Why do some people have "good taste" and others have "bad taste"?

What a can of worms! To my mind, the most interesting philosophical work on the subject is David Hume’s wonderful essay “Of the Standard of Taste”. Humeargues that there are a number of criteria for what counts as being a‘true judge’ of the arts (that is, someone who has good taste). Here’s Hume summing up his account of true judges in that essay: “Strongsense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected bycomparison, and cleared of all prejudice, can alone entitle critics tothis valuable character…."

Hume’s views (although they are controversial) seem pretty plausible. For example, it does seem that practice with—and experience of—a form of art is crucial to being a good judge of it. Prejudice (e.g., an unwillingness to put aside one’s own personal concerns) may certainly keep one from being a good judge. Areasonable degree of intellectual capacity (as exemplified in acapacity to grasp the nature and point of works of art) certainly seemscrucial to being a true judge of many forms of art, and this seems tobe what Hume is getting at in his mention of ‘strong sense’. Andhaving an ability to discriminate between subtle aesthetic differences(what Hume calls ‘delicacy of taste’) seems important too.

All that being said, it is surely the case that many claims about ‘bad taste’ are just posturing.

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