Ayn Rand and Immanuel Kant as Antipodes in Aesthetics
Jun 01, 2013
Ayn Rand held that Immanuel Kant was her diametric opposite in every field of philosophy. In this lecture I explore the fundamental differences between these two seminal thinkers’ ideas in aesthetics, the fifth major branch of philosophy.
In the first part of the lecture, I lay out Kant’s arguments in his Critique of Judgment. Kant’s aesthetics revolves around three issues: beauty, the sublime, and art; and on each of these issues, I demonstrate, in non-specialist terms, how Kant’s position amounts to the disintegration of consciousness – in Leonard Peikoff’s terminology, D2. I then briefly show how modernist, non-objective art embodies Kant’s aesthetics.
The second part of the lecture turns to the Objectivist aesthetics. In stark contrast to Kant, Ayn Rand grounds her philosophy of art in the facts of man’s life as a rational being pursuing values in the world. Building on the crucial concept of metaphysical value-judgments, I show how the Objectivist account of art as a vital integrator of consciousness represents a historic breakthrough in philosophy. I conclude with a few remarks on how Rand’s understanding of art sheds new light on some old questions in aesthetics. (The lecture presupposes a general familiarity with Objectivism, but no other background is necessary.)