Cogitating again

We all make judgments of taste

Catching up with Wood s lot brought a visit to Christopher Green’s Where Did the Word “Cognitive” Come From Anyway? Though Green claims that the word has a well-wrought meaning, the dividing line is a finely teased one. Considerations of emotions are, for cognitive psychology anyway, limited to those which influence “truth-evaluative” behaviors. And that, is the reason why Kant was forced to leap into metaphysics to explain why they influence our thinking. There’s a problem, an antimony that can’t be resolved, though it can be explained:

  1. Thesis. The judgment of taste is not based upon concepts, for if it were, it would be open to dispute (decision by means of proofs).
  2. Antithesis. The judgment of taste is based on concepts; for otherwise, despite the diversity of judgment, there could be no room for contention in the matter (a claim to the necessary agreement of others with this judgment).

In literary studies, Mathew Arnold raised the idea of touchstones, pieces of literature that acted as loci for comparison regarding the quality of writing. This would be the antithesis, based on the idea that an imaginary “consensus” would agree that all these dead white guys are the primary sources of words to consider and compare. Taste then, is an acquired concept, built on communicative resourcefulness: Taste is the realm of those in power, who convey it to us from on high.

But how can such a thing ever be evaluated? It depends purely on the “sample” of the people whose opinions you admit. Because someone else doesn’t like what you do, does that make them wrong? I don’t think so, so that’s why I lean toward the thesis, that there is no way that taste can be subject to “concepts.” However, how can you explain that people can, and do, agree? Kant fell back on a sensus communis, a kind of public sense that falls outside the realm of concepts. Because such metaphysical speculations do not willingly submit to the “truth-value” test, we’re left with faith.

Therein lies the paradox. Cognitive approaches must, in order to embrace emotional decision making, place some value on things suprasensible, which effectively violates the dictum that they only be concerned with “truth-evaluative” behaviors. There’s just no accounting for taste, in the truest sense of the word.