Disagreement in Matters of Taste, Attitudinal Alignment and Coordination

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    Recent research on disagreement in matters of taste has focused on the semantics of predicates of taste (contextualism and relativism are the main contenders here), but the conceptual and empirical issues relevant for understanding the communicative dimension of such disputes – why we have them, and when we aim at when we try to resolve them -- extend beyond semantics and touches on areas such as the evolutionary psychology of expressing attitudes (Green, 2009), the nature of disagreement in attitude (Stevenson 1944), the role of social emotions and argumentation in morality (Haidt, 2001) and the function of cohesion and trust in small and large groups (Davis, 2001). Systematic fault lines in matters of taste typically reveal where and how individuals were socialized and where the in-group/outgroup consensus lies. The capacity to distinguish between ‘us’ and ‘them’ often focuses on attitudes that play a key role in organizing our social preferences. In socialization and integration the adoption of pre-existing interests, values and preferences (often required for the creation and maintenance of joint, or shared projects) plays a key role.
    Disagreements in matters of taste have two easily recognizable dimensions that do not easily fit together. On the one hand, there is a sense of faultlessness – each party seems to be prima facie right about her judgement because it reflects how she herself is affected by a state of affairs or where her preferences lie- the judgements are de se, as Egan stresses (Egan, 2014). On the other hand, occasions that prompt such judgements often reveal that it matters, in the context of the conversation, to the participants that it becomes common knowledge that she is so affected. Seeking the coordination of intentions is the basis for the formation of joint goals, projects and the creation and maintenance of delicate social bonds.
    What are the games that form the background of attempts to coordinate in matters of taste? I first explore a typical coordination game (Battle of the sexes) and the problem of equilibrium selection. Then I look at a classification of speech acts in terms of what speakers want from their audience. It will turn out that a typical judgement of taste has two separable goals: one of seeking to inform the other party about one’s preferences, and one of seeking coordination of intentions and actions based on those preferences. Audiences can focus on one of these goals, focus on both, or even rationally ignore one of these goals. I will end with an explanation of the difference between disagreement in matters of taste and moral disagreement. It will turn out that the underlying game in moral disagreements is not a coordination game, but a mixed motive game, like the Prisoner’s Dilemma or the Stag Hunt.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 4 Dec 2020


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