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taste

“There is no accounting for taste”; “De gustibus non est disputandum”. Well known words in those case where our opinion is asked about something we think is absolutely ugly and we do not want to hurt the other person. Or we use it as a reply when others criticise our taste. These words are typically used in cases where something is considered to be ugly.

Immanuel Kant held taste to be the discipline for the genius: without taste the genius can not develop expressiveness. By taste, the stroke of genius can be communicated to those who see or hear the work of art.
So, someone with taste and genius makes art; someone with tast but lacking genius becomes an art critic; genius withhout taste gives us conceptual art.
Taste, thus, is a servant of the beautiful. And, one is lead to conclude, it is possible to account for taste. That seems to be contrary to the common saying.

The French philologist Patrick d’Orreur has researched this issue and published the results in “Les bon mots du temps Romain” (Paris: Gallimard, 1998). The well know Latin common saying “de gustibus non est disputandem” appears to have been handed down incorrectly. In the Middle Ages, when books had to be copied in order to distribute them, a mistake was made. In the 11th century, in the authoritative Benedictine monastery in Granada, a young and inexperienced monk made a mistake when visited by the afternoon devil. “Disgustibus non est disputandem” had to be copied, but he wrote: “De gustibus”; the consequences are history.

Originally it was: one cannot account for bad taste. One who wanted to quarrel about this has no taste. Those who have taste, identify the bad taste immediately. About taste, about the beautiful, one can indeed argue and quarrel. Lack of taste is singular; taste is plural.

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