Kant-Studien 109 (2):270-285 (2018)

: Complex aesthetic perception, according to Mendelssohn’s writings between 1755 and 1771, is most alluring if it showcases a breach in the order of perfection. With this, Mendelssohn introduces a shift in our understanding of the artistic act of imitation: Artistic semblance is always lacking, and a painting that does not point to this fact is, in fact, displeasing. This is also the main reason why we enjoy non-beautiful art: in the artistic rendering of an unpleasant ‘object’ we focus on the artistic act itself, on its formal features, and its effects on us as the perceiver. Thus, a representation that evokes the mixed feelings of pleasure, appreciation, and rejection is superior to ‘pure’ beauty, in that it better refers us to higher forms of perfection: the perfection of the perceiving and creative subject. It is the nagging, near-painful impression of mixed sentiments that, according to Mendelssohn, guides our self-perfection, the highest aim of all human endeavors.
Keywords Aesthetics  Illusion  Imitation  Perfection  Sentiment
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DOI 10.1515/kant-2018-2007
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