Frivolity: De Gustibus

Excerpt from mail sent 1998
In reply to someone asking why I'd said "Olives are icky." instead of acknowledging that perhaps olives are good, but not to my taste.

To make a sweeping generalization, there are two philosophical schools of thought on Quality. One holds that there is no such thing as intrinsic quality--there is no good or bad--there is only individual taste. The other holds that there is such a thing as Quality, that all observers can agree that some things are better than others--there may be quibbles on some points, but even people from widely varying cultures have remarkably similar ideas as to what things are good quality vs. bad.

I believe that both of these schools of thought are correct. There is such a thing as intrinsic quality, and it is only individual taste. Coincidentally, I am the individual whose taste is the sole measure of intrinsic Quality. If I like something, it is intrinisically/universally good, otherwise, it is intrinsically/universally bad.

It is no doubt because of my exalted position that when I say things like, "I don't like ricotta cheese," people nod and often feel obliged to offer up their own opinion, and sometimes try to offer up reasons; as if I will respect them more for agreeing with me, or as if they need to justify their disagreement. Often, when I say, "I don't like..." the person who I'm talking to seems somewhat uncomfortable. I've noticed that when I say, "Olives are icky," this helps people to remember that they don't need to explain the reasoning behind their tastes to me.


comment? | | home |