The Idealism of Purposiveness
I DO TWO THINGS HERE: negatively, I rebut a common reading of Kant's aesthetic idealism; then, more positively, I propose an alternative account, sketching a defence against the main objections which it has to face. The greatest reward that accrues from replacing the first reading with the second is that it enables us to minimise the importance to Kant of purely formal considerations in his vision of the beautiful. Undue emphasis on that too often prevents one from seeing the truly humane foundation that underlies his thought in this area.
The idealism of purposiveness, both of nature and of art, is formally stated in the rubric to §58, but in fact is formulated earlier, in the Introduction (section VII) and again in the Analytic (§§10-12). It is the doctrine that the purposiveness internal to beauty is without purpose (ohne Zweck). Contrasted with this is its realism, which would be the view that its purposiveness is fully purposive, designed (mit Absicht). The interpretative problem is to say just what this idealism amounts to. Once genuine realism is abandoned at this point, commentators have usually found it necessary to fudge up something lest we find ourselves abandoning purposiveness altogether. 1 It is largely this challenge that motivates the familiar reading: the beautiful is what looks designed, although not for anything in particular.2 The point of the phrase 'not for anything in particular' here is both to secure something positive, so that we do not have merely the false appearance of purposiveness (that is, an idealism that