Philosophy and Food

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
All food is philosphical, if it is consumed with thought and consideration. It has the capacity (at least in theory, if not in practice) to bear the weight of wider thoughts about the place of man in the world, the rights and wrongs of actions, the meaning of life, the value of pleasure, and the perils of pain.

That last sentence touches on at least some of philosophy’s concerns, though Plato never accorded food much standing: ‘I declare,’ he wrote in Gorgias, ‘that [cookery] is dishonourable because it makes pleasure its aim instead of good, and I maintain that it is merely a knack and not an art because it has no rational account to give of the nature of the various things which it offers.’ Epicurus, a more grounded philosopher, had more sensible things to say on the value of right eating and right living (which run quite counter to those often ascribed to gourmandizing Epicureans). And brillat-Savarin, whose philosophy of food is as good as any, had plenty of arguments to put paid to Plato.