Whether addressing ideas of beauty in nature or works of art, aesthetic judgments implicate disability insofar as they presume a normative standard of perception and an ideal of bodily perfection as the object of affective response. Although theories of taste and beauty have been in existence since Plato and Aristotle, the term “aesthetics” emerges centrally in the eighteenth century as a discourse about perception and feeling. For Immanuel Kant, for instance, an aesthetic judgment is distinct from one involving deductive reasoning or conceptual information concerning the object. He distinguishes between teleological and aesthetic judgments, the former of which concern objects, purposes, and intentions; the latter are disinterested, based on subjective apprehension. Kant implies that disinterested pleasure is distinct from the self-interested pleasure we obtain from satisfying a drive or solving a problem. In a paradoxical move, however, he also claims that my feeling of pleasure is validated by my presumption that others would feel the same way (“when [a man] puts a thing on a pedestal and calls it beautiful he demands the same delight from others” [Kant 1952], 50). This conflation of noncontingent personal pleasure with collective assent is the cornerstone of bourgeois aesthetics, from Karl Marx to Herbert...

This essay may be found on page 26 of the printed volume.

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