What Did Philosophers Eat?


what did ancient philosophers
specifically the Stoics actually eat and their daily lives and what was their
attitude towards food so stoicism is an ancient greco-roman philosophy and it’s
famous for its impact on the world its impact on religion and its impact on
modern thinking one of the fundamental teachings of stoicism is to live in
accordance with the nature and basically what that means is to live a life of
virtue virtue being the only good and the opposite of that vice being the only
bad so the four cardinal virtues are wisdom courage justice and temperance
everything else in between this comes in the category of the indifference but
within the indifference that we have the preferred and difference and the dis
preferred indifference part of the preferred indifference is gathering
wealth gathering fame and also improving a health so the reason why health can’t
be virtue in a can’t be good in itself is because it’s always external and it’s
always subject to things which are out of our control so one example of this is
just getting cancer based on your genetic profile that’s something you
can’t control and thus if we put health itself is something which is good we’re
always gonna be disappointed because eventually a circumstance will come and
regards health which is out of our control but what is in our control in
relation to health and food is temperance a discipline a self-control
these are the things which come under the virtue of temperance and moderation
and regardless of what happens to our bodies to our health we always can
improve these character traits and through food this becomes very
synergistic many of the Stokes recognize that food was a great test of discipline
and temperance and basically the reason why it was regarded as such a good test
of this as seen in Buddhism as well is the fact that it’s presented to us every
single day every few hours you’re tested in some way even if it’s a very small
way or it appears to be in your temperance and your self-control and
every few hours you have the opportunity to go in a direction of gluttony and and
intemperance or with self-control and discipline so
Missoni sir Rufus was an ancient Roman stoic philosopher and he actually wrote
a two-pot discourse on the topic of food alone and he was a huge inspiration for
me when I was writing the stoic body soma sonjia’s Rufus said that God who
made man provided him food and drink for the sake of preserving his life and not
forgiving him pleasure one can see very well from this when food is performing
its real function it does not produce pleasure for the man that is the process
of digestion and assimilation because it’s true purpose is the fuel and
energize our body and that happens when food is being digested and when it’s
being digested you don’t know the difference of what tastes good or bad
it’s about the nutrients in the food and all that matters and then that instance
after the pleasure is gone is the effects of the food are you eating
refined carbohydrates like Oreos or are you eating sugar from fruit which isn’t
gonna have a very negative effect because the fiber in the fruit naturally
occurring there subtracts from the glycomics Pyke Missoni specifically
warns against foods which are important from distant lands and he noted that
people who ate normal inexpensive foods from their own region a healthier and
stronger than those who craved the exotic and fancy foods which aren’t part
of the standard Mediterranean there so the modern Mediterranean diet which is
symbolic of good health and longevity as we see with the Sardinian people for
example in Italy it’s an island with about 1.7 million people and people
they’ll live to over a hundred forty out of a hundred thousand people live to be
Centurions actually so the Mediterranean diet basically consists of mostly
plant-based choices so fruits and vegetables motor amounts of dairy eggs
as well and minimal amounts of meats and sweets a bit of red wine as well in
moderation and also some bread and it’s arguable whether the glue
Wieters good or bad for you in the bread but regardless the Mediterranean diet
for years has been symbolic of good health both in ancient times and in
modern times so the ancients would have eaten a similar diet to this Epictetus
was a Greek stoic philosopher famous for his drill-sergeant style way of teaching
philosophy and his mon work is actually quite an easy read so I recommend that
anyway Epictetus would have his students test their discipline through the
consumption of food so some Stoics were in fact vegetarian Seneca for example
one of the most famous Romans Stokes was vegetarian for about a year’s time
according to the sources that we have but he stopped that way of eating based
on a warning from his father which warned him about the social implications
of being an eccentric because it wasn’t the norm to be a vegetarian in ancient
Rome Sonya some you know who was a vegetarian
actually regarded meat-eaters as not only less civilized but slower and
intellect and actually I’m not a vegetarian myself but if you look at the
statistics vegans and vegetarians tend to be more intelligent in terms of IQ
but again we can’t correlate this to the food decisions we’re making I think it’s
