Good Sense, Art, and Morality in Hume's ‘Of the Standard of Taste’

Journal of Scottish Philosophy 9 (1):17-35 (2011)
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In his essay ‘Of the Standard of Taste,’ Hume argues that artworks with morally flawed outlooks are, to some extent, aesthetically flawed. While Hume's remarks regarding the relationship between art and morality have influenced contemporary aestheticians, Hume's own position has struck many people as incoherent. For Hume appears to entangle himself in two separate contradictions. First, Hume seems to claim both that true judges should not enter into vicious sentiments and that true judges should adopt the standpoint of an artwork's intended audience. But The Iliad, say, was obviously intended for an audience that shared Homer's flawed moral outlook. Second, Hume appears to claim that our moral sentiments are both highly resistant to change and extremely fragile. This essay defends Hume against these two objections by drawing increased attention to the role that Hume's aesthetics assigns to the faculty of good sense or sound reason.
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