Renaissance Vegetarianism: The Philosophical Afterlives of Porphyry's On Abstinence (Italian Perspectives #46) (Paperback)
Should a philosopher be vegetarian? This question had been famously answered in the affirmative in a classic work on philosophical vegetarianism: On Abstinence from Eating Animals, written by the Neoplatonist Porphyry in the third century AD. This study traces the rekindling of interest in On Abstinence in the Renaissance. It shows that long before the term 'vegetarianism' emerged, philosophers, physicians and religious figures discussed the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a meat-free diet. As On Abstinence circulated, via editions and translations, the key questions posed by Porphyry stimulated new debates: is vegetarianism compatible with religious piety? Does a vegetable diet promote or endanger health and longevity? What can be learnt from observing the diets of other, geographically distant populations, such as the vegetarian Brahmans of India, or the cannibals in America? And finally, is it ethically justifiable to eat beings to which sentience and rationality may be attributed?
Cecilia Muratori is Research Fellow at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, Queen Mary University of London, and Tutor in Philosophy at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge.