Volume 1, 1998
Aesthetics and Philosophy of the Arts
Putting Value into Art
The attempt to base a standard for assessing the value of works of art upon sentiment (the feeling of pleasure or displeasure) was famously made by David Hume in his essay "Of the Standard of Taste." Hume's attempt is generally regarded as fundamentally important in the project of explaining the nature of value judgements in the arts by means of an empirical, rather than a priori, relation. Recently, Hume's argument has been strongly criticized by Malcolm Budd in his book Values of Art. Budd contends that Hume utterly fails to show how any given value judgement in the arts can be more warranted or appropriate than any other if aesthetic judgements are determined by sentiment. This is a remarkable charge, since Hume explicitly sets out to introduce an aesthetic standard for "confirming one sentiment and condemning another." I examine Budd's arguments and conclude that Hume's position-and the empiricist tradition that it inaugurated-can withstand them.