It seems a strange fact that the works which have exerted the greatest and most permanent influence are those of which it is most difficult to give a final and conclusive interpretation. Is it that the philosophic mind merely amuses itself looking for the answers to riddles the solution of which destroys the interest, so that it is not so much misinterpretation as explanation that great philosophers have to fear? Or is it that philosophers propose questions which depend upon higher categories than those of common understanding, with the natural result that their point of view is but imperfectly comprehended by lesser minds? Or is it simply that the works that have exerted most influence are those which arc most comprehensive and many-sided, and that different critics seize upon different aspects of the whole, and throw the emphasis on different points?
It is not necessary to attempt to answer these questions generally, or further than affects Kant's Aesthetics. Certainly no work has exerted an equal influence on the subsequent history of aesthetics, and yet it has been most variously interpreted. However, while critics differ as to Kant's meaning on many essential points, they seem to be mostly agreed that the chief source of strength in the work lies in its comprehensiveness and its method. How they have been able to arrive at this conclusion in the face of their own criticisms, is a different matter. For they have for the most part attempted to show that the work as a whole involves an important modification of Kant's fundamental position of critical idealism, and that in its different parts it betrays considerable hesitation and vacillation of opinion on vital questions, and, moreover, frequently falls into flagrant inconsistency.