Gastronomic epistemology

Peter J. Leithart
May 27, 2010
Category: Uncategorized

Lisa Heldke writes, “For theories like Descartes’ [which] conceive of my body as an external appendage to my mind, and see its role in inquiry as merely to provide a set of (fairly reliable) sensory data on which my reasoning faculty then operates to produce objects of knowledge.  But growing and cooking food are important counterexamples to this view; they are activities in which bodily perceptions are more than meter reading which must be scrutinized by reason.  The knowing involved in making a cake is ‘contained’ not simply ‘in my head’ but in my hands, my wrists, my eyes and nose as well.  The phrase ‘bodily knowledge’ is not a metaphor.  It is an acknowledgement of the fact that I know things literally with my body, that I, ‘as’ my hands, know when the bread dough is sufficiently kneaded, and I ‘as’ my nose know when the pie is done.”

Two things: Similar things might be said about sports, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, and any number of human activities.  When do we get a sufficient number of counterexamples of anomalies to decide that the Cartesian model is no longer useful?

Second: What would modern philosophy had been like if Descartes had prepared his own meals?


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