Print

Print


R A Brown, On 18/07/2012 17:39:
> Pointless, I think. It is quite clear to me that Mach & I
> are not going to agree over this; and IME continuing an
> exchange between two people who are clearly not going agree
> becomes very tedious for other list members.
>
> The maxim "de gustibus non est disputandum" is so very true.

I remember previous discussions in which you and Joerg took this line and I was taking a position like Mach's. While of course one need not participate in discussions one isn't interested in, to curtail debate of aesthetic matters simply on the grounds of de gustibus is to abandon the quest for understanding -- understanding of aesthetic responses and understanding of intersubjective patterns among aesthetic responses. It's good to understand why someone (including oneself) has an aesthetic preference for X over Y, and it's instructive to discover which preferences tend to be shared across a population. I suppose one could consider these questions to belong principally to cognitive psychology.

I myself would go further, and argue that patterns of intersubjective aesthetic agreement can be translated into an approximation of absolute value. For example, _Sight and Sound_ has periodically published collections of film critics' ten favourite films. There's a very large amount of agreement between them. There are individual oddities -- for example, Citizen Kane is in almost all top tens, but not mine, whereas Scaramouche is in my top ten but in nobody else's I've ever seen, but overall there is huge overlap -- e.g. Bicycle Thieves and Seven Samurai are in my top ten and most others. From a utilitarian perspective, the world would be far more impoverished by the loss of Bicycle Thieves than by the loss of Police Academy 27, and ergo is far more enriched by Bicycle Thieves than by Police Academy 27. And while you may not agree with that philosophical position, its logic is robust enough to legitimate disputation about taste.

--And.