Accounting for Taste
Taste is a hugely overpopulated scholarly field and the gaps for innovative research ever more elusive. A couple of articles by Steven Shapin make excellent use of the insight that judgments about taste are an empirical matter because they are constructed in the course of practices establishing inter-subjective agreement about the qualities of products and activities. The requirement to reach some level of inter-subjective sharing of standards—of evaluation of items or behavior—is a basis for ongoing social interaction and cultural cooperation. There are no universal standards, but there are locally negotiated ones. Taste continues to be treated often in a scholastic manner, more a matter of deliberation than sensation. Shifts in approaches to the body-mind relationship, evident in philosophy and fueled by developments in cognitive neuroscience, have opened up spaces for new understandings of culture and taste. It has often been demonstrated that people are retreating from making judgments about other people in a moral rather than an aesthetic register.