What is your philosophy of eating

Gastrosoph Harald Lemke - Eating as a philosophy: can you eat wisdom with a spoon?

SRF: Lent has started. For you too?

Harald Lemke: Personally, I don't fast, but there are several reasons why you should try it.


In addition to the medical benefits that fasting seems to have - keyword “detox” - it helps to become aware of your own eating habits, to reflect on them and to recalibrate them.

We have been experiencing a boom in food and cooking for a number of years. Why?

In fact, the many cooking shows and diet guides prove that. Behind this is an increasing social awareness, which I very much welcome.

A rethink is taking place. With TV chefs like Tim Mälzer, an “ethicization” can even be observed, away from the purely taste and towards the ethical and social issues of nutrition.

Every culture has its refinements to increase pleasure, both in sex and in eating.

A strange trend right now is to take photos of your own food. Do you do that too?

I don't have this tendency to "food porn". But every culture has its refinements for increasing pleasure, with sex as well as with food.

Both reproduction and ingestion are biological mechanisms. But you just have to make sure that what is necessary remains enjoyable.

As a philosopher, what is your interest in food?

There are several dimensions. The ethics of eating, which rethink our relationship to nature and our body and asks about justice, is certainly central.

There are still very many people in this world who are hungry, while in this country gourmets tickle their taste buds. There is also a cultural-philosophical dimension that examines trends such as “fast food”.

Who was the greatest gourmet among the philosophers?

The answer may surprise you: Immanuel Kant. The pietistic cosmopolitan from Königsberg practiced a meal communion ritual every lunchtime. Profound conversations over fine dining. He saw in it a great good, even "a piece of true humanity".

Do you do that too?

Not yet, but I have something in mind. The thought of a new humanity through food is inspiring. The emerging trend of “social cooking clubs” testifies to this social and perhaps also human development.

Human development?

The current tendency towards "transhumanism" wants to move away from the physical human being, perhaps also away from the earth, towards an optimized, disembodied mind.

On the other hand, there is a cooking and eating culture that focuses on sustainable management of our earth and upholds physical enjoyment. These two forces are currently wrestling with each other.

And where do you go?

Clearly to the physical and sensual.

We always have to think about food.

Philosophy is literally the "love of wisdom". Can Eating Make You Wiser?

I guess so. The Latin word for wisdom, "sapientia", also includes taste, because "sapio" means "I taste". The idea is also convincing from an anthropological point of view, after all, in the course of history man has literally ate the wisdom.

In addition, unlike other animals, we do not have a natural food instinct. That means we always have to think about food: what is good for us and what is not? Our ancestors had to learn cooking techniques and farming methods. Eating is a cultural technique for humans.

You discover new lusts, completely without meat.

Do you have any specific tips on how we can eat better?

More organic, more regional and seasonal products. And less meat, maybe once a week, if that. Vegetarianism not only convinces me morally, it also offers new possibilities from an aesthetic point of view. You discover new lusts, completely without meat.

Your culinary insider tip?

Home grown! In this way you get to know the natural processes and gain a personal relationship with food.

I am engaged in a communal attempt at self-sufficiency. Interesting encounters take place there, people exchange ideas and help each other.

Ultimately, this affects not only culinary, but also socio-political issues. You not only learn to eat well, but also to live well together.

The interview was conducted by Yves Bossart.

Broadcast: SRF 1, Sternstunde Philosophie, March 12th, 2017, 11:00 a.m.

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Harald Lemke is a German philosopher and cultural scientist. He teaches and researches in the areas of nutritional ethics and gastrosophy. His most recent book was: “About food: philosophical explorations.”, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2014.

You are what you eat

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