Taste

Introduction:

In one facet of its meaning, sensibility is synonymous with taste; in another, sensibility gives rise to the judgments of taste. Thus, clarifying the definitions of "taste" may be as complicated an endeavor as elucidating the meanings of "sensibility." Moreover, the metaphorical associations of "taste" set it in nearly as suggestive a constellation of significance as that of "sensibility."

Hume, Burke, and Gerard, among others, write essays explicitly devoted to investigating taste, and in these works there is a constant slippage between the physical-sensory, aesthetic, and moral domains, which is facilitated by the two principal levels of the word's meaning.

In particular, Hume uses the term "taste" to segue between external and internal senses, and even to provide implicit justification for a fundamental analogy about between the internal and external domains. The external sense of taste provides a model for understanding judgments of art (and moral standards are vaguely but essentially tied to aesthetic ones). This model helps to address the problem of subjectivity in the artistic and moral fields by relating it to idiosyncrasy in the sensory field. It also provides the means to insist on the empirical solidity of the internal sense of taste and its independence on the operations of reason.

a dictionary of sensibility
term list
source bibliography
critical bibliography