Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Drink Therefore I Am

Ladies, last night we were lucky enough to spend some time with the venerable Anthony Gottlieb, former Executive Editor of the Economist, historian of ideas, author of the famed "Dream of Reason", party host, steak tartare evangelist and dandy about town.

Anthony has just finished a review in Intelligent Life of philospher Roger Scruton's new book, I Drink Therefore I Am, A Philosopher's Guide to Wine (Continuum, 2009).

The book is a spirited romp through history's wine swilling hillsides, and makes a strong case for the serious importance of wine drinking for our intellectual development.

A handy appendix indicates which wines should be paired with specific philosphers. The list, to quote Anthony,
is probably destined for a wide circulation in college bars, at least at Oxford and Cambridge. Some of the tips are philosophical in-jokes (drink tar-water when reading Bishop Berkeley, who eccentrically advocated it as a cure-all) and some are agreeably weak (Heidegger, who wrote copiously about “nothing”, should be toasted with an empty glass). Sartre should be read with a 1964 Burgundy, since that was the year of publication of "Les mots", which Scruton judges to be his best book. Because Scruton regards Sartre as, on balance, a bad man, he is relieved to report that it will probably be impossible to find a 1964 Burgundy.

Descartes, though deserving of recognition, is “the most over-rated philosopher in history”, according to Scruton, and he recommends “a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from old vines, with the smooth velvet finish and liquorice and thyme aromas of the Provencal hillsides. Such a wine will compensate for the thinness of the 'Meditations' and give you rather more to talk about.” Other recommendations are convoluted rather than cheeky, as in the case of Plato: “The sugar in a refined Vouvray is fully integrated into the structure, like the ornaments into a classical façade. Its fluted mineral columns, with their flower-filled capitals, call out for a firm base of argument, of the kind that Plato hoped always to provide.” For Leibniz, we are to try a Crianza or Reserva Rioja, though I would like to know why, and—most bafflingly of all—while
Aristotle’s drier works should be accompanied by plain water, the "Prior Analytics" (his treatise on the syllogism) needs to be preceded by a ginger biscuit."

Anthony also pointed us in the direction of Monty Python's Philosopher's Song, performed live at the Hollywood Bowl:

To recap,

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya'
Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrated, himself, was permanently pissed...

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart:
"I drink, therefore I am"
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed!

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