Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Interdisciplinary Program


Michael Howard

Second Committee Member

Kirsten Jacobson

Third Committee Member

Michael Grillo


This thesis looks at Kant’s question about the antagonism between freedom and determinism and how he tried to reconcile them through aesthetics. I begin the thesis by sketching the influences on Kant’s aesthetics, by looking at the problem that arose after he completed his first two critiques, and by defining his three faculties. From there I examine his four moments of beauty. Next, I ask how beauty symbolizes morality. In the conclusion I submit a possible answer how beauty can resolve the antagonism between freedom and determinism. The tentative answer is as follows.

According to Kant, beauty doesn’t require us to look at a thing through determinate concepts. In those moments we see a thing as an appearance and other than its appearance (as free). We then come closest to seeing a thing-in-itself because we see the thing as other than its label—we see it as purposive and not as a purpose to be used. When Kant said beauty is a symbol of morality, perhaps he meant absolute freedom can’t have a direct representation outside of an aesthetic experience. If Kant is right that beauty bridges determinism and freedom, Kant makes a case for beauty’s importance.

Included in

Aesthetics Commons