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Artistic taste

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M041-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Taste has been variously understood as (1) the capacity to take pleasure in certain artistic and natural objects, (2) the capacity to identify the constituent elements in such objects, and (3) the capacity to discern certain special properties. Taste in sense (1) has been a topic since the early eighteenth century, culminating in the work of Hume and Kant. This conception of taste is annexed to the idea that ‘beauty’ or ‘artistic excellence’ is not itself an objective property of things, but that it is recorded in judgments of beauty as a report of a certain kind of pleasure felt by the judge in the presence of these things. Taste in sense (2), which is an analogue of the notion of taste as the ability to discriminate with the tongue and taste buds, has also been a topic since the eighteenth century, articulated perhaps most clearly by Hume. A connection between sense (1) and sense (2) is intended by eighteenth-century authors, but the connection has not been formulated clearly. Taste in sense (3) is a conception originating in the mid-twentieth century, notably in the work of Frank Sibley. It is primarily the idea that beauty, elegance, gracefulness and other properties – collectively called ‘aesthetic properties’ – require a special capacity for their discernment, although these are truly objective properties located in the objects being judged.

Citing this article:
Cohen, Ted. Artistic taste, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M041-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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