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On Wines as Works of Art

Gabriele Tomasi
p. 155-174

Abstract

It is a fact that wine tasting can at times take the form of an aesthetic experience and that many wines can be regarded as proper aesthetic objects. Can we consider wines works of art, then? This is the question I explore in this essay. I have reservations towards a positive answer to the question, but I think their nature is psychological or cultural, rather than theoretical. From a theoretical point of view we probably have sufficient reasons to claim that high quality wines are artworks: in this essay I try to lay out those reasons. My remarks are based on the discussion of three key points: (a) the artifactual nature of wine, (b) a version of the aesthetic theory of art, and (c) the metaphysical view Nick Zangwill calls ‘Aesthetic Functionalism’. According to this view, in order to be an artwork an object must have originated in an insight concerning the fact that certain aesthetic properties would be realized by certain non-aesthetic properties. The thesis I defend is that a certain wine is an artwork if and only if it has been produced with the intention to realize certain aesthetic properties in other, non-aesthetic properties, i.e. in the smell and taste of the wine, on the ground of an insight into the dependence of the former on the latter.

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1It suffices to read a taste report to realize how the language of wine tasting is rich in words stemming from the jargon of aesthetics and art criticism. Words such as “harmonic”, “balanced”, “elegant”, “subtle”, “flat”, “dynamic”, “complex” can be used not only to describe art objects such as paintings, musical works, sculptures or buildings, but also to refer to certain qualities of a wine. In fact, wine tasting can at times take the form of an aesthetic experience and many wines can be regarded as proper aesthetic objects in virtue of the properties they possess. But should we say that they are works of art?

  • 1  Regarding certain wines as artworks may appear to twist our ordinary understanding of art and of t (...)
  • 2  With “high-quality wine” I mean wine possessing those excellent qualities wine is capable of displ (...)

2Even though the concept of art is very adaptable, one may be skeptical about this. However, reservations are likely to be psychological or cultural in nature, rather than theoretical1. From a theoretical point of view there are probably reasons enough to claim that high quality wines are artworks2; in what follows I shall try to lay out those reasons. In a nutshell, my thesis is that a wine is an artwork if and only if it has been produced with the intention to realize certain aesthetic qualities in other, non-aesthetic qualities, i.e. in the smell and taste of the wine.

3My remarks are based on two elements: (i) the artifactual nature of wine and (ii) a version of the aesthetic theory of art inspired by Nick Zangwill’s Aesthetic Creation Theory. Since aesthetic accounts of art are regarded by many as far from satisfactory, arguing from one of them may seem improvident. I believe, however, that I can show that the limits of my aesthetic account are balanced by its explanatory power.

4This essay is divided into five sections. In the first one I shall lay out the basic features of an aesthetic conception of art. Since an element of this conception is the idea that artworks are artifacts (i.e. objects with a function) in the second and third section I shall touch upon the concept of artifact and the specific function of those artifacts that are artworks. In the fourth section I shall briefly consider the metaphysical pendant of the aesthetic conception of art, i.e. aesthetic functionalism. This will bring us to the key theoretical point for my wines-as-artworks thesis: the acknowledgment that many artifacts with aesthetic function can be considered art. In the fifth and last section I shall consider wine from a functionalist standpoint.

1. A sketch for an aesthetic theory of art

  • 3  The most influential among those theories is put forward in Beardsley 1983.
  • 4  On this point see Budd 2008.
  • 5  Stecker 2003: 142. See also Stecker 2006 and Iseminger 2006.
  • 6  See Stecker 2010: 74-79.

5Aesthetic conceptions of art try to understand art on the basis of the notion of “the aesthetic”3. This attracts a certain amount of skepticism and distrust. The notion of the aesthetic looks suspect to many and it is generally left aside on the ground that it is, if not misleading, at least not relevant. This is an arguable topic4. I believe that the notion of the aesthetic continues to have a relevant explanatory role concerning art and our attitude towards it. I shall then start from “the aesthetic” and, for brevity’s sake, assume Robert Stecker’s stipulation that “the aesthetic” refers, in the first place, to the per se valuable experience «that results from close attention to the sensuous features of an object or to an imaginary world it projects»5. With “aesthetic qualities” I shall refer to those qualities of an object that are valuable per se in virtue of the relationship they have with aesthetic experience: these are the qualities that make us appreciate our experience of aesthetic objects per se6. As a consequence, aesthetic interest is an interest in this kind of experience and in qualities of this kind. If our conception of art is built on these notions, then what makes a given object art is the fact that the art-maker has an aesthetic intention. To be more precise:

6(AT) An artwork is an object (or event) produced with the intention that it will embody aesthetic properties, i.e. that it will have aesthetic value in virtue of possessing qualities whose character is specifically aesthetic.

7An aesthetic conception of art could be formulated also with reference to an audience. For instance, we could say that:

8(AT*) An artwork is an object (or event) that an artist has intentionally endowed with a disposition to produce an aesthetic experience in a certain audience under certain circumstances.

  • 7  See Zangwill 2007: 134-141. As a matter of fact, we have defined aesthetic qualities as qualities (...)

9(AT), however, is to be preferred over (AT*), because reference to experience is not essential for deeming an object a work of art. Artworks are not always produced with the intention of providing certain subjects with experiences of a certain kind and it is disputable that the artist should be considered a member of the audience. Moreover, if the content of the aesthetic experience are the aesthetic qualities of the object, and given that these are considered per se valuable, then also the artist should regard such qualities as valuable, presumably. It follows that an artist’s intention to realize certain qualities in a given artwork can be understood independently of making reference to an audience. Since – as Zangwill notes – this is the minimal requirement for a rational explanation of artistic creation, such explanation does not require that we make reference to an audience7.

  • 8  Zangwill 2007: 2. Clearly, we would tell a different story if we adopted a theological perspective (...)

10Naturally, it can be observed that this conception is limited in extent. If we take it to be a necessary condition for an object to be an artwork that it be an artifact embodying aesthetic qualities – i.e. qualities that are capable of providing an aesthetic experience – then we leave out of the class of artworks many objects we call “art”: dadaist works, for instance, or conceptual art. On the other hand, it may also be doubted that the notion of the aesthetic can provide a sufficient condition for an object to be an artwork. The class of aesthetic objects, of the objects that have aesthetic qualities, does not coincide with the class of artworks. Nor, evidently, is aesthetic experience provided only or mostly by artworks. Many natural objects and many artifacts can do that. Whereas the former can easily be left out from the class of artworks, because they are not produced with the appropriate intention – as Zangwill conveniently observes, «Nature possesses aesthetic properties, but nature does not have the function of possessing them»8 –, the latter need more careful treatment. Many artifacts that are not generally considered artworks present aesthetically pleasing features. Must we regard them as art, then? It is clear that this is a key question for the wines-as-artworks thesis, and I shall come back to this point below. But first I shall address some remarks on the question of extensional adequacy.

