
form whether one privileges one or the other of the two main kinds of
contradiction (˜˜contradiction in conception,™™ ˜˜contradiction in the will™™)
under which Kant calls upon us to test the possibility of universalizing
our maxims. I suggested that the importance given by Kant to the test by
˜˜contradiction in conception™™ tells much about the importance for Kant
of the juridical model of defining an action by an explicit convention. To
follow this suggestion further would necessitate examining more closely
the relation between external law and morality for Kant and for his
immediate predecessors and followers. We would also need to question
more closely the conception of the will which gives meaning to the
second type of contradiction evoked by Kant, ˜˜contradiction in the
will.™™ Such a study would be all the more important as it would perhaps
allow us better to understand the relation between the various aspects of
the referent of ˜˜I™™ in ˜˜I think,™™ in the first Critique, and the various aspects
of the referent of ˜˜I™™ in ˜˜I will,™™ in Kant™s moral philosophy.


Kant conducts his Analytic of the Beautiful, in the Critique of the Power
of Judgment, according to the ˜˜leading thread™™ that also guided the
table of the categories in the first Critique: the four titles of the logical
functions of judgment. This leading thread, which has not met with
much favor on the part of Kant™s readers where the first Critique is
concerned, is even less popular in the case of the third Critique. I will
argue that this ill repute is unmerited. In fact, Kant™s use of the
leading thread of the logical functions of judgment to analyse judg-
ments of taste merits close attention. In particular, it brings to light a
striking feature of judgments of taste as analyzed by Kant. We would
expect the main headings in the table of logical functions (quantity,
quality, relation, modality) to guide the analysis of aesthetic judg-
ments as judgments about an object (˜˜this rose is beautiful,™™ ˜˜this
painting is beautiful™™). Now they certainly do serve this purpose. But
in addition, it turns out that they also serve to analyze another judg-
ment, one that remains implicitly contained within the predicate
(˜˜beautiful™™) of the judgments of taste. This second judgment,
imbedded, as it were, in the first (or in the predicate of the first),
and which only the critique of taste brings to discursive clarity, is a
judgment no longer about the object, but about the judging subjects,
namely the subjects that pass the judgment: ˜˜this rose is beautiful,™™
˜˜this painting is beautiful,™™ and so on.

In this chapter I will be concerned with the striking shift of direction in
Kant™s analysis of judgments of taste, from an analysis of the explicit
judgement about an object, to an analysis of the implicit judgment about
the judging subjects. I propose moreover to show that when we reach
the fourth moment of the Analytic of judgments of taste “ that of
modality “ the systematic investigation of these judgments according to
the ˜˜leading thread™™ of the logical functions laid out in the first Critique
uniquely illuminates the relationship between the normative and the
descriptive aspects of aesthetic judgments. As always with Kant,
architectonic considerations thus play an essential role in the unfolding
of the substantive argument.
I now start with the first title or ˜˜moment,™™ that of quality.

The predicate of the judgment of taste: the expression of a
disinterested pleasure
I must first forestall a possible objection to the method just propounded.
Given the differences Kant emphasizes between aesthetic judgments
and the cognitive judgments of the first Critique, how can the ˜˜leading
thread™™ of the logical forms of judgment at work in the first Critique be
the slightest bit enlightening for our understanding of Kant™s Analytic of
the Beautiful? In the Critique of Pure Reason the table of the logical
functions of judgment was presented as the systematic inventory of the
functions of thought necessarily at work in any analysis of what is given
to our sensibility, insofar as that analysis is geared toward subsuming
individual representations (intuitions) under general representations
(concepts). Because the logical forms of judgments were forms in
accordance with which we analyze the sensible given into concepts, it
was also supposed to be a key to those forms of synthesis of sensible
manifolds that make possible their analysis into concepts. As such, the
table of logical functions of judgment was also the ˜˜leading thread™™ for
the establishment of a table of universal concepts of synthesis prior to
analysis: the categories (cf. A70/B85“A85/B109).1 But Kant is adamant
that judgments of taste are not cognitive judgments, and that as aesthetic
judgments, they do not rest on categories. This being so, in what way
might the argument of the first Critique, to the effect that the table of
logical forms of judgment can function as a leading thread for a table of

