Philosophy of/with Food and Wine

To me,  philosophy is a way of life not only because traditional work in ethics or aesthetics provides insights that can be brought to bear on everyday problems (although it sometimes does). Philosophy is a way of life because everyday affairs can be a source of philosophical insight that can make those everyday matters more intelligible and their value more salient.

I devoted most of my early career to thinking about ethics. But about 20 years ago, I began to think more and more about food and wine, which were peculiar topics for a philosopher and about which very little was written. When I began this peculiar inquiry, I conceptualized it as a process of taking traditional philosophical views in ethics and aesthetics and applying them to an under-researched topic. I was engaged in the philosophy of food and wine. But part of my motivation was that food and wine were already an important part of my everyday life, and I was curious about what philosophy had to contribute to these mundane matters.

The result was my blog Edible Arts and two books—American Foodie: Taste, Art, and the Cultural Revolution, and Beauty and the Yeast: A Philosophy of Wine, Life, and Love.

However, through this process, I gradually came to see this project differently. It was not only a matter of applying philosophical insights to food and wine. It was a matter of generating philosophical insights from engagement in the world of food and wine. In other words, instead of doing the philosophy of food or the philosophy of wine, I was doing philosophy with food and wine.

Philosophy as a way of life not only transforms life but transforms philosophy. There is a way of looking at the world that comes through thinking about food and wine in everyday contexts. It’s about, what I call in American Foodie, “the tissue of little things.” (As far as I know Rousseau coined this phrase.) I am referring to the small, delicious pleasures of everyday life that surround us with positive stimulation and that sustains the meaning of life from moment to moment, a consummation of our successful immersion in reality. Happiness is achieved not by grand gestures and heroic deeds but by doing the small things in life well.

Food and wine are among the most accessible of these everyday pleasures. When we eat and drink well (which does necessarily mean expensively), our lives are infused with a continuous source of meaning, minute by minute, hour after hour, day after day.

I don’t remember reading about this in Kant.

Published by Dwight Furrow

Wine, food, and travel writing, philosophy, aesthetics

One thought on “Philosophy of/with Food and Wine

  1. In Plato’s “Symposium”, Aristodemus narrates that after Alcibiades’ speech he drank copiously and, afterwards, some left and others fell asleep. The seven “Symposium” speeches were delivered after the meal and before the hour of drinking.
    I ought to recommend you the recent video of Luis in Paris. Enjoy it!:


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