19 sept. 2006

Ever thought about the inherent problem of taste? One can only judge someone else's taste, negatively or positively, by one's own. For example, if I say someone has good taste that will imply that that person's taste is an agreement with mine. It makes no sense to say someone has *better* taste than me, because this is epistemologically impossible for me to know. It would be admitting that my own taste is faulty, which is impossible, since MY TASTE is the measuring stick in the first place, my only criterion for judging. So people can only have worse taste than mine, by definition. The best one could say is that someone else's taste is almost as good as mine.

Doesn't this imply an impossibility of judging anthologies? That is, every reader is, by definition, in his or her own head, a better judge than the anthologist. The best one can say is that the anthologist is almost as good a judge as I am. So this is in a sense an optical illusion. For any given anthology, there will be a range, from people who say its *almost* as good as the anthology I would have made to people who say it's not nearly as good as the anthology I would have selected. What skews the distribution is that no reviewer would say it is *better* than the selection *I* would have made.

I'm not arguing here for the superiority of MY (Jonathan Mayhew's) taste, but for the absurdity of the measuring stick in the first place. However, there is no end to judgment. There's no way out of this box I've designed.

8 comentarios:

K. Silem Mohammad dijo...

But I think there are lots of people who have better taste than I do--at least to the extent that taste is informed by things like being more well-read, familiar with more aesthetic contexts, etc. And isn't it always thus informed, to a very considerable extent indeed?

Sure, I "know what I like." But I consider it one of the markers of however advanced my taste is that it is subject to change in the right conditions.

Jonathan dijo...

Yeah, but why ruin my airtight symmetrical scenario with such a logical and insightful point? It is the fact that taste is not a static thing that is the saving grace, perhaps.

Joseph dijo...

There's also the issue of "good taste" as a category of stuffy, conservative aesthetics appreciated by "polite society". Which designation allows someone like John Waters or early Peter Jackson (who made a film called "Bad Taste") to appreciate the lower virtues.

But maybe that really doesn't matter, it just substitutes Jackson's "bad taste" as better taste than oh I don't know Clement Greenberg's "good taste".

Jonathan dijo...

Nah. I don't think anyone believes in good taste as a function of polite society any more. There is no polite society any more. Clement Greenberg never belonged to it anyway.

Joseph dijo...

Perhaps "polite society" wasn't the phrase I was searching for, but "good taste" is appealed to as a barometer of "public taste" isn't it? It was only 7 years ago that Giuliani withdrew city funding for the Sensation exhibit because he found it to be in bad taste...(I guess that makes it impolite society).

Though I'm not up to date on media theory, so I could be wrong.

Jonathan dijo...

I wasnt' really thinking of "bad taste" in the sense of public offensivieness. I meant more in the sense that it is bad taste to like Kenny G or Billy Collins.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

K. Silem beat me to it. I look to people with better taste than my own to guide me down new roads. That's not to claim I'm open to absolutely everything, but I'm glad there are smarter, better-read, more sensitive people in the world. Life would be a drag otherwise.

Jonathan dijo...

I think my original point was lost: that there is a distorting mechanism; for any selection such as the BAP, each one of us usually thinks he or she could have done it better. Only a selection that approximates the taste of the reader will seem better than what said reader him or her self would have chosen.

Sure, I can think of a few people who I would trust more than myself to come up with a good selection, but those people are those who agree with my general aesthetics already but are simply better read or smarter than me.