it’s much more clear that just comes down to the fact that those who have the
intellectual capacity to reason morals and ethics you know and take care
of the health are generally going to be more intelligent so the basic idea with
vegetarianism in modern stoicism is that you don’t have to be one to consider
yourself an ethical person in stoicism because stoicism itself isn’t a
deontology at the ontology meaning a set of rules which dictate what is morally
good or bad right so this does not apply because Stoics you know embrace the fact
that we have differing opinions each and we can each make up our own mind an
example of the deontology in regards to food would be Islam which prohibits
consuming pork for specific ideological reasons and neither does it in Buddhism
just as another example although Buddhism itself is a very
a general term and it’s a huge philosophy so that’s religion whatever
you want to call it dispersed over a massive geographical area but it’s the
same some Buddhists a vegetarian and some meat meat frequently so basically I
guess the argument for reducing meat consumption and I do think that we
should reduce it and not increase it because there’s no point one for our
health overconsumption is going to be bad and also for the environment we know
that environmental degradation is very closely correlated to meat production so
the idea is that reducing meat consumption isn’t for animals welfare
basically it’s for Humanity so the ancients Stokes our most noteworthy
Crispus they didn’t consider animals as rational animals and so that gave them
reason to be able to kill and consume them now I understand this isn’t a
sophisticated argument by today’s standards but this is how they perceived
this idea so Seneca was a stoic Roman philosopher and he would say that set
aside a certain number of days during which you shall be content with the
sandiest and cheapest fare with coarse and rough dress saying to yourself for
the while is this the condition I feared so if you’ve been living under a rock
intamin fasting has become a very popular way of losing weight improving
your health and perhaps even improving your longevity and basically it does
this by in terms of physiology reducing your insulin levels increasing your
insulin sensitivity decreasing inflammation in the body and overall
setting up the body physiologically and psychologically to be more temperate
lose weight and it really has risen as an effective way to change your life
essentially through just the timing of your meals now clearly the food you’re
putting into your body is more important but it seems that until now we really
underestimated what scheduling your meals can actually do for your body both
physically and also in terms of your psychology but fasting is an ancient
practice it’s been around for thousands of years the Christians for example with
fuss in order to pull themselves closer to God
now stoves doesn’t really have a God although it’s
arguable that Zeus is the God but many soaps or pantheist meaning they believe
that the entire universe is God but this is a complicated conversation the point
is that there isn’t like a God we look up to and so God is more about
rationality and virtue and so I believe in the context of stoicism fasting pulls
yourself closer to this God or rationality why because temperance is of
virtue and fasting takes a lot of temperance moderation self-control and
discipline and so fasting when the intentions of not self deprivation but
self-control brings you closer to this rationality so in regards to the quote
by Seneca you can consider doing like a three day fast make sure that you’re in
good health prior to but if you want to try it out spend two three days
completely fasted and this is actually good for your immune system and it
resets some of your immune cells based on some new research um but this isn’t
the point for the Stoics the point is to fast in order to improve your gratitude
for what you currently have and also for the fact that as shown in the quote you
ask yourself at the end of this at the end of rehearsing poverty essentially
with food or the clothes you’re wearing is this what I truly feared as Socrates
said we should eat to live not live to eat and it’s the fundamental idea which
should carry with us through every single dietary decision we make remember
stoicism has never done as a philosophy we only have about 1% of the fragments
left from the ancient world and so it’s up to us to cultivate and new modern
stoicism moving forward create ideas go over ideas recreate ideas because it’s
ever-changing and it wasn’t intended to be done and set in stone and I think as
you can tell clearly is that through food I think we can do so much combining
it with philosophy and that’s really where the inspiration for the soak body
comes from because we have a problem right now as a society we’re really
really obese and we’re a need yes for scientific research into obesity but
what we’re in more need is understanding our own relationship
with temperance and our self-control and our discipline which stoicism I think
plays a huge part and if you allow it to so thanks so much for watching make sure
to subscribe and click the little Bell button just so you get notified when I
make a new video but that’s it for me today
I’ll catch you guys later

