Differences of Taste: An Investigation of Phenomenal and Non-Phenomenal Appearance Sentences

In Jeremy Wyatt, Dan Zeman & Julia Zakkou (eds.), Perspectives on Taste. Routledge. pp. 260-285 (2022)
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In theoretical work about the language of personal taste, the canonical example is the simple predicate of personal taste, 'tasty'. We can also express the same positive gustatory evaluation with the complex expression, 'taste good'. But there is a challenge for an analysis of 'taste good': While it can be used equivalently with 'tasty', it need not be (for instance, imagine it used by someone who can identify good wines by taste but doesn't enjoy them). This kind of two-faced behavior systematically arises with complex sensory-evaluative predicates, including those with other appearance verbs, such as 'look splendid' and 'sound nice'. I examine two strategies for capturing these different uses: one that posits an ambiguity in appearance verbs, and one that does not. The former is in line with an approach to 'look'-statements prominent in work in philosophy of perception, and I consider how the motivation given in that tradition carries over to the present context. I then show how the data used to support the verbal ambiguity approach can equally be captured on the second strategy, which appeals only to independently-motivated flexibility in adjective meaning. I close by discussing some considerations that are relevant for choosing between the two options.

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Rachel Etta Rudolph
Auburn University


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