From Hume's "Delicacy" to Contemporary Art

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David Hume’s essay “Of the Standard of Taste” (1757)—which represents a major step towards clarifying eighteenth-century philosophy’s dawning aesthetics in terms of taste—also relates closely to literal, physical taste. From the analogy between gustatory and critical taste, Hume, apt at judging works of art, puts together a contradictory argument of subjectivism (taste is individual and varies from person to person) and the normativity of common sense (the test of time shows that some works of art are better than others). However, a careful reading of the text unveils a way of appealing to art criticism as a vital component in edifying a philosophically more solid standard of taste. Hume’s emphatic references to a requisite “delicacy” complicate the picture, for it is not clear what this delicacy is, but a close inspection of how Hume frames the criterion of delicacy by means of “practice” and the absence of “prejudice” might perhaps challenge us to address issues of contemporary art.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Aesthetics
Pages (from-to)35-46
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Hume
  • Delicacy of Taste
  • Art Criticism inherent to Aesthetics
  • Lawfulness without Law
  • Creative Art Processes

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