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Reader Comments

  1. Gary Sutherland

    Nice video and well put. I like that you call Buddhism a philosophy which it is. It's not a religion and god knows (pardon the pun) why people insist on calling it a religion? It's annoying when they do that? But just a little bit as I'm zenned to the max. 😉

  2. gdwots

    I like how stoicism, and probably other virtue ethics, are amenable to change, and aren't directly and globally prescriptive in the ways that other ethics can be. I think that the early stoics were in error when arguing how only humans have inherent moral value and how nonhumans exist to be used by us. I think the "new" stoicism that you talk about us creating ought to give a privileged status to, not only intellect/logos in us, but also sentience in all animals. After all, newborns don't have the logos in any meaningful sense, but should we not be kind to them and seek justice in matters concerning them? So too with nonhumans

  3. Simon Banks

    Why was Masonius rufus talking about 'god who made man' when the culture revolved around the Roman gods? Sorry, random question!

    EDIT: Ah it probably meant Zeus

  4. Димитър Стоянов

    How exactly this become a vegetarian propaganda video, ha, ha! In the Eastern Orthodox tradition there are 4 yearly fasts and also other fasting days, totaling to 180 per annum on average. Orthodox fast diet is very similar to what today is called "vegan". Seneca would be proud I think. Exactly half of the days every ear spent in moderation, isn't that what you would call "The Golden Mean"?

  5. Kent VanderVelden

    The graph at 7:13 might not look too different, but using 'per 1k calories' or some other measure of food utility might be better than using '1/2 pound of this food.'

  6. MyOther Soul

    The stoics are interesting and there might be something to learn from their teaching but "food wasn't meant for pleasure" is not one of them. If you value rationality then be rational from the start. Food wasn't meant to be and neither was pleasure. Life started and evolved, organisms that survived ate those that didn't eat didn't survive.

    We experience some food as pleasurable because of the way we evolved. To avoid food because they cause pleasure or eat food simply because it is bland is silly. You're more likely be happy if you're healthy so to be happy eat a good diet. The "mediterranean diet" is a good one, it's healthy and it's yummy.

    Temperance isn't a virtue, it's rigid and dogmatic.

  7. Cody Allison

    Dang I can get behind you man! I like what your saying. I'm trusting you though because you said some things about fasting without siting your sources. lol jk I believe you

  8. honifit

    Self control/mindfulness is something I always try to use especially with regard to eating and drinking.  Unfortunately most people judge harshly folks who are into practicing this and that's maybe due to media and post modernism and probably a little bit of jealousy that they cannot themselves have the motivation to follow it though.

  9. Vote With Bullets

    Cute.  But stoicism is just another religion.  It was designed by devout theists and applied for the purposes of attaining DIVINE wisdom.

  10. Marco Fortini

    I enjoyed your video, thanks!

    Can you please share the statistics about vegetarians having higher IQs than non vegetarians?

    What would it mean to one individual? Eating vegetables alone makes you smarter, or one is smart already when decides to become vegetarian?

  11. PartiZAn18

    Ave my Kiwi brethren. My quick two cents: I bought Meditations and Letters from a Stoic 2 years ago and I read paragraphs of both of them sporadically up to now. During that time I was also boozing every night – drink to get drunk levels and forget one's problems… Anyway, as a result of things that are currently affecting my family I have spent more time at home (having rarely visited my parents over the past 8 years)..

    It's been a week now and I haven't had any booze, nor have I had a smoke. I read a few paragraphs of Meditations every morning and again in the evening after I have done my introspection for the day.

    I have quit my incessant addiction to social media, and my days are productive from sunrise to sunset. In the evenings I got for 5km walks (roughly) and I feel at one with the earth.

    I don't miss the booze, nor the cigarettes. I am also easing into "nofap" as I have read the benefits are extraordinary (and it's also an immense test of temperance). Funnily enough, I've been doing IF for as long as I can remember – I always only eat 1 meal and that is between 5-6pm

    Regards from your Saffa mate 🙂

  12. Ignacio Freiberg

    "Medicine once consisted of the knowledge of a few simples, to stop the flow of blood, or to heal wounds; then by degrees it reached its present stage of complicated variety. No wonder that in early days medicine had less to do! Men's bodies were still sound and strong; their food was light and not spoiled by art and luxury, whereas when they began to seek dishes not for the sake of removing, but of rousing, the appetite, and devised countless sauces to whet their gluttony, – then what before was nourishment to a hungry man became a burden to the full stomach."

    Moral letters to Lucilius, by Seneca. Letter 95, 15-18.

  13. Patrick Cawley

    I don't believe we are ever meant to deliberately fast unless there really is no food around. However, eating sparingly throughout the day is good philosophical practice and gives us opportunities to practice self-control and to learn more about the physiology of our bodies. This isn't easy to do for some of us, at least not initially but when developed we can rightly feel a sense of accomplishment. Of course, deliberately starving (fasting for long periods) is a personal choice, I just don't think it achieves anything other than weight loss.

  14. TheOpportuneNoodle

    You don't need deontology or objective morality to understand veganism. Just logical consistency and the belief in human moral value. Also, the knowledge that humans do not require animal products to survive or be healthy and that we are facultative omnivores solidifies the position.

