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  1. #1

    Post Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Following text is not meant to be anything groundbreaking. It's a sketch of my thoughts about fragrances as an art form, opinions and beauty. I'm trying to challenge people. Often I read a basenoter say "I just want to smell good" or "to each his own". I'm not saying these are somehow silly opinions, not at all. Only that there might be something more to this fantastic hobby of ours. I got an idea to write down some of my thoughts from a recent thread about our favourite fragrances we don't wear for one reason or another. This lead me to the very foundations of aesthetics; realism versus relativism. Might there be a third option? I apologise for not being very focused, one thing leads to another in a way that might not be that clear to you. It may be, that this structure only makes sense in my head.

    Strangely, I don't actually wear many of my favourite fragrances! For me, it's a completely different thing to appreciate a fragrance for it's aesthetic value, and enjoy wearing it. I have no need whatsoever to smell unique - I have a need of smelling unique scents. Wearing the likes of No. 88 or Eau des Iles doesn't make me feel good, but self-conscious in a negative way. I absolutely adore both, I wouldn't change a thing about them. It's perfectly fine that I can't or wont wear these true masterpieces of this form of art.

    I have a strange dichotomy inside me. I criticize fragrances for their lack of wearability, while I really don't care that much. This has everything to do with the unique character of fragrances; they have a dual nature. There is a practical function and artistry present at the same time. I think the bottom line is, that if a scent is not very wearable by my standards (which are not strict by any means) it should be something truly special for me to really appreciate it. Fragrance is after all made for one to wear, judging something also through it's function is rather sound. Yet it can't be the only criterion. I think it is worthwhile to open the subject somewhat.

    I always have a problem when I make a list of my favourites. What do I really mean by listing the best fragrances? Do I judge them by how much I enjoy wearing them, or how often I feel like wearing them? For how good they smell (good as in nice or pleasing)? Do I appreciate conceptual novelty fragrances - does being unique and different add to the value of a scent? Is the aesthetical side of a fragrance the most important thing?

    For me, wearability is not at all the same as smelling nice. Wearable fragrance is something I enjoy wearing day after day, something that is not tiring or nauseating, but
    often natural, with certain edge and reliability; it never lets you down. My term nice refers to something that just simply smells agreeable, easy and not at all controversial or edgy. For example, Millesime Imperial smells nice, while Lorenzo Villoresi's Uomo is my idea of truly wearable fragrance. I personally am not very fond of this new trend in fragrances, where it seems that the concept is more important than the execution. Movie called The Cube is like these fragrances, so is everything in Ikea. It's all about innovative ideas. Where is quality, depth, feeling, timelessness, harmony and balance? Mazzolari, Maítre Parfumeur et Gantier and Czech & Speake are the antitheses of this sad trend. I'm not going to continue on this subject by answering my own questions. My definitions are not at all important here, neither are the answers. The questions are.

    I know world is nowadays full of postmodern nihilists, thus my previously mentioned concept artistic value, or might I say true beauty as in something more than just an opinion might sound controversial or oldfashioned. For clarity; ontologically speaking I am not a realist - meaning I don't think there actually is such thing as beauty, as an platonic idea or such. This is very important. People tend to think, that relativism and realism exhaust the options. It should be clear that this is not the case. There are beautiful things in the world, they are not an incarnation of some transcendent idea, but very much immanent - beauty is an inter-subjective concept, and not at all an empty one.

    While relativism might seem on surface appealing direction to take, since people in real world do differ in opinions quite alot. But there are some deep theoretical problems. One would have to admit, that every fragrance is just as good. There are only opinions, all just as valuable. Also, we can't on the other hand accept the fact that our taste evolves and be relativist on the other hand. If there is a direction where our taste is going, it obviously means there are subjects of less and more aesthetic value. Experts of given form of art often tend to agree on things. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point.

