The Project on the Nature of Taste


The concept of taste in aesthetics had its origins in ideas about gustatory taste, and much was made of this analogy in the eighteenth century. Recent research on taste opens up the possibility of a re-examination of the relations between the gustatory and aesthetic concepts. Questions about the nature of taste perception, the role that knowledge plays in our appreciation of tastes, whether we can separate the descriptive and evaluative aspects of taste judgments, the contribution language makes to identification of flavors, the cultural aspects of taste, and the nature of expertise, all raise interesting and important parallels with the exercise of taste in other domains. The time is right to explore a range of connected issues spanning the domains of sensory science, psychology, connoisseurship, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and aesthetics. The project brings together a number of distinguished scholars working on different aspects of our judgments of taste to explore these connected themes. The discussions will take place at workshops involving the collaboration of several institutions and disciplines. Questions to be discussed include, but are not limited to:

  1. Does the liking or disliking we experience as tasters occur at the level of sensory reception or only in an accompanying judgment?
  2. How do the senses collaborate in arriving at experiences of taste?
  3. Is our appraisal of an art object, a wine, or a food product an integration of sensory evaluation with knowledge of the work, wine, or food product?
  4. Does culture have an influence on what we taste?
  5. Is the applicability of taste predicates always relative to a judge or a taster?
  6. Can everyone share the vocabulary of the critic?
  7. Do emotions play a role in aesthetic and sensory evaluations?
  8. Can a judgment of taste based on an individual experience invoke universal agreement?
  9. What connection is there between evaluation and motivation?
  10. If one’s evaluations of the same things change over time, to what are those changes sensitive?

The Project on the Nature of Taste is a multi-institutional project. In addition to the New York Institute of Philosophy under the direction of Paul Boghossian , the project involves The London Institute of Philosophy under the direction of Barry Smith and the Northern Institute of Philosophy under the direction of Crispin Wright . Other members of the project are Professors:

The graduate students who have served as members of the project are: