Telfer_Food as Art - 2 F OOD AS ART ElizeJbeth'Telfer F OOD...

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2 FOOD AS ART ElizeJbeth 'Telfer FOOD AS ART Might food and drink sometimes constitute an art form? Philosophers who have dealt with this topic tend to say that whereas food and drink can of course produce aesthetic reacti.ons, it cannot be an art form or produce works of an. I shall therefore begin by examin.ing the concept of aesthetic r'~actions, in general and as applied to food. [ shall then consider the concepts of a work of art and an art fonn, and show how these concepts might be applied in the sphere of food. I shall go on to discuss the reasons which philosophers have produced for rejecting the idea of an art of food, and consider how they may be cOllntered. Finall)!, I shall briefly discuss the social significance of regarding food as an art and some reasons for concluding that it is a minor rather than a majrn art. AESTHETIC REACTIONS What makes us call a reaction an aesthetic one? We naturally associate the vvord "·aestbetic" with the arts, but we can also speak of an aesthetic reaction to natural things such as a beautiful landsGlpe, or to man-made, non-art objects such as pieces of machinery. j.0. LJrmson, in a well-known article (Urrnson 1962), takes for granted that an aesthetic reaction is not a neutral reaction, bm a species of pleasure. He suggests that we can best distinguish an aesthetic reaction from other kinds of reaction on the basis of the grounds for it. For example, if we react favourably to a play because it will earn a lot of money for us, because it teaches a fine lllorallesson or because it is a successful venture for a playwright we know, our reaction is not aesthetic. Our re<lct!on is aesthetic, in many simple cases, if it is based solely on how the object appears to the senses. 'This <lppreci<1tion of a thing for its own sake is sometimes characterised as dis- interested. l'he usc of this word is misleading; Illy favourable reaction to the play bec,llIse 11
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EL1ZAB ETH TELFER I am pleased by my friend's success might be called disinterested, but it is still not an aesthetic reaction. The point is better made by calling the reaction non-instrumental: I appreciate the thing's look or sonnd for its own sake, not for any benefit it brings to me or others. Now, as Urmson himself says, it is not elt all clear how this account can be made to apply to aesthetic reactiom in more complex cases. For example, our appreciation of a novel does lIOt seem to be sensual; still less our appreciation of the bC,luty of a loglCal proof (which 1,Jrmson allows as an example of an aestheric reaction). However, his account fits those reactions which are likely to be most nearly like our reactions food. If I admire sOllle factory chimneys because they make a marvellous pattern, Illy admiration is aesthetic, whereas if Tachnire them because tl1ey show tbe faerory to be powerful, it is not. Similarly, if I like the way cott,lge cheese contrasts in flavour and texture with rye bread, mv reaction is aesthetic, whereas if I am pleased with the combination because it is low-calo['ie and high-fibre, it is not. Are all cases of !1oll·,instrumentaJ liking of a sensual phenomenon aesthetic reactions?
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This note was uploaded on 03/13/2011 for the course PHIL 277 taught by Professor Jeneferrobinson during the Winter '11 term at University of Cincinnati.

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Telfer_Food as Art - 2 F OOD AS ART ElizeJbeth'Telfer F OOD...

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