“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Allison Carruth on Food as Human Right

Allison Carruth has a good post up at Arcade on food and taste as a human right. Again, if aesthetics is first philosophy, this question becomes very different. Deliciousness isn't some kind of superficial candy (see the problem?) stuck onto the boring cake of reality, but is the oil in the engine. I'd like to see OOO working with these issues quite directly.

My response (also on the blog post):

This is a great, counter-intuitive idea with a lot of complex resonances. A possible Marxist complaint about modernity is that it's nowhere near pleasurable enough—he's no Puritan.

It's a shame that the Pollans of this world seem to be the only ones who can enjoy slow food (etc.): reminds me of Marie Antoinette and her shepherd's cottage scene at Versailles. I went to one of Pollan's talks en plein air near Davis a few years ago, where slow food was served to the choir to whom Pollan was preaching. The whole scene was kind of yuck...

The trouble with the “elitist” accusation, though, is that it lands us in Palin-world, where elites force poor kids not to eat damaging non-food. I'm happier with Pollan's Marie Antoinette than Palin.

The whole notion of rights—which involves questions of reason and property, the proper—has a long and vexed history vis a vis the notion of enjoyment and pleasure ...The right-wing response has to do with the Lockean right to destroy rather than some kind of nonviolent, or positive pleasure: “It's my body and I can destroy it as I see fit.”

Here's another conundrum: Kantian taste (the subroutine of the aesthetics app that underwrites the democracy software) is predicated on being appropriately disgusted. Yet a lot of “disgusting” food, like a Happy Meal, is delicious...

Can we find some non-Pollan, non-Western examples of deliciousness and food pleasure? Off the top of my head I would start with the Indian notion of rasa, which is also a broad aesthetic–rhetorical category.

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