I have a question about food and objectivity. My friend insists that all opinions about the value of certain instances of a type of food being better than others are merely subjective. I disagree with this and when I say that, for example, "my mom's chocolate chip cookies are better than store bought cookies" I believe that there is actually some objective basis to this. I would cite as evidence the fact that my mom uses higher quality ingredients, puts more care and attention into baking, and that generally others agree that her cookies are quite good and preferable to store bought cookies. Is there any truth to this idea about food more generally? Can there actually be some objective basis for judging which food is better?

Great question! Two great sources for this is David Hume's famous essay, "A Standard of Taste" and Mackie's "The Subjectivity of Values" -- a quick response to you, here, is to suggest that perhaps you are BOTH right (a happy verdict!): when we can specify in advance precisely which qualities are valuable, then we can "objectively" evaluate cookies (or food more generallY) to the degree to which the item in question reflects or contains those qualities. (Mackie uses the example of juding the 'best dog' in a competition, I think -- we articulate in advance what the 'good dog qualities' are, and then objectively judge the individual dogs to the degree ot which they have those qualities). But then once THAT is done, we can always ask: yes, but what makes that specified quality a truly 'valuable' or 'good' quality? (We may say 'a dog that is strong is a good dog', so a given strong dog will objectively be 'good'; but now we're asking, 'what makes the strongness itself good'?) And here a very plausible answer is 'it's subjective', ie up to the individual, everyone's 'taste' is literally as legitimate as anyone else's etc .... So, in short, it may be purely objective whether the given cookies have (or don't have) the specified qualities, but purely subjective that those qualities are the ones worth having ...

Now there's much more to be said here -- so check out Hume and Mackie!
Hope this is helpful


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