Hume spoke of a delicacy of taste as differing from person to person, together with judgments of beauty. The beauty lies not in the poem but in the sentiment or taste of the reader. ‘Beatuy is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them’ (Hume, 1987). What was novel was not that beauty is subjective, but that a new and powerful knowledge of the natural world was taken to be objective in contrast with the subjectivity of beauty and goodness. Hume understood science, ethics, and art all to be products of the laws of human nature.
Kant also distinguishes the beautiful from the sublime, describing beauty as formal order, proportion, and harmony, satisfied in taste, and sublimity as exceeding sense, measure, and order. What is great beyond sense can appear in works of art, giving delight. In relation to the sublime, Kant speaks of artistic genius, beyond rules; of a productive imagination, beyond mere reproduction; and of an imaginative freedom distinct from moral freedom. Yet, he subordinates genius to taste, the sublime to beauty. In Kant, beauty retains the marks of order, perfection, and form; the sublime retains the marks of what surpasses order, end, and form. Beauty, not the sublime, is the symbol of the good.”