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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 1, 1975

Michael R. Neville
Pages 141-167

Kant on Beauty as the Symbol of Morality

The paper attempts to show what Kant means by his claim that "the beautiful Is the symbol of the morally good" In Section 59 of the Critique of Judgment. Part I explicates his notion of symbolism in general and includes a subsidiary explication of his notion of analogy. Part II deals with some special problems which arise when he seeks to apply that general notion of symbolism to the particular province of the beautiful. The conclusions drawn are that Kant means the following: that in the very act of appreciating a beautiful object and making judgments of taste thereon, we have some awareness of ourselves as free, supersensible beings, which awareness is analogous to our awareness of ourselves as free moral agents; that any beautiful object can, in this sense, serve as a symbolic presentation of the morally good; but that the symbolic relationship between beauty and moral goodness does not constitute an argument for morality or for the actuality of human freedom, for it rather presupposes our awareness of such, nor should it sinply be conflated with the beauty of nature bridging the noumenal and the phenomenal aspects of our selves, which is a further issue.

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