Elizabeth Telfer, Food as Art
- Most think that while food/drink can produce aes reactions (aes exp), they cannot be an art form or involve works of art
- Telfer thinks food can be a work of art and type of art form, but it is minor rather than major art
- "Anything viewed": Can be aes reactions to most anything, including pieces of machinery
- Are aes reaction as species of pleasure?
- (Urmson) Not neutral responses, but a species of pleasure
- Telfer: Aes reaction need not be favorable, and even when it is, pleasure is often not the right way to characterize it
- Intrigued by pattern of clouds
- Excited by lightening
- Awed by the falls
- Pleasure is not a good way to describe these feelings
- Can make aes judgments in absence of non-neutral reactions that usually go with them
- Landscape that normally would delight leaves me indifferent today, but still see it as beautiful (it's the kind of thing that ought to delight people and normally would delight me too).
- Aes reaction disinterested (Telfer takes this to mean: non-instrumental) (Stecker separates these)
- Not aes reaction if we react favorably to a play because
- Earn money for us
- Teaches fine moral lesson
- Successful venture for a playwright we know
- Must appreciation play for its own sake and these are instrumental valuings
- In simple cases, an aes reaction if based solely on how object appears to the senses (Stecker's "object directed sensual
- More complex cases (app of a novel) not sensual
- Food example: Aes if like way cottage cheese contrasts in flavor and texture with the rye bread; not aes if pleased
with combination because low-calorie and high fiber.
- Need intensity to insure that non-instrumental liking of sensual phenomenon is aesthetic
- Weak "that's nice" reaction doesn't merit name aes
- Intensity need not involve
- Actively paying attention or concentrating (can't do this with short-lived lightening flash) or
- Analyzing what seen/heard
- Objectivity often involved
- Object is warranting or meriting or deserving of one's response
- Has qualities others would appreciate too (or come to appreciate)
- Judgments are objective when they claim to be valid or well-founded and makes sense to argue about them,
even if the arguments often can't be resolved
- Summary: Aes reactions are
- Non-instrumental (intrinsic valuing)
- Have a degree of intensity
- And often accompanied by judgment that claims a kind of objectivity
- There can be aes reactions to tastes and smells (of food) in all the above ways
- Intrinsic valuing: Difference between liking taste and smell of food and approving of it instrumentally
- Intensity: Distinguish the person who enjoys her food but does not notice what she eats from person whose
awareness is more vivid; only the second is an aes exp
- Compare this with Stecker's idea that aesthetic eating involves distinguishing between the different tastes
and comparing them etc.
- Objectivity: Can also have objective judgments that not only do I like the food, but believe taste is a fine one
which other people ought to like too (even is some don't like it a present, or even if I don't-so get detachment from
- Worry that taste in ice-cream is standard example of non-rational nonobjective preference and if food taste is
objective we loose this contrast.
- More objectivity in other art forms?
WORKS OF ART
- Works of art (miscellaneous points)
- Not all objects give rise to aes reactions are works of art
- Works of art are man-made (even if just putting it in a gallery and giving it a name)
- Two senses of "work of art"
- Classifying: How the object is regarded
- Evaluative: Does the object merit the label work of art?
- Classifying sense of work of art:
- Something is a work of art if it is intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration
- Urmson: Work of art is artefact if primarily intended for aes consideration
- If maker intended it to be looked at with intensity and for its own sake then it's a work of art
- Pile of metal pipes in museum: it's art if it was so intended
- "Primarily" (some utilitarian uses okay): Allows for objects to be made for aes app but also utilitarian uses (a
chair is art if maker intends it primarily to be looked at, rather than sat in)
- Aesthetic use w/o intention sufficient: Telfer extends the classifying sense to allow something being a work of art
even when its maker did not intend so, if its use is primarily aes
- Buildings or bowls from native peoples?
- Is food art in classifying sense?
- A thing intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration
- Some is and some isn't
- Not true of run of mill food
- But any meals intended by their cooks to be considered largely in this way
- Savored, appraised, thought about, discussed
- Many eaters consider them in this way
- Though they have instrumental uses like nourishment and reliving hunger
- Some are such that this is not the main point
- Meals claimed to be works of art too complex and long-drawn out to be seen simply or mainly as feeding
- Cook not satisfied if eaters don't notice what they eat
- Cook aims to produce certain kind of pleasure, that depends on discerning appreciation of flavors and how
combined and succeed one another
- Cookbooks show desire to design dishes, courses and whole meals which present patterns of harmonious or contrasting
flavors and textures: they are designing a work of art
- Some dishes clearly are works of art in classifying sense but do they merit aes attention (are they works of art in
Evaluative sense of "work of art"
- Claim about whether the object is worth aes attention; does it merit or repay aes consideration?
