Wednesday, October 10, 2012

is good wine in the eye of the beholder?


following kant one could start with this principle. 

1- scientific judgments explain the nature of reality.
2- moral judgments evaluate human actions (intentions).
3- aesthetic judgments are about taste.

we briefly touched upon 2 & 3.

i wanted to stress the salience of these judgments by talking about food, then about art. let's take a look a these two statements: 

1- "i hate this wine." 2- "this wine tastes awful."  

1- is a subjective judgment. with 2- one is implicitly making an objective judgment about the juice.  

suppose john, a person who doesn't know much about wine makes a judgment of type 2- about this malbec from argentina (the consensus of wine experts is that this is a pretty good malbec for the price).

if you get a sip of catena malbec you get a nuanced complexity of spice, tobacco and plum, all balanced with a soft finish of supple tannins and good length. 

how are we to treat john's 2- judgment? 

i have no problem advancing that john is wrong. he doesn't know enough about wines to make the call in 2-. he mistakes his subjective impression for an objective property in the juice.  they are different. 

i think one could make the same case in art. obviously, the discussion is more complicated. suppose paul has no knowledge of modern art. he visits MoMA, stands in front of picasso's famous 1907 painting les demoiselles d'avignon. paul reacts: "this painting sucks!"

pablo picasso's demoiselles d'avignon, 1907

there's a difference between,

a- "i hate this painting" 
b- "this painting (by picasso) sucks"

let's agree that catena malbec 2010 can be experienced in a substantially different manner than picasso's painting. nonetheless, there is a way to apply a similar criteria to the one used above.

a- is totally ok.
b- needs more explaining. 

it's not a prerequisite that i have to know cubism to properly understand it, but it so happens that cubism is a convention. it seems that understanding the convention makes the aesthetic appreciation more fitting. this is not your regular realist rendition of a 1907 paris whorehouse. paul doesn't understand these conventions. he is missing that picasso deliberately depicts within a "modern" conceptual grid. then, there is the general consensus of art historians, critics, artists is that the painting is a landmark. 

i'm suggesting that to examine demoiselles d'avignon properly one has to wear cubist glasses. why? because there is a shift in perspective here. this is an earlier (more realist) picasso:  

yo, picasso, 1901

the young painter was absorbing influences. this 1901 piece has a kind of spanish post impressionist flavor quite different from the 1907 painting.  

it's not only about consensus. we need an additional "harder" criteria, i.e, the painting's properties.   

of course, there is always the question, what if art historians are wrong? could they not be?

they could. but it's more difficult to disregard the consensus' slow development than paul's quick & uninformed claim. don't you think? 

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