Sensory Double Standards

kandinskyMany philosophers reject the idea that food and wine can be art. But there seems to be nothing but prejudice standing behind this view.

One reason we enjoy art and hold art in high esteem is that it helps us understand our world and our place in it. Painting, sculpture, and literature present objects, events, or scenes to us so we might view them from the artist’s distinctive point of view. And we come away from that experience with an understanding of how the world might be viewed from that unique perspective.

Another reason we enjoy art is because works of art sometimes generate emotional responses in us. And we explore those emotional responses in order to gain insight into how we are situated in the world and how we are related to the objects toward which our emotional responses are directed. Music, poetry, and some paintings are especially effective at generating these emotional responses.

Understanding and emotional response are fundamental human capacities which art helps us to imaginatively explore. We deem an object beautiful because of the intensity and originality of the exploration they make available.

But perception  is also a fundamental human capacity that enables us to grasp the nature of reality. Some paintings and other visual art objects help us explore the nature of vision independently of any rational thought process they might engender. And some music explores the nature of audition independently of any emotional response we might have to the music. These objects or events can also be beautiful and awe-inspiring because of the intensity and originality of that sensory exploration. Think of the patterns and colors of textile art or the soundscapes of ambient music. These also inspire contemplation about our place in the world even though nothing is represented or expressed. And such works are also sometimes beautiful and awe-inspiring if they are sufficiently powerful and original.

Thought and feeling are important but so is perception. The intricacies of perception and how it builds a world are as worthy of exploration as reason and emotion. And so many works of art are devoted to exploring how perception works.

But if visual and auditory experiences are capable of beauty because of the intensity and originality of the  sensory exploration they make available, why not taste?

Food and wine enable the exploration of taste. There is in fact no other way to explore it. The exploration of food, wine, and other beverages directs our attention to the nature of reality and our place in the world.

So why are food and wine not considered fine arts? And why don’t we talk about beautiful food or beautiful wine? Why the double standard?

If sensory experience is worth exploring, there is no reason to limit such an exploration to vision and hearing.

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