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216 × 138 mm
200 pages
01 Feb 2016

Philosophers At Table On Food and Being Human Raymond D. Boisvert, Lisa Heldke

One of the most important things we do every day is eat. The question of eating – what and how – may seem simple at first, but it is dense with possible interpretations, reflecting the myriad roles food plays in our lives. In fact, as Raymond D. Boisvert and Lisa Heldke show in this book, it’s difficult to imagine a more philosophically charged act than eating. Philosophers at Table explores the philosophical scaffolding that supports this crucial aspect of everyday life, showing that humans are not just creatures with minds, but creatures with stomachs.

Examining a wealth of myths, literary works, histories and films – as well as philosophical ideas – the authors make the case for a philosophy of food. They look at Babette’s Feast in a discussion of hospitality as a central ethical virtue. They compare eating a fast-food meal in Accra with dining at a molecular gastronomy restaurant as a way of considering the nature of food as art. And they describe biting into a slug to explore tasting as a learning tool, a way of knowing. A surprising, original take on something we have not philosophically savoured enough, Philosophers at Table invites readers to think in fresh ways about the simple and important act of eating.

‘The book is delightful, deep but never pedantic. The great philosophers of the past are widely considered and their theories analyzed, but the goal is not to provide a historical excursus on what thinkers of the past wrote about food. The authors compare their work to plumbing, in the sense that they try to understand the nuts and bolts of how things work, and above all how ideas and values – often taken for granted and never fully discussed – greatly shape the way we understand and interact with the world. There is no more immediate perspective to do this than by looking at food, an experience that everybody, one way or another, shares.’ – Huffington Post

‘Boisvert and Heldke are proceeding from our shared, lived experience as people with stomachs, so prior familiarity with the work of Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes is not needed. The book is carved with that crisp, clear precision common to academic philosophy texts, never advancing any idea an inch without a concise explanation of its origin. Boisvert and Heldke’s combined voice is never haughty or self-indulgent, but instead jovially tries to reach past the classically dry, snooze-inducing language of too-tidy minds into something closer to the tone of sociology or ethnography, lush with specific anecdotal examples and some sense of humor.’ – Popmatters

‘By exposing the creaking plumbing of categorical thinking that undergirds many of our simplistic either/or notions, Boisvert and Heldke help us realize that self-sufficiency is insufficient when it comes to rebuilding community, reintegrating agriculture into culture, and our species into nature. A philosophy that starts with food may just be the way to break down the real and perceived barriers that we have erected between our mind and body, between ideas and between each other, with the overlapping and interconnection of people and ideas demonstrated.’ – Know Where Your Food Comes From

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Raymond D. Boisvert is Professor of Philosophy at Siena College, New York, and the author of I Eat: Therefore I Think (2014). Lisa Heldke is Professor of Philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, St Peter, Minnesota. She is the author of Exotic Appetites: Ruminations of a Food Adventurer (2003).