    Interesting study about higher IQ in childhood correlated with higher likelihood of vegetarianism in adulthood. This makes sense since those with lower IQ do not (possibly cannot) care for or understand logic and would probably not think about food in any philosophical context.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueqDkY3aNAY&t=278s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8&t=297s (3:13)
    https://youtu.be/qOgYX6Jqhl8
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1790759/

  15. Robert Martin

    Perhapys you've discussed this before at some point, but I think we aren't going to see Stoicism really come alive again until we see people writing books like the Enchiridion, Meditations, and teaching/lecturing. I seem to remember reading a while ago about someone who started up an Epicurean school based out of a bookshop. Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to do something similar for Stoicism, yet much/everything is still coming out of academia. Don't get me wrong, I like Massimo Piggliucci and other professors who have been writing on the subject lately, but we need more people creating new material and new books.

  16. Alecz Valchaine

    Isn't it an overstatement to say that we don't derive pleasure from food after we start digesting it? We may not be tasting it, but we are still feeling effects caused by it. Some cases, like chocolate, provide fairly high levels of mood enhancement. Many times, our taste for a thing is related to the effects it has on our chemistry.

  17. Thor Manfield

    The food we eat should not enslave us. We should only eat whats only necessary to survive. Alcohol, sugars, fatty foods all have chemical components that make us crave and become addicted. We become slaves to this food and our tranquility is disturbed when we we dont get more of it. Do not be a slave to food.

  18. Sam Clayton

    Whether or not you get cancer is actually 110% within your control.

    If you eat animal products you will likely get cancer someday.

    If you are vegan your chances are very slim.

    If you are RAW it is completely impossible to get cancer. As cancer is just acidosis.

  19. Marie Fernande Augustin

    The ‘ethical’ dilemma I see Vegans arguing about is rooted in capitalism. All of the ecological damage noted is a result of capitalism, not omnivorous diets. Omnivorous diets have been around for how long? They haven’t wrecked any damage on the ecology in 50,000 years. But here comes capitalism, and viola…whatever is clever to make a profit is pushed. Its the price we pay for the good; less people dying of malnutrition and diseases that science and technology ( motivated by honor’s modern currency : money) have solved. It’s easy to say omnivores are immoral when you aren’t actually the one doing the organic farming. Here is the great dilemma : veganism isn’t even possible without the global food supply chain that capitalism has brought us. How are you getting bananas in Norway? Will you pay the true cost for it and chia seeds and avocados if it’s all organic and fairly traded? I’m tired of this vegan lala land where everyone can afford to feed a family of four from Whole Foods. Eating animals is simply not immoral unless of course you’d be okay having never evolved past whatever we were before Lucy. Our ancestors needed to eat animals to survive. So it cannot be immoral, otherwise we wouldn’t be here as a species. And there is no thriving on a vegan diet without paying migrant farmers meager wages through the capitalist global supply chain to bring you all the exotic foods you take for granted. The most moral and sensible way to eat is to eat what is local to you, as our ancestors did. Doing so will make veganism impossible for 99.9 percent of humanity, as it has always been. It’s so silly to argue with vegans/vegetarians when less than 20 percent of them maintain their moral diets beyond 5 years. To eat mostly plants is sensible. To eat only plants, is science fiction come true; a true modern technological luxury…not a moral dilemma.

  20. Vinny Modica

    stoics ate Pulse, not meat. Pulse is a blend of sprouted nuts/seeds/grains and dried fruits. They ate pulse, drank water, and fasted. Research Don and Tyler Tolman

  21. rahvavaenlane

    well, temperance.. our psychology is such that when we give we expect to get back. with moderation, self-restraint etc we feel as if we're giving, so automatically we expect to get something back. like health, longevity, luck, respect. if those won't follow we get angry, aggressive, then bitter. on the other hand, hedonism tells us to indulge in our desires, to satisfiy them all. which can become a burden, unattainable goal. while also destroying our body. between those IMHO is "epicureanism". indulge, but in moderation, seek satisfaction, but in a controlled, conscious way.

  22. Sam Ov The Wirral

    Soooo…. the food doesn’t actually matter at all, all you are suggesting that the growth comes from the discipline of sticking to personal choice.
    If everyone was vegetarian then we’d pollute the Earth by moving millions of tons of veg around, rather than meat.
    This is a confused video. Stoicism is stoicism, diet is diet.

  23. William Straehl

    Another great video Philip! Seems to meld with a strain of thought I've had lately, about how we are wasting way too much of OUR lives, getting involved in how others are living their lives. The explosion in technology and social media has obviously fueled this, but it has been gaining momentum for awhile. I'm old enough to remember the first days of TV, so I've seen the tremendous and rapid changes and evolution of communication and the access to information. As with all things, there is some good and some not so good to it. Seems for me to be a very good way to define how I try to live my life. Thanks!

  24. SunUp08

    What an amazing channel.. Really stoked to have found it! I've always been interested in stoicism and nutrition, never thought I'd found both put together…. and fasting!! Great job.

  25. Denny

    I practice stoicism since I was kid. I am a Buddhist anyway. It's equaniminity.

    I eat foods without additional condiments like sauce, salt, and so on. I prefer to eat foods as natural as they are. Maybe light stir with some oil.

    Now I suffer resting bitch face.

  26. Karim Mohamed

    Hey man, I love what you’re doing. You inspired me to do my own videos. It would mean the world 🌎 if you checked out my channel. It’s all self Motivation

  27. Panzerbro Hart

    Cancer or any health problem is preventive and curable. It all depends on eating healthy (especially foods that is directly provided to us from the creator), excercising and meditating, . Although some health problems are genetic, it is absolutely in our control to prevent cure it.
    Our health is indeed in our control! Dont believe what many docters say, remember they make money from your poor health after all.

  28. Carlos Cabanillas

    To further support your comments regarding fasting, I recommend to watch the documentary titled "The Science of Fasting." The documentary's synopsis states:

    "Young biologists from the University of Southern California have overturned conventional wisdom and used molecular biology to demonstrate the powerful effects of fasting. This research suggests a wide-ranging potential, which could include treatments for the disease of the century, cancer."

  29. Daily Jedi

    I wonder of the Stoic attitude to alcohol and drinking? I believe Seneca enjoyed wine!
    "“At times we ought to drink even to intoxication, not so as to drown, but merely to dip ourselves in wine, for wine washes away troubles and dislodges them from the depths of the mind and acts as a remedy to sorrow as it does to some diseases. The inventor of wine is called Liber, not from the license which he gives to our tongues but because he liberates the mind from the bondage of cares and emancipates it, animates it and renders it more daring in all that it attempts.”
    Thankfully the Stoic virtue of temperance has kept me sober a few years now.

  30. Crash Bandicoot

    “Just as one should choose inexpensive food over expensive food, and food that is easy to obtain over food that is hard to obtain, one should choose food suitable for a human being over food that isn’t. And what is suitable for us is food from things which the earth produces: the various grains and other plants can nourish a human being quite well. Also nourishing is food from domestic animals which we don’t slaughter.” (Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 18a)

  31. Rafik Chbaklo

    nice share, you should make a video about the lifestyle of prophets & alchemists, one meal per day approach is for prophets, 2 meals per day is for the righteous, 3 meals per day, build them a trough. they used to attain this lifestyle along with intermittent fasting approach along with prolonged fasting as you shared. thank you.

  32. jackgoldman1

    I learned to fast during cancer surgeries, having a resected intestine. I later went on to fast, my longest fast being 28 days. I always have juice, broth, tic tacs, hard candies, all types of liquids, including milk if needed. The weight loss averages about one pound day but the real joy is the transcendent feeling of being closer to, or being a God. This self control is empowering. Never do a water fast. Juice is needed as well as milk to kill hunger.

  33. lkajsdf l;kasjdf

    The average tongue is 4 inches. The average digestive system is like 30 feet long. Which one do you think should guide you. Also people do need meat but look up how much. It might surprise you.

  34. magnificent reg

    thanks man! obvious you put time from your life into this. not many your age on that level. i am "sort of" discovering stoicism/mgtow ways of life late yet i "felt" the existence of many, many years ago. none the less i am soo happy to be here at this time and point knowing there are those such as yourself not addicted to addictions detrimental. yes, moderation in ALL things is the key. i feel lucky i took such good care most my life as i now have time and energy to grow more. again, much thanks to you.

  35. Staring at the Black Sun Trying to SEE THE LIGHT

    I'm not going to watch this video. Simple reason … this is asking g the wrong question. The correct question? Oh, easy.
    Why did philosophers eat?
    Isn't that the question we all need answered? Yes. Yes it is.

  36. CrooK

    ..also most stoic were frauds, ironically enough not following the teachings, most likely like every other millennial who calls themselves one.

  37. Alcy Filho

    Started my journey towards self discipline and temperance by turning vegan. As vegan and “attempting to be” stoic, loved this video. You got yourself a subscriber.

  38. RC Viloria

    I do this everyday, 7:37 Eat less sometimes 1-2 times a day, Wore the same clothes for months but maintain its cleanliness (I like to think but we all know it is dirty.) Buy expiring food (cheaper and reduced), do not take showers for weeks or even months. (save water but cleans hands and privates.) I live on a basement where its all quiet and I am normally alone, always close the lights in all room and live in darkness. Im just contented at being alive and studying at university. What 'mad' things would you recommend me adding to this lifestyle? and do you think doing this is a good thing?

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