Typical & Atypical Aesthetic Taste

“Aesthetic experience seems both regular and idiosyncratic. On one hand, there are powerful regularities in what we tend to find attractive versus unattractive (e.g., beaches versus mud puddles). On the other hand, our tastes also vary dramatically from person to person: what one of us finds beautiful, another might find distasteful. What is the nature of such differences? They may in part be arbitrary—e.g., reflecting specific past judgments (such as liking red towels over blue ones because they were once cheaper). However, they may also in part be systematic—reflecting deeper differences in perception and/or cognition. We assessed the systematicity of aesthetic taste by exploring its typicality for the first time across seeing and hearing. Observers rated the aesthetic appeal of ordinary scenes and objects (e.g., beaches, buildings, and books) and environmental sounds (e.g., doorbells, dripping, and dialtones). We then measured “taste typicality” (separately for each modality) in terms of the similarity between each individual’s aesthetic preferences and the population’s average. The data revealed two primary patterns. First, taste typicality was not arbitrary but rather was correlated to a moderate degree across seeing and hearing: people who have typical taste for images also tend to have typical taste for sounds. Second, taste typicality captured most of the explainable variance in people’s impressions, showing that it is the primary dimension along which aesthetic tastes systematically vary.”

-Yi-Chia Chen. Andrew Chang, et al. “‘Taste typicality’ is a foundational and multi-modal dimension of ordinary aesthetic experience.” Current Biology. March 1, 2022.

If you are an aesthetic weirdo in one dimension, such as with music, you’re probably also going to like weirdo art. Obvious but also interesting. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Deflationary Individualism

“My considerations of inflation have been limited to discussions on index components, labor/wage dynamics, and menu pricing. I liked the exercise of placing preferences surrounding good, services, and activities on the inflation/deflation spectrum.

What are other examples of inflationary/deflationary preferences? And what happens if you place inflation/deflation towards the center of your personal aesthetics? And if you do, which way on the spectrum should you optimize towards?”

-Thomas Frank, “Creating Your Own Deflation.” FranklyThinking.net. July 15, 2021.

Open question: What things are we wasting time, money or energy on that would be better to either do less of or not at all?

This is an aesthetic I have developed over the years. It first started with books, when I realized that I could go to a second-hand book shop and the library to get certain items, where you only have to buy retail when it is something other people in your community truly do not want. Over the years, it turned into a trend, where I look for ways to not buy anything retail. I buy and use computers and cell phones that are decades old and bought second-hand for <20% of their price new. I buy last year’s model of running shoes and buy many clothes second-hand..

But, the true deflation is to go without. How many things are you buying that you don’t really need at all? What things are you paying attention to that you shouldn’t pay any attention to? Questions in this space are among the most useful in life.

Best Argument for Wearing a Mask, Post-Pandemic

“Blöthar says wearing his has its advantages.

‘For one thing, people won’t really know what you look like, and that’s a great advantage, especially when you’re trying to commit armed robbery at your local convenience store,’ Blöthar says. ‘The other thing, especially if you’re really ugly, which most humans are … at least you get to walk around and not be as ugly as you usually are. There’s a big plus to that. Another big plus is other people don’t have to look at your ugly mug. And their days are not ruined.'”

—Blöthar the Berserker quoted in Chris Harris, “The Masked Bands’ Survival Guide to Your New Masked Life.” Spin. July 28, 2020.

Or, another way of looking at it.

“Wearing a face mask is simple, cheap, and easy. As I tell people in the medical field, think of a mask kind of like a hat. Most people like hats, except this is a hat for your mouth!”

——Grippo from Kissing Cadance, ibid.

Introduction to Immanuel Kant

“The basic value in Kant’s ethics is that of human dignity – the rational nature in persons as end in itself. A person is a being for whose sake we should act, and that has an unconditional claim on us. This is the source of what Kant calls a categorical imperative: a ground for action that does not depend on any contingent desire of ours or any end to be effected by action set at our discretion. John Rawls corrected the basic and traditional misunderstanding of Kant’s ethics when he said that it is not an ethics of stern command but rather one of self-esteem and mutual respect. To this I would add that Kant’s ethics is also an ethics of caring or empathy – what Kant calls Teilnehmung: sympathetic participation. This is not sympathy merely in the sense of passive feeling for or with others, but instead an active taking part in the standpoint of the other which leads to understanding and concern.”

-Allen W. Wood, “Immanuel Kant: What lies beyond the senses.Times Literary Supplement. February 21, 2020.

Probably the most accessible introduction to Kant’s thought I’ve read. Also worth taking a look at the Five Best Books on Immanuel Kant.