David Hume Of The Standard Of Taste Summary

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The shortest and most important paragraph of David Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” appears six paragraphs into the essay. The paragraph is Hume’s definition of the standard of taste and introduces the main section where he tries to characterize the standard. Yet, the definition Hume gives is unclear. He doesn’t say if the standard of taste is a rule with conflicting sentiments that could be reconciled, or if it’s a decision where sentiments are condemned or confirmed. This, like the two conflicting common attitudes towards taste, gives two different characterizations to the standards of taste. Hume identifies two standards: a rule standard, and a decision standard. He uses this essay to prove to the reader that these two standards are not…show more content…
A standard everyone will direct their attention to should they have a conflict about taste. He ensures his standard is acceptable by first acknowledging common sense attitudes towards taste before reaching two different conclusions. The first common sense attitude is every individual’s sentiments towards a work of art is correct. As Hume’s puts it “All sentiment is right; because sentiment has a reference to nothing beyond itself” (230). As long as it’s that person’s honest sentiment, Hume’s concludes that feelings can never be wrong. The second common sense attitude is even though people have differing sentiments, certain works are more correct than others, as Hume’s writes “Though there may be found persons, who give preference to former authors...we pronounce without scruple the sentiment of these pretended critics to be absurd and ridiculous” (231). In this case, some sentiments hold more value than others. Models such as Homer, Milton, and Addison are great because they have been “established by the uniform consent and experience of nations and ages” (237). They have passed the test of time and differing cultures and survived. This is how Hume reaches his first standard. He concludes that the reason people find approval for certain works is because the works possess features which cause the approval. He further notes that these features are part of “general observations, concerning what has been universally found to please in all countries and ages” (231). He refers to these observations as rules: rules of art, composition, and criticism. From his observation on the common sense of taste, Hume derives his rule of art standard for taste. For his second standard of taste he uses the same two observed common sense attitudes, this time he identifies that people approve of certain characteristics found in a true judge by
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