Sunday, September 05, 2004

Taste and Circumstance

As regular and semi-regular readers of this weblog might have guessed, one reason I posted about the circumstantial topics is that I think this analysis has something to contribute to a theory of political taste. As I've noted before, political taste is not so much about what conclusions are drawn as it is about how they are derived, justified, and communicated: taste is a sort of mental sagacity in the recognition or appreciation of excellence and fault. As I noted here, the three marks of bad political taste are:

1) prejudice, which biases their perception of the actual thing being evaluated;

2) narrowness of acquaintance with the various sorts of things that might be experienced;

3) inconsistency in the application of the general evaluative rules practical reasoning generates.

Given the importance of circumstances to political oratory (particularly in descriptions of praise or blame), it seems likely that a more conscious (and conscientious) recognition of the role circumstantial reasoning plays in political thought would contribute to reducing all three, and especially, perhaps, the first, by contributing to Beattie's fifth characteristic of taste, Good Judgment. In effect, when we evaluate whether someone is a good or bad political leader, or when we evaluate actions like going to war or signing a treaty, a considerable part of our evaluation is taken up with properly labeling the circumstances of the person or action under consideration. Because of this, development of a circumstantial topics could contribute to good political taste.

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