steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Tasting Notes

As far as I can tell from online tests such as this one, I have a bad case of prosopagnosia, and am much less able than the average person to recognize people I know. On the other hand, according to this test my colour recognition is very good (I scored 3). No doubt there are many other dimensions along with our sensory worlds could be measured, with widely conflicting results. We each inhabit a sensory idioverse.

Given that, it's perhaps strange that we are able to recognize other people's accounts of their experience in our own - but as Wittgenstein pointed out, and no doubt others before him, we may be systematically misunderstanding as we go, translating others' accounts into something we can conceive happening to us.

It's when we attempt to apply objective standards to sensory experience that things become tricky - for example, when we talk of good taste or bad taste. How can we discuss someone's taste in music or art, when we don't know what they're hearing or seeing? They may like works that we also admire, but if we could hear/see them as they do, we might discover those same works to be in very bad taste by our own standards. Should we then say that our tastes coincide, or not?

Another complicating factor is that tastes change, in at least three different ways.

a) Sometimes the change is in the reception equipment: I used to hate olives; now I like them. I don't think this represents a change in aesthetics so much as a change in my physical taste receptors (though probably that is not the only factor).
b) Sometimes the change is in one's aesthetics. I listened to a lot of prog rock in the '70s that now strikes me as dull. For better or worse, I appear to have imbibed that definitive change in popular taste.
c) Sometimes taste is changed by training: learning the piano has taught me to listen to piano music more discerningly, I'd like to think. Conversely, I've carefully avoided training my palate to enjoy good wine (not that opportunities have been abundant), because I don't want to be put off the kind I can actually afford.

Plotting the relationships between these different types of change is no easy matter.

Some aspects of taste arguably don't rely on our senses but on internal properties. A preference for symmetry or for the Golden Section may indeed be universal and hardwired. But if we can only perceive them by means of sensory equipment that is unreliable, and if even our mental contemplation of them draws on that unreliable experience (as it does in my case - I can't think about the Golden Section without picturing it at least as a diagrammatic image) this isn't as much of a get-out as it appears.
Tags: maunderings
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