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The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing$
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James Noggle

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199642434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199642434.001.0001

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‘Almost Inseparable’: Taste and History in Hume

‘Almost Inseparable’: Taste and History in Hume

(p.96) 3 ‘Almost Inseparable’: Taste and History in Hume
The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing

James Noggle

Oxford University Press

In his Essays and The History of England, David Hume portrays individuals’ immediate taste as ‘almost inseparable’from the large historical forces that shape a culture’s progress. In stressing this linkage, Hume helps inspire Scottish Enlightenment historiography, which views advances of liberty, commerce, and taste as integrally joined. But Hume remains alert to the distinction between individual acts of judgement and historical forces, and repeatedly throughout the History cites moments when a gap opens between them. For judgement to be tasteful, it must both stand apart from history and understand its own determination by the historical forces and contexts that govern its emergence. This double imperative does not amount to a claim that modern enlightenment can never come, only that the present of history and the present of individual judgement may only ‘almost’ fully coincide. This non-coincidence makes Hume’s critical perspective on the ideology of modern progress, liberty, and commercialism possible.

Keywords:   David Hume, taste, history, historiography, modernity, ideology

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