Socrates on Cookery and Rhetoric

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie (forthcoming)
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Socrates believes that living well is primarily an intellectual undertaking: we live well if we think correctly. To intellectualists, one might think, the body and activities related to it are of little interest. Yet Socrates has much to say about food, eating, and cookery. This paper examines Socrates’ criticism of ‘feeding on opson’ (opsophagia) in Xenophon’s Memorabilia and of opson cookery (opsopoiia) in Plato’s Gorgias. I argue that if we consider the specific cultural meaning of eating opson, we can see that Socrates takes a nuanced stance on food and cookery: he recommends careful consumption and skillful production, not austerity or abstinence. This nuance in Socrates’ discussion of food changes our interpretation of Socrates’ criticism of rhetoric in the Gorgias: in comparing rhetoricians to opson chefs—not to pastry chefs, as many have assumed—Socrates evokes the dangers of indulging in speeches while acknowledging their necessity for Athenian public life.

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Freya Möbus
Loyola University, Chicago


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