Friday, August 02, 2019

Three Orders of Good Taste

Taste seems to comprize three orders or degrees in its universal comprehension.

The first is composed of those objects which immediately relate to the divinity, among which man claims the preeminence, when viewed in his highest character: witness the inexpressible charm which the natural virtuous affections of the soul inspire, when moved by some strong impulse, such as parental tenderness, filial piety, friendship, &c. &c. Do they not unite the moral sentiment to the divine?

The second is the immediate external effects of true taste, or moral virtue, in the social sphere; the order, beauty, and honour, which every object derives from its influence; and, of course, its sentiment must be intimately related to moral excellence.

The third and last degree is general ornament and honour, appearing in fashions, arts of decoration, &c. &c. objects which seeming not immediately to effect the interests of humanity, the taste they exhibit in this sphere appears as an uncertain light, sometimes bright and sometimes obscured ; or rather as refracted rays of taste, broken by the general love of novelty and superfluity; two principles which, though they are, to a certain degree, essential to exterior ornament, and the sentiment of true taste, are those in which taste always begins to corrupt....

Frances Reynolds, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Taste, and of the Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty, &c., p. 39. Reynolds, whom I have briefly discussed before, takes beauty to be very closely related to moral good -- in fact, to be some appearance or suggestion of moral good perceived in a sensible object. An artist, of course, could make a beautiful object without being moral himself, but this would be because he was doing it by rules and guidelines gathered from other cases, and nobody can recognize it as beautiful if they cannot see any suggestion of the moral qualities of a mind in it. Good taste is a particular form of the love of virtue. This is a very strong view, of course; that aesthetics is related to ethics is certain enough, but Reynolds goes the next step and argues that the former is a particular expression of the latter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.