Taste

Taste is not the inner organisation of aesthetic perception but merely something which sharpens or dulls it. We can acknowledge that a canvas is a work of art without appreciating it personally. We can, and perhaps more commonly do, appreciate an artwork without giving it properly aesthetic acknowledgement. For instance, you may be hugely appreciative of Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World, but the appreciation may be directed to memories of childhood or religiosity which it awakens. Our special preferences in art may dictate the breath or narrowness of our vision, our errors and failures of appreciation. Their consequences may be enormous, as when neo-Classical observers failed to ‘see’ the English Gothic cathedrals. Hence the need to examine them and re-examine. It is in the moment that our aesthetic judgment cases to specify such preferences and simply registers in the presence of the beautiful that it is wholly, universally valid and not simply valid ‘for me.’  This is so because at such a moment, it lets the object speak and show itself for what it is. The historical conditioning of taste is no argument against aesthetic judgment of this kind. We need not fear that we are indulging in a piece of concealed solipsism when we describe an artwork, ‘really’ chatting away about ourselves. We are doing something mercifully more interesting than re-arranging our pleasurable sensations–Aidan Nichols in Thiessen, Theological Aesthetics; A Reader, 230.

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