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subjective universality

to take a step back from my last post (the language of theology), i want to look at aesthetic judgments in general, not just from sibley’s perspective.

david hume and immanuel kant were really the first ones to analyze aesthetic judgments, which they called judgments of taste.

judgments of taste come from an inner subjective aesthetic experience. this is in one sense an empirical observation. the same object may be called ugly by one person and beautiful by another, or they are just left simply confused (think jackson pollock). there seems to be as many different aesthetic opinions as there are peoples, or at least cultures.

but when a person ascribes the quality of beauty to an object there is the intention of universal application. we want others to call beautiful what we have called beautiful. there is also the example that david hume gave:

whoever would assert an equality of genius and elegence between ogilby and milton, or bunyan or addison, would be thought to defend no less an extravagance, than if he had maintained a mole-hill to be as high as teneriffe, or a pond as extensive as the ocean. though there may be found persons, who give the preference to the former authors, no one pays attention to such a taste; and we pronounce without scruple the sentiment of these pretended critics to be absurd and ridiculous (hume, of the standard of taste)

the point being that who has ever heard of addison or ogilby? there seems to be a universality to the statement “milton and bunyan are aesthetically pleasing.”

so how does one reconcile this subjective universality? how does one make a justified judgment of taste?

is there a subjective universality to theology?

universality is easy to admit of. yes we live in the meta-narrative of YHWH’s creation, redemption, and restoration. the statement “jesus is lord” does not change to “buddha is lord” when we find ourselves in a different context.

subjectivity in theology? maybe a little tougher to swallow. we want there to be an objective truth to our theological claims. we want there to be a definite rightness or wrongness to what we believe and say about god. but i think if we are honest, our theological convictions have a lot to do with our own experiences in the world and in church (some healthy and some painful). our convictions may have more to do with what denomination we grew up in than any actual adherence to the truth.

i don’t know, these are just thoughts to play with.

articles for further reading:
aesthetic judgment by nick zangwill
hume’s aesthetics by ted gracyk
kant’s aesthetics and teleology by hannah ginsborg


About david b. clark

a husband and father || a student of philosophy, theology, history, literature, music, art, computer science


One thought on “subjective universality

  1. this is a good thought. :) I myself was asking if could there be a subjective universality

    Posted by Nesjohn Constante | 13 October, 2010, 7:24 pm

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