Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Following clues suggested by Merleau-Ponty regarding Kantian intentionality, we lay out a phenomenological reading of Kant wherein aesthetic experience offers a unity of self and community, now and across time. What is new in our understanding is that the unity we articulate is not the abstract logical possibility of the rational idea, the community of ends and individuals as ends in themselves. Highlighting certain elements Kant addresses regarding work, education, and the genius, we will argue that it is not merely the abstract person working toward abstract ends that measures and directs our unity, but rather the concrete work of the concrete individual. It is only with the work of the individual that reason and nature can fulfill their trajectories by finishing. Finishing, as a unity of self and community, is a style that can show itself across a wide range of human comportments. Finishing is at once the concrete fulfillment of the essence and power of humanity, but in the individual and the individual’s work, and so also a soliciting invitation to all individuals, according to their universality, to do the same: become individual. No only does this reading loosen, but not set loose, Kant’s otherwise tight teleological ideology, but it also loosens, but not set loose, the bounds where we might find the concrete universal or exemplary individuation. This phenomenological reading of Kant allows for a more pliable, dynamic, and critical understanding of enlightenment and history than the rational idea alone allowed.
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