On Standard and Taste. Wittgenstein and Aesthetic Judgment

Jean-Pierre Cometti


The question of aesthetic judgment is related to a lot of paradoxes that have marked sustainably the reflection on arts, and even arts as such during their modern history. These paradoxes have found a first formulation, apparently clear, in the very famous Hume's essay: "On the standard of taste", but without to lead to a real resolution. In this paper, I would like to approach the question of Hume by starting from what Wittgenstein suggested about aesthetic judgment in his Cambridge lectures. To this end, I will try to give a wittgensteinian reading of Hume's essay, in order to show that though the question of aesthetic judgment makes certainly sense, the way of considering it - like the way Kant shall consider it later - can be regarded as typical of difficulties Wittgenstein tried to overcome in his investigations on rules.
By giving an alternative formulation to this question, we should be able to examine differently the problems of the aesthetic judgment, to underline more precisely the originality of Wittgenstein's approach, and perhaps to better grasp what are its consequences, not only for a better comprehension of the relationship between Wittgenstein’s philosophy and art, but for the type of perplexity to which we must face everytime we meet the paradox inherent to the question of aesthetic appreciation as such: how can we conceive the very idea of a standard involving a normative meaning without making to faint what gives to a work of art its value.
We shall see that Wittgenstein’s suggestions, though their contribution to a better understanding of this question is still affected by some ambiguities, are to be reconsidered under the light of his anti-essentialism, and that these ambiguities can be dissipated by dissociating, on one hand, what belongs to his own tastes or to his related thoughts and on the other hand what we can conceive through the ways which were opened by his philosophy beyond his personal inclinations. Despite what gives to the sphere of Wittgenstein's artistic interests its limited character; despite also what drives his attention towards another kind of problems, it may well be that his thought cast a bright light on current artistic practices and therefore on the questions they ask to philosophy.


Wittgenstein; Aesthetics; Hume; Aesthetic judgment; Rule

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-12834

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