  • 9  Idem: 5.
  • 10  See idem: 1-8.

11Extensional adequacy is an important requirement for any definition. The point of a definition of art – provided that we do not seek a real definition – is the use of the word “art” and the application of the concept “art”, and I believe Zangwill rightly observes that what we need are concepts that «do justice to the world»9. This is why extensional adequacy cannot be the only relevant requirement for a conception of art; a more binding constraint is given by explanatory adequacy. Questions about our interest in art and about the value of art are not less important than the question “what is art?”. Why are we interested in art? Why do we look at certain objects under a different light and adopt certain behaviors – e.g. we stop to contemplate them, we try to understand them, we try to understand the intentions of their makers – when we categorize them as art? Why do we attribute value to the creation, experience and conservation of art10?

12The general idea is that a conception of the nature of art should be a consequence, a kind of by-product, of a good rational explanation of our relationship to art, i.e. of an explanation that provides reasons for the production and the “consumption” of art. As Zangwill stresses, a conception of what is art must be relevant at the motivational level, it must include ideas concerning the reasons why we attribute value to what we regard as art. We should take into account the explanatory tasks of a theory of art while evaluating (AT).

  • 11  For clarification and qualification on this issue see Levinson 1992.
  • 12  Sure, it is not easy to explain why it is so, especially since it is not clear what aesthetic plea (...)
  • 13  See Zangwill 2007: 11-12.

13Aesthetic theories generally refer to the pleasure offered by the creation and fruition of art. According to many, pleasure – a particular kind of pleasure – is a typical feature of aesthetic experience. Although much art is not a source of pleasure – not directly, at least – an explanation of the value and importance of art in terms of the rewarding character of our experience of it does not look implausible11. In the end, pleasure is, in the large, something we desire and seek, and aesthetic pleasure is a pleasure that is particularly important to us12. It is understandable and rational that we may find a reason to do X in the fact that X provides us with a particular kind of pleasure, such as aesthetic pleasure. This is why linking art to pleasure allows us to understand – in the vast majority of cases, if not always – why it makes sense to create and appreciate those objects we regard as art. If this is true, then the aesthetic conception of art is not excessively inadequate in its extent. It explains why many of the objects we regard as art are also valuable to us: they are objects that embody aesthetic values such as beauty and other valuable aesthetic qualities, and creating and appreciating objects endowed with such qualities is rewarding. From this it need not necessarily follow an instrumental conception of aesthetic value. According to Zangwill’s version of the aesthetic theory of art, the pleasure we feel in contemplating artworks is pleasure in their valuable qualities and we feel pleasure in producing objects equipped with aesthetically valuable qualities13.

14Let us now consider in more detail what issues from the mention of the creative (or productive) aspect of art in (AT).

1.1. Art and aesthetic intention

  • 14  In what follows I shall summarize the main points of Zangwill’s proposal (idem: 39-46).

15According to the aesthetic theory of art, an artwork is an object (or event) created with the intention that it possesses aesthetic value in virtue of its being endowed with certain qualities that have a specifically aesthetic character14. This means that artworks are essentially related to the intention of realizing certain aesthetic qualities in an object or event with certain non-aesthetic qualities – e.g. marks and colors on a canvas, sounds of a certain timbre and tone height etc. Since aesthetic qualities are there by virtue of non-aesthetic qualities, then we can break down artistic intention into three components: (a) an intention to realize aesthetic qualities; (b) an intention to realize certain non-aesthetic qualities; (c) an intention to realize the former by means of realizing the latter.

  • 15  See idem: 40. In many cases intentional actions realize a plan, i.e. an idea (or some ideas) about (...)

16This threefold-structured intention is based on the belief that by means of creating an object (or event) with certain non-aesthetic qualities, we will generate other qualities, which are aesthetic in character and depend on the non-aesthetic ones. That the threefold-structured intention be involved is essential for there to be art15.

17According to Zangwill, however, there being an aesthetic intention does not provide a sufficient condition for there to be art. Two further conditions must be satisfied. The first is the condition of success. It establishes that, in order for something to be art, the aesthetic intention to realize a certain group of aesthetic qualities by means of realizing a certain configuration of non-aesthetic qualities must be successfully satisfied in a significant way. This means that there can be dysfunctional artworks, i.e. works that, despite not being a complete failure, do not wholly realize their aesthetic function. The second condition aims to exclude deviant causal chains: it establishes that in order for an object/event with aesthetic qualities to be art its having such qualities must be a causal consequence, a result, of actions that were performed on it and aimed to realize an aesthetic intention. In order for an object/event to be art it must have an aesthetic effect in virtue of its being the product of a non-deviant causal chain linking intention and result.

  • 16  Of course this might be disputed by those who claim that ontologically abstract artworks are not a (...)

18These remarks underline a fact that is sometimes neglected, despite its being entailed in the concept of art, i.e. that artworks are artifacts16; but what kind of artifacts are works of art and what distinguishes them from ordinary artifacts?

2. Artifacts and artworks

19According to the intuitive notion of artifact, all those objects that result from intentional human action are artifacts. To be more precise:

20(DArtf) An artifact is an object intentionally produced to perform a certain function and/or to serve a given purpose.

  • 17  See Soavi 2009: 29-51 for a discussion of the definition of artifact.

21This definition, although not completely satisfactory17, highlights some essential aspects of objects of this kind. I shall now put forward a few remarks in order to clarify the content of the definition.

22First, let us consider the boundaries of the class of objects identified by the definition. The definition articulates the intuitive idea that an artifact is a product of intentional (human) action. For artifacts it holds what Risto Hilpinen has called the “dependence condition”:

  • 18  See Hilpinen 1992: 65. I have quoted the formulation given in Hilpinen 2011.

(Dep) The existence and some of the properties of an artifact depend on an author’s intention to make an object of a certain kind18.

  • 19  Thomasson 2007: 52. See also Rudder Baker 2008.
  • 20  See Dipert 1993: 33-37. A further problem concerns how we should classify those objects which are (...)

23Because of this dependence artifacts can be considered «creations of the mind»19. In the world, together with chairs, lamps, boats and natural objects (i.e. objects we have not produced, such as rocks, plants, butterflies etc.), there are also objects which, were not for human intervention, would not exist in the form and with the qualities they display and which, nevertheless, it is difficult to categorize as artifacts. For instance – to mention a classic example – it does not seem that the wood shavings left on the floor by a carpenter who has fashioned a table leg are artifacts, whereas the table leg is an artifact. According to our definition, an artifact is the result or the effect of an intentional action. The wood shavings are like a side-effect of an intentional action, and effect which, although obvious and predictable, is not intentioned. They share with the table leg a dependence on human action, but they are not intentioned objects strictly speaking, since their existence is not the intended result of the intentional action that has produced them. Given this, it seems convenient to admit that there exists a class of objects to which both the table leg and the wood shavings belong. This is the class of artificial objects20. Artifacts should then be considered as a sub-set of the class of artificial entities: they are products of the art of making goal-targeted objects.