See above, ch. 4, pp. 100“6.

categories, have any consequence whatsoever for understanding the
nature of judgments of taste?
One preliminary answer is that following once again the leading thread
of the elementary logical functions serves at least to establish a checklist of
questions concerning the nature of the acts of judging at work in aesthetic
judgments: investigating the manifest form of judgments of taste accord-
ing to the four headings established in the first Critique is investigating the
function of judging, Funktion zu urteilen, manifest in this form. Just as in
the first Critique, all we have here is indeed a mere leading thread:
investigating the logical form of an aesthetic judgment should give us an
invaluable tool for understanding a content which cannot, of course, be
reduced to that logical form. In aesthetic judgments, however, the content
thus illuminated is not the content of the categories. Rather, the content
brought to light by the Analytic conducted in accordance with the logical
functions of judgment is that of the predicate of the judgment of taste: the
predicate ˜˜beautiful.™™ In other words, to analyze, using the leading thread
of logical functions of judgment, the act of judging the beautiful, is also to
elucidate the meaning of the predicate ˜˜beautiful™™ in the propositions
resulting from that act.
This is precisely why the first moment in the Analytic of the Beautiful is
that of quality. As all commentators have noted, the order of exposition
here differs from that of the table of judgments in the first Critique, where
Kant started with quantity. This is because in a way, the whole analysis of
aesthetic judgment boils down to the question: what is the meaning of
the predicate of the judgment of taste (the predicate ˜˜beautiful™™),
i.e. what, if anything, is asserted of the object (the logical subject of
the judgment ˜˜this X is beautiful™™) in an aesthetic judgment?
Consequently, when we consider aesthetic judgments under the title of
quality, we are not merely considering their form. As to quality, the form
of the aesthetic judgments Kant is most directly concerned with (e.g.
˜˜this rose is beautiful™™) is affirmative, there is no particular difficulty
about that.2 But the interesting question is: what is thus being affirmed?

This is not to say that there cannot be negative judgments of taste (˜˜this X is not beautiful™™)
or even, more interestingly, judgments of taste whose predicate is the opposite of ˜˜beauti-
ful™™ (e.g. ˜˜ugly™™). All I mean to say here is that whatever the form of the judgment is as to its
quality, Kant™s main concern in the first moment of the Analytic of the Beautiful is to take
this form only as a starting point to investigate the content of the predicate asserted (or as
the case may be, negated) in the judgment of taste. The most typical case of aesthetic
judgment of taste, and that on which Kant focuses his attention, is that where the judgment
is affirmative, and asserts of an object that it is beautiful. For a possible interpretation of the
predicate ˜˜ugly,™™ see my ˜˜Kant™s theory of judgment, and judgments of taste: on Henry

What is the content of the predicate ˜˜beautiful™™ that is asserted of an
object in aesthetic judgments?
Kant™s answer: the predicate ˜˜beautiful™™ does not express a reality “
namely the positive determination of a thing, known through our
senses.3 Rather, it expresses a feeling of pleasure brought about in the
judging subject by its own mental activity in apprehending the object.
This pleasure, albeit occasioned by the object, is elicited more directly by
the receptivity of the judging subject to its own activity. This is why Kant
describes the aesthetic pleasure as ˜˜disinterested.™™ An ˜˜interest,™™ he says,
is a satisfaction that attaches to the representation of the existence of an
object.4 To say that aesthetic pleasure is disinterested is not to say that
the object does not need to exist for the pleasure to be elicited. Rather, it
is to say that the object™s existence is not what causes our pleasure; nor
does our faculty of desire strive to cause the existence of the object.
Instead, the object™s existence is only the occasion for the pleasure,
which is elicited by what Kant calls the ˜˜free play of the imagination
and the understanding™™ in apprehending the object.
The pleasure we are talking about here is therefore of a peculiar
nature. In x1 of the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant characterizes
pleasure “ and displeasure “ as a ˜˜feeling of life™™ (Lebensgefuhl) of the
subject (v, 204). Similarly, in the Critique of Practical Reason he wrote:
Pleasure is the representation of the agreement of the object or the
action with the subjective conditions of life [my emphasis], i.e. with the faculty
of the causality of a representation with respect to the actual existence
[Wirklichkeit] of its object (or with respect to the determination of the
powers of the subject to action in order to produce the object).5
Now, to relate the feeling of pleasure to the ˜˜causality of the repre-
sentation with respect to the existence of its object™™ is to relate it to the
faculty of desire. For the latter is defined, in the same footnote of the
Critique of Practical Reason, as ˜˜a being™s faculty to be by means of his
representations the cause of the actual existence of the object of these

