I was particularly interested in the question from lecture regarding the similarities and differences between the processes of Taste formation in the arts and taste formation in our food choices. As I was looking back through the readings, John Locke’s inquiry into understanding and his idea that each person’s Taste develops at least partially as a result of experiences as a member of a group seemed like a good place to start that comparison. In the first chapter of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke writes that “understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself,” and I feel that this can easily be made to apply to the concepts of Taste formation and taste formation, in that neither is a conscious process –we do not have Tastes for certain Tastes or tastes for certain tastes. As an example, my mother took me and my sister to France about ten years ago, and before I left, a friend who had recently been to Paris gave me a couple pieces of advice: I needed to go to the Musée d’Orsay, and I had to eat escargot. In the case of the museum, I formed a very strong Taste for the art and the architecture, but it turned out that my taste is simply not suited for cooked snail. In both cases, I made a conscious decision to experience the art and the food but my Taste for what I saw at the museum and lack of taste for what I ate at the restaurant were not conscious decisions. Of course I would have chosen anyway to enjoy the arts, but if hating the snails was a conscious decision, then why would I order it?
Despite the fact that the formations of Taste and taste are largely unconscious processes, those formations result from conscious experience, often as a member of some kind of group, be it humanity, society, or a class like this one. Near the end of the first chapter, Locke remarks briefly on this experiencing of life as part of a group when he writes, “there are such ideas in men’s minds:every one is conscious of them in himself; and men’s words and actions will satisfy him that they are in others.” This quote helps to illustrate our concern with others’ notions of Taste and taste (two cases of the ideas Locke speaks of). In terms my example, I may never have gone to the Musée d’Orsay or tried escargot, if my friend had not developed a Tastes and tastes for them. I could keep tracing it back, and with every Taste or taste, somebody must have tried it first, liked it, and passed it on. Even in the case of movement from the raunchy Reformation to staid Neoclassical period, Locke would likely argue that George did not consciously choose that Taste, but when it formed in him, he essentially forced it on others in the group (English theatergoers, for instance) who then necessarily (also without choice) had to adopt that Taste as well or simply abstain from theater altogether. Here is one place where Taste and taste most definitely differ, as I could not abstain from food altogether if all I was allowed to eat was escargot. Thanks for reading, and I am sorry if this has been rambling (or entirely incoherent); it’s been a long and hectic week.