Ugliness would not be the simple opposite of beauty for Kant. Both the beautiful and the ugly share a subjective basis in an internal reflective sensation (an experience of pleasure or displeasure). The aesthetic moment is one of suspension. There is a pleasurable suspension of ordinary cognition that is related to the free play of the faculties of imagination and understanding. In the case of beauty this takes shape as a felt sympathy between the two. In the case of the sublime, there is a tension that pushes both further, that extends and enobles both. In the case of ugliness, there is the acute sense of a misalignment. There is still a suspension, still a prolongation of free play, but it tends away from either reconciliation or grand aporetic openings. Ugliness strikes us – and fascinates us. It is harbinger of something that we cannot speak, that escapes us, but also that represents an intimate threat. Ugliness is reminder of an externality that affects us both from without and from within. It is not the prospect of otherness, but the spectre of otherness. It is a reflection upon the mundanity of otherness. It is not simply a lack of symmetry or regularity, but rather the sense that this lack may have wider sway – that it may be just as elemental and formative as anything that accords with the self-image and the ambitions of the a priori.
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