    What explains differences in taste? That's something we have to think about, if we chooseto abandon relativism. Kantian way of understanding this is very intuitive, in a way. It's not a very simple theory, but the main idea is, that there are two kinds of judgements, judgements of beauty and judgements of agreeability. Latter means basically sensory experience and personal preference; "this fragrance smells good to me". These are purely subjective judgements. Then there is judgements of beauty, which is the interesting part of the theory. This means subjective opinion that has a requirement of universality. This seems paradoxical, maybe because explicated like this it is just that. With this Kant means, that when we say something is beautiful, we mean, that other people will have to agree with our judgement. We are not stating a mere opinion. This quite radical claim is based on the idea of community of taste - sensus communis. It basically means, that this universal validity is not derived from a determinate concept of beauty but from common sense. It's also important to notice, that beauty is something we appreciate itself, not because we could use the given object to achieve something. It is disinterested pleasure. Person who says that he doesn't like certain fragrance, but appreciates it, or that he likes a fragrance, but isn't ready to call it beautiful implicitely understand this distinction, and is a kantian in this vague sense. Saying this is being opposed to simple relativism. It's a trivial fact, that people do not agree on what is aesthetically valuable. This is an obvious problem, but should never drive us to naïve and intellectually lazy stance of relativism.

    There are several reasons that explain the differences in taste. Person might for very different reasons believe he is making a judgement of beauty when he really is stating just that he happens to like it. He or she might like a picture of his childhood home, not because it is beautiful, but for completely personal reasons, sentimental in this case. It's also obvious that our experiences and memories that are linked with certain accord might make us hate or love a scent. Culture and trends is one major thing that affect our taste, no matter if it's about music, movies, fragrances or fashion. This can easily make one think of human beings as puppets. It is often very difficult to make the distinction between timeless beauty and changing trends. Sometimes we can tell; but if we can't, time will do it for us. Hindsight bias is another interesting issue. Our presuppositions and things we know for fact often guide our likings; when we read glowing reviews of a given fragrance, or know - like we almost always do - that it is made by our favourite house or perfumer, we approach it in a different way. When we are expecting Messe de Minuit to smell like dusty catacombs, we might perceive it as such when we otherwise might not. Simple explanation for a difference in judgements is, that one has not just different, but better taste than another. By better I mean basically more evolved. People might or might not have different inborn capabilities in this sense, I don't know. That's not a topic of interest in this context. It might not very far fetched to think, that someone might say fragrance is good because it gets compliments. It's quite easy to make up more examples of reasons for mixing up personal preference with a judgement of beauty, or other reasons why people have contrasting opinions.

    When I first started smelling fragrances at 13, I actually didn't always know if I liked a fragrance or not. It's an interesting observation. It's not that I thought the fragrance was mediocre, I just couldn't tell what I thought about them. Today I feel confident saying that a fragrance is beautiful in a sense I described earlier, although I'm far from being a true expert. In between there obviously was a phase where I knew what I liked, but didn't feel very qualified to state my opinions as universal. Wines are an obvious analogy; at the moment I can say if I like a wine, but can't distinguish different aspects of the taste.

    I didn't mean to write post this long. I'm thankful if even some of you guys had patience and interest to read it through. When writing on a subject like this, it's quite restricting that you have to use foreign language, hopefully it made sense. I would love a conversation on this subject.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    The fact that you can express such difficult, contemporary and necessary ideas in such a coherent and progressive way and in a language which is not your first is hugely impressive. These are highly current issues and I suspect my contribution will be less cohesive than yours. I will try anyway .

    I agree with much of what you say. I agree that the postmodern trend of relativising everything is lazy, empty and ultimately leads nowhere. It is so much easier to criticise, deconstruct, analyse, to see the values of things only in their own terms than it is to build, create and make things happen. The trend towards everything being of equal value ultimately takes the value out of everything. You remind us in your piece that postmodernism began with the "arts", generalised to culture, politics, science and almost every other field. Also, you remind us that that perfumery is an often viewed as art. This makes these concepts incredibily relevant to our discourse here.

    You write "I personally am not very fond of this new trend in fragrances, where it seems that the concept is more important than the execution." This has deep resonance for me in many aspects of current hegemonic culture, not least perfumery where this idea greatly informs my taste. The parallels with modern art, music (both popular and "art"), politics (spin anyone?) and other areas are plain to see. Indeed, where is the timelessness? Perhaps it doesn't matter any more because it smells like an old man? For me, the only transcendence humans can attain is that feeling of gravitas, learnedness and timelessness. Sometimes we create things which "feel" like they are carved from solid rock. This is how I define value.

