The Aesthetics of Food sets out the continuing philosophical debate about the aesthetic nature of food. The debate begins with Plato’s claim that only objects of sight and hearing could be beautiful; consequently, food as something we smell and taste could not be beautiful. Plato’s sceptical position has been both supported and opposed in one form or another throughout the ages. This book demonstrates how the current debate has evolved and critically assesses that debate, showing how it has been influenced by the changing nature of critical theory and changes in art historical paradigms (Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-modernism), as well as by recent advances in neuroscience. It also traces changes in our understanding of the sensory experience of food and drink, from viewing taste as a simple single sense to current views on its complex multi-sensory nature. Particular attention is paid to recent philosophical discussion about wine: whether an interest in a wine reflects only a subjective or personal preference or whether one can make objective judgments about the quality and merit of a wine. Finally, the book explores how the debate has been informed by changes in the cooking, presenting, and consuming of food, for example by the appearance of the restaurant in the early nineteenth century as well as the rise of celebrity chefs.
1. The Aesthetics of Food: Cuisine and Taste / 2. Taste in Antiquity: Plato’s Rejection of Food / 3. Aristotelian and Roman Views on Taste / 4. Medieval and Renaissance Views on Food / 5. Critical Taste in the Enlightenment / 6. Kant and Brillat-Savarin on Taste / 7. Creating and Tasting: Can Fine Food be Fine Art? / 8. Tasting Wine / 9. The Philosophical Debate about the Aesthetics of Food / Bibliography
Kevin W. Sweeney is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tampa.
In this welcome addition to the growing philosophical scholarship on food and drink, Kevin Sweeney situates the subject historically and within a context of art theory that is often overlooked. His careful analysis of the aesthetic standing of taste and the artistic claims for cuisine displays a sophisticated acquaintance with gastronomic culture as well as analytical acumen. The book will be read with interest by student and scholar alike.
Professor Sweeney’s book comprises an engaging march through the history of philosophy, showing how many eminent thinkers have reflected on the beauty of food. The historical analysis is bolstered by contemporary examples—including Ferran Adrià’s molecular gastronomy—and the writing is both lucid and accessible to non-specialists. This book is an exceptional accomplishment and highly recommended.
After a deeply insightful assessment of philosophical ideas on the aesthetic of food from Plato and Aristotle to Beardsley and Dewey (including a fascinating comparison of Kant and Brillat-Savarin), Sweeney brilliantly reframes the “is fine cuisine fine art?” debate by reflecting on 21st century revolutionary cuisine (Adrià, Achatz, Blumenthal, etc.) in the light of trends in contemporary art and aesthetics since Post-Modernism. Along the way he develops conceptual distinctions that advance the discussion of the aesthetics of food within philosophy, yet he does all this in an engaging style that should be accessible to both undergraduates and general readers.