He also, it must be said, did not deny that beauty is a subjective emotional response, and not a physical quality comparable to colour or size. Then, in order for some beauty to be absolutely true, there must exist a standard of taste; that is "a rule, by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled;.
This solution will be his standard of taste. If the above two ideas are false, then the truth must be some kind of compromise between them. Hume proposes a concept similar to that posed by Locke, of primary and secondary qualities.
Hume says that, although beauty is no physical property in itself, "there are certain qualities in objects which are fitted by nature to produce those particular feelings. This concept lends us some of the objectivity from the "beauty is a physical property" hypothesis, however leads us to another problem - we cannot simply inspect an object to see if it is beautiful as we can with physical properties; an assessment of an emotional response must still be made.
He essentially states that for identifying the standard of taste, the average person is unqualified, and that we much look to those better suited. Is Hume even speaking of the baser, negative emotions when he grants the viewer this authority to speak?
Would I be allowed to speak on The Time Machine at all according to Hume, as I do not find it beautiful, I find it to be in fact quite ugly? At the crux of a Freudian Analysis is the idea that the reader or critic must take whatever bothered them most about a work, that which is uncanny to them, and then structure their understanding of the work in such a way that this is what the work was about.
Most people aren't "delicate" enough; their literary tastes are just too crude to serve as a basis for comparing most authors. Among other things, their tastes are insufficiently educated. Our tastes for art are cultivated by education and practice. People with no previous exposure to opera are likely to be bored. Education aside, not everyone is even capable of noticing some of the important things that are important to the experience.
It's like wine tasting -- some people are simply more capable of tasting what is there. This delicacy every one pretends to: Every one talks of it; and would reduce every kind of taste or sentiment to its standard.
But as our intention in this essay is to mingle some light of the understanding with the feelings of sentiment, it will be proper to give a more accurate definition of delicacy, than has hitherto been attempted. It is with good reason, says SANCHO to the squire with the great nose, that I pretend to have a judgment in wine: this is a quality hereditary in our family. Two of my kinsmen were once called to give their opinion of a hogshead, which was supposed to be excellent, being old and of a good vintage.
One of them tastes it; considers it; and after mature reflection pronounces the wine to be good, were it not for a small taste of leather, which he perceived in it. The other, after using the same precautions, gives also his verdict in favour of the wine; but with the reserve of a taste of iron, which he could easily distinguish. You cannot imagine how much they were both ridiculed for their judgment.
But who laughed in the end? On emptying the hogshead, there was found at the bottom, an old key with a leathern thong tied to it. The great resemblance between mental and bodily taste will easily teach us to apply this story. Though it be certain, that beauty and deformity, more than sweet and bitter, are not qualities in objects, but belong entirely to the sentiment, internal or external; it must be allowed, that there are certain qualities in objects, which are fitted by nature to produce those particular feelings.
Now as these qualities may be found in a smaller degree, or may be mixed and confounded with each other, it often happens, that the taste is not affected with such minute qualities, or is not able to distinguish all the particular flavours, amidst the disorder, in which they are presented.
Where the organs are so fine, as to allow nothing to escape them; and at the same time so exact as to perceive every ingredient in the composition: This we call delicacy of taste, whether we employ these terms in the literal or metaphorical sense. Here then the general rules of beauty are of use; being drawn from established models, and from the observation of what pleases or displeases, when presented singly and in a high degree: And if the same qualities, in a continued composition and in a small degree, affect not the organs with a sensible delight or uneasiness, we exclude the person from all pretensions to this delicacy.
To produce these general rules or avowed patterns of composition is like finding the key with the leathern thong; which justified the verdict of SANCHO's kinsmen, and confounded those pretended judges who had condemned them.
Though the hogshead had never been emptied, the taste of the one was still equally delicate, and that of the other equally dull and languid: But it would have been more difficult to have proved the superiority of the former, to the conviction of every by-stander. In like manner, though the beauties of writing had never been methodized, or reduced to general principles; though no excellent models had ever been acknowledged; the different degrees of taste would still have subsisted, and the judgment of one man had been preferable to that of another; but it would not have been so easy to silence the bad critic, who might always insist upon his particular sentiment, and refuse to submit to his antagonist.
But when we show him an avowed principle of art; when we illustrate this principle by examples, whose operation, from his own particular taste, he acknowledges to be conformable to the principle; when we prove, that the same principle may be applied to the present case, where he did not perceive or feel its influence: He must conclude, upon the whole, that the fault lies in himself, and that he wants the delicacy, which is requisite to make him sensible of every beauty and every blemish, in any composition or discourse.
It is acknowledged to be the perfection of every sense or faculty, to perceive with exactness its most minute objects, and allow nothing to escape its notice and observation. The smaller the objects are, which become sensible to the eye, the finer is that organ, and the more elaborate its make and composition.
