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ScholarOne - The Spontaneous Resemblance Between Kant's Aesthetics and Smith's Capitalism
  • Joe Tinguely
Joe Tinguely
University of South Dakota

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There are a number of ways in which Kant can be said to provide the “aesthetics of capitalism”. This paper argues specifically that central innovations of Kantian aesthetics—purposiveness without a purpose, artistic genius, the free play of the faculties, and the contrapurposive sublime—are to the philosophy of mind what the “invisible hand” is to capitalist social formation and economic practice. The relevant connection between Kant’s aesthetic psychology and Adam Smith’s capitalist political-economy is that each depends on the claim that order can emerge without an orderer operating according to prior intent, purpose, design, or conscious control. Along with Hume and the central framework of the Scottish Enlightenment more generally, Smith and Kant both seek to explain how order can arise spontaneously; they simply attend to different domains—Smith looking outward to social order and Kant looking inward towards mental order. However, once the logical and metaphysical structure of spontaneous order is seen as the key issue across multiple domains, then Kantian aesthetics and emerging capitalist social formations appear as two sides of the same coin.
13 Feb 2024Submitted to Advance
06 Mar 2024Published in Advance