    "Beauty is an inter-subjective concept, and not at all an empty one." I agree with this entirely. I believe that it is socially and culturally defined. People co-exist simultaneously in many cultures and societies. I am informed by my family, friends, profession, hobbies, education, national physical and political environment, my city, my locality and many more specific and random factors. My taste and concept of beauty starts as a product of all of these and is adjusted by my endeavours and changes in all of these factors.

    The issue of personal taste against appreciation of beauty is also interesting. I think that it is useful to be able to appreciate that, for example, a fragrance will have the "timelessness" quality for someone else but that it doesn't resonate for me. Dior homme falls into this catagory for me.

    My solution to the relativism issue is basically to come back to a modernist, constructivist approach. I consider myself a neo-modernist (a post post-modernist modernist ???). In my view, realtivism relitivises itself out of existence as if it was hit by a conceptual self imploding neutron bomb and we are left with only what we have built. Perfumery is a craft of combining fragrant materials. Sometimes this is done with great depth of experience, attention and little restriction of cost. Sometimes it is done with only commercial concerns in mind. There is a much greater chance of attaining "timeless value" in the former case. The products of this craft may or may not be considered "art" due to the zeitgeist.
    Last edited by hirch_duckfinder; 19th October 2007 at 12:15 AM.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Rare; " The Olfactory Haiku "...

  4. #4

    Wink Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    I just wanted to let you guys know that I teach a high school epistomology class called "Theory of Knowledge" and tomorrow those kids will be discussing aesthetics and, as a part of that discussion, they'll be reading this thread. Thanks for helping to educate America's youth!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonyprince View Post
    I just wanted to let you guys know that I teach a high school epistomology class called "Theory of Knowledge" and tomorrow those kids will be discussing aesthetics and, as a part of that discussion, they'll be reading this thread. Thanks for helping to educate America's youth!
    What fragrance will you be wearing? (Serious question -- fragrance as art is an abstract concept to most high-school age kids, and here's your chance to make it tangible.)

    ---

    And thanks to Johnny & everyone who spent time sorting out their thoughts and expressing them so clearly on this thread. More, please!
    Last edited by PaulSC; 19th October 2007 at 01:41 AM.
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    I am not a philosopher, although I have read some philosophy. I am a linguist, so I have another perspective on this that starts from a linguistic point of view.

    We talk about definitions, and we find that some terms are hard to define. We call these terms "primary terms" because they name phenomena which are based on direct sensation. An example of a primary term is "green." In order to define this term, you may cite a precise location or locations on the chromatographic scale, or relate it to other colors; but only a person who is sighted and not suffering from certain types of color blindness can know what "green" means experientially. What is "salty" if your taste buds don't work? I believe that many of the terms we use in describing scents are either primary terms or cannot be completely understood without reference to primary terms.

    There is an epistemological issue here, too. You and I can point to an object, and assuming we are both sighted and not color-blind, we can agree that it is blue. Our agreement is essentially a social construct. I cannot be sure that what you experience when you say "blue" is the same as what I experience when I say "blue." In the same way, I don't know if your experience of the scent "rose" is the same as mine. Further complicating this is the continuum effect: there are many shades of "blue," and there are many varieties of "rose." We can try to discriminate these by the use of other primary terms (such as "navy blue" or "Bulgarian rose"), but the question of how we experience these is also moot, because each of us is imprisoned in his or her own realm of individual experience. Now, please don't get me wrong; this is not the same as solipsism. I'm not saying that I can only be certain of my own existence and your existence may be a figment of my imagination. I am saying that I can only be certain of my experience with regard to the interpretation of primary terms. I can be certain of our conventional agreement on the use of those terms, but not on the identity of our experience.

