David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.


I must confess that a beautiful poem has always given me pure delight, whereas reading the best speech of a Roman public orator, or of a contemporary parliamentary speaker or preacher, has always been mingled with the disagreeable feeling of disapproval of an insidious art, an art that knows how, in important matters, to move people like machines to a judgment that must lose all its weight with them when they mediate about it calmly. Rhetorical power and excellence of speech (which together constitute rhetoric) belong to fine art; but oratory, the art of using people’s weaknesses for one’s own aims (no matter how good these may be in intention or even in fact), is unworthy of any respect whatsoever. Moreover, both in Athens and in Rome, it came to its peak only at a time when the statewas hastening to its ruin, and any true patriotic way of thinking was extinct. Someone who sees the issues clearly and has a command of language in its richness and purity, as well as a fertile imagination proficient in exhibiting his ideas and a heart vividly involved in the true good, is the excellent man and expert speaker, the orator who speaks without art but with great force, as Cicero would have him, even though he himself did not always remain faithful to this ideal.

Critique of Judgment 53 (tr. Pluhar)

If we wish to divide the fine arts, we can choose for this, at least tentatively, no more convenient principle than the analogy between the arts and the way people express themselves in speech so as to communicate with one another as perfectly as possible, namely, not merely as regards their concepts but also as regards their sensations. Such expression consists in word, gesture, and tone (articulation, gesticulation, and modulation). Only when these three ways of expressing himself are combined does the speaker communicate completely. For in this way thought, intuition, and sensation are conveyed to others simultaneously and in unison.

Critique of Judgment 51


  1. reading these, you might get the false impression that kant was a real stylist… i wish the rest of critique of judgment was this clear and illuminating…

  2. What a coincidence! On the day I decide to stop by your web log and reacquaint myself, I find a passage I transcribed earlier today … 51. I think I have a lot of catching up to do, and I look forward to it!

  3. Dan: I think the praise should go mostly to Pluhar, the translator, as the other translations I’ve read of these passages are…less pretty. Pluhar, to my surprise, has some grace about him.

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