Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone



Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

Terms of Art #8:


me when all that’s left on the cookie platter is oatmeal raisin (come on nobody wants that) [Marsyas,

Pronunciation: TAYST (yumyum)

Definition: The noun ‘taste’ has two main uses in aesthetics and philosophy of art. One is sociological/anthropological, and one is from the history of philosophy.

(1) sociological use. Someone’s aesthetic preferences, usually as a set. Maybe they follow some unifying pattern, but not necessarily. Examples: “Coffee is not to my taste.” “She has good taste in music.”

(2) history of philosophy use. The faculty* of aesthetic discernment, especially popular in the 18th century. This is sometimes thought to work like an additional sense, in many ways analogous to vision or hearing, but it’s the sense that helps us detect beauty (and maybe other aesthetically relevant stuff).

*faculty – according to faculty psychology, our mind has little modules that each control some mental function. For example, there might be a faculty of perception, a faculty of memory, maybe a faculty of empathy or of moral sensibility … and a faculty of taste!

Related terms:
“judgment of taste” – when you come to the conclusion/recognize/understand that something is beautiful (or not); usually connected to the history of philosophy use above

Not to be confused with:
(1) (gustatory) taste – the sense modality through which we find things we eat/drink sweet, sour, etc.
(2) “in bad/poor taste” – related to the sociological use, but usually much more moralized than the aesthetic/art-related uses, which may not be moralized at all.
(3) Tastetations – Hershey’s now-defunct hard candy line that debuted in 1996, with commercial directed by … wait, PIXAR?? Holy shit.


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