De gustibus est disputandum: An empirical investigation of the folk concept of aesthetic taste

In Jeremy Wyatt, Julia Zakkou & Dan Zeman (eds.), Perspectives on Taste: Aesthetics, Language, Metaphysics, and Experimental Philosophy. pp. 77-108 (2022)
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Past research on folk aesthetics has suggested that most people are subjectivists when it comes to aesthetic judgment. However, most people also make a distinction between good and bad aesthetic taste. To understand the extent to which these two observations conflict with one another, we need a better understanding of people's everyday concept of aesthetic taste. In this paper, we present the results of a study in which participants drawn from a representative sample of the US population were asked whether they usually distinguish between good and bad taste, how they define them, and whether aesthetic taste can be improved. Those who answered positively to the first question were asked to provide their definition of good and bad taste, while those who answered positively to the third question were asked to detail by what means taste can be improved. Our results suggest that most people distinguish between good and bad taste, and think taste can be improved. People's definitions of good and bad taste were varied, and were torn between very subjectivist conceptions of taste and others that lent themselves to a more objectivist interpretation. Overall, our results suggest that the tension Hume observed in conceptions of aesthetic taste is still present today.

Author Profiles

Constant Bonard
Institut Jean Nicod
Florian Cova
University of Geneva
Steve Humbert-Droz
University of Geneva


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