I like, I don’t like: This is of no importance to anyone; this, apparently, has no meaning. And yet all this means: my body is not the same as yours. Hence, in this anarchic foam of tastes and distastes, a kind of listless blur, gradually appears the figure of a bodily enigma, requiring complicity or irritation. Here begins the intimidation of the body, which obliges others to endure me liberally, to remain silent or polite confronted by pleasures or rejections which they do not share.

— Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes

I’ve always loved this passage (preceded by a list of Barthes’ own likes and dislikes) in which Barthes seems to grasp a disavowed violence at the heart of sentiments like “à chacun son goût”.

But what about the way we confront our own likes and dislikes? Barthes seems to have arrived at a serene acceptance of the “anarchic foam” of his own tastes, an arbritrariness that’s no more motivated than a fingerprint, or whose motivations are so buried that there’s no point interrogating them.

I, on the other hand (is it just me?), find myself constantly searching for a set of “rules” that will explain why I like some things and dislike others — explain to myself as much as to others. When I come across something that seems to go against the rules (love Wagner, can’t stand Bruckner, etc.), there’s a part of me that won’t be satisfied until I either modify my tastes or find a hidden logic by which the superficial disparity masks a deeper consistency.

The psychic compromise I end up making is on settling on rules that are so vague that they can be used to justify anything at all: “My favourite quality in music is intensity” is my latest.