Tasting the World: An Aesthetics of Food

Dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (2001)
There is a domain needed for a philosophy of food and in this dissertation I show how it is appropriately placed in an aesthetic awareness of bodily involvement. Western philosophy exhibits a long history of marginalizing and debasing bodily activities, and an aesthetic development of food has been a casualty of our legacy of corporeal contempt. ;Through the work of John Dewey, I show how his emphasis on bodily interaction, the self as existing in an continuum with its environment, and his theory of aesthetic experience, provide a sound base for an aesthetics of food. Dewey's perspective also aids in overcoming other obstacles to an aesthetics of food such as: how there is no distance between subject and object in eating; a traditional hierarchy of the senses that values sight far more than taste; and the inherent connection between food and death. All of these can be resolved by continuing the Deweyan project of showing how experience exists along an ontological continuum of a self that is interactive with its environment. ;Finally, we can develop several future-oriented philosophical perspectives based on an environmental and bodily interactive self. First, our physical involvement with our edible environment offers stomach-oriented philosophical perspectives that demonstrate how philosophy begins in the concrete and not in the transcendental. Second, eating together is a community-reinforcing function through which we can experience aesthetic and religious meaning. Third, food can be understood as symbolic of elements of life. Through food we can discern the symbolic form of actively being engaged with the world by reinforcing how, in the act of eating, we are tasting the arrangement tensions involved in arranging flavors. Taking this conclusion even further, food turns out to be an ultimate art, for unlike all other arts, the engagement of food is simultaneously both a physical and symbolic act of the most intimate aesthetic involvement one can have with one's environment
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