- Sure "Metal Pipes" were intended by maker and gallery owner to be looked at, for own sake, with intensity, and public will probably oblige, but that's not a work of art, it's a pile of junk
- Does not follow that all works of art (in this evaluative sense) are good ones
- This is a work of art, even if not very good
- It deserves to be appraised aes, though will be found wanting
ART, CRAFT, CREATION, INTERPRETATION
- One argument for why food is not a work of art in evaluative sense
- It's craft, not art, because it's not creative and art must be creative
- Is cookery a mere craft?
- Art/Craft distinction: A distinction in kind of work (not products of work)
- Art is original creation
- Craft is carrying out instructions, following a convention or employing a technique
- E.g., architect who designs church is artist, masons and woodcarvers who carry out his instructions are craftsmen
- Painters and composers often follow conventions and use technique; create according to a set of rules that define
a genre (sonata form)
- Does this make them craftsman?
- No, as some choice remains: Unlike exact instruction of mason, conventions leave room for choice, so there is some
- Degree of creativity distinguishes art and craft
- If lots of creativity will be art, if modest amount will be seen as craft
- Difference between art and craft not between people but different aspects of their work
- Where no room for creativity (as with mason), the person is a craftsman and not an artist at all-a technician
- So-called crafts of pottery and furniture making leave plenty of room for creativity alongside convention and use
of technical skill
- Blend of craft/creation in interpretation as well
- Are interpreters artists?
- Who are interpreters?
- Performance artists, who take instructions and carry them out
- Piano player, actor, cook following a recipe
- Ordinary idea is that composing and writing are creative
- Playing music and acting are interpretive
- As if interpretation is not creative and therefore not art
- But interpreter is like a composer or writer using a genre with strict convention
- Not exact plan, so choices have to be made and they have to be creative
- So each performance is a work of art (to some extent)
- Cookery an art or a craft?
- If degree of creativity is criterion, some cookery can qualify as art
- Cook who creates a recipe and assembles it in an ordered and structured way for the purposes of aes response is a
- Even producing variations on someone else's recipe is creative, like a jazz composer arranging a standard tune
- Even those who produce the dishes (rather than create the recipes) can be artists
- If recipe is rigid and follow it completely with no creativity, then no artistry involved
- But usually there is a good deal of flexibility ("season to taste" "a pinch of ginger if desired"), choices about
combination and sequences of dishes in a meal
- So the cook is normally a "performing artist" rather than a technician
- So a particular cook's version of a recipe is an interpretative work of art, like a musicians performance of a
piece of music
- Will require some technique too (make white sauce w/o lumps)
- Central analogy: compare the creator of a recipe to a composer and the cook who follows one to a performer
- Original recipe and actual dish (performance of the recipe) can be works of art if regarded aesthetically
- Is this idea that skill and technique somehow take you away from artistry a good one?
- If (pure) technique is craft, not art, then a good portrait painter/drawer is a technician and not an artist
- Pure creativity with no skill, technique likely to produce a bad art object (evaluative sense) or none at all?
OUGHT FOOD TO BE AN ART FORM?
- Some say there is not an art of food like there is the art form of painting or poetry
- Since food is treated as art, it is art in classificatory sense
- Must be saying it is not art in evaluative sense
- Food and drink do not repay being treated as works of art
Arguments against food as art form
- One: Too usefulness: nothing useful deserves to count as a work of art
- But traditional art forms include architecture and it concerns useful objects
- Usefulness is relevant to art in that to appraise an object aes is to consider it in abstraction from its usefulness
- Two: Too bodily: Not art because appreciation of food is too physical, bodily, and thus crude and disgusting and as these senses
are not worth of dwelling on
- Nobler senses (sight and hearing) can be done at a distance;
- But taste only what actually touches our bodies and this is too crude to
- Taste and smell are too bodily and to cultivate their more physical kind of perception is to concentrate on
- We should try to get away from the body and aesthetic attention on these bodily senses is disgusting
- Three: Lacks complexity: Not art because not sufficiently complex
- Limitation is either in us or in the food
- Telfer's general response is this claim is exaggerated.
- Why no "taste symphonies or smell sonatas?" (Beardsley)
- Symphonies/sonatas are very complex and meals don't approach this complexity
- Telfer, this does not show that food is not art, only that it is simple art form
- Taste and smells don't allow for fine discriminations?
- Taste and smell senses can't achieve the finer discriminations that eye and ear can
- Our sense of smell is less than other animals
- But still can recognize huge range of different smells and tastes
- We can develop and train these capacities (wine taster)
- If our culture paid more attention to tastes/smells, people would cultivate a palate
- A discerning diner--like an expert listener--can "pick up the reference to a flavor in the earlier part of the meal in a later part and recalled a note in the
- Tastes cannot be arranged in systematic repeatable and regular combinations?
