The Critique of Judgment
by Immanuel Kant
Considered by Kant to be the culmination of his critical philosophy, “The Critique of Judgement” was the last work in the trilogy begun with “The Critique of Pure Reason” and continued with “The Critique of Practical Reason”. In this work Kant seeks to establish the a priori principles underlying the faculty of judgement, just as he did in his previous analyses of pure and practical reason. The first part deals with the subject of our aesthetic sensibility; we respond to certain natural phenomena as beautiful, says Kant, when we recognise in nature a harmonious order that satisfies the mind’s own need for order. The second half of the critique concentrates on the apparent teleology in nature’s design of organisms, i.e., organisms display a complex inter-working of parts, which are subordinated as means to serve the purpose of the whole. All of this suggests, concludes Kant, that our minds are inclined to attribute a final purpose to nature’s design and to life as a whole. This natural tendency to see purpose in nature is the main principle underlying all of our judgements. Although this might imply a super-sensible Designer behind nature and a theistic interpretation of the world, in the final analysis Kant maintains an agnostic stance. Ever the objective philosopher he insists that though we are predisposed to read design and purpose into nature, we cannot therefore prove a supernatural dimension or the existence of God. Such considerations are beyond reason and are solely the province of faith.
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