Your Philosophical Presupposition’s May Be Causing Your Wine Choices

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The world of philosophic thinking is vast, complex and without final definition. Thus the intent is not to justify or argue Plato vs Descartes vs Wittgenstein in this article. The purpose is to enlighten how ones preconceived cognitive and reasoning facilities have an impact on the wine choices. Really? Yes, really.

If you look at the philosophical thought through the ages, there are many schools of thought and identified disciplines. I would like to focus on three:
• Rationalism – a theory which states that the human mind has principles or a priori knowledge, independent of experience.

• Empiricism: a doctrine which stipulates that all knowledge comes from experience.

• Existentialism: theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will, moment by moment.
Rationalism, the thinking epitomized by Rene Descartes Cogito Ero Sum (“I think, therefore I am”) and Gottfried Leibniz calculemus (“Let us calculate”), theorizes that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge. Winemakers and wineries have grabbled with this thinking either overtly or subliminally for years. They believe they could get to “truth” by logic and “facts” in producing great wines. If you the consumer have preconceived tendencies being a Rationalist, you will most likely make your wine buying and wine choices, based upon Wine Ratings (Parker, Suckling), Wine Scores (Wine Competitions, for example SF Chronicle, Orange County Fair, etc.), Wine Reviews by trusted authors, Bloggers, Wine Influences, etc. Or when valuing a wine, knowing that the bottle cost a dollar, label, cork & foil another dollar and allowing somewhere between $3 to $12 dollars for the juice, you cannot possible comprehend why a wine could possible cost $100 or more, another stake in the ground that you are most likely a Rationalist. So when walking down the aisle of your local wine merchant, wine discount market, if you as a consumer are drawn to a “rating, score or a sentence by an author” and price again, you most likely are a rationalist. The signals are “objective truth” and light your way to your “wine salvation”.

This group believes no one but their own experience leads to knowledge. John Locke’s great quote sums up this perspective “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience”. Similarly David Hume’s statement “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”. Reading a wine review or recommendation is like rapping to a deaf person! They neither have the ability to hear nor pick up on the beat! Until they try it at a wine bar, a friend’s house, winery, restaurant or other opportunity, the wine is summarily dismissed as a non sequitur in their formation of truth being experiential. No insight or knowledge in gained a priori for the Empiricists. When shopping for a wine, if your thought process is akin to the Empiricists, you will want to “experience” the wine or perhaps the label on the wine bottle for intrinsic feel and determine the “quality of the bottle” or as mentioned tasting previously.

Here this groups lives “moment to moment” starting with pre-Socratic thinking from Heraclitus to Kierkegaard. The statement by Heraclitus that “you cannot step twice into the same rivers; for other water are eve: flowing around you” as the river is constantly changing. The correlation to the fundamental “terroir” (soil, weather, place, temperature, etc.) of a vineyard is a paradox for this consumer because “terroir” is always changing and is in play for the existentialist. Thus this consumer / wine buyer is affected by both rationalists and empiricist thinking mostly in the opposite corollary. They are distrusting of “hard core rational logic & thought” (rationalist) and previous life experience (empiricists) with the only reality/validity is with the wine at the moment (in time and space). The idea that one who once had for example, a Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot in 2000 will still like it in 2019 is not fit for the Existentialist as it must be tasted “presently”. Another example would be enjoying the aesthetic label on a wine bottle and choosing it simply for it at the time.


Empiricists                                                                                         Existentialists


So summing up this quick analysis, which I have contemplated for some time, the current 2019 wine buyer is drawn to one of the three coordinates of thought. Looking back on some 2500 plus years of historical and documented thought process of philosophical thinking, perhaps today’s wine aficionado is best served by utilizing all three in making their wine selections. Recognizing your preconceived or proclivity for a type of thinking, has it short comings or drawbacks but you first must identify them and try to break out of “your conventional thinking”.

When thinking about X-Gen, Millennials and Baby Boomer purchasing decisions, the demographics may extend beyond year of birth, and be more influenced by each individuals thinking synapses, self- awareness and the ability to transcend their own limitations.

To fully appreciate the wine world of the 21st Century, taking account of your thought process and breaking the “chains that bound” to enjoy some amazing wines you may not have tried (failure of empiricism), break away from authoritative ratings (failure of Rationalism) and allowing one to revisit wines and wineries from the past (shortcoming of Existentialism).

Happy wine hunting and enjoyment!



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