Kefu ZHU


Many scholars interpret Chinese Aesthetics with the Kantian theory of genius because they seem to form a parallel: similar innate and spontaneous mental talents that exceed normal cognition and imagination generates beautiful arts with similar extraordinary qualities. I argue that projecting Kant’s genius to illuminate the creative power analogically, i.e., the carefree-wandering mind, is infeasible. The theory of genius assumes a critical project that stipulates a valuable way to exercise the power of judgment. Genius is only a postulated idea for successfully making aesthetic judgments on artworks. In contrast, the carefree-wandering mind assumes a Daoist metaphysical-ethical theory centering on the idea of transformative self and the way to success. The carefree-wandering mind featuring Wu-Wei (無為) is the efficient cause that produces artworks with Qi-Yun (氣韵), namely, the expressive quality. Therefore, conceiving parallels between Kant and Chinese aesthetics is difficult. I conclude by proposing a potential similarity between Kant’s theory of genius and Chinese aesthetics: both draw our attention to the respective relations of each to nature.