24Let us now clarify some of the terms used in the definition. (DArtf) refers to objects that are “produced”. One might think that these are only material objects and, therefore, that artifacts must be material objects. This is true only if by “production” we mean the handling and/or the transformation of matter and/or physical objects. Here, however, we use “production” in a broader sense, that applies also to abstract objects such as theories or events (e.g. a mime’s gesture), in that they are intentionally created, i.e. brought into being for a certain goal.

25(DArft) also mentions functions and/or purposes. That of producing an object for a certain purpose is intended as a generic condition. For instance, one can produce clothing in order to earn money (purpose), although the typical function of a piece of clothing is not that of enabling one to earn money, whereas it can be that of wrapping up, protecting, or adorning one’s body. Thus, an object’s function is more specific than the purpose it has been produced for. However, both in the case of the purpose and in the case of the function we make reference to the maker’s intention of conferring a causal role to the produced objects, i.e. a capability of interacting with the world in a given way under certain circumstances.

  • 21  Zangwill 2007: 27.
  • 22  Hilpinen 2011.

26Reference to intention is crucial when it comes to artifacts; it allows one to distinguish between function and effect: normally, the sound of a clock is an effect of its functioning, whereas its function is to measure time. The notion of function is normative, not merely descriptive. An artifact is an object produced to perform a certain role; its function is the (causal) role it is meant to perform. An important consequence of this is that it is understandable that someone may be prompted to use a given object and attribute value to it simply because that object is an artifact – provided that s/he has desires concerning the role the object is meant to perform. If we need to check the time, it is natural that we use some kind of watch. But it is the very nature of a watch that tells us what makes for a good watch. The same is true for other kinds of artifacts, obviously. Zangwill stresses that it is not plausible to distinguish between a classificatory and an evaluative conception in the case of artifacts21. In other words, knowing what kind of artifact an object is entails knowing also some normative criteria that apply to it by virtue of its being an object of that kind, i.e. it entails some knowledge of what it means to say that it works well or badly. The study of artifacts (qua artifacts) «is intrinsically evaluative, since viewing an object as an artifact means viewing it in the light of intentions and purposes»22.

  • 23  It follows that, also in the case of artworks, it makes little sense to distinguish between a clas (...)
  • 24  So-called Found Art does not provide a counterexample. The case of objects which are found and dis (...)

27This is true also in the case of artworks, obviously23. Artworks too are artifacts made by humans. If an object is an artwork, then, it necessarily is also an artificial entity and, more specifically, an artifact24. However, speaking of a function of art may seem disputable. According to many, it is the very absence of a function that characteristically distinguishes artworks from artifacts of other kinds. If it were true that artworks have no function, we would have to face the following problem: artworks are a kind of artifact; an artifact without a function is a defective object; artworks, though, are not considered defective objects.

  • 25  For a discussion of this point see Dipert 1993: 158-196.

28There are two ways of getting rid of this problem: we can claim that artistic purposes are intrinsically obscure25; or we can try to identify what is the function of art. The aesthetic theory of art follows the latter path. Proponents of aesthetic theories of art claim that the function of art consists in embodying aesthetic value – as it can be deduced from the conception of art formulated in the first section of this paper. In particular, if the aesthetic theory includes reference to an audience, then it can be said that the function of art consists in providing an aesthetic experience to certain people under certain conditions. Once we have subscribed to this theory, i.e. once we have assumed that what matters is the intentional realization of aesthetic qualities, then it seems inevitable to admit that art-status must be attributed also to many among those artifacts we would not intuitively consider artworks. Let us now examine this point in more detail.

3. The aesthetic function of art

  • 26  See, for instance, Thomasson 2006.

29As we have seen, claiming that an object is an artwork means regarding it as a certain kind of artifact. This seems to entail that it must have a function, just like chairs, watches or corkscrews have. Putting aside the fact that speaking of the function of a Brahms sonata or a painting by Rothko may sound inappropriate, if not gross, the trouble is that whereas the function of a chair, a watch or a corkscrew is simple to grasp and obvious to those who use the words denoting such objects competently, the function of artworks is instead more complex and obscure. Artworks seem to lack a clearly identifiable function which allows for classifying them as artifacts of a certain kind. It could be argued that, in the end, we do not know exactly what kind of artifacts artworks are. Looking for a function of art may even be a mistake. Do an impressionist painting and an epic poem have the same function? And what about neoclassic statues and motets? Functions are functions of kinds of objects and it may be doubted that “artwork”, unlike “painting”, “sculpture”, “sonata”, “novel” etc. identifies a kind, i.e. is the term that stands for a certain kind of artifact26.

  • 27  So it seems, at least. It is worth recalling that Jerrold Levinson holds a different view on this (...)

30If, these doubts notwithstanding, we nevertheless agree to consider the class of artworks as a sub-set of the class of artifacts, then we must admit that also artworks have functions. The question is not empirical, but conceptual. Exactly what the function of artworks is may be controversial, but if we admit that they are artifacts then it should not be disputable that they have functions27.

  • 28  Zangwill 2007: 28.
  • 29  It goes without saying that attributing this function to art does not mean believing that the maki (...)

31There is no doubt that artworks often serve complex purposes which may look opaque. However, in order to regard an object as an artwork we need to have some understanding of the concept “art” and, then, also some understanding of the normative criteria for the objects belonging to this curious kind. Zangwill observes that artworks can perform a broad variety of functions and that their functions may vary across time. In any case, the functions are identified by the values artworks embody or sustain. Artworks are, namely, «evaluative artifacts»28, i.e. artifacts whose function is to sustain certain values and which we appreciate because of the values they embody. These values span from those specific to a certain art form to more widespread ones, such as representational, expressive or formal values. Obviously, there are values that can vary from art form to art form; e.g. much western religious painting has a specific value due to the fact that is has the function to create a sense of closeness or intimacy with central figures of Christianity. Nevertheless, according to the aesthetic theory, many art forms share a certain value, which is the aesthetic value. As a consequence, there is a function many artworks share, namely that of being endowed with those aesthetic qualities which confer to them aesthetic value and are linked with the pleasurable character of the experience generated by such artworks29.

32This conception finds in aesthetic functionalism its ideal correlate at the metaphysical level. I shall now briefly examine this point, since it supports the wines-as-artworks thesis.