- Not true no sequences in tastes: can arrange sequence from sweet to sour, least to most salty
- Diner eats a rotation mouthful of duck in orange sauce, new potatoes with cream and garlic; then broccoli
- This is a systematic, repeatable and regular combination
- Not claim that form in food can be as complex as form in music, but there is definitely form in combo of
- salty biscuit, spread with unsalted butter and topped by anchovy or olive
- Balance and climax in food too: cook planning a dinner does not put most striking dish at beginning, leaving rest
- "However humble it may be, meals have a definite plot, intention of which is to intrigue, stimulate and
- Concludes: no limitations in tastes themselves or in us that prevent food from being a work of art in evaluative sense,
thought it is a simpler art form
IMPLICATIONS OF FOOD AS ART FORM
- If food deserves to be treated as simple art form, what follows?
- Arts are important in our lives
- State spends resources to support arts
- Education tries to inculcate some knowledge of and concern for arts
- Individuals cultivate aesthetic appreciation of art and regard someone with no regard for them as defective, philistine, and boorish
- Should art of food be treated in these ways?
- Should we expect people to cultivate art of food?
- Some do think that one should cultivate art of food, eat elegantly and discerningly, "take trouble" with one's food
- Critique of fast food culture
- Doing so, is part of being a civilized; person who thinks it does not matter what one eats is "at best boorish" (crude insensitivity)
- Even if agree that everyone should cultivate the arts, does not follow that everyone should cultivate this (or any)
- Some people will get no meaning from some art form and so can't force all to cultivate one particular art form
- But shouldn't the state try to educate all its citizens to appreciate at least some of the major art forms; music, for example?
- Art and music classes in elementary school as important as math and reading?
- Given time/resources limited and that food is a simple and also minor art form, reasonable for person w/o much
time/money to focus on the major arts first and leave food out as an art form in his life (even while realizing the
aes claims of food)
- Though we all eat and cook everyday, treating this as art is an extra step
- Should state subsidize art form of food so it would be less expensive and so that everyone could indulge in it?
- No; money is limited; subsidize major art forms first
- Also, unlike opera which might die out w/o subsidy, the art of food will survive without subsidy
- Not all eating is an aesthetic activity
- Aesthetic eating, eating with attention and discernment food that repays attention and discernment
- Might take practice and some instruction
- But art of food is easier to app than arts which require lots of background knowledge
- Art of food as a people's art
- In some tension with the above suggestion that it is time intensive and expensive to eat aesthetically
A MINOR ART
- One can't argue the art of food is minor simply because it is simple
- It is not true that only complex things (and not simple things) can support sustained aes contemplation,
- For aes
contemplation need not be analytical (distinguishing between and paying attention to different parts)
- Abstract sculptures of simple shape can sustain non-analytical kind of aes contemplation
- Food art is minor because it is (1) necessarily transient, (2) can't have meaning, and (3) can't move us
- One: Transience makes art less important as
- Not around long to be contemplated
- Can't speak to different generations and so can't get stature
- Is food necessarily transient?
- Can a recipe speak to different generations?
- Two: Food lacks meaning?
- Food has meaning in the sense that it, e.g., can symbolize a nations way of life and traditions
- Food does not have same kinds of meaning as major art forms
- Not representational: Some arts (unlike food) are representational-painting and literature-they tell us something about the world
and ourselves and see these in light of ways depicted in rep arts
- But can be a major art w/o representing: E.g., music does not rep the world
- But music has meaning in that it can express emotion (and communicates)
- Food does not do this
- Cook can express emotion, but the food can't, whereas music can (or so it is claimed)
- Three: Food can't move us in way music and other major arts can
- Lacks a earth shaking quality (and this constitutes a limit to the significance it can have to us)
- Great building can move us w/o expressing emotion
- Good food can elate us, invigorate us, startle us, excite us, cheer us with a kind of warmth and joy
- But can't shake us fundamentally (as shown by tears or fear)
- Not in awe of good food and hesitate to apply the word beauty to it, however good it is
- Problem of paying too much attention to food as art
- Treating eating as precious
- Treating it as of more aes importance than it has
- Avoid looking for Schubertian profundity in a folk song
- This could make us disappointed
- And miss other values in the occasion of eating (social values)
- Still we should not ignore what can be a satisfying and rewarding aes exp (food art).
- Ontological status of works of art
- Artworks that are tangible, like building and paintings, not problematic
- Intangible ones, like music (Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata) or plays
- Music still exist even if paper Beethoven wrote it on is destroyed
- Music is not its performance, as music is one thing and they (performances) are many, and it would exist even if never performed
- Works of art (some) are abstract things, a kind of blueprint for performance