Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Voltaire implies in his essay on "Beauty" that judgments in ęsthetics are relative, but judgments in morality are universal. How would Voltaire answer the critic who points out that different cultures have different moral standards?

  2. Compare and contrast Hume's position on ęsthetics with Voltaire's position. Note especially their thoughts on the teleology of ęsthetics.

  3. Explain thoroughly why Voltaire believes that beauty of the senses, imagination and intelligence is uncertain, yet the beauty of the heart is not. What is "the beauty of the heart"? Is his argument essentially empirical or rational?

  4. Francis Huthcheson argues for the objectivity of ęsthetic judgments as follows:

    [T]he Ideas of Beauty and Harmony, like other sensible Ideas, are necessarily pleasant to us, as well as immediately so; neither can any Resolution of our own, nor any Prospect of Advantage or Disadvantage, vary the Beauty or Deformity of an Object: For as in the external Sensations, no View of Interest will make an Object grateful… so propose the whole World as a Reward, or threaten the greatest Evil, to make us approve a deform'd Object, or disapprove a beautiful one… but our Sentiments of the Forms, and our Perceptions, would ontinue invariably the same.[1]

    Explain how Voltaire would respond to this argument.



Francis Hutcheson. An Inquiry Concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design. Part I of An Inquiry Into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. London: J. Barby, et. al. 1725. I: XIV.