David Hume’s Theory of a Standard of Taste

Published: 2021-07-11 20:30:05
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Hume explains that “it is natural for us to seek a standard of taste”. He recognizes that there are a variety of tastes and one tends to find it ridiculous when someone’s opinion differs from their own, everyone equally believing that they are right. Common sense does not allow for this and makes it difficult to give judgments equal weight. Hume argues that there is a certain standard of taste required to find true beauty. He expresses this argument by identifying the difficulties in finding beauty and the qualities required to recognize it, rendering good taste.
Hume sees beauty as a mentally perceived phenomenon, therefore it is hard to find a true sense of it. When first presented with a work one is often confused, finding it hard to identify the necessary details and qualities since the prominent qualities vary from person to person. It is often dependent on a “time and place”, but for beauty to be lasting it must surpass this restriction. For example, although Homer was glorified in his time, the flaws of his narratives are no longer overlook in the more recent day and age. There are two components that are present when judgment of beauty is concerned: one’s personality and the context (age and country) to which they belong, which allows one to identify with works that are the most relatable. This search for beauty is further hindered due to the restriction posed by language, which allows one to group terms with presupposed sentiments.Morals and religion, factors that are supposed to supersede all other human thought, are measurements that disrupt the judgment of a composition since they are inconsistent and tend to relish in sentiments. All expressed sentiments are always right since they do not require a point of reference. While judgment requires a refined “understanding”, which Hume deems vital in forming good taste. According to Hume, one must obtain a certain set of abilities in order to achieve good taste. A critic should be able to compare the various “degrees of beauty” without bias. They should exhibit the ability to make a quick accurate judgment. They should not only be able to understand the intended audiences’ perspective, but also be able to identify the intended purpose of a piece and evaluate the artist’s ability to attain it. Most importantly, they should be able to identify all components of a work, identifying both general patterns and fine details.
All senses should be fully functional in order to give a reliable perspective of taste. If this can be exhibited by all critics, “uniformity” of tastes could be achieved. To achieve all this, “the rules of art” require observation, experience, and practice of each critic.

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