The Century of Taste: The Philosophical Odyssey of Taste in the Eighteenth Century

The Century of Taste: The Philosophical Odyssey of Taste in the Eighteenth Century

George Dickie

Language: English

Pages: 168

ISBN: 0195096800

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Century of Taste offers an exposition and critical account of the central figures in the early development of the modern philosophy of art. Dickie traces the modern theory of taste from its first formulation by Francis Hutcheson, to blind alleys followed by Alexander Gerard and Archibald Allison, its refinement and complete expression by Hume, and finally to its decline in the hands of Kant. In a clear and straightforward style, Dickie offers sympathetic discussions of the theoretical aims of these philosophers, but does not shy from controversy--pointing out, for instance, the obscurities and inconsistencies in Kant's aesthetic writings, and arguing that they have been overrated.

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"the union" of the seven senses (p. 73). The objects of taste, whether of art or nature, are, Gerard notes, frequently complex in that they exhibit a variety of characteristics that affect the various senses of taste. Consequently, all seven of the internal senses 48 The Century of Taste "must at once be vigorous, in order to constitute taste in its just extent" (p. 73). This simultaneous vigor of the seven senses is what Gerard calls "the union" of the internal senses. These senses and their

96-97) A little later, in describing the conditions for experiencing beauty or sublimity, Alison may appear to be denying the thesis that emotion helps make objects beautiful. Here he writes, concerning the effects of fatigue and the like on the emotions required for the proper experiences of objects of taste, "It is not that the objects of such pleasures are changed. . . . Whenever we return to the state of mind favourable to such emotions, our delight returns with it, and the objects of such

coalescence the object that lacks the taste quality can acquire it. This thesis, which is fundamental to the associationism of Gerard and Alison, is most clearly stated in a passage from Gerard quoted earlier. It is the nature of association, to unite different ideas so closely, that they become in a manner one. In that situation, the qualities of one part are naturally 5. An Essay on Taste, Gerard, p. 9. 78 The Century of Taste attributed to the whole, or to the other part. At least,

Unfortunately for Kant's theory, we do not find the form of a pig's snout and many other "forms of purposiveness" beautiful. The truth is that while the forms of many things that, according to Kant, are forms of purposiveness are beautiful, the forms of purposiveness of many are not. To try to illustrate his thesis, in several places Kant gives lists of things that he presumably thinks everyone will agree have beautiful forms. In one place he mentions "Flowers, free designs, lines aimlessly

229). This passage envisages two different versions of the standard of taste: (1) a standard of taste that is a single rule or principle that is sufficient for settling disputes or (2) a standard of taste that is a way of making a decision that is sufficient for settling disputes. The first possibility, "a rule, by which the various sentiments of men may be reconciled" says that it is natural to seek a single rule or principle to settle disagreements. Hutcheson and Kant were doing "what conies

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