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.


NOTES
1.
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.
2.
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.
3.
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.
4.
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 under threat.

-84-

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Kantian Aesthetics Pursued
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface v
  • Chapter One - Taste, Perception and Experience 1
  • Notes 15
  • Chapter Two - Necessity and Taste 17
  • Notes 39
  • Chapter Three - Truth, Taste and the Supersensible 41
  • Notes 62
  • Chapter Four - Hume, Kant and the Standard of Taste 64
  • Notes 84
  • Chapter Five - The Idealism of Purposiveness 87
  • Notes 98
  • Chapter Six - The Possibility of Art 101
  • Notes 121
  • Chapter Seven - Music 124
  • Notes 153
  • Chapter Eight - Architecture and Sculpture 157
  • Index of Topics 181
  • Index Locorum 182
  • Index of Names 184
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