Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Towards a Particularistic Metaphysics of Recipes [Special Issue]

Topics: Metaphysics, Ontology
Keywords: Artefacts., Recipes, Stage/continuant, universals.


In this paper, I attempt to offer a new metaphysical account of recipes and to make sense of their relations with the authenticity of dishes. In doing so, I first show the untenability of any Platonistic characterisation of recipes, according to which recipes are universals instantiated by dishes. I do this by showing that recipes play a critical explanatory role for the sharing of culinary properties between dishes. That is, there are certain grounding relations between recipes and dishes that would not hold if recipes were Platonic universals. Then, by developing some of Andrea Borghini’s constructivist insights, I offer a different account that identifies recipes with abstract cultural artefacts, which are tracked down through their history and recordings. According to this view, which draws on Kaplan’s account of the metaphysics of words, recipes come into existence through a mental or written down introductory stage. Recipes are then shared and handed to future generations through new, mental or written down, stages. Recordings are stages of a particular recipe when they are historically connected to the introductory stage of the recipe in a proper way, and the dish they encode satisfies the authenticity judgment, as well as certain other underlying conditions. Finally, I discuss whether recipes should be identified with documents or artefacts and suggest that they are better suited to the latter.

When talking about food, we use many culinary terms, and largely interchangeably. Of course, because the goal of the present paper is to settle a precise metaphysical characterisation of recipes, the language must be regimented in order to avoid ambiguities and adequately show the relations between recipes and other entities. Following Borghini we can distinguish between dishes and recipes…


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