Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

July 5, 2010

Sometimes it just tastes good Felix

Filed under: Culture,Hedonism,Taste — Razib Khan @ 11:26 pm

The more you know, the better it tastes:

People like LaForge don’t want altitude information on their coffee because they prefer 1700m coffee to 1400m coffee. Instead, Intelligentsia is supplying something much more important and valuable: a unique narrative. It’s the same thing that’s going on in the wine world….

I agree that the “story” or our understanding of something (e.g., whether it’s $100 or $10) can affect our perception of the hedonic experience. But sometimes coffee just tastes better. So the first time I had a Stumptown roast I was blown away, without knowing anything of the roaster’s history or reputation (it has a good reputation). I wasn’t even much of a coffee snob then (and really, I’m not much now). Though I think that the narrative of civet coffee might make me avoid it, even I if accept that objectively it has a better taste.

Note: Naturally Felix takes wine as an analog. But I think the ‘narrative’ is a much bigger deal in that case because people have far less objective discernment when it comes to wine.

June 26, 2010

The essence of pleasure

Filed under: Anthroplogy,Cognitive Psychology,Hedonism,Paul Bloom,Pleasure,Psychology — Razib Khan @ 11:37 am

I highly recommend this discussion between Paul Bloom & Robert Wright. The topic under consideration is the psychology of pleasure, as reviewed in Bloom’s new book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like. You can also find out about Bloom’s ideas in this exchange in Slate. The essentialism examined in Descarte’s Baby is being taken for another spin, though with a more precise focus. The bottom line is that pleasure is often contingent on more than proximate empirical sensory input; it depends on what you perceive to be the essence of the object of pleasure, even its history (or more crassly, its price). This truth may make the calculation project of the utilitarian heirs of Gottfried Leibniz pragmatically impossible.


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