    It seems to me that when you add other factors, the issue becomes even more open to various interpretation. Even when you know the exact botanical origin of a scent product, you must deal with the possibility that the precise aroma of this year's Bulgarian rose crop is not the same as last year's. We may recognize it as being within the range of Bulgarian rose, but the outliers on this continuum will begin to blur the limits of the term. I may consider a particular scent as still being within the meaning of the term, while you may see it as being over the line into some other category. This is an issue of semantic boundaries: What is included within the term "Bulgarian rose" and what is outside the boundary of the term?
    Another related example is trying to translate color terms from one language into another. Some of what a Japanese person may understand as "aoi" will not be what an English speaker would call "blue." Something like these variations in semantic boundaries may exist even among speakers of the same language when it comes to describing scents.

    Further, when we talk of specific created or mixed fragrances (such as Égoïste or Antaeus), we deal both with physical variation among different batches of "standardized" product and the increasing complexity of determining identity of experience with each additional ingredient in the fragrance. Even individual notes can be broken down into various chemical components which affect the overall impression differently in different combinations.

    What it boils down to for me is this: When we discuss fragrances, quite apart from matters of taste, we are not necessarily talking about the same experience. We are engaging in a meta-olfactory experience which is a social construct. We are dealing in aesthetics, in criticism, and in a lot of issues about the rules of discourse. We have many different levels of facility among us in each of these areas, and our communication is partial and perhaps often not completely understood as we mean it to be.

    Of course this makes it all very interesting, and gives us all an opportunity to get better at this kind of talk. The overarching and most satisfying apect of this for me is that we have all taken our sense of smell as a way of experiencing beauty in the world, and that we love our pursuit of it.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 19th October 2007 at 08:09 AM.
    Yr good bud,

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    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

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  7. #7

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Awesome.
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    All i know is i just love cologne. .
    Are you not entertained??? Is this not why you are here??

  9. #9

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Thanks for an unexpectedly enlightening afternoon, gentlemen.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    I would really love to engage on this discussion, however, several factors are limiting my time and words. First, I do have a feeling that there is a distinction between artistic value and beauty. For instance Amen. Do I believe that it is a masterpice? yes. Do I believe it is beautiful or aesthetically pleasant? NO!!! it is horrible. I could also mention odeur 53 nd 71. As artistic creations I find them spectacular, because even though their goal is not outstanding, the journey, the ecosystem and the aura they have is quite special. And yet I do note care for them. Smelling them makes me fell a terrible void in my stomach.
    Beauty is not a condition for artistic value.

    Second, the original poster asks about the new trend in fragrances: "Where is quality, depth, feeling, timelessness, harmony and balance? "
    While I believe that asking for depth, harmony and balance is a valid question, the characteristics of quality, timelssness, feeling are biased and yes, relative.
    Relative in terms of perception. I believe that JaimeB already mentioned a lot of important points, but just to expand further, beauty has a lot to do with paradigms.

    Tastes do not evolve. Paradigms change. Our paradigms define the way we see our world. It may be recurring (just like fashion) but that does not mean that there is a better or more evolved way to see things.
    As experience on a subject increases, the observer is able to pick up details, to get a more refined nose, to perceives more subtle differences. His paradigm has changed. You cannot qualify as beautiful something that you cannot perceive. Different phenomena has different throwness to different people, and therefore, Beauty is relative to my own perception. Are all opinions equally valid? No. Some are able to pick up things that others cannot. Can someone tell me that my impression of beauty is wrong? No.

    For instance, is this beautiful to you?

    e^(iπ) + 1 = 0

    the first time I saw, it was mind blowing. It is called Euler identity. People may inquire what it is, understand it and even apply it, but if they do not have the right mind set, the expression will always be rather mundane because their paradigm is different. And most important of all, I cannot convince them that it is beautiful without changing their paradigm. (Here we could talk about Kant's Sinthetic self explanatory definitions)

    Aqua di Gio was a beautiful fragrance just like Calvin Klein One. The fact that it is used (and abused) by too many people definitely undermined its artistic value to the point that now for me it is just a common scent.

