Reading Calvino’s Under the Jaguar Sun, a passage on taste prompted the idea that taste has a peculiar aspect to it that vision does not: taste lacks adumbrations or profiles. Of course, it has depth and complexity. Just think about the way a sommelier will describe the flavor of a specific wine: he or she will identify the qualitative identity or style of the wine. When you taste a mouthful of wine, you taste the whole of the wine. In fact, when you and another person taste the same wine, you are both tasting the entirety of the wine. It is not the same physical bit of liquid that you taste; the liquid that touches you rather than another person gives you a different profile of the liquid as such, which must be divided and shared. The taste, however, cannot be divided: it is shared, but paradoxically shared at once in its entirety.
Vision cannot apprehend the object in its entirety in a glance. Merleau-Ponty tells us that we perceive things, not profiles of things. Our body knows that when it sees the front of a cup, the back of the cup is there too; the cup can be picked up. But of course we do not see the back of the cup, we apperceive it. The existence of the back of the cup can be confirmed by turning it around or circumnavigating the object. That is, we can build up the complete cup through the series of profiles it presents to vision. Moreover, two persons cannot see the same profile simultaneously. Taste, by contrast, cannot be built up from its profiles and can be experienced by a multiplicity of persons simultaneously. The fact that when we speak about seeing ‘the whole cup’ through one of its profiles we are equivocating with the term ‘seeing’ sheds light on the the way in which we literally taste the whole wine when it is in the mouth. Apperception is absent in taste.
All of the talk of profiles and adumbrations in phenomenology seems to pertain mostly, if not exclusively, to the visual realm (although touch seems to be adumbrated as well, but also to present phenomenal aspects absent from vision). Or rather, profiles pertain only to the formal aspects of objects, not their quality. The qualitative life of objects cannot be incorporated in the framework of adumbrated objects, but it nevertheless pertains to those objects. Perhaps what has been said about taste here is true of the sensation of color, too.