De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

From The Psychology of Taste, and Choice by Alain De Botton

It’s hard not to be mystified by the taste of others. No wonder the Romans coined the expression de gustibus non est disputandum - tastes are not to be disputed.

But I think you can make some generalizations about how taste works. I think we’re drawn to call something beautiful whenever we detect that it contains, in a concentrated form, those qualities in which we personally, or our society’s more generally, are deficient.

You’ll call a nearly blank canvas beautiful when your own life is slightly messy and your city chaotic. We call good taste, a style which can move us away from what we fear and towards what we crave. A style which carries a correct dosage of our missing virtues.

Viewed in this light, a given stylistic choice will tell us as much about what someone lacks inside as what he or she likes.