The sense of taste falls low on the hierarchy of the senses because it seems a poor conduit for knowledge of the external world; it directs attention inward rather than outward; its pleasures are sensuous and bodily, prone to overindulgence that distracts from higher human endeavours; and its objects are at best merely pleasant, not of the highest aesthetic value. Such is the traditional assessment; now let us analyse its justice.
What could be more dull than the idea of a symposium? The word conjures up associations with dusty dons, tedious academic papers on deservedly obscure facts and theories. In universities these days, what used to be called ‘symposia’ are often called ‘workshops’ – perhaps in a feeble attempt to make the symposium sound more exciting. If this is your view of the symposium, you may be surprised to learn that the original ancient Greek symposium was a drinking party: the word (...) derives from the Greek for ‘drinking together’. A Greek symposium was a ritualised and often debauched affair. The master of the symposium would begin by drinking a small ‘libation’ of undiluted wine – the Greeks normally mixed their wine with water – and he would then decide in what proportion the wine was to be diluted to determine what kind of evening it was going to be. Plato’s Symposium, a dialogue on the nature of love, describes the most famous symposium of all. The great philosopher Socrates dominates the discussion (as he normally did), drinks more than anyone else, and leaves the symposium sober in the early morning, with the inferior thinkers and drinkers comatose. (shrink)
The importance of food in our individual lives raises moral questions from the debate over eating animals to the prominence of gourmet cookery in the popular media. Through philosophy, Elizabeth Telfer discusses issues including our obligations to those who are starving; the value of the pleasure of food; food as art; our duties to animals; and the moral virtues of hospitableness and temperance. Elizabeth Telfer shows how much traditional philosophy, from Plato to John Stuart Mill, has to say to illuminate (...) this everyday yet complex subject. (shrink)