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August 30 , 2008

De Gustibus: Arguing About Taste and Why We Do It


In De Gustibus Peter Kivy deals with a question that has never been fully addressed by philosophers of art: why do we argue about art? We argue about the facts of the world either to influence peoples behaviour or simply to get them to see what we take to be the truth about the world. We argue over ethical matters, if we are ethical realists, because we think we are arguing about facts in the world. And we argue about ethics, if we are emotivists,or are now what are called expressionists, which is to say, people who think matters of ethics are simply matters of attitude, to influence the behaviour of others. But why should we argue about works of art? There are no actions we wish to motivate. Whether I think Bach is greater than Beethoven andyou think the opposite, why should it matter to either of us to convince the other? This is a question that philosophers have never faced. Kivy claims here that we argue over taste because we think, mistakenly or not, that we are arguing over matters of fact.

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