The philosopher Valeria Campos, a researcher at the International Institute of Philosophy and Social Studies, invites us to question ourselves in her book “Pensar/Comer”, one of humans’ most habitual exercises, which is eating. In her proposal, she addresses one of the ways in the history of philosophy in which eating ceases to be a parasitic theme or the object of a proto-philosophy to become the centre of thinking itself, even in the form of a metaphorical discourse.
“Eating is the most widespread practice of life. It takes place every day, three times a day, from birth to death. However, the philosophical tradition has never directly taken up eating, as it is not a topic that is part of the realm of issues that originally concern.”
Valeria Campos holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, co-directed with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. She holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a Bachelor in Philosophy from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She researches the marginal place in the philosophy of food and taste as a bodily sense. Her work areas are phenomenology, ethics, political theory and philosophy of law. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.
For the philosopher, the problem of food has been reduced to obesity and malnutrition caused by hunger; under this context, medicine has only seen food as “the metabolic process according to which your body breaks down food and uses it in its functioning, in that sense, food is not associated with functions that humans are supposed to perform such as thinking, reflecting, generating knowledge, generating art, generating meaning, those human functions that separate you from the animal, and food brings you together with the animal and not only with the animal with the vegetable, because everything that lives is fed.
“In the vision of the first doctor of Western civilization, Hippocrates, he said: let your medicine be your food, and your food be your medicine. He saw food as the source of all diseases.” According to this premise, the philosopher explains that Hippocrates sees food as something other than you that you incorporate materially into your body and that, thanks to metabolic processes, it will be transformed into your body. According to this approach, the act of eating would not be as simple as it seems to be, and he comments that he is impressed that this is taken so lightly because the very thing that you are eating is going to be part of your body, it is the most crucial thing in life to worry about eating.
The episode that catalyzed the author’s interest in the subject was her experience with COVID-19. In an interview with the newspaper “El País”, Valeria details her experience being infected with the virus, with mild symptoms but with the loss of smell and taste for weeks. The experience she had while eating made her feel the food like a piece of rag, depriving her of perceiving the pleasure that food brings. She reflected that if one of the symptoms were vision loss, scientists would have been out in droves looking for a cure. The writer and philosophy professor recovered fully but was left chewing on the cultural insignificance that the sense of taste has had in history. How is it that if we are what we eat, we have not created a philosophical field to understand it better?
This sort of inattention in philosophy and science in general has resulted in our having ethical, political and psychological problems with food. We know many practices for obtaining edible raw materials are unsustainable and unethical. Motivated by anger, she worked for three years on her new book. A philosophical approach to food. A philosophical approach to food. Campos argues that humanity still does not know what food is. And that she, along with a small handful of people scattered around the world, is opening a field to try to answer that question.
The book, which Herder publishes, is available for sale on different online platforms such as Busca Libre, Mercado Libre or Ebook and is also distributed at different points of sale, one of the main ones being the GAM bookstore.