Free Play

A central concept of Kant’s Critique of Judgment is that of a free play of imagination and understanding, associated with what he calls reflective judgments of beauty. “[I]t is precisely in this divorce from any constraint of a rule… where taste can show its greatest perfection in designs made by the imagination” (Hackett edition, p. 93). He also associates this with looking for a universal when we don’t already have one.

This seems to be just what was missing from his account of ethical deliberation, reviewed in Kantian Maxims. It seems to me that the emergent synthesis of a unity of apperception must also involve something like this free play, and that ethical judgment should be considered as involving a whole unity of apperception. (See also Beauty, Deautomatization; Kant and Foundationalism; Kant’s Recovery of Ends; Truth, Beauty; Interpretation.)

Alongside the autonomy of reason, the notion of free play also seems to me to add a resource for nonvoluntarist readings of Kantian freedom.