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Coolabah  2011 

Philosophy for the Body, Food for the Mind

Keywords: Ancient Greek Philosophy , Asceticism , Biographies , Diogenes Laertius , Women Saints

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Ancient Greek philosophers stressed the importance of asceticism, in order toincrease wisdom, sometimes reaching the point of starvation. Neglecting one’s ownbody by strict ascetic practices, which included a very poor and limited diet, led to ahigher status at the philosophical level and was a way to ideal perfection. Food or ratherthe refusal of it played a crucial role in their philosophy. Ancient biographers tell usabout this struggle against material needs, whereas at the same time some comic textsbear witness to the contrast with ordinary people’s way of eating.When Christianity took over ancient civilization and became the dominant ideology, theideal of perfection focused on salvation and union with God. In order to attain thisdivine union, which recalled the original perfection before sin, all passions should becontrolled, especially sex and food. Depriving the body from almost any nourishmentwas the safest way to attain a full development of the soul and a perfect knowledge ofGod.In the West, the ideal of perfection has changed throughout history up to the present,from ancient philosophy to spiritual salvation, purity or even aesthetic excellence, all ofwhich are subjective concepts of perfection to be attained by individuals throughdespising material food, sometime to the point of starvation.


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