Really Bad Taste
It is a tired platitude that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As ancient Romans put it, de gustibus non disputandum est. Yet, we all suppose that some people have better taste than others. There are facts about which things are beautiful, and some people are more sensitive that those facts. In short, taste seems to be both subjective and objective. Confronted with this familiar puzzle, philosophers have generally tried to have it both ways, arguing that taste can be simultaneously subjective and objective. Objectivist subjectivism is motivated by considerations that must be accommodated by any theory of aesthetic properties, but I will argue that it is the wrong strategy. Philosophers have overstated the objectivity of taste. We need a form of subjectivism that can accommodate our objectivist intuitions without going the full nine yards. I will outline such a theory. The theory is of potential use to epistemology. For one thing, it points to an account of what it means to know that an art work has aesthetic merit. For another, the account of aesthetic properties on offer is structurally isomorphic with a novel theory of knowledge that has some promise of being true. I will only gesture at that theory. My goal is not to defend a theory of knowledge here but to indicate, as an afterthought, that epistemologists may have a great deal to learn from aesthetics – far more than people ordinarily suppose.
KeywordsObjective Property Aesthetic Property Aesthetic Judgment Good Taste Epistemic Standard
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