David Hume's Of the Standard of Taste Essay

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David Hume’s essay “Of the Standard of Taste” addresses the problem of how objects are judged. Hume addresses three assumptions about how aesthetic value is determined. These assumptions are: all tastes are equal, some art is better than others, and aesthetic value of art is defined by a person’s taste(from lecture). However, Hume finds the three beliefs to be an “inconsistent triad”(from lecture) of assumptions. If all taste is equal but taste defines the aesthetic value, how can it be that some art is good and others bad? Wouldn’t all art be equal if all taste is equal? Hume does not believe all objects are equal in their beauty or greatness. He states that some art is meant to endure, “the beauties, which are naturally fitted to …show more content…
The critic can then realize the true aesthetic value by reason rather than sentiment alone. Hume states that society, “is there oftener found to lie in generals than in particulars; and to be less in reality than in appearance.”(text pg 256) But what if two critics or people disagree on the particulars, how should we decide who is right?
Whether or not taste is a judgment or a sentiment will answer who is right or wrong. If taste is a judgment then, “all determinations of the understanding are not right”(text pg 257). Judgments, “have reference beyond themselves”(text pg 257) and are provable. For example, a person can pick up a glass and declare it is plastic, but through scientific examination we could reveal it is truly made of glass. If taste is a sentiment then, “All sentiment is right; because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond itself,”(text pg 257) and all taste is truly equal. If one person likes apples and another likes oranges then “every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of other.”(text pg 257) Hume uses a story from Don Quixote as his proof that taste is a judgment and is provable to be true or false. In this story two kinsmen of Sancho are called in to taste a hogshead with wine in it. The wine “was supposed to be excellent, being old and of good vintage.”(text pg 260) The first person tastes it and said “it would be good, were it not for a small

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