Monday, 26 September 2016

Interdining in America

Daniel Kaufman writes:
Yet this is precisely what the hardest moral dilemmas involve: not figuring out which action will serve a lone already-established value, but which value, among many, should be served.  Is utility most important in this situation?  Respect?  Gratitude?  And it is for this reason that those who are in the grip of a moral theory behave so poorly on so many occasions.  The Utilitarian vegan, who upon finding himself at an ordinary dinner party refuses to eat the food, acts wrongly not just because he fails to recognize any value other than utility, but because that failure cripples his capacity to engage in sound practical reasoning and to decide among competing values: he is unable to properly navigate the moral demands of his situation, for he can’t see that the effects of his actions on the general welfare, under these circumstances, are negligible, the insult to his host and the disregard for his efforts are substantial, and the overall affect that characterizes his behavior is boorish and uncouth and is in fact made worse, not better, by his philosophic rationalizations.
(from ;
Going by Aristotle’s dictum that :
these things are both valuable and pleasant which are such to the good man; and to each man the activity in accordance with his own state is most desirable, and therefore to the good man that which is in accordance with virtue.

Putting the good man in the capacity of host it is apposite to consider whether offering a vegan food which he does not wish to eat is the mark of a good host. Is it not the business of a good host to find out the food preferences of his guests. That is hardly onerous and merely good manners. You do not offer the imam pork chops or a Hindu beef curry. The vegan might also inform the host that they are such - by the way I’m a vegan/vegetarian; Is that a problem?

The other odd food story Kaufman offers is:

Yes, sometimes the right thing to do *is* to suffer something disgusting, out of respect and caring for one’s host. A friend of mine was teaching English in a rural village in China, and he was invited to the home of one of the students for dinner. He was served a plate of Cicadas, of which the hosts were exceedingly proud — and which, apparently, cost a great deal, relative to their income. He said it was absolutely revolting and yet he ate it anyway, precisely because of the circumstances he was in and the people who were hosting him.

Are there any Chinese who don’t know that Westerners don’t eat insects? (and cats and dogs)) I suspect mischief. Was he being a good host in not making inquiries as to what Westerners like?

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