Saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in Matters of Personal Taste

Filip Buekens


This paper examines the communicative function of public pronouncements about what is tasty, agreeable or attractive, followed by an equally public endorsement or rejection. The typical and expected reaction to contributions like ‘This is tasty’ or ‘The roller coaster is fun’ in a conversational setting is not ‘how come?’ or ‘How do you know that?’, but a reply that reveals one’s own attitude towards an object or state of a airs, thus revealing con ict or alignment over the issue at hand. Judgements of taste (their content and the speech acts performed) are explored in the context of a cooperative view of communication developed by Michael Tomasello, which classifies communicative actions in terms of what we want from others when we communicate to them. We also use game theory. The game-theoretical connotation for a public dispute over what to like or to prefer is a co-ordination game like Battle of the Sexes. Speech act theory traditionally allows that speakers can perform di erent speech acts simultaneously. Combining both views, we argue that the public pronouncements that give rise to seemingly faultless disagreement have informative, requestive and alignment-seeking dimensions, which make different propositional contents salient. In a dispute over whether something is tasty (fun, ...) a speaker and her intended audience usually play two games – the game of letting others know something (about oneself), and the alignment of attitudes game, i.e. the game of making moves in the direction of seeking alignment over what to prefer, or what would be preferable, in a given situation. Both games make di erent propositions salient. I conclude with a brief evaluation of current disputes over what’s tasty (comical, ...) between contextualists and assessment relativists in matters of personal taste.


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