"Justin Case" is the pseudonym of my paranoid research assistant who lives thousands of miles away but is still freaked out by this blog. Anyway, Justin is hopping mad about what he considers my sloppy reporting of "the Leon Kass ice cream quote." He thinks the quote needs expansion. Great! More musings about ice cream from the guy who wants to stop cloning. How do I get talked into this stuff anyway?

As I said earlier, it's a real drag when I make a mistake and to have to go through this kind of crap again, but here is the original ice cream quote, which I found on the Internet, and used in what I thought was its entirety:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."

Nothing wrong there; it's just that there's much more in between the little dot dot dots. Here's the whole quote:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many reader, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs. Modern America's rising tide of informality has already washed out many long-standing traditions -- their reasons long before forgotten -- that served well to regulate the boundary between public and private; and in many quarters complete shamelessness is treated as proof of genuine liberation from the allegedly arbitrary constraints of manners. To cite one small example: yawning with uncovered mouth. Not just the uneducated rustic but children of the cultural elite are now regularly seen yawning openly in public (not so much brazenly or forgetfully as indifferently and "naturally"), unaware that it is an embarrassment to human self-command to be caught in the grip of involuntary bodily movements (like sneezing, belching, and hiccuping and even the involuntary bodily display of embarrassment itself, blushing). But eating on the street -- even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat -- displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait. Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one's food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."

Kass, Leon: The Hungry Soul at 148-149. (University of Chicago Press, 1994, 1999)

Are you hungry? Is your stomach growling? I am running late and I have to leave right now!!

Just about ready to start a big road trip.

I'm hungry too!

Forgive me! I have a lot to be ashamed about, and I have barely started. (The irony here is that I am a polite person, and I really don't think I needed Dr. Kass's lecture, which in my view fully justifies Howard Stern antics.)

UPDATE (March 3, 2004): Wow! This post has just been linked by Glenn Reynolds. Many thanks, Glenn, and a warm welcome to all new visitors referred here by InstaPundit!

I must note that I do not deserve the credit for this post, which was largely prompted -- even largely written -- by my dear friend Justin Case. I only hope that you are reading this Justin! Here it is, a full seven months later, and your work has been noticed by the guy you used to call me about and tell me to read when I never imagined that I'd be blogging! It's deeply moving to me, and I just wish there was some way to persuade you to join this blog seriously as a co-contributor (if not co-conspirator!)

Thank you all for coming! There is much more about Leon Kass on the Main page, and another post about Dr. Kass here.

Congratulations, "Justin."

UPDATE: I just learned that Timothy Noah was kind enough to link to this post. My deepest thanks to him, and a big welcome to all visitors from Slate!

For readers who are interested, I have more posts about Dr. Kass here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

UPDATE (3-22-04): I am delighted to see new readers coming once again from InstaPundit and now, from Elizabeth Riba's delicious post on Miss Manners! (If only I had known....)

One last thing. Joan Quigley I am not. But.... any readers with an interest in an offbeat, occultish look at Dr. Kass can read about his planets here. More to come.

Welcome all! And many thanks again, Glenn Reynolds!

MORE: In the interests of continued bad taste, I have posted Part II of my astrological analysis of Leon Kass, which you can read here.

UPDATE (10/21/05): Welcome Cruel readers! More shameless behavior here.

UPDATE (10/22/05): Justin reacts to Dr. Kass's most recent musings on marriage.

And it's all made me wonder. . .

Might it be time to consider the destigmatization of footbinding?

UPDATE (06/21/06): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post again, in a humorous discussion of Christine Rosen.

Welcome all!

For more on Christine Rosen, you might enjoy my recent posts: one yesterday and one today.

posted by Eric on 07.29.03 at 02:18 PM


No!No!No! Kass trembles and shudders as he faces the ever escalating display of brutishness. Declared independence from any code of social constraints and obligations IS the mark of the present barbarian--and he (and, in more than equal supply, SHE) is everywhere.

I confess that Leon is my friend and colleague. We did a radio conversation recently on his new book about the Book of Genesis. It can be heard, after August 9th at: www.wgnradio.com/shows/ex720/index.html.

milt rosenberg   ·  August 6, 2003 12:00 AM

You know, I really should do a better job of policing my comments. The above comment utterly offends my sense of dignity and decorum. It invades my blog's privacy, and is an affront to me, my readers, and all human dignity. The "commenter" has no blog, no real name, and supplies no email address.

I think the federal government should delete it for me, and pass laws preventing these types of comments from ever being left on any blog!

I am getting more and more pissed off the more I think about it!

What is Senator Kerry going to do to help me?

Eric Scheie   ·  March 3, 2004 8:48 PM

is there a typo in that Kass quote? If so, you should fix it.
"It beckons enslavement to the belly."
That doesn't quite make sense; to beckon is to call forth, to summon, etc. What the sense of the sentence demands is something more like "it reveals/demonstrates/manifests enslavement". I'd bet the original said "betokens", which would have the right sense and explain the typo.

It's a hilarious quote, by the way--a perfect reductio ad absurdum of Kass's "wisdom of repugnance".

tad brennan   ·  March 5, 2004 12:07 PM

You are absolutely right. It's betokens.
Sadly, Eric is far to cheap to hand out
Classical Values T-shirts to even his
most ardent fans. All I got was a frickin'
American Pit Bull coffee mug. I oughta quit.

J. Case

J. Case   ·  March 5, 2004 1:54 PM

Justin, I feel betokened by your T-shirt remarks!

I beckon? You betoken?

No fair!

Eric Scheie   ·  March 5, 2004 2:09 PM

As a scientist, I find it immensely disturbing that someone of Dr. Kass' stature would waste gray matter on such drivel, much less publish it! To have him as advisor to the President is even more disturbing.

Gary Goode   ·  March 9, 2004 8:28 AM

Yo, we are animals, no?

And isn't not pointing fingers a form of "human self-command"? Whither your manners, Kassie boy?

Wallpaper Norris   ·  March 9, 2004 3:49 PM

Kass, or crass? Is licking an "ice cream cone" a(Freudian) metaphor?


Harold A. Maio   ·  March 9, 2004 6:34 PM

What's remarkable in the quoted text and in the portion of The Hungry Soul that I've read is Kass's attachment to pretense. You see above that Kass doesn't take any exception to the view that we're in fact animals and he admits that we have numerous involuntary bodily motions. He also makes it plain that he doesn't think human beings have much natural shame about the things of which he wants us to be ashamed: "many long-standing traditions -- their reasons long before forgotten," "complete shamelessness," "indifferently and 'naturally'," "unaware that it is an embarrassment."

I appreciate the need to use the human capacity for shame to control people, so I wonder if Kass can be made to feel any shame at shaming people for something so measly. Is he unaware that it is an embarrassment to the legislator to legislate puny matters to too little effect or is he merely at some pains to hide his blushes?

Doug   ·  March 23, 2004 8:58 AM

Here's a piece of speculative fiction that is on point:


Stephen Gordon   ·  March 23, 2004 10:25 AM

"...more uncivilized forms of eating...that [have] been made acceptable in informal America..."

If Kass sees ice cream cones as an example of a recent decline in public decorum, is he aware that they date back to the late nineteenth century?

Paul Stinchfield   ·  March 23, 2004 1:16 PM

...and so the beauty of the metaphor is wasted on the literal-minded audience.

What's next Eric? A post deriding Plato for insisting that philosophers be chained up in caves?

Barry Jacobs   ·  March 24, 2004 10:17 AM

It wasn't his metaphor that was the problem, it was his myopic view of human dignity and existance that Mr. Kass made clear, *by way of his metaphor*, that was the problem. Any person who thinks licking an ice cream cone or eating out in public is any sort of breach of morality is completely out of touch with reality, and quite possibly needs psychological counseling. But, of course, he's *religiously* out of touch with reality, so that makes it okay, because he loves Jesus. Why does reason almost always lose in the US? Bloody 'ell.

Nicholas Jalowick   ·  March 25, 2004 4:57 PM

"...IS the mark of the present barbarian--and he (and, in more than equal supply, SHE) is everywhere."

I find it interesting that in a discussion about decorum someone would inject a jab at women. MORE than equal supply? Don't you mean simply 'in equal supply'?

Kimberly   ·  May 4, 2004 7:42 AM

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