Your complimentary articles
You’ve read one of your four complimentary articles for this month.
You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please
Food for Thought
by Rick Lewis
Looking in a magazine index recently, I saw that Philosophy Now is categorised as a ‘consumer magazine.’ I reckon this must be one of the few consumer magazines not to include diet tips and recipes. (Admittedly we did print Gordon Giles’ recipe for spaghetti carbonara in Issue 28, but that was an exception.). In this issue, guest-edited by philosopher and restaurant critic Jeremy Iggers, we take a philosophical look at food. But still, despite the mouthwatering cover picture, the issue contains no delicious recipes and no restaurant reviews. So Mrs Jenkins of Brighton, sorry for the misunderstanding – but if you take this issue back to the shop the newsagent will give you an full refund.
It is the one of the hallmarks of philosophy that it looks at the everyday from a different angle. But what could philosophers say about food? The stricter and more austere kind of analytical philosophers have tended to insist that the only work philosophers can usefully do is the analysis of linguistic problems and the clarification of concepts. For such thinkers, presumably, the most you could hope for when philosophising about food would be a clearer understanding of what we mean by the word ‘omelette’. The writers in the food section of this issue, however, take a broader view and their reflections on food and taste lead them to a variety of penetrating insights into the nature of humanity in general and our relationship to the world around us. Jeremy Iggers introduces the theme on page 8. Being more superficial myself, I like the anecdotes about different philosophers’ attitudes to food – particularly the one on page 9 about Sartre’s lobsterophobia. To show solidarity with Jean- Paul in the fight against global domination by lobsters, here is a picture of me doing my bit to reduce the lobster population.
Not long before we went to press, American and British aircraft jointly bombed Baghdad, killing a number of civilians. Philosophy Now readers were possibly unaware that their countries were at war with Iraq, and it may be that the Iraqi civilians were equally uninformed. (I didn’t see the word ‘war’ used in the British media until two days later, when a banner headline on the front page of London’s Evening Standard screamed “Halifax Cuts Rates as Mortgage War Erupts!”)
Pacifists, of course, are against dropping bombs in any circumstances; but the rest of us should be considering: if in some circumstances waging war is a necessary evil , do those circumstances exist now? Is this a just war? What does make a war into a just war? Do the containment of a ruthless, powercrazed dictator and the protection of Kurdish civilian lives justify us in killing other civilians in Baghdad? These aren’t merely rhetorical questions but real ones with much to be said on both sides. We need input both from moral philosophers and from people with some sort of grasp of the actual military situation. Before our next issue appears I’ll try to find some knowledgeable strategists to explain the issues. But I would also like to invite readers to contribute their views in letters of up to 200 words – we’ll publish the best in a special forum in Issue 32, and we’ll also open a special discussion area in our online discussion forum at http://www.philosophynow.org
Willard V. Quine died peacefully on Christmas Day at the age of 92. He was almost universally regarded as simply the greatest living philosopher writing in the English language. In January, one newspaper columnist blamed Quine for academic philosophy’s obscurity and remoteness from the concerns of everyday life, but this was unfair. Quine wrote on difficult but fundamental topics such as logic, knowledge and language, but he always wrote as clearly as the subject matter allowed, and was (as his obituary on page 40 points out) perhaps the only philosopher to name one of his major books after a Harry Belafonte calypso.