Speaking of cannibalism, I came across this fascinating interview of Romanian philosopher Cătălin Avramescu about morality and cannibalism:

Until recently, moralists did not exactly have a craving for vegetarianism. Avoiding meat was mainly a religious imperative and even that was interpreted creatively. Medieval Eastern Orthodox monks, for instance, declared the European beaver, now almost extinct, to be a sort of furry fish, since it was an aquatic creature. That definition made it acceptable for a diet that forbade the consumption of red meat during specific periods.

What was significant for the moralist was not always what you eat, but how. In other words, what was at stake in early modern ethical discourse was not primarily the substance of the food, but the manners of the table. In the seventeenth century, for instance, refined cuisine was not for the faint-hearted. How animals were raised, sacrificed, cooked, and consumed reveals a brutal side of the early modern heart. I suspect things have not changed much to this day; back then, however, this brutality was more open for anyone to see. In an age of increasing refinement, this paradox troubled a few minds. They wept and yet they ate the objects of their compassion.

Moralists, then, focused on the manners of the table as a manifestation of the moral order (or disorder) of a society. That was the “larger debate” you mentioned. The question, then, for the early modern philosopher, is: where do you start deriving a moral science from? Here is where cannibalism comes into play, as a result of the shock it inflicts upon the modern moralist. It raises in him an elementary passion, and forces him to think about the human being in very exceptional circumstances and in an extreme state of derangement.

Speaking not as a vegetarian but as an observer, I don’t find cannibalism odd. And I certainly am hesitant to judge it as a concept. I would have a problem if someone killed me to eat me, but as long as I live in a society where no one is allowed to infringe on another human’s life, I’ll be fine. Beyond the realms of such societies, cannibalism ought to be okay.

At one level, cannibalism is no different than eating any other meat. By that, I don’t mean meat-eating is equivalent to cannibalism. I mean cannibalism is a form of meat-eating. To some, it may seem gross. Just like eating meat is gross to some. Just like any animal product is gross to some. Just like killing and eating plants is gross to some (surely there is someone who feels so).

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Necro-cannibalism on the other hand, practiced by tribes such as the aghoris, shouldn’t even be up for debate. I can’t think of any reason why anyone would have a problem with it.

Link via Raghu.

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