Chapter

<i>The Value of Lightness</i>

Simona Giordano

in Understanding Eating Disorders

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780199269747
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603129 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199269742.003.0007

Series: Issues in Biomedical Ethics

 The Value of Lightness

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Lightness and fasting are often associated with positive feelings and with beauty. Arts, music, and literature testify the value that is attached to lightness in Western culture. Lightness and food restriction are also thought to be morally valuable, as an instrument to asceticism and spirituality. This chapter discusses the body-mind split and its repercussions on the value of lightness. It traces the origins of this split in ancient Greece, and looks at how such metaphysics of the human person spreads in the Latin world and in Western religion and philosophy. It shows that food restriction becomes valuable in the light of this metaphysics and of the ethics that follow from it. Food restriction corporealizes self-government, self-discipline, willpower and control, all of which are praised within such an ideology. The body is corrupted and corruptible, and needs to be controlled and transcended. Lightness and slenderness are the emblem of the person’s self-control and discipline. Concomitant denigration of fat reflects the low conception of the body, which is found in all eras in Western culture. Lightness and thinness are normative, moral ideals that reflect the body/mind juxtaposition and the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit or mind.

Keywords: lightness; moral integrity; spirituality; Christian asceticism; food restriction; body/mind split; Kant; mortification of the flesh; hunger

Chapter.  11993 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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