4. Aesthetic functionalism and artifacts with aesthetic function

  • 30  For the development and defense of this metaphysical thesis see Zangwill 2007: 97-126.
  • 31  Idem: 119.
  • 32  Since, often, artworks, together with aesthetic functions also have non-aesthetic functions (e.g. (...)

33Aesthetic functionalism is a standpoint on the nature of art. It consists in claiming that being an artwork is having an aesthetic function. This means that artworks fulfill the function of embodying or sustaining aesthetic properties such as beauty, grace, elegance, harmony etc., in a way analogous to that in which watches fulfill the function of measuring time30. This is how Zangwill puts the point in modal terms: «The Aesthetic Functionalist’s claim is that having some aesthetic function is necessary and sufficient for being an artwork. Moreover, particular aesthetic functions are necessary for being a particular work of art»31. According to the functionalist view, then, artworks have aesthetic functions which are essential for them to be the peculiar artworks they are32.

34This metaphysical view is relevant for the wines-as-artworks thesis because who embraces it claims that, among the functions an artwork can have, it is essential that at least one consists in embodying aesthetic qualities. In other words, according to aesthetic functionalism it is necessary that aesthetic considerations have influenced, together with other kinds of considerations, the making of an artwork. But many artifacts display aesthetically pleasurable features. It seems then that we should regard all of them as artworks.

  • 33   Idem: 42-46. Clearly, although these stages are distinguishable in principle, since insight and i (...)

35Zangwill, however, poses a restrictive condition for an object to be an artwork, i.e. that it must have been originated in an aesthetic insight, i.e. in a subject’s act of acquisition of a piece of knowledge concerning – although not exhausted by – the dependence of specific aesthetic properties on specific configurations of non-aesthetic properties. In other words, in order to be an artwork, an object must have originated in an insight concerning the fact that certain aesthetic properties would be realized by certain non-aesthetic properties. In so far as this is how things stand, artistic creation can be understood as the realization of an aesthetic insight of this sort, thanks to an intention that thematizes such insight. The work of the artist can be conceived as the attempt to actualize an imagined object, i.e. the attempt to realize certain aesthetic properties in certain non-aesthetic properties, following certain intuitions and intentions33.

36In certain kinds of works – e.g. pictorial or musical artworks – the artist’s intentions will primarily aim to realize observable, perceivable physical properties that will allow the produced object to display other perceivable properties. For instance, an artist will apply certain colors on a canvas in order to produce certain visual effects. In other kinds of works, e.g. novels, the realization of physical qualities is less relevant and the focus of artistic creation will be those features of the work concerning what the artist wants the reader to imagine, believe, feel etc.

37Aesthetic intentions are not always conceptualizable and exhaustively describable; this should not be surprising, since the character of aesthetic insights – i.e. the content of aesthetic intentions – is not linguistic. This, however, does not mean that aesthetic intentions are not decisive for an object to be an artwork. In order for an object to be art, namely, it is not sufficient that it is an aesthetically pleasurable artifact; it is also necessary that among the intentions of its maker there was the intention that it be aesthetically appreciated. An aesthetic ambition is needed. If we admit that these, jointly, are sufficient conditions for an object to be a work of art, then we must accept that also many ordinary artifacts that were realized on the basis of some aesthetic intention – chairs, lamps, cars etc. – are artworks. If an aesthetic intention was involved, then we can suppose that such objects have an aesthetic function and, if they have an aesthetic function, then it is legitimate to consider them artworks. They are artworks in so far as aesthetic concerns were relevant to design and produce them.

38One might be under the impression, however, that we have excessively broadened the class of artworks. We might not find it difficult to admit that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Poltrona Barcelona or Le Corbusier’s, Eero Saarinen’s or Poul Kjaerholm’s chairs are artworks. We can easily imagine that, in producing, say, design chairs, aesthetic concerns and a certain degree of creativity may have played a relevant role together with functional concerns (such as that of designing a comfortable chair) as well as ergonomic and material ones. It is natural to think that architects and designers are interested in designing aesthetically interesting objects. However, the same kind of concern may play a role in the design and production of ordinary chairs. And if there is an aesthetic concern then we should attribute to the latter chairs artistic character as well. The aesthetic theory may seem baffling because of its very “liberal” character, especially since it allows for including chairs, lamps, pots etc. in the art world, while at the same time it leaves out a lot of avant-garde art because it is not aesthetically interesting. The aesthetic theory looks, on the one hand, too restrictive and, on the other hand, too liberal. As for the first aspect, it must be acknowledged that the aesthetic theory does not apply to all sorts of artworks. However, it shows a significant explanatory power when it comes to consider why we produce and “consume” art. It provides a rational explanation of the existence of the human activity we call “art”. In this respect, appeal to (aesthetic) pleasure is important. Not all art, though, has an aesthetic function; therefore, the theory does not explain why we attribute value to artworks that do not have aesthetic ambitions. It explains only those artworks that have aesthetic ambitions.

  • 34  See Scruton 2009a: 12.

39As for the second aspect, I believe there is no reason to worry about the fact that the aesthetic theory allows for regarding also chairs, tables, lamps etc. as art. These are objects that populate our daily life, the context of our existence, and they express and sustain some of our deeper desires34. Moreover, maybe it is exactly by moving from a consideration of our aesthetic interest for the most ordinary objects that we can understand the value of great art, and why it is so important to us, although its value is not merely aesthetic.

40Can we extend these remarks to wine? Can we include wine among artworks? The aesthetic theory provides the means to answer these questions positively.

5. Wine, aesthetics and metaphysics

  • 35  These are Zangwill’s words (2007: 57). I follow his list of explanatory conditions for art almost (...)

41Once an aesthetic theory of art is adopted, it is rather easy to build up an argument for regarding wine as an art form. I shall briefly sum up the basic elements of this view. We can say that an object (or event) is a work of art «because and only because»35:

  1. based on an aesthetic insight, someone forms the belief that if certain non-aesthetic properties were realized, then also certain aesthetic properties would be realized in them;

  2. this subject forms a practical intention whose content is such belief;

    • 36  There can be aesthetic intentions that do not originate in aesthetic insights. For instance, this (...)

    the intention has been caused in the right way by the aesthetic insight36;

  3. some proportion of the aesthetic properties of the object (or event) depend on the non-aesthetic properties in the object (or event) as envisaged in the insight;

    • 37  These conditions may also be thought to qualify the three phases of the creative process: acquirin (...)

    those aesthetic properties of the object were caused in the right way by the subject who intended to realize them by realizing the non-aesthetic properties37.

 

42According to the aesthetic view, then, art is the intentional product of aesthetic insight, a form of knowledge that is basically concerned with the relation of dependence holding between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties. Claiming that something is art by virtue of its being produced based on a certain mental process allows us to regard many ordinary objects as art. Nothing prevents us from thinking that wine can figure among those objects, provided that it satisfies the conditions laid down by the aesthetic theory. In order to explore this hypothesis we need to consider the artifactual status of wine first.