Allison™s Kant™s Theory of Taste,™™ Inquiry, vol. 46, no. 2 (2003), (henceforth ˜˜On KTT™™),
pp. 154“5.
Cf. the explanation of ˜˜reality,™™ the first of the three categories of quality, corresponding to
the form of affirmative judgment, in the first Critique: A80/B106, A183/B182.
Critique of the Power of Judgment, x2, AAv, p. 205. Henceforth references to the Critique of the
Power of Judgment will be given in the main text, by volume and page in the Akademie
Ausgabe, e.g. (v, 205). References to the First Introduction to the Critique of the Power of
Judgment will be indicated in the main text by volume (xx) and page of the Akademie
Critique of Practical Reason, v, 9n. Translation modified.

representations.™™ What Kant calls the ˜˜subjective conditions of life™™ are
thus no other than the conditions under which the faculty of desire
becomes active in striving to generate its objects. And the pleasure we
take in an object is the representation of the agreement of that object
with the faculty of desire.6
Defined in this way, pleasure is certainly not ˜˜disinterested™™ since it is
linked, by its very definition, to the faculty of desire. However, in the
First Introduction to the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Kant extends
his definition of pleasure. He includes under the concept ˜˜pleasure™™ a
feeling that is not directly linked to the ˜˜causality of the representation
with respect to the actual existence of its object.™™ His definition of
pleasure is now the following:
Pleasure is a state of the mind in which a representation is in agreement
with itself, as a ground, either merely for preserving this state itself (for
the state of the powers of the mind reciprocally promoting each other in
a representation preserves itself) or for producing its object. (xx, 231)

The second kind of pleasure mentioned in this text (˜˜Pleasure is a state
of the mind in which a representation is in agreement with itself as the
ground . . . for producing its object™™) is the same as the kind described
in the Critique of Practical Reason quoted above. But the first kind is
different: it is the consciousness of a state that tends to nothing more
than to preserve itself. This is the ˜˜disinterested™™ pleasure proper to the
judgment of taste.
We find it described again in x10, where the definition of pleasure
includes no reference at all to the interested pleasure that was the focus
of the Critique of Practical Reason. Kant now writes:

When Kant, in the passage from the Critique of Practical Reason referenced in footnote 5,
describes the faculty of desire as the ˜˜subjective condition of life,™™ we need to remember that
for him, life is a capacity (Vermogen) of a material thing to produce itself, or to be cause and
effect of itself. At least this is how our power of judgment, in its reflective use, allows us to
represent living things, or organisms (see v, 372“7). In living beings that are also conscious
and self-moving (animals), the faculty of desire is a ˜˜subjective condition of life™™ since the
˜˜capacity to be by one™s representation the cause of the existence of the object of one™s
representation™™ allows the living being to act with a purpose in insuring its own production
and reproduction. We understand, then, how pleasure can be described as a Lebensgefuhl ¨
when it is the feeling of the agreement of the object with the subjective condition of life, or
faculty of desire. However, in introducing the distinctive kind of pleasure which is the
aesthetic pleasure, where the pleasure has no relation to the faculty of desire or is dis-
interested, Kant makes clear that pleasure as the Lebensgefuhl is not necessarily connected
with the faculty of desire defined as the ˜˜subjective condition of life™™ in the way just

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