Despite the efforts of perfumers and the increasing popularity of the independent market, perfume making does not rank among the fine arts. This prompts a fundamental question: can perfume provide genuine aesthetic pleasure or is its purpose entirely that of deodorization and seduction? In other words, can we talk about the composition of perfumes in terms of artistic creation and olfactive beauty? To answer this question I analyze the philosophical obstacles that have prevented perfume from being considered an artistic creation and see whether they can be overcome. Then I examine the contemporary artistic practices that seek to mobilize our sense of smell. I conclude by offering some thoughts on whether we can legitimately speak of an art of the nose.
Chantal Jaquet is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her fields of research include the history of modern philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of body, particularly in Spinoza’s thought. She is a member of the Centre d’Histoire des Systèmes de Pensée Moderne de Paris I and the Institut d’histoire de la pensée classique, and is editor of the journal Philonsorbonne. Her main publications are Le Désir (1991), Sub specie aeternitatis: Étude des concepts de temps durée et éternité chez Spinoza (1997), Spinoza ou la Prudence (1997), L’unité du corps et de l’esprit: Affects, actions passions chez Spinoza (2004), and Les expressions de la puissance d’agir chez Spinoza (2005). In 2010, she took her research in a new direction with Philosophie de l’odorat, the first book-length work devoted entirely to the philosophy of smell.