A Psychological Interpretation of Hume’s Standard of Taste

In Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste”1, we are presented with a sometimes confusing picture of the aesthetic world. On one hand, Hume is quite explicit in saying that aesthetic properties are dependent upon beliefs of aesthetic agents; they are parasitic on sentiment. However, Hume argues that there are nevertheless clear standards of taste, which dictate the correctness of our various aesthetic judgments. Here I wish to present a loose interpretation of Hume that takes the psychological nature of aesthetic judgments seriously. Following work by Jerrold Levinson, I claim that aesthetic standards can only be understood from the perspective of prediction; we want to have an aesthetic standard of taste so that we can predict which works will bring us the most aesthetic pleasure. Furthermore, if we consider this issue from such a perspective, the more troubling issues of Hume’s view fall away. Continue reading A Psychological Interpretation of Hume’s Standard of Taste