Volume 48, Issue 3, Fall 2018
Political Ramifications of Formal Ugliness in Kant’s Aesthetics
Kant’s theory of taste supports his political theory by providing the judgment of beauty as a symbol of the good and example of teleological experience, allowing us to imagine the otherwise obscure movement of nature and history toward the ideal human community. If interpreters are correct in believing that Kant should make room for pure judgments of ugliness in his theory of taste, we will have to consider the implications of such judgments for Kant’s political theory. It is here proposed that pure, formal ugliness symbolizes regressive, counter-teleological trends in nature and history. Kant’s paradoxical stance on the right to rebellion, both condemning and supporting the French Revolution, is interpreted as failing to take into account negative social forces signified by ugliness, and therefore neglecting the role of moral agency in social change.