TASTE

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TASTE, in physiology ; one of the five senses, by which are perceived certain impressions made by particles of bodies dissolved by the saliva on the tongue or the other contiguous parts of the body endowed with this sense. As has been already observed in the article Senses, taste does not appear to be confined to the tongue, that member being wanting in many animals which do not seem destitute of the sense, and, in many which have a tongue, this member, from its structure, is not adapted to receive impressions from objects of taste. Again, it is not the whole suriace of the hu man tongue, according to some late experiments, which is capable of those impressions that we ascribe to taste. By covering the tongue with parchment, sometimes in whole, and sometimes in different parts, two experimenters in Paris (MM. Guyot and admyraula) found, that the end and sides of the tongue, and a small space at the root of it, together with a small surface at the anterior and superior part of the roof of the palate, are the only portions of surface in the cavity of the mouth and throat that can distinguish taste or sapidity from mere touch. A portion of extract of aloes, placed at any other part, gives no sensation but that of touch, until the salha carries a solution of the sapid matters 1 o those parts of the cavity.* (See Tongue.) The little glands of the tongue dissolve the salts contained in articles of food, which, when dissolved, penetrate into the three nerves on each side of the tongue, that are cou* Blumenbach, in his Comp. Anatomj, Engl, by Coulson (London, V6il, ch. xviii). says : u J have seen an adult, and, in other respects, well formed man, who was born without a tongue. He could distinguish, nevertheless, ven easily, the tastes of solutions of salt, sugar and aloes, rubbed on his palate, and would express the tasta of each by writing." nected with the brain and spinal marrow. Thus we receive those sensations which we call sweet, sour, bitter, sharp, insipid, astringent, and numberless others, which, though we have no names for them, yet are very distinct, as they enable us to recognise particular objects. The impressions thus received we ascribe to the objects that excite them, though acidity is, properly speaking, not more a quality of vinegar than pain is of the whip or spur. The word taste thus comes to be applied to the things which excite it; and we say, sugar tastes sweet with the same propriety or impropriety that we say, a flower smells sweet, a bird looks black. This confusion of cause and effect, in common language, is very natural, in fact unavoidable, considering the way in which language is formed. We possess very few words to designate the endless variety of tastes, of Which we are very sensible. In this respect taste is similar to hearing. Though we all know how to distinguish a tune on the piano from the same on the guitar, it is impossible to explain distinctly why or how. Our capability of expressing tastes is, however, much greater than of expressing smells. Taste and smell are very closely connected, the loss of one being accompanied with the loss of the other. (See Smell.) Many words, designating impressions on the one sense, are used also for those received from the other, and flavor is daily applied to both. A sweet smell is a very common phrase; and in Thuringia the common people say the nosegay tastes sweet. In respect to aesthetics, taste signifies that faculty by which we judge of the beautiful and proper, and distinguish them from the ugly and unsuitable. The name results from the similarity of this faculty with the physical taste. The office of both is to discriminate between the agreeable and disagreeable ; but the comparison has often been carried too far; thus, because the beautiful is also agreeable, the beautiful and agreeable have often been taken for one and the same ; and because matters of physical taste are not proper subjects of dispute (since the same flavor, for instance, may be pleasant to one person and very disagreeable to others), it has been sometimes supposed that taste, in aesthetics, can have reference only to the accidental impression of a work of art on the individual. But aesthetics teaches that, though an individual may not like a picture of Raphael, and find less satisfaction in a drama of Shakspeare than in the coarse productions of a very inferior mind, there is yet beauty in them; that is to say, they answer the demands of certain rules which have an objective (q. v.) and general character, so that the beauty of a work of art may be a proper subject of discussion. Taste is the faculty of judgment operating in a certain sphere. It must be formed by practice, whereby it differs essentially from the sense of the beautiful. This is natural, whilst taste is the fruit of observation and reflection.