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Detached Reflections On Different Questions Of Aesthetics
by [?]

All the properties by which an object can become aesthetic, can be referred to four classes, which, as well according to their objective differences as according to their different relation with the subject, produce on our passive and active faculties pleasures unequal not only in intensity but also in worth; classes which also are of an unequal use for the end of the fine arts: they are the agreeable, the good, the sublime, and the beautiful.

Of these four categories, the sublime and the beautiful only belong properly to art. The agreeable is not worthy of art, and the good is at least not its end; for the aim of art is to please, and the good, whether we consider it in theory or in practice, neither can nor ought to serve as a means of satisfying the wants of sensuousness. The agreeable only satisfies the senses, and is distinguished thereby from the good, which only pleases the reason. The agreeable only pleases by its matter, for it is only matter that can affect the senses, and all that is form can only please the reason. It is true that the beautiful only pleases through the medium of the senses, by which it is distinguished from the good; but it pleases reason, on account of its form, by which it is essentially distinguished from the agreeable. It might be said that the good pleases only by its form being in harmony with reason; the beautiful by its form having some relation of resemblance with reason, and that the agreeable absolutely does not please by its form. The good is perceived by thought, the beautiful by intuition, and the agreeable only by the senses. The first pleases by the conception, the second by the idea, and the third by material sensation.

The distance between the good and the agreeable is that which strikes the eyes the most. The good widens our understanding, because it procures and supposes an idea of its object; the pleasure which it makes us perceive rests on an objective foundation, even when this pleasure itself is but a certain state in which we are situated. The agreeable, on the contrary, produces no notion of its object, and, indeed, reposes on no objective foundation. It is agreeable only inasmuch as it is felt by the subject, and the idea of it completely vanishes the moment an obstruction is placed on the affectibility of the senses, or only when it is modified. For a man who feels the cold the agreeable would be a warm air; but this same man, in the heat of summer, would seek the shade and coolness; but we must agree that in both cases he has judged well.

On the other hand, that which is objective is altogether independent of us, and that which to-day appears to us true, useful, reasonable, ought yet (if this judgment of to-day be admitted as just) to seem to us the same twenty years hence. But our judgment of the agreeable changes as soon as our state, with regard to its object, has changed. The agreeable is therefore not a property of the object; it springs entirely from the relations of such an object with our senses, for the constitution of our senses is a necessary condition thereof.

The good, on the contrary, is good in itself, before being represented to us, and before being felt. The property by which it pleases exists fully in itself without being in want of our subject, although the pleasure which we take in it rests on an aptitude for feeling that which is in us. Thus we can say that the agreeable exists only because it is experienced, and that the good, on the contrary, is experienced because it exists.

The distinction between the beautiful and the agreeable, great as it is, moreover, strikes the eye less. The beautiful approaches the agreeable in this–that it must always be proposed to the senses, inasmuch as it pleases only as a phenomenon. It comes near to it again in as far as it neither procures nor supposes any notion of its object. But, on the other hand, it is widely separated from the agreeable, because it pleases by the form under which it is produced, and not by the fact of the material sensation. No doubt it only pleases the reasonable subject in so far as it is also a sensuous subject; but also it pleases the sensuous subject only inasmuch as it is at the same time a reasonable subject. The beautiful is not only pleasing to the individual but to the whole species; and although it draws its existence but from its relation with creatures at the same time reasonable and sensuous, it is not less independent of all empirical limitations of sensuousness, and it remains identical even when the particular constitution of the individual is modified. The beautiful has exactly in common with the good that by which it differs from the agreeable, and it differs from the good exactly in that in which it approximates to the agreeable.