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“Cognition in general” A discursive reading of Kant’s Free Play


§9 of Kant’s Critique of Judgement is devoted to an analysis of the aesthetic state of mind. Kant claims that the free play of sensibility and the understanding is essentially a relation to “cognition in general”. I argue that this poses a considerable constraint on any plausible interpretation of the free play. Any such interpretation must be capable of explaining how it can naturally come about that the free play is essentially related to cognition in general. I shall first consider several different senses of “in general” in Kant and then suggest a suitable interpretation of the term “cognition in general”. I shall then suggest a discursive reading of the free play that is capable of taking into account Kant’s generality constraint. Finally, I argue that Kant’s theory of the free play is not limited to aesthetics, but opens up unexpected perspectives for non-aesthetic experience as well, and for critical thinking more generally.

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