    Finally, although I appreciate the artistic value of many scents, the truth is that I only buy and use perfumes. Wearability is fundamental for me. One of the paintings I appreciate the most is Goya’s “Saturn Devouring his Son”. But that is something I would not hang in my house. The important thing is that despite the diferences of our discourse, I think that both of us celebrate the following post.
    Quote Originally Posted by knightowl View Post
    All i know is i just love cologne. .
    Last edited by irish; 19th October 2007 at 10:54 PM. Reason: spelling and grammar.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    I'm at an interdisciplinary academic conference, which means I've been clobbered with high theory all day, and have had far too much red wine .

    So, my inebriated input:
    I agree that intersubjectivity is by far the best way of conceptualizing value judgements and escaping the poststructuralist boobytrap while overcoming naive positivism. And one reason basenotes is what it is, is that many members here have the epistomological maturity to value fragrances according to community parameters (quality of ingredients, construction etc.) even if they do not like to wear them.

    A point I'd like to make about fragrance is that it shares with music the quality of being able to affect you in a direct emotional manner, where language is inevitably cerebral. Of course, like a symphony, you can subject a perfume to an analysis of its components, motifs, harmonies, genre, and this might intellectually enhance your appreciation of it. Yet, perfume has the "magic" power .of directly speaking to you, setting in motion a stream of consciousness, memories, associations, moods that in some ways makes it superior to textual artefacts.

    I view perfumery as a craft which can occasionally attain heights of art, i.e. some perfumes acquire the status of an aesthetic object justified by its mere existence. Yet I do find ultimate perfection in perfume to combine wearability with uncompromising aesthetic perfection - form following function and yet transcending mere functionality. That is true mastery. I find the agenda of the arts & crafts movement still to be inspiring and my definition of a true niche scent is that it follows these maxims.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    My high school students were really into the thread I shared with them today. They had never really thought of fragrance as an art form and now they are very interested in it adn what these particular fragrances smell like. I'm going to bring in a series of them next week and we're going to discuss them. We're also discussing how we priviladge certain senses over others in aesthetic importance.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by Tonyprince View Post
    My high school students were really into the thread I shared with them today. They had never really thought of fragrance as an art form and now they are very interested in it adn what these particular fragrances smell like. I'm going to bring in a series of them next week and we're going to discuss them. We're also discussing how we priviladge certain senses over others in aesthetic importance.
    Kewl! It's great to see young people exercising their critical skills.

    I am overwhelmed by the sophistication of the replies to this thread!

    Let me just say that I do believe in intersubjectivity. I don't believe that our sensory isolation negates the possibility of communication and shared experience. That experience can be shared in two ways: first, by finding ways to speak of our experience, while being aware of the pitfalls and limits of language in this kind of discourse (some of which I described in my earlier post); and second, by self-training combined with some kind of mentorship. I believe that Basenotes is invaluable in this latter regard.

    People who read the posts on these boards can choose to learn about scents, develop our own opinions and tastes, and get to know firsthand, through our own sensory experience, the meaning of the primary terms (and their constructs) that we use in our discussions. We can help lead each other in this endeavor.

    This is a wonderful paradigm of intersubjectiivity, and for it to be truly a subject-to-subject relation, all of us as mentors need to learn from all of us as the mentored, as well as exercising gentle tutorship with each other.

    In leading and being led by our fellow initiates into the mysteries (to borrow an ancient model as a metaphor), we lead ourselves and them to experience for all of ourselves the testimony of our own flesh.

    Long live Basenotes! Long live the quest for aesthetic appreciation and beauty!
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

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    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Hey Guys,
    I just wanted to chime in and thank you for such a thoughtful and enlightening discussion. It's such a nice break from debating the top 5 sexiest fragrances that Homer Simpson would wear. Some random thoughts follow...
    Tonyprince, I am glad to hear that your class responded well to the fragrance as aesthetics /art. I am a psychologist and spend about half my time working with women who are incarcerated - mostly long term inmates with years to serve. The prison is a gray place, and I teach a mindfulness meditation course for the women. It focuses on self awareness, subjectivity, visualization, and associations. A part of the curriculum is to help them learn to focus on the soothing and associative properties of everyday sensations - sounds, sights and smells particularly. For one class I brought in a whole mess of unmarked paper fragrance strips (no glass allowed) ranging from the very beautiful (Dior Homme, Voleur de Roses) to the very strange (CdG's Garage and SMN's Nostalgia). For these women, who basically live in a sensory deprivation tank, these scents brought on huge waves of emotion and associations. They had a blast sharing their subjective responses to the fragrances (and they really wondered about my strange hobby).

