Smelling Odors and Tasting Flavors: distinguishing orthonasal smell from retronasal olfaction

In Aleksandra Mroczko-Wrasowicz & Rick Grush (eds.), Sensory Individuals: Unimodal and Multimodal Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2023)
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Abstract

It is arguably the case that olfactory system contains two senses that share the same type of stimuli, sensory transduction mechanism, and processing centers. Yet, orthonasal and retronasal olfaction differ in their types of perceptible objects as individuated by their sensory qualities. What will be explored in this paper is how the account of orthonasal smell developed in the Molecular Structure Theory of smell can be expanded for retronasal olfaction (Young, 2016, 2019a-b, 2020). By considering the object of olfactory perception to be the molecular structure of chemical compounds composing odor plumes, Molecular Structure Theory provides a means for determining an odor’s olfactory quality, how odors can be identified and individuated, and how we perceive smellscapes. Surveying the differences between orthonasal and retronasal olfaction provides the basis for the central argument of the paper that the perceptible objects we refer to as smells and individuated on the basis of their olfactory qualities are only relative to orthonasal olfaction. Retronasal olfaction it is speculatively concluded might play an essential role in our perception of flavorful objects.

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Benjamin D. Young
University of Nevada, Reno

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References found in this work

The Chemical Senses.Barry C. Smith - 2015 - In Mohan Matthen (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to Philosophy of Perception. New York, NY, USA: pp. 314-353.
Objects for multisensory perception.Casey O’Callaghan - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1269-1289.
Smelling matter.Benjamin D. Young - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (4):1-18.
Smelling Molecular Structure.Benjamin D. Young - 2019 - In Steven Gouveia, Manuel Curado & Dena Shottenkirk (eds.), Perception, Cognition and Aesthetics. New York: Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. pp. 64-84.

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