Good Taste: Pleasure and Practice in Kant's Critique of Aesthetic Judgment

Doctoral Dissertation


What does it mean to have good taste? I provide a commentary on Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” part 1 of the Critique of Judgment, that aims to describe how he might answer this question. I show that, for Kant, taste, our capacity for feeling pleasure and displeasure on the basis of which we can judge whether an object is beautiful, begins as a crude talent that must be sharpened if we are to judge the beautiful correctly. When we have good taste, according to Kant, we become the kind of person who takes pleasure in those objects that are truly worth contemplating. I argue that this activity of contemplation, which Kant calls the free play of the understanding and the imagination, is best understood as practice reflecting on an object for the sake of better understanding what it offers. For Kant, I claim, a beautiful object provides us with an excellent example for how we might make sense of something that lies beyond the boundaries of possible experience, for example, the perfect expression of love, the majesty of God’s creative power, or what it’s like to feel at home in the world. It is an excellent example because through continued practice, we can always learn more about how it strives to show us what it does. In other words, a beautiful object offers an inexhaustible wealth of material that sustains our contemplation indefinitely, and taste, then, is our capacity to like those objects that are excellent in this sense and dislike those that are not. I argue that, for Kant, it is important to develop one’s taste because it plays an orientational role in human life. To have good taste is to become mature enough to determine for oneself which objects of art or nature offer an excellent example for how we might strive toward making sense of some of our deepest concerns as humans, that is, an example which always remains worth contemplating, an example from which we can always learn more.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04122010-215309

Author Joel Brian Watkins
Advisor Karl Ameriks
Contributor Felicitas Munzel, Committee Member
Contributor Fred Rush, Committee Member
Contributor Karl Ameriks, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Anja Jauernig, Committee Co-Chair
Contributor Rachel Zuckert, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2010-03-29

Submission Date 2010-04-12
  • United States of America

  • judgment

  • beauty

  • Immanuel Kant

  • taste

  • aesthetic ideas

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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