In Carolyn Korsmeyer’s “Philosophies of Taste: Aesthetic and Nonaesthetic”, she looks at the difference between the literal sense of taste(the tangible aspect of food and drink) and the use of the term “taste” when referring to beautiful and otherwise aesthetically pleasing things as witnessed by the other senses. Why does is this the case? She goes on to say that in philosophy, taste is often looked upon as lower on the hierarchy of senses and does not demand the same  attention from “philosophers of Taste”. It is interesting to see how taste can be deemed as almost a secondary sense and not be worthy of the philosophy of Taste.

In one passage she compares sensations of taste and of vision to give us an explanation to why taste cannot be held in the same regard as things that have Taste. “Objects of vision are easily assessed for their formal properties, as are the objects of sense and hearing… by comparison, taste sensations are relatively unstructured… They cannot therefor be made into works of art.”(Page 60) This is an interesting point, but one that I would tend to disagree with. It is true that tastes and smells change and eventually go away as food and drink are consumed or even not consumed. Unlike a sculpture which can be somewhat permanent or a melody that can stand the test of time, food and drink are fleeting bodily pleasures. That being said, why would the sense of taste be any less significant that the other senses, if the pleasure derived by that sense can be equally as satisfying?

Taste(the lower case kind) and food has played an important role in history, it can have an overwhelming effect on all of the senses, and there is a demand in this world for taste of transcendent quality; the likes of which I would argue have all the impact of a beautiful piece of art. The philosopher Hagel argues that there was a difference between the proximal and distal senses and that proximal senses lack a sort of appeal to imagination. While he is right that taste can be limited by proximity, a Tasteful and tasty work of art can hold all the impact and can be imprinted in a person the same way any Tasteful objects could be.

 

2 Comments

  1. It seems as if when discussing taste, things begin to get messy due to its various definitions and the context it is taken in. I too found it rather interesting that taste was viewed as a secondary quality in a portion of this reading. Taste is a description that can be applied to nearly every other sense of the body in some way or another. Whether it’s a person smelling, feeling, looking, hearing or even eating something, each individual is going to have a varying opinion of what satisfies his or her unique preferences. Since taste is so dependent on individual desire, it leaves us asking who is to determine the basis for which taste could be ultimately judged or evaluated. The difference in each person’s opinion makes taste what it is and also makes the task of developing a universal standard for judgment very difficult. I found myself to have difficulty with this reading and had trouble understanding where this notion that, taste is one of the lesser of the senses, actually came from. While in reality it seems to be the most influential and useful of any of the senses.

  2. The placement of taste on the bottom of the sense hierarchy puzzled me too. As we reconciled in Li Young Lee’s “Persimmons,” taste can be compared to lust, love, memories, and a vast knowledge that passes understanding. In Georges Perec’s “Attempt at an Inventory,” food is equivocated to a lavish itinerary, a receipt designed to express the sheer grandeur’s of this man’s appetite not of a “fleeting bodily pleasure.” So as you ask, why must a sense so distinct to food and the riches it may encompass be left at the bottom of the senses? I believe the answer to this goes beyond Carloyn Korsmeyer’s disdain for the spontaneity of taste in regards to its structure. My feeling is that taste may be of lowered value because it is not an essential sense. In terms of primitive life-forms, the ability to taste is not necessary. Sight helped with looking for predators, smell helped examine food sources, touch helped with movement in the dark, and hearing helped enable both communication and once again, predator avoidance. What value did taste hold to the primitive man? In terms of society today, taste has almost become the demise to the health of people, particularly in the United States. People are constantly sacrificing the health of their food choices for the taste as we perceive things that “taste good” to be of lower nutritional value usually. These factors definitely contribute to the dampening of taste in terms of the other senses, but as you mentioned, taste should not be forsaken. Because of its strong tie to food, taste and the details it is able to reveal will not be the last sense standing.

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