Objectivity and Loving Attention
in Edible Arts
The key to objectivity, for human beings not Gods, is attending to an object for what it is, as something that demands I attend to it with discipline. For instance, a difficult piece of music demands of a pianist who wants to master it that she pay attention to each nuance rather than skip over or modify the difficult passages. She allows the object to guide what she does and how she approaches it. She has desires and interests but puts them aside for the moment and allows the object to dictate her standards for acting. Wine tasting is no different. When evaluating a wine, the first question is not “do you like it?” Instead the questions are “what is this wine about?” Where did it come from? What are the full range of properties it exhibits?”
Those who claim that wine tasting is subjective don’t like this kind of response to skepticism. They ask “How can you be certain you’re not being influenced by unconscious desires or influence?”
Well, you can’t be certain about anything. Why does certainty matter so much to you? The skeptic about objectivity wants a foolproof method, a logical certainty, that we have real contact with the world and is disappointed when none can be supplied. But that demand is misplaced.
It’s perfectly possible for us to achieve a robust connection to objects in the world. But the connection is not a logical achievement. It’s an ethical achievement, the product of discipline, knowledge, self-reflection and a kind of steadfast attention associated with love. These are human scale qualities and it’s all we have.
Often they are sufficient.