A good palate is not tried by strong flavours; but by a mixture of small ingredients, where we are still sensible of each part, notwithstanding its minuteness and its confusion with the rest. In like manner, a quick and acute perception of beauty and deformity must be the perfection of our mental taste; nor can a man be satisfied with himself while he suspects, that any excellence or blemish in a discourse has passed him unobserved.
In this case, the perfection of the man, and the perfection of the sense or feeling, are found to be united. A very delicate palate, on many occasions, may be a great inconvenience both to a man himself and to his friends: But a delicate taste of wit or beauty must always be a desirable quality; because it is the source of all the finest and most innocent enjoyments, of which human nature is susceptible.
In this decision the sentiments of all mankind are agreed. Wherever you can ascertain a delicacy of taste, it is sure to meet with approbation; and the best way of ascertaining it is to appeal to those models and principles, which have been established by the uniform consent and experience of nations and ages.
But though there be naturally a wide difference in point of delicacy between one person and another, nothing tends further to encrease and improve this talent, than practice in a particular art, and the frequent survey or contemplation of a particular species of beauty. When objects of any kind are first presented to the eye or imagination, the sentiment, which attends them, is obscure and confused; and the mind is, in a great measure, incapable of pronouncing concerning their merits or defects.
The taste cannot perceive the several excellences of the performance; much less distinguish the particular character of each excellency, and ascertain its quality and degree. If it pronounce the whole in general to be beautiful or deformed, it is the utmost that can be expected; and even this judgment, a person, so unpracticed, will be apt to deliver with great hesitation and reserve.
But allow him to acquire experience in those objects, his feeling becomes more exact and nice: He not only perceives the beauties and defects of each part, but marks the distinguishing species of each quality, and assigns it suitable praise or blame. A clear and distinct sentiment attends him through the whole survey of the objects; and he discerns that very degree and kind of approbation or displeasure, which each part is naturally fitted to produce.
The mist dissipates, which seemed formerly to hang over the object: the organ acquires greater perfection in its operations; and can pronounce, without danger of mistake, concerning the merits of every performance. In a word, the same address and dexterity, which practice gives to the execution of any work, is also acquired by the same means in the judging of it.
So advantageous is practice to the discernment of beauty, that, before we can give judgment of any work of importance, it will even be requisite, that that very individual performance be more than once perused by us, and be surveyed in different lights with attention and deliberation.
There is a flutter or hurry of thought which attends the first perusal of any piece, and which confounds the genuine sentiment of beauty. The relation of the parts is not discerned: The true characters of style are little distinguished: The several perfections and defects seem wrapped up in a species of confusion, and present themselves indistinctly to the imagination.
Not to mention, that there is a species of beauty, which, as it is florid and superficial, pleases at first; but being found incompatible with a just expression either of reason or passion, soon palls upon the taste, and is then rejected with disdain, at least rated at a much lower value.
It is impossible to continue in the practice of contemplating any order of beauty, without being frequently obliged to form comparisons between the several species and degrees of excellence, and estimating their proportion to each other.
A man, who has had no opportunity of comparing the different kinds of beauty, is indeed totally unqualified to pronounce an opinion with regard to any object presented to him.
By comparison alone we fix the epithets of praise or blame, and learn how to assign the due degree of each. The coarsest daubing contains a certain lustre of colours and exactness of imitation, which are so far beauties, and would affect the mind of a peasant or Indian with the highest admiration.
The most vulgar ballads are not entirely destitute of harmony or nature; and none but a person, familiarized to superior beauties, would pronounce their numbers harsh, or narration uninteresting. A great inferiority of beauty gives pain to a person conversant in the highest excellence of the kind, and is for that reason pronounced a deformity: As the most finished object, with which we are acquainted, is naturally supposed to have reached the pinnacle of perfection, and to be entitled to the highest applause.
One accustomed to see, and examine, and weigh the several performances, admired in different ages and nations, can only rate the merits of a work exhibited to his view, and assign its proper rank among the productions of genius. But to enable a critic the more fully to execute this undertaking, he must preserve his mind free from all prejudice, and allow nothing to enter into his consideration, but the very object which is submitted to his examination.
We may observe, that every work of art, in order to produce its due effect on the mind, must be surveyed in a certain point of view, and not be fully relished by persons, whose situation, real or imaginary, is not conformable to that which is required by the performance. An orator addresses himself to a particular audience, and must have a regard to their particular genius, interests, opinions, passions, and prejudices; otherwise he hopes in vain to govern their resolutions, and inflame their affections.
Should they even have entertained some prepossessions against him, however unreasonable, he must not overlook this disadvantage; but, before he enters upon the subject, must endeavour to conciliate their affection, and acquire their good graces. A critic of a different age or notion, who should peruse this discourse, must have all these circumstances in his eye, and must place himself in the same situation as the audience, in order to form a true judgment of the oration.
In like manner, when any work is addressed to the public, though I should have a friendship or enmity with the author, I must depart from this situation; and considering myself as a man in general, forget, if possible, my individual being and my peculiar circumstances. A person influenced by prejudice, complies not with this condition; but obstinately maintains his natural position, without placing himself in that point of view, which the performance supposes.
