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So I'll ask three questions (and possibly foreshadow a bit - apologies if so).

1) Can a piece of abstract art be beautiful?

I have to say that I've encountered only one piece that I'd put into that category - and I was introduced to it as a young child and given an "It's like ships" as a representational hook for it.

2) Can a young child appreciate beauty? If not, at what age can one appreciate it?

3) Can a mathematical proof or equation be beautiful? To whom?

These are both obvious questions if appreciation of beauty is related to comprehension of purpose.

"Kant’s reply to this would be firstly that someone who did not share in this experience of beauty would need to have been conditioned away from their native response"

It seems that Kant is appealing to the universality of human visual cortices rather than the universality of beauty per se.


As to Kant's free beauties, I would like to bring up the sublime beauty of physics. Not the equations that attempt to express physics, but physics itself. I personally needed years of study to understand the structure of physics, which would seem to make it unfree, and yet the it also cannot depend on the conception of the purpose of physics. For example, to the extent society gives us expectations of physics, the thing itself is very different, to the point of being entirely orthogonal to those concepts.


"1) Can a piece of abstract art be beautiful?"

I'm a bad artist, but when forced, my preferred style is abstract. A good piece of abstract is about the play of colour and shape for its own sake, not necessarily tending to represent anything, although it can if it wants.

Good abstract still needs to bow to the general laws of aesthetics - it can still be accused of being too busy, of choosing clashing colours, and so forth.

The fractal image Circle of Life gracing the virtual/real post is abstract, and I'm quite taken with it.

Peter:

"Can a piece of abstract art be beautiful?"

Kant would allow this; abstract art, although not common in his time, falls under what he calls "the play of sensations", of which music is the paradigm case. He recognises that one can do with colour what one does with music, and he would allow that it is possible to find beauty in it - certainly dependent beauty, at the very least.

"Can a young child appreciate beauty? If not, at what age can one appreciate it?"

I have no basis for deriving Kant's opinion herein, but I imagine as soon as one has the cognitive apparatus to perceive a scene, one has the capacity to recognise beauty. The recognition of beauty in Kant's terms does not require intellect, only judgement, and this is certainly available in some form to children.

"Can a mathematical proof or equation be beautiful? To whom?"

Kant recognises rhetoric as potentially beautiful (at least dependently), therefore I believe he might be open to mathematical beauty, but I believe it might always be a dependent beauty, since once must be able to comprehend the form from prior experience in order to appreciate it.


Alrenous:

"It seems that Kant is appealing to the universality of human visual cortices rather than the universality of beauty per se."

Kant's idealism places mind above 'reality'. Your statement here takes his idealism and reinterprets it on materialist and reductionist grounds. Kant would not do this. Therefore, the appeal is not Kant's, but rather yours in your interpretation of Kant in these terms. ;)

"Not the equations that attempt to express physics, but physics itself. I personally needed years of study to understand the structure of physics, which would seem to make it unfree, and yet the it also cannot depend on the conception of the purpose of physics."

This seems to me to be another case of dependent beauty, parallel to the case of mathematics I mentioned above. Since it is not accessible without study, I do not believe it can attain the status of Kant's free beauty.

The case can be made, which I suspect you are gesturing at here, that the purposefulness of physics could be beautiful in the free sense - purposefulness without representation of purpose. Yet still, this is not accessible by the judgement alone - it requires the faculty of reason. Kant allows some things that the reason deals with to parallel beauty (in particular, ethics) therefore I believe he might have been open to this kind of appeal.

"The fractal image Circle of Life gracing the virtual/real post is abstract, and I'm quite taken with it."

Vitor will be pleased! :) I frequently enjoy his work, and enjoy using his images as front-pieces.

It took me a long time to get to appreciating abstract art, but these days I favour it over strict depiction. Impressionism, however, is perhaps my favourite artistic form - the use of abstract techniques to create depictions that have a certain *feel* has especial appeal to me.

Thanks for the comments!

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