David Hume- Aesthetics - Sample Essay

David Hume is one of the most significant thinkers among the Enlightenment. He is motivated by the question what is beauty, and how certain responses to artwork reflect objectivity. Hume’s essay of 1757,“Of the Standard of Taste” elegantly describes examples of the tradition of aesthetic judgment The growth of scientific knowledge influenced a sense of general optimism among Enlightenment thinkers. This sense of optimism in result called for a more critical use of human intellect.

By overturning long established dogmas, people scrutinized the very prerogatives of reason in relation to political and religious institutions. During this same time, theorists were trying to take account of all the various creative activities that were occurring such as poetry, music, dance, architecture, and sculpture etc. They generalized them into one category of “fine arts” or “beaux arts” assuming all activities were unified by the common function and purpose; pleasure. Hume devotes his aesthetic philosophy to describe and analyze art and taste within the field of criticism. clea

Humes essay “Standard of Taste” is divided into four major parts. First part compares the two views of artistic values. He supports the idea of common sense what it comes to judging artwork. It seems from this philosophy that no response to artwork can be wrong because personal taste varies throughout people and therefore cannot be dismissed. Hume rejects the conclusion that beauty simply equates with the sentiment of pleasure received by the object or thing. This is because he says sentiment “exists merely in the mind” which makes no individual response more superior than another.

The Second stage of Humes argument The third stage that Hume discusses in his essay (17 through 27) outlines what he believes constitutes a true judge of art and what may be required to improve ones own standard for judging art. “Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice. ” These specific factors in his mind would result in an individual worthy of a true judgment of at least a certain kind of artwork. In the fourth and concluding stage Hume stems from the third in the concept of who

is the true standard. While seeking this specific critic of beauty one has to also take into account peculiar circumstances that may effect the experience and overall judgment of works. Circumstances can arise from unavoidable prejudices, which even the best critics cant avoid. Factors of natural differences such as age can result in generational differences, as well as cultural biases. A critics moral outlook constitutes as another circumstance that may complicate the judgment of certain kinds of works.

Moderate moralism, Hume advocates as the best position to view works in because it confine circumstances where a work will be blemished by improper moral attitudes. David Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 7, 1711. He was a philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist. He is regarded as one of the most important thinkers of Western philosophy and the Enlightenment. He is known especially for his philosophical empiricism or sense derived knowledge and skepticism and also for his influence on another important thinker during the Enlightenment, Emanuel Kant.

Hume constantly tried to describe how the mind works in regards to knowledge and how the mind works. Experience meant a lot to Hume because he thought it served as the basis of his theory of knowledge. Hume attended the University of Edinburgh at the extraordinarily young age of 10 or 12. At first his family and him thought that a career in law was what his future may entail due to a family tradition on both sides. Yet, later he had become inspired by the different pursuits of philosophy. After a nervous breakdown and a few years to recover in 1729, he tried a job in a merchants office in 1734.

He then came to a turning point in his life where he retired to France to spend the majority of his time studying and writing. During this time spent Hume produced a writing which was separated into three books called A Treatise of Human Nature. These books was the first of Hume’s attempts at a full fledged philosophical endeavor. It was certainly his most thoroughly written product of his thoughts mostly explaining his theories about mans process of thought and knowledge. During his younger years, Hume was earning enough money to gain leisure for his philosophical studies.

In this time he wrote, rewrote, and added to the book, Treatise. It was in this set of three books that Hume developed his mature thought about the nature of reasoning in regards to fact and experience. The growth of scientific knowledge influenced a sense of general optimism among Enlightenment thinkers. This sense of optimism in result called for a more critical use of human intellect. By overturning long established dogmas, people scrutinized the very prerogatives of reason in relation to political and religious institutions. Hume was the first philosopher of the post medieval world to reformulate the skepticism of the ancients.

(Cranston) His conclusion that man is more a creature of senses and practical sentiment or taste than that of reason guided many prominent philosophers to follow. Hume’s general analysis of measuring the aesthetic experience of an object or thing is generated from a personal taste. He believes that there is no wrong evaluative response to a work of art. No reaction or opinion can be dismissed simply because it maybe disfavored by the majority. If something is beautiful to someone then this fact cannot be argued or judged upon by another.

Of course, this philosophy comes with certain limitations and specifications determining who is worthy of true judgment of works according to David Hume. In Hume’s essay he outlines what people can do to improve one’s taste and what kind of qualities must be instilled to qualify as a true judge of at least some kinds of works of art. Five qualities, Hume says, would qualify for this job. “Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice”. These conditions he believes need to be evident in order to achieve a more qualified personal taste towards a specific kind of work.

Even with the best critics there can be certain complicating circumstances that can interfere with judgment. Hume believes these kinds of unavoidable prejudices come from a matter of moral outlook. Bias that comes from individual morality varies greatly and Hume thinks that this can be a huge flaw when it comes to a persons judgment of work. Hume advocates a position of moderate moralism when it comes to “the natural boundaries of vice and virtue”. This way the works being exposed to the individual judge will not be blemished by overt premonitions.