Saturday, June 23, 2007
In a chestnut passage of Critique of Judgment, Kant discusses the three different kinds of feelings of pleasure or displeasure occasioned by the “agreeable,” the “beautiful,” and the “good”: the corresponding feelings are “inclination,” “favor,” and “respect” (§5; trans. Werner S. Pluhar [Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987]). I just returned to the library all the respectable volumes on Kant, but now I wish I had them back, in the hope of finding something philological on “favor” (Gunst). The criticism I do have unfolds Gunst as something like grace, and focuses on its connotation of gratuitousness and windfall, thus freedom. Gunst as favor as windfall bears an aristocratic connotation of benevolence--the kind of freedom that Kant’s reception has developed through its imagination of the aesthete. The dictionary suggests a triangle between Gunst, Wohlwollen (benevolent favor), and the favorite (Favorit): Gunstling, Liebling, are possible objects of favoritism. The really casual connotation of the idiom, “my favorite (color, time of year etc.),” of pet things—“my favorite things” (!)--seems stronger in English, but I like this connotation better than the heavier one of preferment. After all, patronage isn’t free; anything of the relation of patronage, even figurative patronage as a state of mind, would make aesthetic experience difficult. “O object, I find myself bestowing my grace on you” isn’t the thought of the aesthetic. What the light and heavy connotations of favor alike require, though, is the admission that the favorite object is better than the others: the negative implication for the others lends Gunst its thrill and gives the aesthetic relation to the object the air, not of beneficence either way, but of conspiracy.