Tuesday, 27 May 2014

De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est

A fairly exact translation would be ‘There is no arguing about (matters of) taste’. But that of course is just what there’s a lot of: people argue about matters of taste until the cows come home, and carry on until morning milking.

A common English version is ‘There’s no accounting for taste’. Well, not quite none: the combined efforts of Freud, Ernst Gombrich, and Richard Hoggart could probably account for, even predict, a person’s taste(s), given enough information about his or her social background, education, etc.

It would be closer to the truth to say that there is no justifying a person’s taste. We don’t know much about art but we know what we like. Fair enough, but this has led many people who are so open-minded their brains have dropped out to say that there can be no objective aesthetic judgements: that one cannot (should not, must not) say that this work of art is ‘better’ than that one: it is just ‘different’.

Bullshit. Rubbish. Enough of this politically correct pseudo-liberal egalitarian nonsense. We may not be able to say why or how — that’s something people with better minds than yours or even mine have argued about for centuries, probably millennia — but in the arts some things are of course better than others. (Not ‘nicer’ or ‘more enjoyable’; better). Here are a few absolute truths:

The novels of George Eliot are better than those of Jeffrey Archer.

The St Matthew Passion is better than ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.

The Parthenon is better than the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral.

Glen Grant is better than Johnny Walker.

Michelangelo’s ‘Dying Slave’ is better than Bernini’s ‘Agony of St Teresa’.

Van Gogh’s ‘Portrait of Armand Roulin’ is better than Tretchikoff’s Green Woman.

T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ is better than Kipling’s  ‘If…’

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