    I realized at some point that fragrance is not unlike a Rorschach test - there are aspects of classification and perceptual "accuracy," but a great deal of one's response to a fragrance is associative, even unconscious. Given the ambiguous Rorschach card some people see a bat, while an equal number see a butterfly. Both are correct in terms of perceptual accuracy, but the groups are miles apart in terms of association to the stimulus.

    Again, thanks to all who have contributed to this thread. It kept me up way too late tonight thinking about this stuff.

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  15. #15

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by SlimPickins View Post
    It's such a nice break from debating the top 5 sexiest fragrances that Homer Simpson would wear.
    Perhaps it's time for a 'Fragrance, Aesthetics & Theory' section on the board?
    Lovesick the wind that carries it

  16. #16

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by knightowl View Post
    All i know is i just love cologne. .
    I love this thread.




    But alas, I will have to read it in greater detail later because I have to go to bed.
    Last edited by LiveJazz; 20th October 2007 at 08:19 AM.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."

  17. #17

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by LiveJazz View Post
    I love this thread.
    ditto

    Tonyprince I'm so envious of your students... if only our teachers taught us that kind of stuff!

  18. #18

    Post Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Thank you all for great responses! I'm equally happy for positive comments and the very thoughtful and intelligent posts that make this subject and conversation much richer and deeper. I'm going to write another post tomorrow, today I have to throw a party, and I'm in a hurry! I guess I have a time to reply to one thing;

    Dear Irish, you made an excellent point that artistic value is not equivalent with beauty. I very much agree with you. For example, nature can be beautiful, yet we would not call it art. A painting might provoke us, cause an emotion. We would accept it's piece of art, but not a thing of beauty. I think this is something we all can agree on. My point was to put an emphasis on the beauty side of the art of perfume; execution and quality. These things never go out of fashion. Concept of a fragrance (dusty catacombs, circus etc.) is in some ways analogic to plot of a novel. It can enrichen; but it does not carry the work very far by itself. It's a frame - I might even say that given paradigm is no more than a frame. Proust is so wonderful because the way he did what he did. This is what I mean by being timeless, no change in paradigm would ever make Proust trivial, I believe. I hope my analogy doesn't hurt my argument, since it's controversial what is the relation between literature and aesthetics. I could say the same thing about No. 88 though. I don't think it's beauty is tied to this particular culture. Enjoying the clarity of the notes and deepness and harmony of a scent is not tied to a time or place, atleast not entirely. This is my claim, in my first post I accepted that trends and all of the culture around us affect our way of seeing the world. But for me, this explanation is not sufficient.
    Last edited by Johnny_Ludlow; 22nd October 2007 at 10:42 AM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Thanks so much for all of your supportive comments. I'm fortunate to teach some really great kids. BTW, I was wearing Santal Noble on the day I gave them the print-outs of this thread. One girl told me that one day last week when I was sitting next to her in class she couldn't concentrate on the discussion becasue I smelled so good. I'm not sure if I was wearing LV Vetiver or Bois du Portugal that day, but I thought that was a funny comment. Teen-agers will say anything. That's one of the fun things about teaching them.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    I am smitten! Not only is the orignal post a wonderful surprise - the replies have been written in the same spirit! I have not really absorbed it all yet, and shall be back here with a comment when the weekend is over.

