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What Was in Plato’s Kitchen? June 6, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Ethics, Food and Drink, Philosophy.

According to Plato, taking pleasure in food is the enemy of philosophy and of culture–a hindrance to reason.

“In order then that disease might not quickly destroy us, and lest our mortal race should perish without fulfilling its end–intending to provide against this, the gods made what is called the lower belly, to be a receptacle for the superfluous meat and drink, and formed the convolution of the bowels, so that the food might be prevented from passing quickly through and compelling the body to require more food, thus producing insatiable gluttony and making the whole race an enemy to philosophy and culture, and rebellious against the divinest element within us.” (Timaeus, 72e-73a)

But, as this article from the Columbia Journalism Review makes clear, food and its pleasures influence almost every aspect of life–economics, the environment, ethical choices, not to mention the aesthetics of everyday life. There is ample food for thought here.

So what must have been in Plato’s kitchen that gave him such a fright? A bad hunk of lamb? A wayward bottle of retzina encountered at a tender age? Perhaps a forbidden slave girl that got him into trouble?

Philosophy is the occasion for endless speculation.



1. The Imugi - June 7, 2007

Is he really saying food is an enemy of the philosophical life? Or is he just noting that because our bodies don’t require a constant intake of food, we are afforded leisure time in which we can philosophize?

I read it more as a refinement of the adage, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat” 🙂

2. Melinda - June 10, 2007

“Please pass the posset”:
A popular drink in ancient Greece made of curdled milk with spiced ale or wine–yummy! (Ugh). Maybe Plato wasn’t too fond of this common fare. But a more likely explanation of Plato’s distaste for food (or too much food, anyway) is his general “somatophobia”; after all, the body is what drags the soul down, creates a cage, a sticky trap for the higher self that longs to be free of physical form. In Plato’s world, food will only “bring you down.”

3. Dwight Furrow - June 10, 2007


A good suggestion. It must have been the posset. Do you have a recipe?

You’re right about the somatophobia but which way does the causal arrow point? Is the somatophobia a product of his aversion or the cause of it?

4. Nina Rosenstand - June 10, 2007

We must remember that Plato also advised against going to the annual theater festival in Athens, claiming that “even noble men” would be corrupted by the display of emotions on stage. I suspect that he went to the theater, found himself emotionally affected, and beat feet to a safer place where his reason could remain in control…Control is the key word, as I see it. The illusion of reason being in control, vs. the unpredictable nature of physical and emotional existence. Meanwhile Aristotle was enjoying himself at the theater…

5. boonikar - May 22, 2009

emm… cognitively )

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