This research project is concerned with our relation to gastronomical items, i.e., any product that can be drunk or eaten, whether as the result of a process of fabrication or in a raw form. It aims at understanding better, from a philosophical standpoint, what our consumption of gastronomical items amounts to and why, incidentally, we tend to value gastronomical items so much.
Our relation to gastronomical items may appear to be an uncomplicated issue. First, it follows a simple causal path: we put gastronomical items in our mouths and ingest them. Second, the reasons for which we do this are also quite evident: with the possible exception of sleep, nothing is so crucial for our survival than drinking and eating— we might call this the Calorie Model.
However, we all know that this causal-functional account cannot represent the full story. The development and refinement of our relation to gastronomical items into food cultures indicate that there is more than this to the whole story. A first element that needs to be added to the picture is the fact that, far from being a mere causal issue, our relation to gastronomical items is a phenomenal one which obtains through olfactory and gustatory experiences which, in turn, give rise to hedonic reactions—what we might call the Perceptual Model.
This second model goes some way into explaining the centrality of our relation to gastronomical items in our lives and cultures. However, it still leaves out a significant bit of it. Our relation to gastronomical also it as the center of issues as diverse as cultural identity, the embodiment of values, our relation to the past or the environment. To make sense of these issues, a more complex model is required which can make sense of our relation to gastronomical items being cognitively laden—here enters the Cognitive Model.
However, despite the richness of our relation to gastronomical items, it is surprising that very few philosophers have paid attention to it. If in recent times some decent amount of ink has been spilled on the various moral and political issues which surround it, more theoretical problems lurking in the background of these discussions have been left in the dark. This research project, alongside recent stimulating research in the area, attempts to remedy this deficiency. In particular, it will attempt to provide the foundations of the Cognitive Model by way of defending three hypotheses about, first, the nature of the senses, and in particular of taste; second, the intentional objects of gustatory experiences; and, third, the representational capacities of olfactory and gustatory experiences.