    All the best for your party, Johnny !
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    This is an interesting and thought provoking thread and I hope to add a few of my own thoughts in the coming days.
    Last edited by surreality; 3rd January 2010 at 06:51 AM.
    Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them. - Immanuel Kant

  22. #22

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to a "thick description" way of looking at things (Clifford Geertz). With frags, I want to get as much information and hear as many opinions as possible. Then I can combine that with my own experiences and come to at least some tentative conclusions.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    Quote Originally Posted by surreality View Post
    *bump*
    Not just bump. Excellent bump.
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    What a great read! I'm just happy that I am surrounded by people who appreciate fragrances as art. I understand that they can be tied to fashion, but I don't make that connection. When I smelled Creed's Windsor and immediately thought of my Grandmother's house (who loved roses and always had them around), I didn't wear it like a piece of clothing. It was like I was back in Florida right in her living room surrounded by my family. Alas, she is dead now and the house it reminds me of is sold. When I smell it and relive those memories I can't help but feel happy and yet achingly sad. It's a scent like this that makes me wish everyone could understand this hobby on the same level I do. Yet I'm seemingly always having to justify why I enjoy them.

    Ah well, thanks for all the replies! Fantastic thread

  25. #25

    Default Re: Contemplation on Aesthetics and the Art of Perfume

    This is part of my response to the first post.

    This is a very interesting thread but there are a few concerns that I feel that must be addressed.

    "This lead me to the very foundations of aesthetics; realism versus relativism. Might there be a third option?"

    Yes, and a fourth, fifth and possibly many other options. Kant tries to take a third way, much like his epistemology tried to bridge the gap between the empiricism (and skepticism) of Hume and Berkeley, and the rationalist metaphysics of Wolff and Leibniz.

    "While relativism might seem on surface appealing direction to take, since people in real world do differ in opinions quite a lot. But there are some deep theoretical problems. One would have to admit, that every fragrance is just as good. There are only opinions, all just as valuable."

    Although I think I understand what you are getting at here, I think that there is a basic confusion of the nature of relativism at play. Relativism is not some monolithic philosophical idea but a highly nuanced set of differing ideas encompassing metaphysics, epistemology and axiology. In the broadest sense of the word, as seems to be used in this thread, relativists would not have to admit that every fragrance is just as good as the next; however, a relativist may argue just that one’s opinion about a fragrance is no more weighty or privileged than another’s given that there exist no absolute standards by which to objectively judge fragrance (but that in and of itself is but one strand of relativism one that other relativists may well reject). In fact another relativist may even argue that under one paradigm that there exists a set of cultural norms by which fragrance “X” is judged to be “good” and fragrance “Y” “bad” and that opinions about fragrances should be judged within the framework but accept that in another cultural paradigm that a different set of norms exist (normative relativism) where fragrance “X” may be judged as a “bad” fragrance and “Y” good.

    "Also, we can't on the other hand accept the fact that our taste evolves and be relativist on the other hand"

    Why not? There seems to be no internal contradiction between aesthetic relativism and the evolution of our tastes. In fact, the evolution of taste seems to support the idea of aesthetic relativism. As we grow, become more refined and gain knowledge about the art of perfumery (if it is indeed an art, itself a highly controversial claim), in other words acquire a taste for fragrance (or a certain type of fragrance), this produces a set of norms relative to, and defined by, our level of sophistication and/or cultural literacy, that we then use to judge fragrances.

    "If there is a direction where our taste is going, it obviously means there are subjects of less and more aesthetic value."

    Two points I would like to make here.

    1) “If” is the operative word. To argue that there is a goal or end toward which our taste “is going” is philosophically problematic. If there is a telos what is it? What exactly are we “going” toward?

    2) Even if there is a "direction where our taste is going" it does not follow that there must be objects of lower and higher aesthetic value.

    "With this Kant means, that when we say something is beautiful, we mean, that other people will have to agree with our judgement."

    I’m not sure this is what Kant means. For Kant beauty is neither inherent in an artwork nor is it some ideal like Plato’s form of Beauty but a function of the way that the human mind works. An aesthetic judgment is only universal and necessary (both universality and necessity are important conditions) if “x” produces a disinterested pleasure that also satisfies the other three moments that Kant describes in the Analytic. If all the conditions are met and one correctly claims that “x” is beautiful then one can demand that others share the same judgment, not because one has discovered the beauty in “x” but because it is just the way that the human mind functions. This is why Kant can claim that beauty is both subjective (only I can experience my feelings of beauty) and universal and necessary (all people are hard-wired in the same way).
    Last edited by surreality; 7th January 2010 at 08:05 PM.
    Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them. - Immanuel Kant

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