The small difference between philosophy and wine desire

Thinking and drinking have gone together for centuries. In the book Vinosophy philosopher Jaqueline Duurland sheds light on ‘the golden duo of wine and philosophy’. But you don’t think twice about drinking.

Louis Dros

The clipboard and notes folder kept getting thicker and thicker over the years. And then came the corona. Freelancer Jacqueline Duurland was out of work. The wine lover made a virtue out of necessity and wrote a book with the collected data on wine in philosophy: Vinosophy.

Academic philosophers do not like to pour a glass of wine during working hours. Abstract thinking and logical reasoning do not go well with a cloudy head. Still, the combination of wine and philosophy has old papers. It was, writes Haarlem philosopher Jacqueline Duurland (66) in Vinosophy, a ‘golden duo’. Lying down, pouring wine and philosophizing with friends was a favorite pastime in ancient Greece. We thank, among others, Platon’s Symposium on. A lot was taken.

Today, a symposium is a ‘gathering of bright minds’ that keeps things sober – even if scientists can sometimes forget their temper in the evening.

When was the last time you took a large dose?

“It was about two years ago, with friends. I shouldn’t have taken the third triple that was ordered for me. Sometimes I prefer to drink beer in the cafe because the wine can be quite disappointing. That night I was in bed with it one leg on the floor in bed. But I prefer to focus on the centuries-old connection between philosophy and wine.”

Where does your fascination come from?

“It started with a lecture I gave years ago about Dionysus, the god of intoxication from Greek mythology. After that I kept a file of everything I came across about Dionysus aka Bacchus and what philosophers said about wine and thinking. Due to corona, I finally had time to find out.”

Now we drink coffee. Shouldn’t we have brought a glass?

“Not in the morning, I wouldn’t like that, besides I collapse completely. From around five o’clock there is time for that.’

If you lower, it means that it does not promote thinking.

“That is true, but wine diluted with water was also drunk at the classical symposia. Pure wine was for barbarians.”

Still things could get rough, only Socrates couldn’t get drunk. The difference between philosophy and wine taste is small.

“Yes, desire for wine, nice word. It’s not in my book, but I just wanted to call it that. The publisher thought it sounded a little too eager. During symposia, the trick was to keep drinking and think straight. Wine was ritually surrounded and the intoxication brought you closer to the gods. There was no drinking, because the last thing that should happen to a protector of society, wrote Plato, is drunkenness. A drunkard is a slave to his desires.”

Philosophy requires careful consumption of wine, says Duurland. On the cover of his book, culinary journalist Onno Kleyn claims that wine is the ‘oil of philosophers’ on which ‘the brains of thinkers run’.

Does wine really help you think sharper and deeper, does it bring wisdom to light?

“For organized thinking, as rigid and systematic as Immanuel Kant, for example, it is not a good idea to drink. Still, Kant liked a glass of wine, but a high one would not help him. When I studied philosophy myself, I noticed that drinking logical, argumentative thinking was worse for me. But drinking lightly—not tired or drowsy—helps associative thinking. Therefore, wine goes better with associative thinkers, Germans like Peter Sloterdijk, who have a somewhat more speculative philosophy. Wine is less suited to rigid, rational thinkers like Wittgenstein.

“I notice that creative thinking goes better with a glass of wine. The French writer Marguerite Duras was a good example of this, she enjoyed speaking under the influence: ‘The illusion is perfect: what you say has never been said by anyone before’.

So it’s an illusion. A day later, during the difficult awakening, the glasses are quite disappointing.

“Exactly, what you said wasn’t that special, or you don’t understand what you meant yesterday. But you become more resourceful and smoother with a sedative. You can just get nicer, looser and more sensitive – even if it’s risky these days.”

Durland enters Vinosophy the German-Dutch philosopher Helmuth Plessner, who pointed out that we are and have our bodies and that these two qualities do not coincide. “With a glass of wine when you get home from work in the afternoon, you can let the two go together. At home you are most authentic, at least I am. A glass that can be a floating gateway to your true self, if it exists.”

Plessner also says that you can express yourself in the roles you fill in everyday life, regardless of whether you are at the baker’s, are a mother or are sitting on a sick bed. You just have to be able to make such a continuous role change. Does drinking wine help?

“Absolutely. I had an uncle who was very shy and brave. He couldn’t do those roles. But once he had a drink or two he was more daring and he became more socially adept. The problem was that he couldn’t quit and died an alcoholic.”

The love of wine led Jacqueline Duurland to take a wine tasting course. It includes its own language. It is very similar to what she discovered in philosophy. “It also has its own language. With their own definitions of words that we also know in ordinary language, in a different sense. Discussing wine is also such a serious activity, which is also a game, it gives pleasure and it is the art of putting into words what you experience, see, taste and smell. It is, as the philosopher Foucault cleverly put it, a discourse. Philosophers try to express what goes beyond the limits of language. Tasting wine and talking about it is an excellent exercise to become good at your own discourse.”

Already in antiquity, says Duurland, philosophers viewed human ingenuity with suspicion. “As humans, we can do a lot with our technology, but should we do what we can? It is an important ethical question about the power and danger of culture. Aren’t we going too far? Think nuclear weapons. We can make things that are very brilliant and that can destroy everything. The same applies here: everything in moderation.”

According to the philosophy of recent decades, it is doubtful whether culture and nature differ from each other, says Duurland. “As Plessner said, man is artificial by nature. The same is true of wine. To make it, craft and soil, to intervene and wait, in short, nature and culture are intimately intertwined. When you drink such a beautiful glass, you would think: they have achieved a wonderful balance.

“But the wine world is no longer satisfied with the traditional wine, which is now evil wine industry Called. The new fashion, hip and happening, is natural wine from organic grapes, with natural yeast and without artificial clarification. You then get ‘living wine’.

“You can see that living wine as a critique of the makeable society, the wine farmer leaves something to chance. And yes, the quality and taste of the natural wine is always a surprise. But is it nice? When I’ve tasted something delicious, I want to experience the same taste again, whether it’s pastry or wine. I value that security, and natural wine cannot give me that. Such a wine can have a lot of acid and taste very different from the last, and it is also very expensive.”

You don’t like that.

“I’m not a big fan, no. Still, it can be a hopeful development. According to the German thinker Hegel, you can dissolve contradictions in a confrontation of thesis and antithesis. That way you get a better insight. If you call the battered supermarket wine the thesis and the natural wine for the antithesis, then the ideal wine must be created.”

This is the music of the future. Now for the practical: If I want to spend an evening philosophizing, which wine do you recommend?

“Then I would start with a Côtes du Rhône, as accessible as it is popular and for sale at the better wine shops. And then, when the conversation has progressed, a heavier Italian wine, for example a Nebbiolo from Piedmont. Delicious. I am very pleased with myself if I stick to two glasses.”

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