chapter  11
9 Pages

CLASSLESS TASTE

In memoriam Pierre Bourdieu, 1930–2002

The concept of taste developed in the course of the eighteenth century, together with the idea of aesthetic experience and, indeed, with what in the next century would become the modern idea of art. Kant located taste in a mental faculty of aesthetic judgment, establishing the beauty (or sublimity) of some object of sense experience as a property of the human subject’s response to it. Similarly, Hume took taste to be a matter of “the common sentiments of human nature” excited by objects of beauty. Beside these philosophically canonical authors stand the writers of essays, pamphlets, poems, and treatises exploring taste as a human response to the worlds of nature and art. What they all share is the idea that taste represents a natural response of human beings to sensory experience, providing a basis for judging degrees of beauty (or, as a more recent terminology has it, of quality).