I begin by taking up this central question about Humean critics: are they real, i.e., actual beings amongst us, or are they ideal, i.e., mere models that we strive to approximate? I construct an argument for the reality of ideal critics based on the Humean traits of practice and comparison. I next consider the nature of such individuals and ask how we can identify the ideal critics in our midst. Both Hume and his contemporary commentators appeal to the test of time to aid with this task. This test identifies a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for being an ideal critic, as many who are not discerning admire great works from the past. The key question here is how much the future resembles the past. That is, in what ways, if any, do new works that we ought to admire resemble the earlier works that rightly earned our appreciation? I examine a pair of historical theories of art—proposed by Jerrold Levinson and Noel Carroll—that attempt to bridge this gap. I draw morals from both versions, though an additional principle, based on J.S. Mill’s treatment of higher vs. lower pleasures, is required to activate this solution.
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