Why do we frequently find it hard to give a rational account of our aesthetic judgments?
We say “de gustibus non est disputandum” (there’s no accounting for taste) when we’re feeling cornered and embarrassed (e.g., when someone discovers your Céline Dion CDs, your kitten calendars, your extensive collection of vintage garden gnomes). We say it when we’re feeling lazy or wish to avoid conflict (e.g., you say “tow-may-tow” and I’ll say “tow-mah-tow”). We say it when we do not wish to defend that which we dimly suspect to be indefensible. Why do we frequently find it hard to give a rational account of our aesthetic judgments? I’m not sure. But I know it applies to our taste in people just as much as our taste in music, calendars, and collectibles.
Just as there are hot people who leave us cold, there are good people who we respect immensely but avoid socially. Love and friendship often march to the beat of unseen drummers. When pressed by a modern-day Socrates, I find it very hard, at times, to justify my seemingly eclectic taste in friends. Most of the time, I really couldn’t tell you why I gravitate toward the one, avoid the other. All I can say with certainty is that it’s got something to do with a highly idiosyncratic estimation of a person’s character.
I can tolerate some pretty major flaws in my friends—flaws that others find insufferable—and yet there’s one relatively minor vice (stinginess) that I find thoroughly repulsive. My estimation of the virtues is equally uneven. I find, time and again, that I am partial to particular virtues, such as courage. Truth be told, I am attracted—irresistibly attracted—to courageous people, even if their views and interests and values differ from my own immensely. All of this leads me to suspect that de gustibus non est disputandum applies to ethics just as much as it applies to aesthetics.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)
This article originally appeared on Committing Sociology
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