Kate Manne, an associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University, is tired of dieting, so she tied herself up into rhetorical knots and rationalizations to argue that dieting is “immoral.” She also allowed herself to be published doing so.
How embarrassing. This is one reason why philosophy is a dying field, albeit slowly: how can anyone trust someone who masks pure self-interest in philosophical theory?
I recognize that even if you are a fat person who would be healthier if you lost weight, you don’t owe it to anyone to do so; you don’t owe it to anyone to be healthy in general. And I know how much my internalized fatphobia owes to oppressive patriarchal forces — the forces that tell girls and women in particular to be small, meek, slight, slim and quiet.
Do parents owe it to those who depend on them, like their children, to be as healthy as possible? Why yes, I think that’s a settled proposition. How about those who depend on the voluntarily obese for their jobs? An ethicist wrote we have no obligations to keep ourselves functional and alive?
And what does being “meek and quiet” have to do with the topic at hand? Manne is trying to make a weak argument appear better by pushing feminist buttons. She knows why women want to be attractive, and she should know that male concepts of what is attractive in a mate aren’t going to shift to favoring fat because a philosopher calls a pre-installed biological imperative “oppressive patriarchal forces” so she won’t feel guilty about having another helping of mashed potatoes.
Then she writes,
As someone who recently dieted with some success (“success”), it is obvious to me that I’ve set a bad example for my now 2-year-old daughter — one that will only become more problematic over time, as she becomes more and more aware of what I am or am not eating. I have contributed in a small way to a society that lauds certain bodies and derogates others for more or less arbitrary reasons and ones that lead to a great deal of cruelty and suffering.
Will mom being fat set a better example for her daughter? Next…
I have denied myself pleasure and caused myself the gnawing pain and sapping anxiety of hunger. These are all things we usually think of as straightforward ethical ills. Almost all versions of the family of moral theories known as consequentialism hold that pleasure is morally good and pain and suffering are morally bad. Even if this is not the whole truth of ethics, it is plausibly part of the truth.
Well, consequentialism is crap, an appeal to moral luck that is a habit for dummies, not alleged philosophers. Eating that eclair might be momentarily pleasurable, but when it helps bring about a type two diabetes diagnosis later, its final pleasurable vs painful score isn’t so pleasurable. This philosopher is arguing for hedonism, which was properly discredited as a sound ethical approach to life centuries ago.
The phrase “not the whole truth of ethics [but] plausibly part of the truth” is so desperate, it’s sad. Stop making excuses and accept that you can’t stay thin, and live with the consequences, or go to the gym. Philosophy has nothing to do with it.