Faversham Stoa is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 7.30 to 9.30pm in the The Bull in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!

Good taste — Bad taste

Cartoon: Never judge a work of art until you know who it's by

We will mainly be looking at some examples of bad taste as our criteria of bad taste, and the strength of feeling it arouses, helps us to see where the boundary lies. The big question is, of course, when we make a judgement of taste are we just expressing our feeling of like and dislike or are we drawing attention to some real, objective features in the object of judgement? Is taste purely subjective or is it objective? Does someone who claims to have better taste than someone else (or the masses) asserting some real knowledge of the world or just epressing snobbery?

Good taste and tastelessness not only applies to art, of course, although that will be our main focus, it can also apply to remarks, jokes, adverts, TV programmes etc. Some examples are given below to show the wide range of ways that one is able to offend your fellow-humans!

Is taste purely subjective?

In his 2014 book The Virtues of the Table philosopher Julian Baggini argues that taste in food (literal 'taste') can be objective and is not simply a matter of opinion:

If you accept that liking is not the same as judging to be good, that aesthetic objects have objective qualities, that some people can discern these better than others and that the existence of these qualities provides grounds for claiming that some things really are better than others, then you cannot but accept that taste is not purely subjective.

What is true of literal taste in food is surely also true of metaphorical taste... Read the article (PDF, 9 pages)...

Gratson Perry's TV programmes on taste

Grayson Perry looks at working class, middle class and upper class taste and concludes, in the final episode that no taste is better than another. This seems like a very democratic conclusion, avoiding the accusation of snobbery, but thoughout the series Perry makes all sorts of value judgements about what he is seeing. Is he saying that these statements ate nothing but expression of personal like and dislike? If so, he rather undermines the whole point of his series surely.

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