Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Intro and Entry #1: A Philosophical Lexicon for Perfumistas


My mother is fond of reminding me every several months or so that "normal people don't use words like epistemology and phenomenology." She is an intelligent woman with a graduate degree in political science, so I feel that she's not just picking on me. The last time she mentioned this, she adduced as further evidence of the truth of her claim that when she asked her husband, an attorney (not my father, who is an engineer) whether he knew what the word epistemology means, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "No."

Needless to say, I've been doing some soul searching and have decided that it's time for me to start defining my terms. I realize that the salon de parfum has been in existence now for more than fifteen months, but, as they say: Better late than never! If my highly educated parents don't even know what epistemology means, can I really expect even astute perfumistas to know what I am talking about when I pepper my texts with such terms as ontology, metaphysics, phenomenology, and the like? 

Effective right now, I am building a philosophical lexicon for ready reference by visitors to the salon de parfum who wish to debate deep issues about perfume but have no idea what I am talking about. This will take me a bit of time to complete, so I'm going to approach this as a blogger, which you may have noticed is not really my style. I prefer to post essays, but for about the next month or two, I'm going to try to put together, piece by piece, a philosophical lexicon. Composing such a reference source in a single sitting would be too tedious for me, and you can be sure that my ADD would be fighting it every minute of the way. 

Instead, I'm going to post a separate entry for a new word each day, and combine them into a full-length lexicon, which by the end of this process should provide all of the definitions and examples needed to be able to participate fully in philosophical debates about perfume. 

Let us start at the very beginning, a very good place to start:

Entry #1: Philosophy

The word philosophy comes from the Greek (and Comrade Christos from Memory of Scent can back me up on this) for "love" and "wisdom". Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Love is probably not going to cause anyone to pause. But "wisdom"? What could this mean? 

My own take on this concept is that some people seek out the truth and a deep understanding of subject matters and their own place in the universe. Is wisdom the same as knowledge? Not exactly. One could know everything there is to know about the chemical components of a perfume without appreciating its beauty or greatness. On the other hand, a person entirely ignorant of the chemical components of a perfume may intuitively grasp truths through their experience of it. 

I believe that many perfumistas are philosophers in this sense: they are seeking to deepen their understanding of perfume and also themselves through traveling around the olfactory universe and testing lots of different perfumes. It seems to me that philosophy (love of wisdom) and love of perfume go hand in hand in cases where people are interested in perfumes not solely for functional benefits (pleasure, seductive appeal, fame and fortune, etc.) but also as things in themselves. Perfumistas who actively acquaint themselves with new perfumes are engaging personally with them, because scents elicit memories from the wearer's past and help to connect disparate things together to make more sense of the world.


  1. Thanks for constructing this lingual directory, Sherapop. It's true, sometimes the intellectual content of your posts goes whizzing over my head, and I really appreciate this integration into your material. What's fascinating is that you have found a way to take some of these complex terms and link them to our understanding of perfume.

  2. Dear Shera

    Excellent work Shera.

    This will prove to be an invaluable resource I am without doubt for all who gather here now and those who will come in the future.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. Thank you very much, Perfumed Dandy!

      It's nice to know that others out there are interested in both perfume and philosophy... ;-)


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