Professor Barry C. Smith

Contact details

Professor Barry C. Smith
M.A. Ph.D.
Director of the Institute of Philosophy
Institute of Philosophy
Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
020 7862 8682
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Summary of research interests and expertise:

Barry C Smith is a professor of philosophy and director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. He is also the founding director of the Centre for the Study of the Senses, which pioneers collaborative research between philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. Barry is currently the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Leadership Fellow for the Science in Culture Theme. He held visiting professorships at the University of California at Berkeley, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia and the Ecole Normale Superiéure in Paris. A philosopher of language and mind, his current research is on the multisensory nature of perceptual experience, focusing on taste, smell and flavour. He has written theoretical and experimental papers, publishing in Nature, Food Quality and Preference, Chemical Senses and Flavour. He collaborates with chefs and artists and consults widely for the food and drinks industry. In 2007, he edited Questions of Taste: the philosophy of wine, Oxford University Press; in 2008, he edited The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language, Oxford University Press (with Ernest Lepore), and Knowing Our Own Minds Oxford University Press in 1998 (with Crispin Wright and Cynthia Macdonald). Barry is a frequent broadcaster, who has appeared on BBC One’s Masterchef , BBC Two’s Inside the Factory, on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, as well as In Our Time and Radio 3’s FreeThinking. In 2010 he wrote and presented a four-part series for the BBC World Service called The Mysteries of the Brain and in 2017, wrote and presented a 10-part series for BBC Radio 4 called The Uncommon Senses. He is a frequent contributor to The World of Fine Wine and wine columnist for Prospect Magazine.


Spoken Written
French Intermediate Intermediate
Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
25-Sep-2020 Managing long covid: don’t overlook olfactory dysfunction

BMJ, letters

28-Jul-2020 The best COVID-19 predictor is recent smell loss: a cross-sectional study

Journal articles


20-Jun-2020 More Than Smell—COVID-19 is Associated with Severe Impairment of Smell, Taste, and Chemesthesis

Journal articles

Chemical Senses, Vol XX, 1-14

24-Mar-2020 Sixty Seconds on…Anosmia: wake up and smell the symptom

Journal articles

British Medical Journal, rapid response

05-Mar-2020 Preface and Science Facts


Life Kitchen: Reviving the Joy or Taste and Flavour, Ryan Riley, Bloomsbury Press

03-Jan-2020 Tasting Flavours: An Epistemology of Multisensory Perception


In The Epistemology of Non-Visual Perception, edited by Gatzia, D. and Brogaard, B. Oxford University Press

01-Nov-2019 Getting More Out of Wine: wine experts, wine apps and sensory science

Journal articles

Current Opinion in Food Science Vol. 27, 123-129

19-Jul-2019 Big Data and Us: Human-Data Interactions

Journal articles

European Review, Vol 27, Issue 3, pp.357-337

29-May-2019 Spatial Awareness and the Chemical Senses


In Spatial Senses: Philosophy of Perception in an Age of Science, edited by T. Cheng, O. Deroy, C. Spence, Routledge

31-Dec-2018 Sensory Substitution and The Transparency of Visual Experience: comments on Laurence Renier


In Sensory Substitution and Augmentation, edited by Fiona Macpherson, Proceedings of the British Academy, Oxford University Press

15-Feb-2018 Actual Consciousness: What is it like?


Ted Honderich on Consciousness, Determinism and Humanity (Philosophers in Depth) edited by Gregg Caruso, Oxford University Press

01-Dec-2017 Beyond Liking: the True Taste of a Wine?


in The World of Fine Wine, issue 58 pp. 138 - 147

30-Nov-2017 Human Olfaction, Crossmodal Perception and Consciousness

Journal articles

 'Chemical Senses' 2017 VOL 42, 793-795

29-Jul-2017 Tasting and Liking: Multisensory Flavour Perception and Hedonic Evaluation

Edited Book

 In 'The Taste Culture Reader Experiencing Food and Drink', edited by Carolyn Korsmeyer, published by Bloomsbury Academic; ISBN: 9780857856982


16-Mar-2017 The perceptual categorisation of blended and single malt Scotch whiskies

Journal articles


01-Jan-2017 Taste: What's the Truth


13-Oct-2016 Wine: secrets of blind tasting


03-Oct-2016 But is it Art? Review of Degustibus – Arguing about taste and why we do it


 Times Literary Supplement

10-Sep-2016 A wine philosopher on why “not every wine is worth our attention”


 Quartz - written by Olivia Goldhill

01-Jan-2016 Proust, the Madeleine and Memory


 Memory in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Sebastian Groes, New Critical Perspectives from the Arts, Humanities and the Sciences, Palgrave Macmillan 2015

01-Dec-2015 Why is Wine Tasting so Hard?


