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March 19, 2017 / Congau

Who Decides?

“Who decides the criteria for good art?” The question is often heard, but it is wrongly put. Who decides what is beautiful? No one. Then beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Who decides what is right or wrong. No one. Then there is no right or wrong. Who decides what is a fact? No one. Then there are no facts.

Just because no one has an objective right to make themselves authorities on any subject, it doesn’t mean that objective judgments don’t exist.

Who decides that two plus two equals four? Your opinion on that subject is not dependent on anyone’s judgment. You think it’s four whatever any authority might think. Even if everyone said it was five, you would probably stick to your conviction. Still you don’t dismiss the question as a matter of arbitrary taste. You say: I am definitely right.

Surely some issues are more easily agreed on than others, but there is hardly anything, not even scientific facts, that everyone agrees on. But the existence of truth and objectivity is not dependent on human agreement. The truth is there even if no one is capable of finding it. It is simply irrelevant to ask “who decides?”. For aesthetic issues it is equally irrelevant to ask that question. No one decides the objective criteria for good art, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any.

Now I could try to argue for what those criteria are, and you could choose if you want to agree with me or not. We would then have the same situation as for any other dispute. But you shouldn’t react by saying “that is your opinion and I have a different one, but we are both right.” No, we can’t both be right.

Granted, there is a considerable element of taste in art, but then we are not disagreeing about what is good or bad. It’s perfectly possible for me to claim that something is good art and at the same time admit that I personally don’t like it.

Only I decide what I like and no one decides what is good. But still, there is a good.


Leave a Comment
  1. The Smiling Pilgrim / Mar 19 2017 11:22 pm

    A very good question to ask 🙂

    • Congau / Mar 20 2017 10:02 am

      Really? I think it is a bad question. When people rhetorically ask “Who decides?” they usually imply that since no one has the authority to decide, everything is subjective. I say that of course no one can decide, but it is still objective.
      Why do you think it is a good question?

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