Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy / Edition 1

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Taste, perhaps the most intimate of the five senses, has traditionally been considered beneath the concern of philosophy, too bound to the body, too personal and idiosyncratic. Yet, in addition to providing physical pleasure, eating and drinking bear symbolic and aesthetic value in human experience, and they continually inspire writers and artists.

In Making Sense of Taste, Carolyn Korsmeyer explains how taste came to occupy so low a place in the hierarchy of senses and why it is deserving of greater philosophical respect and attention. Korsmeyer begins with the Greek thinkers who classified taste as an inferior, bodily sense; she then traces the parallels between notions of aesthetic and gustatory taste that were explored in the formation of modern aesthetic theories. She presents scientific views of how taste actually works and identifies multiple components of taste experiences.

Turning to taste's objects—food and drink—she looks at the different meanings they convey in art and literature as well as in ordinary human life and proposes an approach to the aesthetic value of taste that recognizes the representational and expressive roles of food. Korsmeyer's consideration of art encompasses works that employ food in contexts sacred and profane, that seek to whet the appetite and to keep it at bay; her selection of literary vignettes ranges from narratives of macabre devouring to stories of communities forged by shared eating.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"It is to Korsmeyer's credit . . . that she has presented so strong a version of a philosophy of interpretation and shown how well it can be applied to food. As she insightfully establishes, philosophical tradition has not been able to find a place for gustatory taste within its framework, and it is a virtue of Korsmeyer's eloquent little study that she establishes a strong possibility for a cognitively rich philosophy of food."—Gastronomica

"Of the five senses, two—sight and hearing—were higher and lent themselves to aesthetic perception, while the remaining three—touch, taste and smell—were lower and non-aesthetic senses. Korsmeyer, in this sensitive and judicious book, explores and exposes the errors misinforming this conventional ranking. . . . This is an illuminating book."—British Journal of Aesthetics

"In this thoroughly researched, well-organized, tightly argued, clearly-written, and stylistic book, Carolyn Korsmeyer has presented enough food for thought to keep all but the most jaded aestheticians engaged for many happy hours."—Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

"A book about how the divergent histories of taste and Taste have left us with an impoverished understanding of the former—and thus a deep skepticism about the aesthetic worth of food. Carolyn Korsmeyer suggests that her project will illuminate readers' understanding of food—and observes that it might well illuminate our understanding of art as well. She succeeds on both counts."—Hypatia

"Anyone who critiques philosophy's 'venerable preoccupation with the 'mind' over the 'body' and 'matters of universal concern over particular experiences,' should read this book for the approach Korsmeyer uses to make her argument. Personally, I would add that anyone who thinks, who thinks about eating or drinking, who who even eats or drinks, should read it, too."—Leonardo

"Although we love to talk about food, the sense of taste has rarely been the subject of philosophical analysis. Denigrated as primitive, crude, bestial, and epistemically obtuse, taste has been ignored in favor of vision and hearing, which strike philosophers as nobler, less mixed up with our messy animality. Carolyn Korsmeyer's elegant and witty analysis undermines these stereotypes, challenging philosophy to take account of phenomena that the best writers about food have always known. She argues cogently that taste has complex object-directed intentionality and cognitive content; that food can have many of the properties of a work of art; that eating involves complex forms of symbolic activity. Drawing on science, literature, anthropology, and feminist theory, this exhilarating book is a paradigm of interdisciplinary philosophical analysis."—Martha C. Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, Philosophy, Law, and Divinity, The University of Chicago

Korsmeyer (philosophy, State U. of New York-Buffalo) disagrees with the centuries of philosophers before her that taste is beneath the dignity of the field. She explores how it gained such a low esteem, parallels between notions of aesthetic and gustatory taste, how the sense works scientifically, the multiple components of the experience, its various meanings in art and literature, and its sacred dimension. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801488139
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Hierarchy of the Senses

Chapter 2: Philosophies of Taste: Aesthetic and Nonasethetic Senses

Chapter 3: The Science of Taste

Chapter 4: The Meaning of Taste and the Taste of Meaning

Chapter 5: The Visual Appetite: Representing Taste and Food

Chapter 6: Narratives of Eating


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