Author: Nick Prior
Title: The Art of Criticism: The Critic as Arbiter of Taste in the Scottish Enlightenment
This paper attempts to explore the relationship between art, criticism and civil society in Scotland in the late eighteenth century. It seeks to examine to what extent the emergence of aesthetic criticism served to establish taste cultures that marked the onset of cultural distinction in the modern cultural field. Hume’s essay, “On the Standard of Taste” is highlighted, in particular, as keying into the emerging status of the critic as arbiter of taste in Scotland. The oscillation between the subjective and objective in standards of taste struck at the heart of the aesthetic problematic. Hume’s solution, which rested on the joint verdict of critics, was a projection of the social position of Edinburgh’s literati in the late eighteenth century and of the growing complexity of the artistic field.