Necessity and Taste
TWO DOCTRINES TO THE FORE in Kant's writing are that judgments of taste are synthetic a priori and that the beautiful is the object of a necessary delight. A third is that taste rests on an a priori principle. For one reason or another, these claims have often been neglected, or, if not neglected, at least underestimated. Unless we do them justice, though, there is little chance of our seeing the Critique for the marvellous work that it is. Here I do little more than outline what I take their content to be, and perhaps present them in a more perspicuous form than they have when appearing in the ceremonial attire of Kant's own language.
I said that my first sentence expresses two doctrines, but it would be pardonable to suppose that in reality just one thought is announced, albeit in two different ways. For one thing, Kant is frequently lax in his use of his technical terms, and the expressions 'a priori' and 'necessary' are often used more or less interchangeably. Second, if we attempt to read 'a priori' in its strict epistemic sense, the claim that a judgment to the effect that a particular object is beautiful is synthetic but can be known true independently of experience is plainly false. Charity requires us not to commit Kant to any such wrong-headed belief. Then also he writes (§37.2): 'A judgment to the effect that it is with pleasure that I perceive and estimate some object is an empirical judgment. But if it asserts that I think the object beautiful, i.e. that I may attribute the delight to everyone as necessary, it is then an