Friday, 23 January 2009

Hume's aesthetics

Yesterday we read Hume in the aesthetics course. What a revelation! Hume in the original proves to be a clear and profound thinker. I had expected him to bandy about the usual "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and in fact he does begin by noting that there is a variety of tastes. He does admit that taste and sentiment are 'subjective', in the sense that they belong to the subject. Soon, however, he is pointing out that we do naturally seek general or common standards of taste, and he even criticizes 'philosophies which hold that it is impossible to arrive at such standards.'

He seems to be implying that there are certains forms or orders in nature that evoke aesthetic appreciation in us. He also makes a strong plea for common standards of taste. He explains the diversity by a series of external and internal factors: lack of serenity, of focus on the object, of experience, of practice, of delicacy of taste... And he warmly recommends practice: the more one practices, the more one develops delicacy of taste.

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