“He ate just enough food to make eating a pleasure, and he was so ready for his food that he found appetite the best sauce.”
“He resisted without difficulty the common temptation to exceed the limit of satiety; and he advised those who could not do likewise to avoid [anything] that encouraged them to eat and drink what they did not need: for these were the ruin of stomachs, brains, and souls.”
Xenophon speaking of Socrates in the Memorabilia

We hear quite a bit about what to eat because of how it tastes, or what foods to eat or not because of their effects upon our health. We hear very little about the human importance of tempering our desire for food.

But the wise have always seen eating as a central avenue of exercising, or not, our very humanity.

Non-human animals are generally governed by the dictates of their bellies. Their eating is not immediately contextualized by the drama of moral self-possession, and of personal relationships. At the same time they are not especially in search of gustatory pleasures; their main concern is whether they are getting the nourishment they need.

Human eating has the potential for deeper pleasures and deeper nourishment. It is likewise prone to a degeneracy that, much worse than just causing ill-health, can debilitate human life at its core.

Socrates seems to have discovered a paradoxical truth. The true pleasures of food only come to those who practice restraint. Real restraint, daily.

Human persons are animals; but we are more than animals. Restraint and mastery of bodily appetites are constitutive elements of truly human life. If humanized, our animality reaches its true fulfillment. If animalized, our humanity suffers degradation.

And how we eat is a main stage for this drama. It is being enacted every day of our lives. Sometimes we might need to be reminded: the restraint that protects and enlivens our humanity is in our power, every time we open our mouths, or not.

Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) was a soldier, historian, and philosopher of Athens. Like Plato he wrote dialogues featuring Socrates as a great teacher. Among these dialogues are Oeconomicus, translated as The Estate Manager, in which he shares insight into the structure and principles of the ancient household, and also Memorabilia, in which he shares recollections of the life of Socrates.

Become A LifeCraft Member

Become a LifeCraft Member and gain access to our online courses and exclusive content. It's FREE of charge. Period.

If you join as a contributing member, you will help make this content available to an increasing audience. Your financial assistance enables me to spend more time in this work. I thank you in advance.

Join the LifeCraft community today and get access to:

  • Man of the Household (Course)
  • Woman of the Household (Course)
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
Dead Time, Living Time, Technology, and Leisure

Dead Time, Living Time, Technology, and Leisure

“I have time when I am not conscious of time which presses in upon me in its empty quality, as lifeless time. He who has leisure thereby disposes of boundless time; he lives in the fullness of time, be he active or at rest.” Friedrich Juenger, The Failure of...

read more
Authority and the Gift of Fatherhood

Authority and the Gift of Fatherhood

There is perhaps no greater intimacy possible between men than when a son looks to a father from whom he has learned to be a father himself. This Father’s Day, in addition to remembering my own father, I am reflecting on the astounding gift, and challenge, of being a...

read more
Seeking the Unchanging in Bodily Things

Seeking the Unchanging in Bodily Things

“...it has been proved in the life of every man that though his loves are human, and therefore changeable, yet in proportion as he attaches them to things unchangeable, so they mature and broaden.” Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men Life today is characterized by mobility....

read more

Pin It on Pinterest