Wednesday, 6 January 2016


David Hume, (born May 7, 1711, EdinburghScotland—died August 25, 1776, Edinburgh), Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism.
Hume conceived of philosophy as the inductive, experimental science of human nature. Taking the scientific method of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton as his model and building on the epistemology of the English philosopher John Locke, Hume tried to describe how the mind works in acquiring what is called knowledge. He concluded that no theory of reality is possible; there can be no knowledge of anything beyond experience. Despite the enduring impact of his theory of knowledge, Hume seems to have considered himself chiefly as a moralist

David Hume's primary project was to develop a science of human nature; a science stripped of dogma and based on observable fact and careful argument. He thus paved the way for cognitive science, a vibrant interdisciplinary enterprise combining philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence. But Hume's "science of man" extends well beyond the individual mind, into fundamental questions about morals, society, political and economic behavior, and religious belief. In particular his moral theory, grounded on empathy and the emotions rather than theology or logic, continues to exert a profound influence.

Hume's philosophy is uniquely relevant to the fostering of cross-collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to current global challenges. With the world in disarray, facing economic, religious and environmental crises, more than at any time since the 18th century, we need enlightened visionary thought to facilitate measured responses to these threats to human cultural, social, economic and political well-being. How much can we know, and how far can we trust our natural cognitive faculties? What are the roots of human behavior, including moral and economic behavior?  And other questions of the like manner.

In Of the Standard of Taste, David Hume thoroughly describes the different aspects that qualify humans to be art critics.

Hume speaks on the behaviors that allow men to judge art. He starts off by making the point that “the difference among men is really greater than at first sight it appears”

Hume is making the point that besides from judging blatantly good and bad works, men have very different views on art. He strongly believes that all men are not fit to judge art. “Thus, though the principles of taste be universal, and nearly, if not entirely the same in all men; yet few are qualified to give judgment on any work, or establish their own sentiment as the standard of beauty”

There are many reasons, which Hume illustrates, as to why all men are not properly capable of judging art. One aspect that Hume describes is the aspect of prejudice that is naturally found in humans. In order to judge a work one must allow “nothing to enter into his consideration, but the very object which is submitted to his examination”

Image result for David Hume's primary project

Therefore one must not be biased or have other thoughts in his/her head while attempting to judge a piece. In addition Hume adds that in order to judge art one must have the opportunity to compare the work to other works. “A man who has no opportunity of comparing the different kinds of beauty, is indeed totally unqualified to pronounce an opinion”

Only a small number of people will notice and enjoy certain things. Literature (and the other arts) stimulate our mental ("internal") taste, and a lot of literature falls into the category of stuff that will only interest and please a few people.

Hume focuses on the case of comparisons of literary works. Suppose someone says that author A is better than author B. These judgments, if based on anything, are based on the speaker's personal preference for A over B. In other words, these comparison's are a reflection of literary taste.

It is important to notice that our pleasures are rule-governed, that is, they are not entirely random. (E.g.: Most people enjoy ice cream on a hot day. If you tell me that you cannot eat it because you have a bad tooth and it will cause you pain, I understand. But if you tell me that it tastes bad to you, I am likely to think that there is something very unusual about you -- the normal rules don't apply.)

Where rules of normal response are present and apply in a predictable way, then the resulting pleasure can be used as a basis for recommending something.

The problem is this: taste involves a response to something, and the preference is based on the pleasure that we receive in that response. If A gives more pleasure than B, then there does not seem any basis for denying that A is better than B, provided we understand that "A is better than B" is reporting the speaker's findings (and not making any claim that we will get more pleasure from A than from B).

On the other hand, we want to say that some people are just wrong when they say these things, even when we know that they really do like A more than B. In other words, we cannot seriously believe that everyone's taste is equally legitimate.

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. If you cannot "taste" an artwork because you cannot perceive what's in it, you are in no position to make recommendations to others about it.

The story of Sancho's kinsmen is introduced. The point seems to be that, even if the majority think a work of art is good, it might really be terrible, because the majority is often in no position to judge most artworks. Most people will lack the required delicacy of taste.

Artistic style is a major obstacle -- our tastes have to be educated to deal with changing styles.

Through lack of delicacy, lack of practice, prejudice (you won't give it a chance because it's not familiar or related to your social situation at the present time), or other distortion of taste, most people are not good judges.

However, no matter how delicate you naturally are, or how much you practice, etc., there will be obstacles to becoming a true "critic" of art:
(1) Inborn personal disposition -- we want art that reflects our general sensibility (some people just literally can't respond to irony).
(2) Differences in morality -- we cannot approve of art that too strongly assaults our basic sense of right and wrong (although we can adjust for "innocent" differences that we see as allowable cultural differences).

I agree with Hume here for the most part. I believe that in order to judge art properly, one must not be any normal human, but someone who understands the correct way to be an art critic. However, I disagree with Hume that “there is one, and but one” opinion of art “that is just and true”

While I don’t think all men are fit to judge art, I do believe that there can still be multiple “correct” opinions on a piece. There are many qualified students that are skilled and knowledgeable enough to judge art.

Like Hume writes, “Though men of delicate taste be rare, they are easily to be distinguished in society, by the soundness of their understanding and the superiority of their faculties above the rest of mankind”



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