If the work be addressed to persons of a different age or nation, he makes no allowance for their peculiar views and prejudices; but, full of the manners of his own age and country, rashly condemns what seemed admirable in the eyes of those for whom alone the discourse was calculated.
If the work be executed for the public, he never sufficiently enlarges his comprehension, or forgets his interest as a friend or enemy, as a rival or commentator. By this means, his sentiments are perverted; nor have the same beauties and blemishes the same influence upon him, as if he had imposed a proper violence on his imagination, and had forgotten himself for a moment.
So far his taste evidently departs from the true standard; and of consequence loses all credit and authority. The essay on taste suggests that the same content would not be a flaw if proper adjustments were made. Disagreeable aspects contribute to our general approbation because those properties are balanced by naturally agreeable properties.
Second, a general psychological principle explains how it is possible for competing emotions to produce a complex, pleasing sentiment. Although Hume illustrates his general principle with numerous examples, few of his contemporaries or modern interpreters endorse his theory.
A rare exception is Galgut Famously, the theory faces multiple objections. It offers no working definition of tragedy and its examples are not, for the most part, genuine tragedies, points noted by Neill But the obvious reply is that many viewers enjoy the spectacle of violence.
How can Hume contend that the play is ruined when so many viewers enjoy it? For there is no appeal except to sentiment. Perhaps Hume thinks that shocking spectacle satisfies vulgar taste but not refined taste. But a refined taste is equally sensitive to all facets of the work, including formal design. Only the best critics worry about the absence of genius. If audience expectations are violated by excessive violence, and if there is no compensating reward for its inclusion, then the work has been improperly staged for its intended audience.
But works that merely satisfy expectations will please the less discerning critics. Unfortunately, this interpretation merely heightens the problem. What is it that rewards vulgar taste? Why does violent spectacle attract anyone to routine, predictable potboilers? Natural sympathy should arouse uneasiness at the gory spectacle, yet the vulgar have no compensating reward. But that would seem to be a compensating pleasure in all but the most inept production, and would lead us to expect that vulgar audiences would respond with equal pleasure to almost any inferior work that meets their expectations.
But this is simply not the case. Selby-Bigge, 2nd ed. Nidditch, Oxford: Clarendon Press, Selby-Bigge, 3rd edition revised by P. Greig, 2 volumes, Oxford: Clarendon Press, Green and T. Baxter, Donald L. Brown, Stuart Gerry Budd, Malcolm Cohen, Ralph Cohen, Ted Costelloe, Timothy M. Dadlez, Eva M. Dickie, George Foot, Philippa Pears ed. Galgut, Elisa Gracyk, Theodore Grant, James Guyer, Paul Hester, Marcus Jones, Peter Kivy, Peter Korsmeyer, Carolyn Brand and Carolyn Korsmeyer eds.
Kulenkampff, Jens Levinson, Jerrold MacLachlan, Christopher MacMillan, Claude Marshall, David Mason, Michelle Mothersill, Mary Neill, Alex Noxon, James Osborne, Harold Perricone, Christopher Ribeiro, Brian Rose, Mary Carman Ross, Stephanie Saccamano, Neil Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey Schier, Flint — Shelley, James Shiner, Roger A.
Shusterman, Richard Siebert, Donald T. Stradella, Alessandra Sverdlik, Steven Taylor, Jacqueline Townsend, Dabney Wieand, Jeffrey
Poetry has an obvious formal element. He drew on classical sources, including Cicero. Hume asserted that there are in fact invalid views, and that many people possess "absurd and ridiculous" taste. It is essential to the ROMAN catholic religion to inspire a violent hatred of every other worship, and to represent all pagans, mahometans, and heretics as the objects of divine wrath and vengeance. Imagination also creates chains of associated ideas, encouraging thoughts to move rapidly from one idea to another. If all taste is equal but taste defines the aesthetic value, how can it be that some art is good and others bad
Yet he also acknowledges the relevance of sound understanding to taste. Both must enter into our final sentiment of approbation or disapprobation.
The construction of each essay suggests a purpose of working out details of the larger project in the face of an obvious counterexample. In 11, Hume notes that the greatest works of art are appreciated in all times and places. This equation underlies the problem of whether all tastes are equal. No religious principles can ever be imputed as a fault to any poet, while they remain merely principles, and take not such strong possession of his heart, as to lay him under the imputation of bigotry or superstition. Though it be certain, that beauty and deformity, more than sweet and bitter, are not qualities in objects, but belong entirely to the sentiment, internal or external; it must be allowed, that there are certain qualities in objects, which are fitted by nature to produce those particular feelings. A great inferiority of beauty gives pain to a person conversant in the highest excellence of the kind, and is for that reason pronounced a deformity: As the most finished object, with which we are acquainted, is naturally supposed to have reached the pinnacle of perfection, and to be entitled to the highest applause.