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RE: [xmca] Natural/Cultural Lines/

On the topic of minestrone soup.....some friends and I have a book on teaching writing coming out this fall. One chapter deals with teaching middle school kids ways to use sensory detail in their writing. From that chapter (written by one of my coauthors):

Our sense of taste is limited to discriminating salt, sweet, sour, and bitter. In contrast, the olfactory sense is capable of discriminating over ten thousand scents. Despite the large number of scents humans can discriminate, the English language is nearly devoid of words to describe smells. We have such words as fruity, resinous, flowery, spicy, putrid, and burnt to describe major categories of smells. Unfortunately, these words, and a few others, such as rancid, fecund, acrid, fetid, fragrant, sweet, and redolent nearly complete our vocabulary of smells in English. Many odors are simply named by whatever it is that generates them: carnations, the cheesecake factory, the chemistry class, and so on. 
Edgar Allen Poe was a master of using sensory details for effect. Yet in "The Pit and the Pendulum" he barely uses the sense of smell, even though his narrator can see virtually nothing. Poe describes two important odors in terms of the substances that give rise to them: "The vapor of heated iron! A suffocating odor," which emanated from the heated walls of the dungeon, and "the peculiar smell of decayed fungus" rising from the pit. His description of smells is limited to a few general adjectives and the naming of particular odoriferous objects.

So Mike, describing odors and tastes seems to be a problem embedded in the language, rather than one of your imagination or gustatory discrimination.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 11:46 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
Subject: [xmca] Natural/Cultural Lines/

I would like to take up Steve Gabosch's suggestion a few days back that the discussion about precepts/concepts etc be viewed in terms of the natural( phylogenetic) and cultural (socio-historical) lines of development a la LSV. There are a lot of aspects to the discussion I am still finding confusing and am struggling to related to LSV's writings. But I am hoping it will help to consider recent work in what are referred to as the "social neurosciences." A variety of this work (I attach some examples, one a review) appears to make an argument that there are levels of processing information about the self and the environment, including others in the environment, that do not reach the level of the cortex and happen very rapidly, perhaps involving cortical processes in a later stage of processing -- or so the story goes. These "cognitive" phenomena appear to akin to what people are discussing about percepts.

On this topic domenstically (as in dinner last night). We had a great ministrone that both my wife and I found especially delicious. But we could not, even in extended discussion, name the apparently shared feeling of excellent taste. We could remember the ingredients, speculate and what might have led to the neat combination, but could not name "it" although we could both distinguish it.

For those interested.
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