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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, April 29, 2013


Though Rudolf Otto may disagree with Kant in terms of the application of *a priori* qualities, he registers complete agreement with Old Immanuel in terms of judgments of taste.

On the other hand, those judgements that spring from pure
contemplative feeling also resemble judgements of aesthetic
taste in claiming, like them, objective validity, universality,
and necessity. The apparently subjective and personal 
character of the judgement of taste, expressed in the maxim : "De
gustibus non disputandum," simply amounts to this, that
tastes of different degrees of culture and maturity are first
compared, then so opposed one to the other that agreement is
impossible. But unanimity, even in judgements of taste, grows
and strengthens in the measure in which the taste matures
with exercise ; so that even here, despite the proverb, there is
the possibility of taste being expounded and taught, the
possibility of a continually improving appreciation, of con-
vincement and conviction. And if this is true of the judgement
arising from aesthetic feeling in the narrower sense, it is at least
equally true of the judgement arising from contemplation.
Where, on the basis of a real talent in this direction, contemplation grows by
careful exercise in depth and inwardness, there
what one man feels can be expounded and brought to
consciousness in another : one man can both educate himself to
a genuine and true manner of feeling and be the means of
bringing others to the same point ; and that is what 
corresponds in the domain of contemplation to the part played
by argument and persuasion in that of logical conviction.
It's probably no coincidence that Otto speaks of taste in terms of "different degrees of culture and maturity" just a chapter or so after he has asserted that the the beliefs of primitives appear "bizarre" or "grotesque" because the whole experience of the numinous has been "incompletely presented" to them.

I won't spend a lot of time refuting this, since I've already asserted that the only "unanimity" of taste that I recognize is that of *intersubjectivity,* which does not see any particular taste-judgment as valid, but only the general psychic processes that lead human beings to make taste-judgments.

Similarly, I reject the idea that taste can radically shift due to "exercise," or being "expounded and taught," or "contemplation."  I am not saying people don't learn new things and alter old views in some respects. But those things that are altered would best be termed, "inconstant tastes," things that do not express the deepest core of a subject's personality, but are aroused by contingent factors.

"Constant tastes," however, are those experiences for which the subject continually seeks throughout his or her life.  A contingent factor such as the changes of a subject's age may cause the subject to seek the desired thing in new forms, but there will remain constant factors beneath the surface of each of those strong enthusiasms.

The practice of reading comic books is necessarily influenced, though not determined, by the subject's age-range. At the level of elementary school, kids read "kiddie comics."  At the secondary levels, one sees older kids graduate to less fanciful fare, including, but not limited to, superhero comics, which generally employ a greater degree of discursive logic than the "kiddie comics" do.  In Piaget's theory the superheroes and their ilk come in right on the cusp between the "concrete operational stage" and the "formal operational stage." 

However, when adolescent fans set aside the pleasures of youth-- an action which also can be influenced by external contingent factors-- it does not occur because there is some unanimous "adult taste" to which they are drawn.  It is because their liking for those pleasures has been an "inconstant taste," one that does not define them at the core.  It should be axiomatic that one cannot judge the "constant tastes" of those who remain fascinated by a given form by the "inconstant tastes" of others-- and certainly not by invoking the baleful spectres of "education" or studious "contemplation."

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