Truth, Taste and the Supersensible
WE GENERALLY MANAGE TO READ the Critique independently of the idealistic metaphysic so central to Kant's thought elsewhere. At one important juncture, though, that current erupts in dramatic and puzzling fashion. I have in mind the sections of the book that present, and purportedly resolve, the antinomy of taste (§§56 and 57, together with the two immediately following Remarks). Kant is concerned there to situate the beautiful in its proper conceptual niche, and he appears to do this by unreservedly rooting it in the supersensible substrate of phenomena. When such stress has already been laid on the fundamentally subjective nature of the aesthetic, this unannounced appearance of the hyperobjective takes one aback. It is not at all easy to grasp what is afoot, and hard to believe that good sense is not making way for idle mystification.
The problem arises from a desire to allow that taste is possible at all, a thought that brings with it the implication that aesthetic judgments are evaluable as true or false, correct or incorrect. 'Each to his own taste' puts paid to that, one might suppose; but Kant is firm. To endorse the familiar banality would be to abandon all idea of taste whatsoever, since for each of us to have our own taste is a strict impossibility (§7.2). Privatising aesthetic estimates in this way could only be a move of last resort.
Setting aside this ultimately sceptical option, then, Kant holds that we are bound to endorse two seemingly opposed ideas: one, that there is no disputing about taste; the other, that it does permit