5.1. Wine between nature and culture

  • 38  On winemaking and wine as an artifact see Perullo 2010: 135-138.
  • 39  Intentional action and the creation of useful objects from available material are not activities t (...)
  • 40  Wine may be described as an object that has been intentionally produced from a natural “ancestor”, (...)
  • 41  See Thomasson 2007: 59-63. We could say that, qua cultural object, a specific wine is essentially (...)

43That wine is an artifact can be easily acknowledged38. It is a natural product, but not a natural object: it does not belong in the same ontological category of rocks, trees, birds or glaciers, i.e. of entities not produced by humans (or other animals)39. Wine is the result of intentional modifications of a natural entity – grapes – performed by one or more agents (those involved in winemaking processes) in order to achieve a certain effect40. The fact that it owes its existence, at least in part, to the human mind, confers to wine the status of a cultural object: wine is one of the many objects that depend on human intentions and on mind-independent reality. To winemaking we can apply the general principle formulated by Amie Thomasson, according to which the intentional production of an artifact of a certain kind necessarily calls into play a substantive and correct conception of what it means to be an artifact of that kind. Such conception includes an understanding of what features are relevant to the kind of artifact at hand and an intention to realize an object that possesses many among those features41.

44The making of a wine presupposes that the winemaker knows what it means for an object to be a wine of a certain kind and therefore presupposes that the winemaker knows which are the relevant features of the wine s/he intends to make and that s/he intends to produce an object which exemplifies those features.

  • 42  Like most artifact-generating activities, winemaking changes across time, and this can bring with (...)

45Normally – provided that one does not intend to create a new kind of wine – one can refer to a standard description of the qualities at issue, i.e. color, smell and taste qualities, as well as alcohol content, residual sugar, acidity, extract, and of several other conditions that must be met in order for a wine to be a wine of a certain kind. In order to be, say, an Amarone, a wine must realize the conditions indicated in its standard of identity, described in its production regulation. And if the maker’s intention is to refer to a previous realization of the type “Amarone”, then her/his intention will have to be accompanied by the intentions concerning the features the wine must have in order to exemplify that peculiar type. Clearly, we can say that a wine of a certain kind has been created only if the intentions at hand are successfully realized42. At this point it should be easy to imagine what we need in order to regard a wine as an artwork.

5.2. Wine as a work of art

46Wine is an object that is intentionally produced to achieve certain purposes and fulfill certain functions. We can gloss over the goals of winemaking. As for the functions of wine, it can be observed that, although it is often drunk with meals, wine has gradually lost its nourishment-character, linked to its refreshing, nourishing or inebriating functions; wine appears more and more as a superfluous commodity, detached from the realm of nourishment and akin to the realm of aesthetics strictly speaking. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, the vocabulary of wine-tasting seems to confirm that this kind of experience can have contents that are similar to those of the aesthetic experience of art.

47According to the aesthetic theory, a wine is a work of art if, thanks to some of its non-aesthetic properties, it realizes certain aesthetic properties and this happens (a) because some insight concerning the dependence of certain aesthetic properties on certain non-aesthetic properties has been translated by an agent into the intention of conferring to the wine at issue the relevant non-aesthetic properties and (b) because such intention has been realized to a significant extent.

48Although proposing as a candidate for the art-status a mix of chemical compounds derived from the processing of grape juice may look odd, if a wine is the intentional product of an aesthetic insight concerning a certain relation of dependence between aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties, there is nothing, on the conceptual level, that prevents us from considering it a work of art. Wine is an artifact, the intentioned product of intentional actions, and often, among the intentions that are relevant to its production, also those of aesthetic character seem to play a relevant role.

  • 43  It must be noted that the correlation between artifact (or work) and maker (or “creator”) is such (...)

49In order to provide an example I shall consider a basic property of wine: that of being balanced. If we say that a wine is balanced, generally this means that it is not too bitter, astringent, sweet or alcoholic. Whether a wine is considered balanced or not may depend on the judge’s inclination or on her/his sensitivity to those non-aesthetic properties. This does not imply, however, that balance in a wine does not depend on the presence of such properties, i.e. on certain features of the wine itself. A condition for a red wine to be balanced, for instance, is that the sweetness of the alcohol produced through fermentation balances the effects of the acidity and the astringency of the wine. Balance is a quality that has also aesthetic value. A balanced wine is a wine in which no quality overshadows the others, a wine whose qualities cooperate to make up an organic, inclusive whole. The balance condition – but the same holds for the other qualities of wines – is the result of a form of knowledge and of an intentional activity that begins in the vineyard and continues in the wine cellar. Each wine has its “creator”, who is likely to be aware, thanks to experience and/or knowledge, that certain properties – those that philosophers call “aesthetic” – depend on certain other properties – those that philosophers call “non-aesthetic”43. Wine, one might say, has aesthetic value in so far as it is endowed with properties such as harmony, delicacy, character, expressiveness. And it is art in so far as its makers intentionally endow it with aesthetic properties that depend on non-aesthetic properties, according to what their experience and/or knowledge suggest to them.

  • 44  See Scruton 2009b: 117-137.
  • 45  Todd 2010: 154. Imagination has a crucial role in this kind of perception, which merits to be inve (...)

50Although not all the properties of a wine are intentioned, the intentional element is very important, especially because it allows for attributing to the wine not only aesthetic properties, but also other relevant properties of art objects, such as expressive properties. The belief that wine can have this kind of properties – such as emotional echoes or the capability of “telling stories” – only by means of analogy and in relation to certain contexts, rather than because of its very content, is widespread. The key argument is that tastes and smells cannot be organized in the same way in which, for instance, sounds are organized in music, in order to carry all the meaning that human beings manage to communicate through them. Tastes and smells are not related with each other and they are unlikely to arouse relations such as expectation, suspension, tension, relief etc., which are so relevant for music’s capacity to express emotions44. However, we can attribute expressive qualities to wine provided that we can detect in it an expressive intention. Speaking of understanding a wine, then, does not seem misleading, if what we mean is that by means of tasting the wine we identify the goals pursued by its makers. As Cain Todd observes, the role of an intention in the making of a wine and the fact that such intention is recognized in the wine, «can suffice to turn mere association into expression»45.

  • 46  Idem: 155.
  • 47  On the meaning of “authenticity” in art see Wenninger 2009. I owe to W. Vossenkuhl (forthcoming) t (...)