In the World of Fine Wine, Issue 50

09-Nov-2015 The Chemical Senses


 The Oxford Handbook to Philosophy of Perception, edited by M.Matthen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

28-Feb-2015 What Wittgenstein would have said about that dress


 BBC News Website

04-Nov-2014 What Does Metacognition Do for Us


 Philosophy and Phenomenological Review, Vo. 89, Issue 3, 2014: 727-735

28-Aug-2014 Confusing Tastes and Flavours


In Perception and its Modalities, edited by Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen, Stephen Briggs, Oxford University Press

20-Aug-2014 A Moment of Capture


In Figuring Out Figurative Art: Contemporary Philosophers on Contemporary Paintings, edited by Derek Matravers and Damien Freeman, Routledge

20-Feb-2014 Airplane noise and the taste of Umami

Journal articles

Spence, Charles, Michel, Charles and Smith, Barry, Airplane noise and the Taste of Umami, Flavour, 3:2, 2014.

05-Dec-2013 Quine and Chomsky on the Ins and Outs of Language


In A Companion to W. V. O. Quine edited by Gilbert Harman, Ernest Lepore, John Wiley & Sons

29-Nov-2013 Grape Expectations: How the proportion of white grape in Champagne affects the ratings of experts and social drinkers in a blind tasting

Journal articles

Harrar, Vanessa, Smith, Barry, Deroy, Ophelia and Spence, Charles, Grape Expectations: How the proportion of white grape in Champagne affects the ratings of experts and social drinkers in a blind tasting, Flavour,2: 25, 2013.

21-Nov-2013 Philosophy and Language


In The Bloomsbury Companion to Analytic Philosophy edited by Barry Dainton, Howard Robinson, Bloomsbury, pp. 201-299

21-Jul-2013 Philosophical and Empirical Approaches to Language


In Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? edited by Matthew Haug Routledge, pp.294-317.

01-Jun-2013 Wine Appreciation: Snobbery or Connoisseurship


The World of Fine Wine, Issue 40

17-Apr-2013 ‘Relativism, Disagreement and Predicates of Personal Taste’,

in: F.Recanati, I.Stojanovic, N.Villanueva (eds) Context-dependence, Perspective and Relativity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG

01-Mar-2013 Taste, Philosophical Perspectives

Journal articles

The Encyclopaedia of Mind ed. Hal Pashler Sage Publications, 2013

01-Dec-2012 Davidson, Interpretation and First-person Constraints on Meaning


in Davidson: Life and Work, ed. M.Bagrhamian

Taylor and Francis

20-Jun-2012 Perspective: Complexities of Flavour


 S 6 | N AT U R E | VO L 4 8 6 | 2 1 J U N E 2 0 1 2


01-Jan-2012 Empathie et perception des valuers

Journal articles

in Dialogue 51 (2012), 1– 9

Canadian Philosophical Association

01-Jan-2012 The Publicity of Meaning and the Interiority of Mind


Mind, Meaning and Knowledge. Themes from the Philosophy of Crispin Wright, ed. A. Coliva, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012

01-Jan-2012 The Sensory and the Multisensory


 This Will Make You Smarter, ed. John Brockman (2012 Harper Perennial)

28-Apr-2011 Folk Psychology and Scientific Psychology


The Bloomsbury Companion to Philosophy of Mind, edited by J. Garvey, Bloomsbury

01-Jan-2011 The True Taste of a Wine?


 Wine Active Compounds: Proceedings of the WAC2011 International Conference, ed. David Chassagne & Regis D.

 Gougeon, Oenopluria Media, 2011, pp.283-6

05-Nov-2010 Meaning, Context, and How Language Surprises Us


Explicit Communication, Robyn Carston’s Pragmatics, edited by B. Soria and E. Romero, Palgrave Macmillan

26-Nov-2009 Speech Sounds the Meeting of Minds


 New Essays on Sound and Perception, eds. M.Nudds and C.O’Callaghan, Oxford University Press 2009

17-Feb-2007 Davidson, Interpretation and First-person Constraints on Meaning’

Journal articles

International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Volume 14, pp. 385-406

01-Jan-2007 The Objectivity of Tastes and Tasting


 Questions of Taste: the philosophy of wine,ed. Barry C. Smith (Oxford University Press, NY, 2007), pp.41-77

01-Jan-2007 ‘What We Mean, What We Think We Mean and How Language Surprises Us’

in: B. Soria and E. Romero (eds) Explicit Communication, Robyn Carston’s Pragmatics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

