Wednesdays 3-5pm,Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
19th February 2020:
Louise Richardson (University of York)
The Power of Taste
It is generally accepted that sight—the capacity to see or to have visual experiences—has the power to give us knowledge about things in the environment and some of their properties in a distinctive way. Seeing the goose on the lake puts me in a position to know that it’s there and that it’s, say, brown, large, maybe even that it’s angry. And it does this by, when all goes well, presenting us with these features of the goose. One might even think that it’s part of what it is to be a perceptual capacity that it has this kind of epistemological power, such that a capacity that lacked this power could not be perceptual. My focus will be on the sense of taste—the capacity to taste things or to have taste experiences. It has sometimes been suggested that taste lacks sight-like epistemological power. I will argue that taste has epistemological power of the same kind as sight’s, but that as a matter of contingent fact, that power often goes unexercised in our contemporary environment. We can know about things by tasting them in the same kind of way as we can know about things by seeing them, but we often don’t. I then consider the significance of this conclusion. I’ll suggest that in one way, it matters little, because our primary interest in taste (in marked contrast to our other senses) isn’t epistemic but aesthetic. But, I will end by suggesting, it can matter ethically.
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