HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 20 no. 2 (2019)

Book Review: LARS AAGAARD-MOGENSEN, JANE FORSEY (Eds .) . ON TASTE: AESTHETIC EXCHANGES

Beverly A. Sarza

 

Abstract:

While it is considered as a specialized discipline, aesthetics situates itself in the crossroads of different areas, so much so that it cannot just stay inside the thoroughfare of philosophy and so it is seen trespassing on other fields. For this reason, its problems are not merely limited to aesthetic and conceptual investigations on art; its concerns also traverse other disciplines, such as science, education, artificial intelligence, etc. Moreover, its interdisciplinarity renders itself almost eternal. Classic aesthetic problems that thrive during the ancient times are still ubiquitous today: Is aesthetic judgment objective or subjective? Can we derive knowledge through aesthetic experience? What is “art”? Is there truth in aesthetic evaluation?As Monroe Beardsley (1958, 1,4) in his classic Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism maintains: “There would be no problems of aesthetics if no one ever talked about works of art.” Since aesthetics is initially defined as a meta-criticism, this first comprehensive book about aesthetics, spells the perpetual need to do aesthetic exchanges, to make sense of our experience, and to further enhance it. Ever since the publication of this book, aesthetics has widened its concern by not limiting itself to art works or defining “art,” thereby diagnosing the “dreariness of aesthetics” (Danto 1983, 1). The editors open the book by alluding to a famous Latin phrase, “de gustibus non est disputandum,” which translates to “there is no disputing about taste.” It is an admonition not to argue when it comes to aesthetic judgments that are traditionally thought to be “subjective.” Instead of reaffirming this claim, the editors entitle their preface with a rather thought-provoking question: “Non Est Disputandum?” This book stands both as a demonstration and representation of the nature and scope of aesthetics; it presents the various ways in which the field problematizes art, beauty, taste, and other related concepts, while teasing the readers to challenge their own fundamental beliefs on said issues. The book strongly claims that “there is no other book available that collects the latest research” in philosophical aesthetics. The editorsLars Aagaard-Morgenson, professor of philosophy and co-founder/director of Wassard Elea in Italy, and Jane Forsey, author of journal articles in the same field and the book Aesthetics of Design (2012), assemble eight interesting papers from various scholars. On Taste: Aesthetic Exchanges (2019) discusses classical and current aesthetic questions as they transpire in the contemporary world, such as food, digital technology, and oenology, making it a collection that revives and at the same time rejuvenates a field that saw its decline after the ruminations of Kant and Hume. As the blurb mentions, this is a collection of “original and innovative” essays about aesthetics, offering “fresh approaches to the investigation of taste” (2019, 1). Since this book demonstrates the ever-pervasive nature of aesthetics, the collection boasts of an eclectic choice of authors grappling with aesthetic issues, using different philosophical methods (analytic, phenomenology, and critical theory) that encroach upon various fields inside the confines of philosophy (epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics), and even outside, such as education and political science. The editors divide the papers into three according to their themes: (1) concept of taste, (2) taste and culture, and (3) gustatory taste. In the same light, this book tasting reviews the articles following the design of a traditional menu. However, unlike the strict chronological sequence of a menu, this review recommends that it is best to savor the essays according to the reader’s palate. More importantly, aesthetic judgments will not be extended to moral judgments for those who plan to go for seconds, skip the greens, or devour the sweets first.