Reading Hume’s ‘Of the Standard of Taste’: Taking Hume Seriously

Dissertation, Lingnan University (2014)
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This thesis presents an interpretation of David Hume’s essay ‘Of the Standard of Taste’. The most distinguishing feature of this interpretation is the emphasis placed on the significance of Hume’s general philosophical position in a faithful reading of this philosophical classic. The success of this interpretation will show that Hume’s essay should be read as an integral part of his system of philosophy. There are three parts in this thesis. The first part is an overview of some key aspects of Hume’s philosophy which are relevant to my interpretation. Unlike many contemporary philosophers in the analytic tradition, Hume is a systematic thinker. A faithful reading of his works should take his general philosophical framework seriously. Therefore, this overview of his system serves as the general background of the next two parts. The second part is a discussion of Hume’s aesthetic thought. More specifically, it provides an exposition of his view on beauty and judgements of beauty. This part completes the stage-setting for the development of my interpretation, by helping the reader form a more specific conceptual framework for understanding Hume’s essay. The third part develops an interpretation of ‘Of the Standard of Taste’ according to what has been provided in the previous two parts. It starts with an outline of the essay, which indicates Hume’s aim in writing it. After that, a few sections are devoted to some central elements of the essay. The last section of this part discusses four controversies concerning Hume’s essay. These discussions establish the strength of this interpretation, or at least, the fruitful prospect of an interpretative project that integrates Hume’s essay into his whole system.
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