51Leaving aside highly manufactured wines – produced in great quantities and totally lacking in expressive potential – it can be said that in many cases winemakers’ intentions are quite generic, aiming to realize wines in styles that are defined in very general terms. The realization of a certain style of wine, however, is not necessarily a merely iterative activity. Todd stresses that uniqueness and individuality are among the key values of high-quality wines that intentions «unlock», and that these values «akin to a central value we recognize in artwork»46. Now, it is because the identity of a wine of a certain kind (or of the way in which such wine is realized) is not pre-determined by previous realizations of wines of the same kind that values such as uniqueness and individuality can be attributed to the wine. This means that even in winemaking there can be some form of creativity and autonomy and, therefore, some form of self-expression, provided that with “self” we intend an extended, collective subject, which includes not only the winemakers, but also a certain tradition and terroir. Authenticity, it might be said, is not less a criterion for the production of an excellent wine than it is for the exercise of artistic creativity47.

52To sum up, the arguments for the wines-as-artworks thesis are quite simple: wine is an artifact, i.e. an object whose properties are largely intentionally produced; among the properties of a wine there can be also aesthetic properties and other properties typical of artworks, such as expressive ones. If a wine possesses these kinds of properties in virtue of an aesthetic insight that its maker has translated into the intention of realizing that very wine with its very properties, then that wine is a work of art. The qualities at issue result from a variety of decisions that take into account a variety of factors. Since wines “embody” those decisions, however, aesthetic and expressive properties can be identified in them.

53This might be too simple a sketch. The attribution of certain properties to wine and the possibility of identifying and appreciating such properties depend on a combination of physical properties in the wine, perceptual abilities in the wine-taster, his/her taking part into certain practices and belonging to a certain culture etc. What I have put forward here is nothing more than the theoretical kernel for a defense of the thesis that wines intentionally endowed with certain specific properties are works of art.

  • 48  Zangwill maintains that «the three elements contain three dependence relations: the dependence bet (...)
  • 49  Many thanks to Andrea Curioni, Nicola Perullo and Nick Zangwill for their comments and remarks. Th (...)

54Clearly, that Nick Zangwill’s Aesthetic Creation Theory holds up is a necessary condition for my remarks to hold up, since they are deeply connected with it. As we have seen, Zangwill’s theory has three basic components: (i) the dependence of particular aesthetic properties on particular non-aesthetic properties; (ii) the insight into this dependence and the intention to realize the dependence relation in an object (or event); (iii) the causal relation between insight and intention, and between intention and work of art48. The three elements can be disputed whereas here I have simply assumed them. Many scholars object to the idea of aesthetic supervenience; others think that the causal powers of events and states of mind are obscure. These complex issues merit to be considered at great length elsewhere. The goal of this paper is only to suggest a number of plausible reasons for claiming that wines can be works of art. The plausibility of my proposal seems to me to lie in part in its simplicity: if a wine is art, this is because someone made it with the intention to realize certain aesthetic properties in certain non-aesthetic properties, i.e. in its smells and tastes49.

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Bibliografia

Beardsley, M.

– 1983, An Aesthetic Definition of Art, in H. Curtler (ed), What is Art?, New York, Haven: 15-29

Bonnard, P. and Matisse, H.

– 2006, Corrispondenza, 1925-1946, in Matisse e Bonnard. Viva la pittura!, Catalogo della mostra a Roma, Complesso del Vittoriano, 6 ottobre 2006-4 febbraio 2007, Ginevra-Milano, Skira

Budd, M.

– 2008, Aesthetic essence, in R. Shusterman, A. Tomlin (eds), Aesthetic Experience, New York-London, Routledge: 17-30

Crane, T.

– 2007, Wine as an Aesthetic Object, in B.C. Smith (ed), Questions of Taste. The Philosophy of Wine, Oxford, Signal: 141-155

D’Angelo, P.

– 2011, Estetica, Roma-Bari, Laterza

Dickie, G. and Stecker, R.

– 2009, Artifact, Art as, in S. Davies, K.M. Higgins, R. Hopkins, R. Stecker, D.E. Cooper (eds), A Companion to Aesthetics, second edition, Malden-Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell: 152-154

Dipert, R.

– 1993, Artifacts, Art Works, and Agency, Philadelphia, Temple University Press Gould, J.L.

– 2007, Animal Artifacts, in E. Margolis and S. Laurence (eds), Creations of the Mind. Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 249-266

Hilpinen, R.

– 1992, On artifacts and works of art, “Theoria”, 58: 58-82

– 2011, Artifacts, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu /entries/artifact/

Iseminger, G.

– 2006, The Aesthetic State of Mind, in M. Kieran (ed), Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, Oxford, Blackwell: 98-110

Lamarque, P.

– 2010, Work and Object. Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Levinson, J.

– 1992, Pleasure and the value of works of art, “British Journal of Aesthetics”, 32: 295-306

– 2006, Artworks as Artifacts, in J. Levinson, Contemplating Art. Essays in Aesthetics, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 27-37

Livingston, P.

– 2005, Art and Intention. A Philosophical Study, Oxford, Oxford University Press Perullo, N.

– 2010, Filosofia della gastronomia laica. Il gusto come esperienza, Roma, Meltemi Rudder Baker, L.

– 2008, The shrinking difference between artifacts and natural objects, “American Philosophical Association for Philosophy and Computers”, 7: 2-5

Scruton, R.

– 2009a, Beauty, Oxford, Oxford University Press

– 2009b, I Drink Therefore I Am. A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine, London, Continuum Soavi, M.

– 2009, Antirealismo e artefatti. Sui limiti della natura, Milano, Franco Angeli Stecker, R.

– 2003, Definition of Art, in J. Levinson (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 136-154

– 2006, Aesthetic experience and aesthetic value, “Philosophy Compass”, 1: 1-10

– 2010, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. An Introduction, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield

Thomasson, A.L.

– 2006, Debates about the ontology of art: What are we doing here?, “Philosophy Compass”, 1: 245-255

– 2007, Artifacts and Human Concepts, in E. Margolis and S. Laurence (eds), Creations of the Mind. Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation, Oxford, Oxford University Press: 52-73

Todd, C.

– 2010, The Philosophy of Wine. A Case of Truth, Beauty and Intoxication, Durham, Acumen Tomasi, G.

– 2010, Un bicchiere con Hume e Kant. Divertissement estetico-metafisico, Pisa, Ets Vossenkuhl, W.

– 2012 (forthcoming), Architectural Grammars and Their Changes. Observations from Wittgenstein, in E. Caldarola, D. Quattrocchi, G. Tomasi (eds), Wittgenstein, l’estetica e le arti, Roma, Carocci

Wenninger, R.

– 2009, Künstlerische Authentizität. Philosophische Untersuchung eines umstrittenen Begriffs, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann

Zangwill, N.

