Blog Entry 2: The Persistence of Memory and Kant’s Third Moment

Kant’s Third Moment

Kant’s third moment says that for an object to be beautiful the object must strike curiosity within in us. Kant states, “Therefore it can be an object without any purpose (either objective or subjective)…”, meaning that beautiful object will invoke positive feelings that will have us star stuck (PAB, 295). The positive feelings produced from the beautiful object will lead us to look at the object with this a sort of excitement that allows us to be almost like children at a playground. This third moment allows for mental play or stimulation, and during this mental play or stimulation we can just feel what we are thinking of the object. The third moment deals exclusively with emotions and abstract concepts because we are using or imagination to solely just recognize the feelings that arise by looking at a specific object. Kant explains this by stating, “… and thus it is the mere form of purposiveness in the representation by which an object is given not us, so far as we are conscious of it…”(PAB, 295).

Salvador Dalí: The Persistence of Memory
The Persistence of Memory, oil on canvas by Salvador Dalí, 1931; in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

The Analysis

So, when we look at Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, I am instantly provoked in a positive way. The painting allows for me to have this curiosity and to be perplexed about each object, especially the clocks. When I look at the painting, I feel what Kant means by a free play, where my imagination almost runs wild. I keep wanting to look at the painting to try and figure out why the way the clocks in the painting brings out the pleasure I feel. This painting does have very deep meaning behind it, but I don’t think it is necessary to understand to apply Kant’s third moment of purposiveness. In fact, I think it is best to not look behind the scenes of the artwork because then we become interested, which violates Kant’s first moment which states we must be disinterested to judge the beautiful. The blob in the middle of the painting strikes the most pleasure within me. I am not sure what it is, and I cannot adapt concepts to why I believe the object at the center is beautiful, all I can say is that it brings pleasure to my sense of vision. This striking curiosity that I have about the blob in the middle, and what looks like melting clocks is what Kant believes to be needed to satisfy the third moment of determining the beautiful.

Additional Views

This critique (https://widowcranky.com/2020/09/08/the-persistence-of-memory-salvador-dali/), explains the piece of art to be thought provoking and goes into detail of the Surrealism Dali was trying to represent. The author believes the piece of art to be representing the true reality we experience and uses Dali’s history and career to explain the objects used in this painting are references to death, time, and the future. Therefore, the author determines that the painting can represent the fading and creation of new memories. The author concludes with the notion that the complexity within the painting makes the painting even more beautiful and valuable. While I think Kant would direct the author of the critique to rely only on the feelings they felt when experiencing the painting, the author does describe this perplexity that many including themselves feel when first encountering this painting. The normative claim that the author of the critique made applies to Kant’s fourth moment known as modality. I agree, I think many people will encounter this sense of pleasure and curiosity when gazing over this piece of art.

Some people will try to attempt to say this artwork fails the third moment of Kant’s test because a person could attempt to describe the painting as beautiful using concepts. This argument is strong because the author of the critique used concepts and many others as well use concepts to explain the sense of pleasure they feel from the clocks within the painting. However, I believe if they were made aware Kant’s third moment when judging this piece of art to be beautiful, they would resort to their imaginations and participate in this free play so they could feel the positive emotions that arise from the clocks. So, in other words I believe this objection can be resolved by educating people on Kant’s four moment of beauty. Therefore, it seems that The Persistence in Memory does pass Kant’s third moment of beauty.

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4 Comments

  1. anyecolbert says:

    This was an amazing post! I definitely agree that the artwork that you chose does invoke curiosity in me whenever I look at it!

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  2. Dalton Ferguson says:

    This is a well thought out post, I appreciate the specific examples of reaction to the curiosity that the chosen work entices. the work evokes a sense of uncanny dread when I view it, a liminal sense I think, and your different reaction to it is indicative of its innate “beauty” under Kant’s rule as we both are curious about its aspects.

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    1. Alyssa N. says:

      Thank you, Dalton. If this post gives you a feeling of dread you should check out Dali’s second version of this painting called The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. This painting and the second version both spark curiosity within myself.

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  3. jaylachambers says:

    I like that your post goes in a lot of detail with Kant’s third moment explaining how much our imagination is the center of our feelings and judgement towards an object. Often when we see things that we observe, judge and look at as beautiful we are aware that we feel that way. However, do not know what it is that sparks us to feel that way and our curiosity. You go into great detail on how Kant’s third moment relates to The Persistence of Memory and the critique towards it and your on judgement.

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