Maybe we don’t smell Molecular Structure

In Benjamin D. Young & Andreas Keller (eds.), Theoretical Perspectives on Smell. Routledge (2023)
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Abstract

Any comprehensive theory of smell must account for (1) the distal nature of smells, (2) how smells are represented within odorous experiences, and (3) the olfactory quality of smells. Molecular Structure Theory (MST) and more recent developments arguably provide an account of these questions. It has been argued that we can account for (3) olfactory quality in light of the molecular structure of chemical compounds that compose the odorant plumes which we perceive as (1) distal mereological complex perduring objects within smellscapes. Additionally it has been argued that olfactory perceptual and cognitive processing implements (2) a non-conceptual representational system that is incompatible with the compositional format employed by semantic processing systems. The theory I have been developing generates a comprehensive account of smell by treating these as nested issues inherent in for the nature of smell (Young, 2016, 2019a-d, 2020). However, the chapter assesses the adequacy of my theory by addressing recent criticisms of MST’s account of olfactory quality (Barwich 2014, 2015; Keller 2015, 2017), the need for positing odor objects (Barwich 2019), and a possible incompatibility between my account of synchronic odor perception in MST and more recent developments focusing on the diachronic experiences of smellscapes.

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Benjamin D. Young
University of Nevada, Reno

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