Friday, August 23, 2013

The Problem with a Kitten is THAT

This post is not inherently interesting to me, seeing as it's fundamentally a debate over the best way to communicate that gay sex is contrary to God's plan. But it did give an interesting quotation from famed right-wing bioethicist Leon Kass:
Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone—a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive….

[Eating] on the street—even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat—displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait. Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one’s food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.
I admit it never occurred to me to think that licking an ice cream cone, or noshing on a snack while walking around town, was a harbinger of social decay. This sort of massively overdetermined analysis is replete in Kass' school of thought, and I really just don't understand it at all.

(One might also wonder about the consistency on display here. After all, couldn't one as easily say that eating things with your teeth is the natural way of doing it, the way nature intends, and all this "utensil" nonsense is just amoral human artifice? Possibly, but I prefer to think that neither God nor the moral system really concerns itself with such mundane trivialities as what sharp object we use to dissect the food we eat.)


Rebecca said...

It seems to me that whether it is okay to eat in public or not is strictly a matter of societal mores, not ethical decision-making. I was talking to my father the other day and he told me that he finds it disgusting when people eat in public, on the street. He couldn't explain why he didn't like it, but did say that this is what he grew up with. He just turned 80, so it seems that this is a shift in American mores. I wonder how old Kass is and whether he's just justifying as right what he grew up with.

PG said...

It's a long standing Western (not just American) norm not to eat in the street. It's tolerated among children, who often fuss for food at inconvenient times, but not for adults. I agree there is no moral objection, though there are practical ones arising from the problem of vermin, especially in crowded European cities -- same reason the DC subway bans eating by force of law, even for little girls chomping French fries. If it's seeing people eat without utensils that maddens Kass, however, now we know never to invite him to a party with hamburgers and chicken wings.

PG said...

Incidentally, perceiving eating with utensils as superior to eating without them is actually a common view among conservatives. An acquaintance once explained to me that Chinese and Japanese cultures are superior to South Asian and African cultures because the former use chopsticks while the latter eat with hands.