Monday, December 14, 2015

Guest Post: "Kant's Subjectivism Questioned with Reference to Development of Taste in Food" by Christena Phouthong

Kant believed that “The judgement of taste is not a judgement of cognition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical, by which we understand that whose determining ground can be no other than subjective.” (Stephen David Ross, Art and its Significance, p. 98) Kant’s idea of taste is based on subjective feelings regarding how the object is perceived. Although Kant may believe taste is not a judgement of cognition, I disagree. As I look back into my childhood, I feel that Kant’s ideology of taste is relatable to my life growing up in that, in the beginning, although my taste in foods was purely out of self-interest, it slowly started to change as my knowledge and understanding of certain foods began to flourish. In the end, although some areas of taste may be distinct, there is always a general perception based on cognition that dictates our opinions. 

As an Asian-American, who was the first generation to grow up in the U.S., my taste and appreciation of cultural foods has been constantly changing and has been heavily influenced by changing conditions of my life. At first, I was very open to eating dishes that were commonly found in my parent’s native home of Laos. It didn’t disturb me as a young child because I was so accustomed to eating them; I never deemed them as “unpalatable” or “strange.” But as I got older, I began to acquire a taste for American cuisine and lose taste for Laotian cuisine. I was especially fond of fast-food industry items including burgers, fries all filled with saturated fat, and soft drinks filled with sugar. From middle school through high school, I was easily influenced by my peers and this changed my perception of what foods tasted good. The Lao cuisine I was once accustomed to now seemed odd or unfamiliar. It was not until my college years that I started building my palette for a more diverse range of cultural foods and become more enthusiastic about embracing Southeast Asian food customs.

As I started my next chapter in life by continuing my education after high school graduation, I met many individuals who opened me up to the wide variety of foods this diverse State (California) has to offer.  My taste in foods grew exponentially from two cuisines to over seven, with Indian and Korean as my top two favorites.  It was a new opportunity for me to venture out of the norm and see or as I say “taste” things in a whole new light. As of now I don’t believe I would ever revert to my original perceptions of taste, but I can’t guarantee that various factors won’t come into play. Some factors I believe that change a person’s taste judgments are new experiences, or what I would like to call “opportunities,” that enlighten and provide a whole new outlook. For my generation, travel, having the money to spend, social media, and word of mouth can also be referred to as “opportunities.”

Today, social media has a huge influence on taste, not only in foods but other varieties of art – we will stay with food. Food’s sole purpose is to satisfy our hunger, but is now critiqued based on the components that entice the five senses. From Instagram, to Twitter, to blogs (online journals) and vlogs (video journals), social media platforms have created a huge cyber community of “foodies” that range from the mediocre to creditable professionals.

I guess you can say that Kant’s idea about taste being non-cognitive applies in my life but also is contradicted by it. I do believe a judgement of taste is a judgement of cognition. We as individuals grow to learn and develop taste as a form to define what is acceptable and not acceptable, and we do that based on what we come to know.

Christena Phouthong, Hospitality Management major, San Jose State University

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