– 2007, Aesthetic Creation, Oxford, Oxford University Press

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Note

1  Regarding certain wines as artworks may appear to twist our ordinary understanding of art and of the reasons why art is important to us. Such reasons often have to do with the cognitive and moral value of art, with the contribution that art brings to our self-understanding, to our understanding of the world and of our relationship to the world. It is legitimate to doubt that this sort of values can be attributed to wine (on this issue see Crane 2007 and Tomasi 2010).

2  With “high-quality wine” I mean wine possessing those excellent qualities wine is capable of displaying qua wine. For instance, in order for a wine to be a high-quality wine it is necessary that it possesses balance, complexity, intensity, character and terroir. It is difficult to say in what measure these qualities need to be present and what the minimum degree required should be. Relevant qualities may be different depending on wine, on style and on time. We can nevertheless assume that great wines are those that excellently realize such qualities.

3  The most influential among those theories is put forward in Beardsley 1983.

4  On this point see Budd 2008.

5  Stecker 2003: 142. See also Stecker 2006 and Iseminger 2006.

6  See Stecker 2010: 74-79.

7  See Zangwill 2007: 134-141. As a matter of fact, we have defined aesthetic qualities as qualities per se valuable, given their relationship to aesthetic experience. It seems that a definition of art must make reference to audience experience, even if only indirectly. This might be true. However, the interesting point is that if we admit that aesthetic qualities are per se valuable, then it is reasonable that artists intend to realize them in their artworks. Audience experience is a form of acknowledgment of aesthetic value. That audience is essential to determining the identity and the conditions of survival of artworks is argued by Lamarque (2010: 67-75).

8  Zangwill 2007: 2. Clearly, we would tell a different story if we adopted a theological perspective and argued that nature is God’s work of art.

9  Idem: 5.

10  See idem: 1-8.

11  For clarification and qualification on this issue see Levinson 1992.

12  Sure, it is not easy to explain why it is so, especially since it is not clear what aesthetic pleasure consists in. Here, however, I cannot but leave aside the intricate questions concerning the nature and value of aesthetic pleasure.

13  See Zangwill 2007: 11-12.

14  In what follows I shall summarize the main points of Zangwill’s proposal (idem: 39-46).

15  See idem: 40. In many cases intentional actions realize a plan, i.e. an idea (or some ideas) about what to do and how to do it. One may therefore object that considering the artist’s activity as a form of intentional action does not do justice to the often unpredictable character of creative processes. Artists’ accounts of creative processes often convey the impression that art-makers are not wholly aware of what they are at, that they are not wholly in control of their creative activity in that they cannot completely predict its final result and they do not follow a predetermined plan. In his 13th January 1913 letter to Pierre Bonnard Matisse writes that sometimes he «discard[s] a great deal of work in a minute» spontaneously, and affirms: «I reconceive my picture several time in the course of its execution without really knowing where I am going, relying on my instinct» [see the exhibition catalogue Matisse e Bonnard. Viva la pittura!: 131 (my translation)]. However, it must be noted that a plan does not necessarily have to be thoroughly determined and changeless, that it does not need to be a clear specification of means and goals. A plan can be, initially, a rather vague sketch, and it can evolve and change during the course of the creative process. That s/he may not have clear intentions does not mean that an artist’s activity is not intentional at all, though. On the notion of intention and its role in art see Livingston 2005: 1-61.

16  Of course this might be disputed by those who claim that ontologically abstract artworks are not artifacts. The typical example is that of musical works, conceived as eternally existent sound structures which can be discovered but not created and, therefore, are not artifacts. Another example, according to some, is provided by certain conceptual artworks (see Dickie and Stecker 2009: 153-154).

17  See Soavi 2009: 29-51 for a discussion of the definition of artifact.

18  See Hilpinen 1992: 65. I have quoted the formulation given in Hilpinen 2011.

19  Thomasson 2007: 52. See also Rudder Baker 2008.

20  See Dipert 1993: 33-37. A further problem concerns how we should classify those objects which are merely taken from the natural environment and used as instruments or for a certain goal, such as the branch we pick up from the bank of a river and use as a walking stick. This kind of objects seems to lie in between natural objects and artifacts.

21  Zangwill 2007: 27.

22  Hilpinen 2011.

23  It follows that, also in the case of artworks, it makes little sense to distinguish between a classificatory and an evaluative conception, i.e. to distinguish between the task of defining what is art and the task of explaining why value is attributed to the creation and fruition of art objects. The distinction may seem sound because the fact that artworks are artifacts is often overlooked. Often, we fail to take into consideration that artworks are objects created with a certain aim, so that they can perform a certain function or fulfill a certain purpose. D’Angelo (2011: 43-57) effectively challenges the distinction between defining and evaluating art.

24  So-called Found Art does not provide a counterexample. The case of objects which are found and displayed in an art-gallery is in part analogous to that of the branch we pick up from the bank of a river and use as a walking stick. It is possible to attribute an artistic function to, say, a piece of wood molded by a stream of water. Someone – the artist – intends the object to perform this function and, consciously referring to a certain historical-artistic context, exhibits it as art. This act is suitable to work as the intentional modification necessary in order for an object to be an artifact, therefore what is displayed in the gallery is an object with a function, an artwork produced by an art-maker and partially constituted by an object that is not an artifact. Moreover, it can be observed that intentions can also be negative: the intention not to modify a piece of wood found on the bank of a river can be part of a structured creative intention (I owe this point to Thomasson 2007: 66-67).

25  For a discussion of this point see Dipert 1993: 158-196.

26  See, for instance, Thomasson 2006.

27  So it seems, at least. It is worth recalling that Jerrold Levinson holds a different view on this issue. His thesis is that artworks differ from other artifacts precisely because they remain «distinctively historical […] in respect of the creation involved requiring only the satisfaction of certain intentional-historical conditions». According to Levinson, «what is special about the artifact concept artwork […] is that it is a wholly relational one» (Levinson 2006: 31-33), because the intentions governing art objects have a fundamentally historical/retrospective content. The idea is that an object is an artwork in virtue of its being intentionally linked – in the right way – with one or more artworks from the past. Levinson observes that, while artifacts such as chairs, tables, lamps etc. have minimal success conditions and these are contained in the conception of them endorsed by competent users of the terms “chair” etc. in general, a conception that imports «at least some minimal features of form or function», as regard artworks, «it is far from clear that any such non-purely-historical conception of arthood is in play, or that there is any minimal success condition of a substantive sort on the making involved» (idem: 32-33). This suggests that artworks differ from artifacts of other kinds and, furthermore, suggests that nothing can be said to be a failed work of art, i.e. a malfunctioning artwork, an artwork that is not capable of performing its proper function. If an object is not an artwork this is not because it does not fulfill a certain purpose, but because it is not linked in the right way with another object that has already been acknowledged as art. However, it is legitimate to ask how one can create an object of a certain kind without having a rather clear idea of its distinctive features and, in the case of art, an all but irrelevant feature is that the object at issue embodies some aesthetic value. One could obviously object that this is true of traditional art, but not of much avant-garde art. Zangwill (2007: 59-81) discusses whether avant-garde art really poses a challenge for the aesthetic theory of art.

