Of The Standard Of Taste By David Hume

1650 words - 7 pages

David Hume’s essay, "Of The Standard of Taste," is one of the most revered of the copious works on what is referred to as aesthetics. Although, he is better known for his other works, such as, "A treatise of human Nature," "An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding," and "An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals," all in which he shows how limited a role reason has in the lives of humans. This subjective view is also present in "Of The Standard of Taste": aesthetic judgments are based on personal feeling more than they are on reason. Beauty is not in the object itself but in the subject; thus as the saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Because of this, there is an infinitely wide variety of opinions as there are beholders. This wide array of opinions makes it hard, as Hume himself puts it, to satisfy our natural want of "Standard of Taste; a rule, by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled; at least, a decision, afforded, confirming one sentiment, and condemning another" (257). He suggests two ways of differentiating between the best and the worst. One is the test of time: If generation after generations of spectators deem a work great, it must be great. This test is faulty because it cannot be applied to newly created works. The other test is more of a set of requirements that should be met by art enthusiast before they judge works. These requirements are as follows: 1) A delicate taste or imagination, 2) practice in the field, 3) ability to compare, 4) Lack of prejudice, and 5) good sense. It is not easy to meet all these requirements as Hume admits: “a true judge in the finer arts is ... rare” (264). However rare, there are some who have met these standards. When they come together, they mitigate any lack or want in any of the aforementioned criteria that they each may have. The joint verdict of this group of people, set of ideal critics or judges if you may, is “the true standard of taste and beauty” (Hume 264). Hume insinuates that those who do not meet the qualification mentioned should look to this standard. I believe that this is indeed a brilliant idea because the requirements that are mentioned by Hume are “descriptions of characteristics of an ideal judge that correspond with the most stable retrospective judgments” (Townsend 204). The first characteristic of an ideal critic mentioned is a delicacy of taste. Because everyone “would reduce…,” delicacy can serve as a standard of taste for a critic because ‘everyone’ acknowledges its relevance (Townsend 204; Hume 260 ). I see two aspects to this characteristic; One is more physical. The organs of the body should be in their most able states. No one should be hindered by any ailment that could affect their perceptual acuity in a negative manner. Many people will not be able to claim this trait due to the wide array of negative effects caused genetically and environmentally. For instance, a person with a cold or fever cannot claim to any judgments based...

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