01-Jan-2007 Questions of Taste: the philosophy of wine

Edited Book

ed. Barry C. Smith Oxford NY: Oxford University Press

21-Sep-2006 WINE


 The Oxford Companion to Aesthetics, 2nd edition 2014

01-Jan-2006 The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Edited Book

eds. E. Lepore & B.C. Smith Oxford: Oxford University Press

01-Jan-1998 Knowing Our Own Minds

edited with Crispin Wright and Cynthia Macdonald, (Oxford)

Publications available on SAS-space:

Date Details
What We Mean, What We Think We Mean, and How Language Can Surprise Us



Consciousness: An Inner View of the Outer World



True Relativism, Interpretation and Our Reasons for Action



Davidson, Interpretation and First Person Constraints on Meaning



Publicity, Externalism and Inner States



What I Know When I Know a Language



Why We Still Need Knowledge of Language



Mar-2017 The perceptual categorisation of blended and single malt Scotch whiskies


Background: Although most Scotch whisky is blended from different casks, a firm distinction exists in the minds of consumers and in the marketing of Scotch between single malts and blended whiskies. Consumers are offered cultural, geographical and production reasons to treat Scotch whiskies as falling into the categories of blends and single malts. There are differences in the composition, method of distillation and origin of the two kinds of bottled spirits. But does this category distinction correspond to a perceptual difference detectable by whisky drinkers? Do experts and novices show differences in their perceptual sensitivities to the distinction between blends and single malts? To test the sensory basis of this distinction, we conducted a series of blind tasting experiments in three countries with different levels of familiarity with the blends versus single malts distinction (the UK, the USA and France). In each country, expert and novice participants had to perform a free sorting task on nine whiskies (four blends, four single malts, one single grain, plus one repeat) first by olfaction, then by tasting. Results: Overall, no reliable perceptual distinction was revealed in the tasting condition between blends and single malts by experts or novices when asked to group whiskies according to their similarities and differences. There was nonetheless a clear effect of expertise, with experts showing a more reliable classification of the repeat sample. French experts came closest to a making a distinction between blends and single malts in the olfactory condition, which might be explained by a lack of familiarity with blends. Interestingly, the similarity between the blends and some of their ingredient single malts explained more of participants’ groupings than the dichotomy between blends and single malts. Conclusions: The firmly established making and marketing distinction between blends and single malts corresponds to no broad perceptually salient difference for whisky tasters, whether experts or novices. The present study indicates that successfully blended whiskies have their own distinctive and recognizable profiles, taking their place in a common similarity space, with groupings that can reflect their component parts.

Consultancy reports:

Date Details
2012 Courvoisier - Le Nez de Courvoisier

 Le Nez de Courvoisier film on You Tube

 Le Nez de Courvoisier - APP

2012 The Colour of Wine - Champagne Assembly Day

 Report of experiments on colour of grapes in Mumm and Perrier-Jouet Champage presented at Champagne Assembly Day 2012

Research Projects & Supervisions

Research projects:


Science in Culture Leadership Fellowship Institute of Philosophy
Project period: 01-Oct-2013 - 01-Jan-2016

Research interests: Philosophy

Leadership Fellow for Science in Culture Theme Institute of Philosophy
Project period: 31-Oct-2015 - 31-Oct-2022

Research interests: Philosophy

Network for Sensory Research

A SSHRC funded Partnership grant creating a Network for Sensory Research involving Toronto, Harvard, MIT, Glasgow and the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the Institute of Philosophy

Probabilities, Propensities and conditionals: implications for logic and empirical science

The study is for a complex and interlocking set of topics in the philosophy of science, logic, and the foundations of probability and statistics, and of quantum mechanics. The focus of the project is on important and unexplored connections between objective probability, physical propensities, and the logic of conditional statements. The main expected outcome is an improved understanding of the nature of probability and its role in the empirical sciences, particularly in relation to quantum physics. The topics are of great current interest and relevance across a number of disciplines, including philosophy of science, logic, probability and statistics, and the foundations of quantum physics. There are further potential applications to computer science, statistical methodology, scientific modelling, and causal inference. The project is very carefully structured in a number of work packages with a number of specific objectives and deliverables for each: i) propensities and dispositions, ii) the logic of conditionals, iii) conditional probability and the probability of conditionals, iv) propensities and conditionals, v) alternative calculi of probability, vi) applications to foundations of quantum mechanics, vii) further applications, and viii) historical developments.

Sensory Exploration

British Academy Latin-American Caribbean Link Grant

Professional Affiliations

Professional affiliations:

Name Activity
AHRC Leadership Fellow for Science in Culture Theme Leading on Science in Culture Theme


Name Type Activity Start date End date
Co-investigator on SSHRC Network for Sensory Research Network Partnership with Toronto, Harvard, MIT and Glasgow Workshops and Conferences on Multisensory Integration 01-Sep-2010 01-Sep-2013
Consultancy & Media
Available for consultancy:
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