Beauty is not just subjective

Virtue Aesthetics

One person likes Britney, another likes Beethoven. One person can discern the notes and texture of a Merlot, another just enjoys a glass of red. But is taste purely subjective? For Hume, good taste was discerned by a good critic, who met certain criteria – a kind of virtue aesthetics (in place of virtue ethics). However, things are not quite that simple, writes Nick Zangwill.


In his essay "Of the Standard of Taste," Hume set himself a problem. He takes off from a "sentimentalist" view of taste, according to which “beauty and deformity . . . are not qualities in objects, but belong entirely to the sentiments.”

Such a sentimentalist view stands in opposition to a view according to which judgments of taste or beauty are "determinations of the understanding" which represent qualities of beauty and deformity. What is this distinction between 'understanding' and 'sentiment', which is so fundamental for Hume? He writes: “All determinations of

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