The Significance of Plato's Notions of Beauty and Pleasure in the Philosophy of Kant
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Plato conceived of the Form of Beauty as quite distinct from the Form of the Good. Beauty was a means to the Good. The ascent theory of the Symposium has suggested to some commentators that Plato envisaged two kinds of beauty, the sensuous and the intellectual, and that to reach the Good we must transcend our sensuous desires and cultivate an appreciation of intellectual beauty. However, in the Laws Plato presents us with a third notion of beauty, which is neither sensuous nor intellectual. To experience beauty we need to cultivate our pleasure in harmonious forms. This is where we find a theory of beauty that resonates in Kant’s aesthetic theory. According to the latter, the feeling for beauty is a feeling for harmony that takes us beyond the confines of a world marked out by self-interest. I conclude that Plato’s aesthetic theory anticipates the role that aesthetic judgment would play in Immanuel Kant’s system of the mind.