Is perfume an art

There are several ways of taking your question. One might respond by asking "Has our culture treated perfume as art?" -- but the answer there is No; and I assume that you already know that.

If you're asking philosophers this question, you might also be asking something historical. "Do philosophers today speak of perfume as an art?" I think the answer there is also No. Traditionally, philosophers of art have required art objects to be more complex things than whiffs of perfume are.

But you may be asking a third question, "Should philosophers speak of perfume as an art?" and now things get interesting. A whiff of perfume doesn't inspire the same type of reflective response that paintings, films, and poems do. And yet it can be reacted to as beautiful (or the opposite); it can inspire debates about personal taste and objective value; it figures in complex relations between human beings. In these respects it at least shares several traits with art objects. Is it just the ordinariness of perfume that has prevented philosophers from acknowledging its art status?

To pursue this question further, I think it wouldn't be most productive to zero in on perfume and odor from the beginning, but to find a larger category within which perfume might belong. These days, the growing interest in "everyday aesthetics" suggests that would be a place to begin. Yuriko Saito's book EVERYDAY AESTHETICS, or Tom Leddy's THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE ORDINARY, are two rigorous explorations of art experiences among objects in life that are not usually designated "art." They might offer the most productive ways of thinking about perfume as art.

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