Monday, October 3, 2011

Kant on Genius

My comment here is going to be just based on the material in the textbook I am using, Goldblatt and Brown's Aesthetics, pp. 408-410. I'm sure whatever I'll say will be pretty limited, but given this material I would say that Kant has an interesting theory of genius insofar as, unlike many other aesthetic theories, it emphasizes the teacher/student relationship and stresses the idea that each of us is potentially a genius. A genius is going to be someone who is both capable of producing something original and is academically trained, i.e. trained in the skills necessary for the field. The talent needs to be trained to produce works that can be judged good. The product can't be original nonsense: it must be original but in the the sense of "original" we use when we expect a good philosophical paper to be original, i.e. to be a contribution to a tradition. In addition, the genius is someone who is in a student/teacher relationship in which "following" rather than "imitation" is the rule. The student does not imitate the teacher. Rather, the student follows the teacher by being inspired by the teacher's work, that is assuming that the student has similar abilities to the teacher's. (There are some areas in which we just don't have talent. However, it is quite possible on Kant's view that everyone is talented in some area. Since we all have the faculties of imagination and undertanding, we are all basically equal, thus capable of genius.) The good teacher then would be someone who gets the student to discover the genius within. When the student finds his or her own genius he or she using the imagination and the understanding in free play to create rules for his or her art. These rules basically constitute the style of the genius. In addition, they allow the genius to create of world of her own, as for example, when Van Gogh creates his own world in "Starry Night," one that follows his own rules.