English 2200F/G Lecture Notes - Wax Tablet, Literary Theory, Tabula Rasa
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
David Hume “Of the Standard of Taste” (392)
-Taste versus judgement. He is bringing in question of subjectivity.
-Hume was known as great literary theorist of the philosophers of the 18th c. Comes across as
being really clear and easy to read.
-He has complex arguments that can’t really be simplified.
-Map of his argument:
-In his intro, Hume states that there is a great variety of taste.
-His thesis is that it is natural for us to seek a standard of taste: a rule by which various
sentiments (feeling) can be reconciled. A rule where our differences of feelings (in art or
literature, etc) can be reconciled.
-He doesn’t have a standard.
-Don’t let people just go on their feelings about something. He knows that we do have
different opinions, but there should be some standard that we should always be trying
to measure up to that kind of shapes our opinions.
-Difference between sentiment and judgement and claims that beauty is not ‘in the
-(393) People’s feelings aren’t wrong, because your feeling about something has nothing to do
with its innate beauty. You can feel however you want about a poem, but it has nothing to do
with the actual poem.
-You can’t make a claim about something based solely on feeling.
-(394) Only one judgement/opinion is right no matter how many sentiments (feelings) there
are about it.
-Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty exists in the mind of everyone. In this way,
beauty is a feeling (sentiment). Beauty is not “in the thing”. Not inherent in the thing,
it’s in us that beauty exists and is felt.
-Locke got rid of the notion of the innate ideas “blank slate”. But Hume thinks it’s a wax tablet,
everything gets imprinted. Hume says your mind is just a stage where sensory impressions
come and go. You don’t have a stable identity. We are a bundle of perceptions.
-(394) Why we need a Standard of Taste:
-We know there are certain things that are better than others. We know that Milton is
better than Ogilby. Standard of Taste. We do have a judgement but we have to figure
out why we have this judgement and why this is a Standard of Taste.
-Time is a good judge of what is good and bad; what pieces of art/literature last through
-(396) caprice= changeable, fickle
-even though there are so many variations of taste, there are certain things that everyone
will agree/disagree with. It’s up to us to be aware of what these general principles are.
-Reasons why we sometimes don’t judge properly/How to get better at judging
-You only exercise a sense of delicacy when you have lots of complex flavours. Don’t
practice discerning tastes in a perfectly normal piece of food that has like one