nl en

The Rise of Aesthetic Rationality


Admission requirements

  • BA students in Philosophy: propedeuse degree has been obtained

  • Students from other departments (including contractstudenten): propedeuse degree has been obtained, and additionally at the following philosophy courses are required: History of Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Culture. In order to participate in the course, students must have good first-hand knowledge of Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft. They must also have a good passive knowledge of German.


Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft marks the decisive point where art and the aesthetic cease to be marginalized by philosophy and move to the very centre of its concerns with truth and goodness. In matters of taste, for Kant, the rift between reason and sensibility is crossed or crossed out, and he looks to a notion of aesthetic rationality to shore up the fragmentation of reason. This course will study the rise of aesthetic rationality in Baumgarten, Kant and Schiller, its sources in the crisis of reason at the end of the 18th Century, and its impact on thinkers such as Hamman, Hölderlin, F. Schlegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

Our systematic interest will concern the relations between aesthetic rationality, theoretical and practical reason in these thinkers. Special attention will also be given to sensibility (Sinnlichkeit), and the effort to reinterpret and re-evaluate sensibility from the domain of ‘cognitio confusa’ or ‘dumpfes Denken’ (Leibniz) into an ‘analogon rationis’ that can solve problems that reason in its own medium cannot.

Course objectives

The course aims to offer students:

  • an understanding of the claim for a distinctive aesthetic rationality or ‘sensitive knowledge’ made by Baumgarten, the ‘father’ of Aesthetics, and its sources outside philosophy (the state of German poetry, French aesthetics, the conflict of the university faculties); its sources within philosophy (against Plato’s condemnation of sensibility and poetry and the logocentric tradition of western philosophy, culminating in Wolff’s rationalist metaphysics and Leibniz’s epistemology); the various formulations of this claim and associated claims to ‘sensitive knowledge’ and ‘aesthetic truth’ in Baumgarten’s key works: the Meditationes, Metaphysica, and Aesthetica; the subsequent fate of Baumgarten’s claims for ‘sensitive knowledge’ at the hands of Kant, Schiller (and Nietzsche).

  • in-depth knowledge of some key primary texts in early Aesthetics: Baumgarten’s Meditationes and Aesthetica; Kant’s Kritik der Urteilskraft; and Fr. Schiller’s Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen. This includes: a detailed, first-hand grasp of the problem-background specific to each text, its aims, structure, argumentation and conceptual vocabulary; but also an understanding of the systematic relations between them regarding shared problems and concerns, above all: the re-evaluation of sensibility (feeling, perception, imagination) as a non-conceptual medium of experience and judgement; the nature and status of reason in the domain of aesthetic experience, and its relation to theoretical and practical reason; the problem of reconciling reason and sensibility, the ideal and the real; and the problem of establishing objective standards for the judgement of beauty; an understanding of key themes and concepts from aesthetics, their history prior to modern Aesthetics, and their transformations across these texts, esp.: pleasure, taste, judgement-power, perfection, sensus communis, Schein.

  • familiarity with some of the standard secondary literature on early Aesthetics (e.g. Bäumler’s Irrationalitätsproblem; Paetzold’s Ästhetik des deutschen Idealismus; Franke’s Kunst als Erkenntnis; Juchem’s Begriff des Schönen; Schümmer’s Entwicklung des Geschmacksbegriffs; Gadamer’s Wahrheit und Methode; Caygill’s Art of Judgement; and Bernstein’s The Fate of Art inter alia).

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the rise of Aesthetics as a philosophical discipline in 17th and 18th Century German philosophy, from
    Alexander Baumgarten to Fr. Schiller. This understanding should be focused on the topics, themes and texts described under course aims.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • read the primary texts in German with the confidence needed to analyse, reconstruct and evaluate key arguments in them;

  • read secondary literature in such a way that they can extract the main points and arguments, and give a clear and structured oral presentation containing both an accurate summary of the text and a balanced evaluation of it;

  • participate in class discussions in such a way that they make intelligible and well-reasoned claims or responses to questions raised;

  • write a 5000 – 6000 word paper on a topic of their that is relevant to the course material, with attention given to: the development of a clear plan combining a sustained, overall argument with shorter arguments for specific points; clarity of style; soundness and transparency of argumentation; adequate textual evidence and referencing in support of points, including close commentaries on selected primary texts; formal features and presentation (bibliography, references, notes); written academic English.


The timetable is available on the BA Wijsbegeerte website
BA Wijsbegeerte 2016-2017 (BA Plus-traject of Standaardtraject), derde jaar.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending lectures (13 weeks x 3 hrs): 39 hours

  • Preparation of seminars:

  • Study of compulsory literature:

  • Assignment(s):

  • Preparation of oral presentation

  • Writing of paper

Assessment method

Assessment will be based on

  • active participation, including seminar-assignments and oral presentations (20%)

  • paper of 5,000 words on an assigned topic (80%)

Students are required to attend all the lectures and will lose points for (more than two) unexplained absences.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (midterm, final test). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.


The resit consists of a paper.No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard will be weekly used for announcements, assignments, course documents, and course information.

Reading list

Students are required to purchase the main primary texts:

  • Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, Werkausgabe X);

  • Schiller, Fr., Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen (Reclam) or English-German bilingual edition, tr. E.M. Wilkinson & L.A. Willoughby, Clarendon/OUP 1982);

  • Baumgarten, Texte zur Grundlegung der Ästhetik (Meiner);

  • Baumgarten, Theoretische Ästhetik: die grundlegenden Abschnitte aus der “Aesthetica” (Meiner).

  • Further primary literature will be available for students to copy, where it is not readily available.

Key secondary literature includes:

  • Paetzold, H., Ästhetik des deutschen Idealismus (Steiner, Wiesbaden 1983);

  • Schümmer, Fr., ‘Die Entwicklung des Geschmacksbegriffs in der Philosophie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts’, in: Archiv für Begriffsgeschichte (Bouvier, Bonn 1955), Bd. I, pp. 120-141;

  • Gadamer, H.-G., Wahrheit und Methode : I.1 b) Humanistische Leitbegriffe and I.2 a) Kants Lehre von Geschmack und Genie (Mohr, Tübingen 1972);

  • Bernstein, J.M., The Fate of Art. Aesthetic Alienation from Kant to Derrida and Adorno : Ch 1 on Kant (Polity, Oxford 1992).

Details of required reading from these texts will be given in the syllabus; it will be made available for students to copy, where it is not readily available.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for and exams in the column under the heading “uSis-Actnbr”.

Aanmelden à la carte en contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


Dr. H.W. Siemens


Primary texts will be read in German.