We all know of Helen's beauty; appreciation, alas, is beyond
us. And when Hume's poor critic modestly supposes himself
insensitive to things that the good judge tries to point out, what
he regrets is absent appreciation, not present ignorance. Hume
brings out these points well; he could only do so on assumptions
about the role of good judges that view them evidentially, not
constitutively; and evidentially in such a way as to give no
toehold to Kantian reticence.
This is equally the target of Kant's often misunderstood claim that the
judgment of taste does not bring an object under concepts, or is not
'a logical judgment'. (Cf. CJ §1). In the two cases, the negative claim
ranges over both primary and secondary qualities as traditionally
understood. The puzzle for both thinkers is what is left over. For
discussion of Kant's perplexity, see the previous chapter.
Mary Mothersill curiously objects that Hume's 'two aims are at odds
with each other: you do not "reconcile" sentiments by "confirming
one and condemning another"' ( Beauty Restored ( Oxford, 1984),
p. 183). Hume would not suppose that you do. Nonetheless, once
two parties' initial disagreement is reconciled, he who has given
ground will look back at his earlier opinion and condemn it: likewise
he will confirm the view of his erstwhile opponent. Confirmation and
condemnation here result from 'reconciliation'. They are not thought
of as a means to it.
I am thinking particularly of Treatise I.ii.8: 'From considering that
beauty like wit, cannot be defined, but is discerned only by a taste
or sensation we may conclude that beauty is nothing but a form,
which produces pleasure, as deformity is a structure of parts which
conveys pain; and since the power of producing pain and pleasure
make in this manner the essence of beauty and deformity, all the
effects of these qualities must be derived from the sensation . . .'
( Selby-Bigg, (ed.), p. 299). Notice that it is the power here that Hume
calls the essence, not the sensations themselves.
How might Hume have overlooked this? Within this interpretation,
perhaps we have to say that he only imagines his good critics
being consulted about their favoured authors, so that the young
man is not presumed to say anything about Tacitus, nor the sage
about Ovid. But since they are introduced in evidence of a certain
(allegedly harmless) diversity of taste, their very presumed silence
about authors whom they prefer not to confront must be revealing.
To make for embarrassment, it is not necessary that sound judges
should disagree about some given writer or other; it is quite enough
that they should fail to speak with one voice, that is, that they should fail to agree. If this is what Hume thinks does indeed happen, his
conclusion ought to be not that preferences of blameless good judges
are all equally correct, so much as that a notion of critical correctness
rooted in the uniform sentiments of sound judges is already seriously
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Kantian Aesthetics Pursued.
Contributors: Anthony Savile - Author.
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press.
Place of publication: Edinburgh.
Publication year: 1993.
Page number: 84.
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