The Century of Taste: The Philosophical Odyssey of Taste in the Eighteenth Century
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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.
gives the following quaint example of this kind of mistake: "A Goth, for instance, is mistaken when from education he imagines the [Gothic] architecture of his country to be the most perfect" (p. 77) and, hence, more beautiful than Roman architecture. The Goth is right, says Hutcheson, in thinking Gothic architecture beautiful because it has uniformity in variety but wrong in thinking it more beautiful than Roman architecture because the curve of the Roman arch is continuous and, hence, more
5 detailed account of the argument that underlies Hutcheson's conclusion that there is an internal sense of beauty. I have noticed, I think for the first time, that the associationists rely not only on the well-known notion of the association of ideas to produce the central and distinctive feature of their theory but also on a dubious notion that I call "the coalescence of ideas." I show how, in order to understand Kant's theory of taste fully, it must be seen as nested within his teleology. The
the disproportion becomes larger such that, for example, the relish for sublimity crowds out the relish for beauty, the bounds of due proportion are breached. Gerard advises two ways to improve proportion. The first is achievement of an ability to comprehend all aspects of an object of taste and not to focus narrowly on one or a few. Such an ability presumably can be achieved by practice, which improves judgment. The second way of improving proportion is to exercise the internal senses equally!
fall into certain patterns, but Gerard does not show an awareness of these kind of cases. Given what Gerard says, it can be seen that there is no general way on Hume's kind of theory to compare the overall values of all works of art. Given what Vermazen says, it can be seen that such comparisons are even more limited than Gerard thought. The other question that Hume's essay does not address is that of the way that the merits and defects "add up" to a specific overall value for a work of art. On
in the works of nature" (p. 41). He then proceeds to illustrate at very great length that uniformity and variety abound in every part of nature that we call beautiful. He first notes the large-scale aspects of the universe: the spherical forms of the heavenly bodies, their periodic motion, and so on. He then describes the earth's surface as mostly covered by "a very pleasant inoffensive colour" greatly diversified by light, shade, and various surface features. (Notice that it is the uniformity of