Taste and Acquaintance

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 73 (2):127-139 (2015)
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The analogy between gustatory taste and critical or aesthetic taste plays a recurring role in the history of aesthetics. Our interest in this article is in a particular way in which gustatory judgments are frequently thought to be analogous to critical judgments. It appears obvious to many that to know how a particular object tastes we must have tasted it for ourselves; the proof of the pudding, we are all told, is in the eating. And it has seemed just as obvious to many philosophers that aesthetic judgment requires first-person experience. In this article we argue that, despite its initial appeal, the claim that gustatory and critical judgments are analogous in this way is mistaken. The two sorts of judgments are, as a matter of fact, similar in their epistemology, but earlier theorists have got things entirely backward—neither gustatory judgment nor aesthetic judgment requires first-hand acquaintance with their objects. Our particular focus in this article is on arguing that first-person experience is not required to know how an item of food or drink tastes. In fact, there are a wide variety of ways in which we can acquire this knowledge

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Aaron Meskin
University of Georgia


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