28  Zangwill 2007: 28.

29  It goes without saying that attributing this function to art does not mean believing that the making of an artwork is ruled by some prearranged idea concerning how it should look like.

30  For the development and defense of this metaphysical thesis see Zangwill 2007: 97-126.

31  Idem: 119.

32  Since, often, artworks, together with aesthetic functions also have non-aesthetic functions (e.g. representational, expressive, and cognitive functions), which are necessary for them to be the very works they are, Zangwill structures his functionalist thesis considering the two following cases: (i) an artwork has some non-aesthetic function/s, independent on its aesthetic function/s; (ii) an artwork involves the aesthetically appropriate realization of some non-aesthetic function/s, so that aesthetic and non-aesthetic function/s are mutually dependent and intermingled. In the first case – Zangwill claims – having an aesthetic function is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the object to be a specific artwork, whereas in the second case the aesthetic function is both necessary and sufficient for the object to be a specific artwork since «the aesthetic function is the aesthetically apt realization of the non-aesthetic function» (idem: 118-119).

33   Idem: 42-46. Clearly, although these stages are distinguishable in principle, since insight and intention are different psychological states, normally things are more complex: the process of realization may influence aesthetic insight. An artist’s activity is often modified by what s/he experiences throughout the creative process, to the point that also her/his initial aesthetic insight can change.

34  See Scruton 2009a: 12.

35  These are Zangwill’s words (2007: 57). I follow his list of explanatory conditions for art almost to the letter.

36  There can be aesthetic intentions that do not originate in aesthetic insights. For instance, this happens when one who appreciates the beauty of certain flowers decides to make perfect copies of them. Or when someone – say a carpenter who is working at a design chair – produces what a designer has designed while having a sufficient understanding of her/his aesthetic intention. In this case there is a causal relation between insight and intention, but the subject with the aesthetic intention and the subject with the aesthetic insight are distinct (see idem: 46).

37  These conditions may also be thought to qualify the three phases of the creative process: acquiring an insight, translating it into an intention, enacting the intention in an object.

38  On winemaking and wine as an artifact see Perullo 2010: 135-138.

39  Intentional action and the creation of useful objects from available material are not activities that only humans engage in. Obvious examples of non-human creation of useful objects are bird nests and beaver dams (see Gould 2007).

40  Wine may be described as an object that has been intentionally produced from a natural “ancestor”, thanks to a series of consecutive intentional modifications and to specific kinds of actions. This claim needs some qualification, however. As Andrea Curioni pointed out to me, wine as such is the product of a natural transformation, due to the effect of yeast on wine, rather than a product of human action. Winemakers, however, can make (heavy) adjustements to this natural process (the transformation of grape juice into wine), they can, so to speak, govern it to a certain extent, determined by the nature of the elements that feature in the process (especially the kind of grapes and yeast). Clearly, it can be observed that the categorization of grapes, the fruit of vitis vinifera, as natural entities is disputable, because grapes require an impressive amount of human work and planning. Vineyard work, as well as wine cellar work, aims to obtain a product with specific features. Nevertheless, if we do not want to lose contact with the ordinary concept of artifact, we will find it difficult to count grapes (as well as strawberries, apples etc.) among artifacts. This is an intriguing issue, but I shall leave it aside for the sake of my current argument.

41  See Thomasson 2007: 59-63. We could say that, qua cultural object, a specific wine is essentially the exemplification of a culturally determined description of a kind of wine.

42  Like most artifact-generating activities, winemaking changes across time, and this can bring with it some complications. Artifactual kinds are «malleable and historical in nature». Since it is sufficient that each maker have a concept of which features are relevant for the kind of object s/he intends to produce that largely correspond to those of previously produced objects of the same kind (see idem: 62-63), this leaves open the possibility that the concept of the object at issue (i.e. the concept that tells us which are the relevant features of objects of that kind) would change gradually across time. This, of course, is true also of wines. The process of stipulation of the relevant features of a certain kind of wine among winemakers can be gradual and diffuse, in so far as it takes into account the intentions of a variety of winemakers across an extended amount of time.

43  It must be noted that the correlation between artifact (or work) and maker (or “creator”) is such that it is possible that several makers cooperate to produce one and the same artifact (or work). The maker of a wine is the subject – or the group of subjects – who, basing on an aesthetic insight, has formulated the aesthetic intention of realizing certain aesthetic properties by means of realizing certain non-aesthetic properties. The produced wine, with its aesthetic properties, is a causal consequence of the actions performed or commanded by the maker (or makers) in the vineyard or in the cellar, in order to realize her/his/their aesthetic intentions. Clearly, not all who has a causally relevant role in the production of a wine figures among the makers of such wine. Winemaking is a complex process often engaging a variety of subjects who perform different roles. The maker/creator(s) of a given wine, however, is only that subject / are only those subjects whose intentions of producing a wine with certain features make it possible to produce that very wine. Wines are artifacts and they can be art only if they have a maker.

44  See Scruton 2009b: 117-137.

45  Todd 2010: 154. Imagination has a crucial role in this kind of perception, which merits to be investigated. One can decide whether to enjoy tastes and smells of a wine as such or – provided that appropriate conventions apply and appropriate intentions are identifiable – to imagine them as expressive. In the latter case, there needs to be a background of beliefs that allow to consider the wine as an artifact created in order to embody certain properties and to arouse certain experiences, among which we can count the experience of expressive properties. Todd argues that the experiences of expressive properties «are cognitively penetrable» (idem: 168-172).

46  Idem: 155.

47  On the meaning of “authenticity” in art see Wenninger 2009. I owe to W. Vossenkuhl (forthcoming) this suggestion and some helpful remarks on this topic.

48  Zangwill maintains that «the three elements contain three dependence relations: the dependence between particular aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties; the believed and intended dependence between particular aesthetic and particular non-aesthetic properties; and the causal dependence between insight and intention and between intention and the actual realization of the aesthetic properties in non-aesthetic properties» (Zangwill 2007: 58).

49  Many thanks to Andrea Curioni, Nicola Perullo and Nick Zangwill for their comments and remarks. Thanks to Elisa Caldarola for her comments and for having translated this paper into English.

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Notizia bibliografica

Gabriele Tomasi, « On Wines as Works of Art », Rivista di estetica, 51 | 2012, 155-174.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Gabriele Tomasi, « On Wines as Works of Art », Rivista di estetica [Online], 51 | 2012, online dal 30 novembre 2015, consultato il 22 novembre 2017. URL : http://estetica.revues.org/1406 ; DOI : 10.4000/estetica.1406

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