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COMM 2101
Monday, Jan. 16, 2012
Reading: David Hume, “Of the Standard of Taste”
- Taste is an obvious sense
- But taste differs throughout different times and places
- “We are apt to call barbarous whatever departs widely from our own taste and apprehension”
- Difference between reality and appearance
- (#1-2) there is a wide variance among taste, even among people with “the same prejudices”
- (#2) contrasts our differences in “taste” with our disagreements in “opinion and science”
- (#3-5) he considers various approaches to ethical standards, and emphasizes the role of language
in creating a seeming agreement in what constitutes moral behaviour
- (#7-8) Hume outlines a “common sense” view of his time: “sentiment” is subjective, and no
resolution of differences is possible; but judgments are objective and disagreements can be
resolved according to properties that are “really” in the object
- (#9) He believes that all general rules of art are based on experience, and not on a priori reasoning
(knowledge known without/prior to experience)
- (#11) The greatest works of art are appreciated in all times and places
- (#12-16) Hume attempts to explain a universal recognition of greatness in terms of the “proper”
functioning of taste in various individuals; Hume is attempting to explain how we can agree on
what counts as "good" art, even though our assessments are founded in our "taste" or "sentiment”
- (#17) He suggests that we will know if our taste is functioning appropriately if our conclusions
are consistent with experiences of other nations and ages
- (#18-20) he suggests that the way to develop our taste so it functions properly is “practice” by
observing many works of art and by making comparisons among them
- (#21-22) we are urged to avoid “prejudice” in assessing art
- (#23-25) “The principles of taste” are “universal”, but it might be difficult to know whether we
have perfected our taste, free of prejudice
- (#26-27) He ridicules those who claim that we can find objective truth in philosophy and science,
but not in our appreciation of art
- (#28-31) “general principles of taste are uniform in human nature” yet he acknowledges the great
variations in our actual applications of our taste
- (#32) unacceptable moral content seems to Hume to lower the aesthetic value of some art works
- (#34-36) Hume criticizes those who excuse much religious art on the grounds that we should be
more tolerant of religious diversity than other kinds of diversity
- The central notion in Hume's aesthetics is taste. No other authority for evaluating art exists other
than taste, for Hume.
- Hume also relies on the notion of "sentiment" extensively. synonymous with "taste"? If it seems
to be used differently, what are the differences?
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- In summary, Hume believes that, even though all of our knowledge comes from our experiences,
yet we can explain agreement in aesthetic judgments because of uniformities in the human mind
in the exercise of our taste
Reading: Theodore W. Adorno, “Culture Industry Reconsidered”, p. 12-19
1. Replaced “mass culture” with “culture industry”
2. The culture industry fuses the old and familiar into a new quality
3. Mass production of products which are tailored for consumption by masses
The mass production of a product likely determines the way in which it is consumed (?)
i.e. average pop song: produced cheaply and quickly, according to a specific format; so it is
consumed easily (easy access), and generally liked; whereas an authentic statue made from
valued materials might be consumed by less people (difficult access)
4. The culture industry forces together high and low art (by way of modern technology and capitalist
motives), which have been separated for thousands of years
5. Although the culture industry undeniably takes a chance on the conscious and unconscious state
of the millions towards which it is directed, the masses are not primary, but secondary, they are
an object of calculation; an appendage of the machinery
6. The cultural commodities of the industry are controlled according to their „value‟ and not by their
actual specific content and form; it is all about profit
7. Adorno says that before the culture industry, profit was a bonus that came with the making of art,
but now art is produced specifically for the profit
8. The culture industry eliminates autonomy/authenticity
9. The culture industry‟s products are simply just commodities
10. What is seen as progress in the culture industry is newness; but really, the objective is to maintain
the status quo for „eternal sameness‟
11. „Industry‟ refers to the standardization of a product
12. Compares the meaning of the word „technique‟ in terms of the culture industry and of art
Culture industry: technique refers to distribution and mechanical reproduction that always
remains external to the object/product
Art: technique refers to the internal organization of the object/product itself
13. Touches on Benjamin‟s idea about „aura‟, saying that the culture industry “conserves the
decaying aura as foggy mist”
Contradiction: It‟s mass production of art eliminates the authentic aura all together
14. Despite all this, the culture industry is important today for consumer‟s consciousness
15. The culture industry must be taken seriously, meaning critically, for it plays an integral role in our
16. The culture industry is democratic because it responds to a demand
17. It is double-sided: it is a blessing because it provides the masses with information and advice that
can be stress-reducing; However it provides information and advice that tend to produce
conformist behaviour
18. The power of the culture industry‟s ideology is such that conformity has replaced consciousness;
it orders consumers to behave according to the status quo
19. The system hardly tolerates deviation and constantly drills the same behavioural formulas
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