The Indignity of Ice Cream Cones

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Those of us who have followed the thinking and career of Leon Kass, the former head of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, are puzzled that Kass' well-known distaste for eating ice cream cones in public has once again surfaced in the media.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/172/469706915_1eabba18da.jpg?v=0

I suspect that Kass' strong views on consuming ice cream have returned to the public discourse because they are cited in a fascinating New Republic article on human dignity by Harvard linguist Steven Pinker (more on that in another blog post). For an hilarious take on it, click onto NPR's humorous quiz show "Wait, Wait" this weekend (Panel #2) quoting Kass' 1994 book, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature. In that book, Kass declares:

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 readers, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs.

In the meantime, Kass does have defenders. In any case, it's something to think about as you enjoy your Memorial Day ice creams, sherbets, and gelatos.

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  1. It was strange to see this show up at reason as the first post since the Libertarian nominee was chosen. Bob Barr does seem like the kind of guy who would be unwilling to eat ice cream in public, though, so I can sort of see it.

  2. Next to a bioethicist, even a transhumanist at an LP convention looks perfectly normal.

  3. I would eat ice cream right in front of Mr. Kass, purely out of delicious spite, but then I would probably be arrested by the secret service. Oh, and the letter to cancel my voter registration is in the mailbox. Fuck you Bob Barr, and fuck you LP- ya’ bunch of no good Republican wannabes.

  4. fuck you LP- ya’ bunch of no good Republican wannabes.

    Ha! I despise the GOP Christo-Fascists as much as anyone but will be donating to Barr later. If McCain keeps denouncing the mullah’s of the GOP like Parsley and Hagee this war might come to an end after all.

    I remember a tribe where eating was done in private and fornicating was permitted out in the open. Maybe Kass is just another “moral absolutist” and ice cream licking is in Leviticus somewhere.

  5. Eating in public is anti-semitic, according to the link.

    Wooooooooooooooooooo!!! Bob Barr is the LP nominee! Fitting that the Party of a Radical Right Wing ideology choses a former right wing Republican. I’m proud to support radical right wing libertarian’s for President.

  6. I remember a tribe where eating was done in private and fornicating was permitted out in the open.

    That picture appears to be more about f*cking than ice cream.

  7. Cats are libertarians.

  8. Compared to my neighbors, who right have a band blasting away on the tennis court that rattles my windows a quarter mile away, eating ice cream in public seems largely inoffensive.

  9. I eagerly await the time when Kass decides that breathing in public is unacceptable.

  10. So when will Kass come down on wienie roasts, toaster marshmallows and, of course, public consumption of fried chicken? And that bacchanalia of depravity, the Fourth of July Picnic?

  11. I did a study a few years back on how madness was defined in late Antiquity (looking particularly at early Christian writers). While most of what I found showed that madness was a political/ideological construct (no suprise for readers of Szasz), one quote has always stuck with me. One of the early church fathers was going at someone else full bore and in the list of things that this person did that *proved* he was mad was “eating while standing on the street”. I don’t know Kass, but does this prove that he’s a paleo-Christian?

  12. Ice cream in plain brown wrappers, delivered right to your mail box, along with your copy of Reason.

  13. Is the cone’s placement–weirdly in front of the “ban” symbol–itself symbolic?

  14. Just wait until hes condemns banana eating and then out the prig.

  15. TWC,

    Are you offended because of the noise or the lack of respect your miscreant neighbors have for the Roland Garros?

  16. Was Ron’s mention of Memorial Day the first one by the staff this weekend? Perhaps the higher-ups have an aversion to “Northern” holidays?

    Happy Memorial Day! Thank you, our fallen Veterans for your service to our country!

  17. shrike,

    If McCain keeps denouncing the mullah’s of the GOP like Parsley and Hagee this war might come to an end after all.

    Listening to a whole lotta Mahler is good, but I don’t think the Master intended any of his (few) pastoral hankerings for the real world.

  18. Eating in public is anti-semitic, according to the link.

    Huh? What about the manna in the desert? What about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes?

    What were people supposed to do when they were traveling in a caravan? Wait until they made camp and go hide in a tent?

  19. Hey Guy, I’m not sure whether we should be “happy” about Memorial Day, and I also find your Reason-is-averse-to-Northern-holidays insinuation somewhat dubious, but yeah, much kudos to our veterans. They damn well deserve it.

    Speaking of veterans, George Will has a thoughtful column on a singular one here.

  20. Eating in public is anti-semitic

    Don’t forget Mr. and Mrs. Cohn and their daughter Ice-Cream.

  21. Anyway, Kass should have been in this episode of Enterprise where they inadvertently piss off an alien race that believes as he does.

  22. Here is a better article on the Kreetassans, which is an anagram for KASS EATS REN.

  23. I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many readers, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs.

    Eating in the street is for dogs. With relish and mustard. Chili optional.

    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.

    Eating in public is offensive? When even the Victorians threw picnics?

    In the dog days of summer, one often desires a happy excursion to whittle away the hours with family and friends. What better way to do so than to arrange a Victorian summer picnic? Eating al fresco has been popular throughout history. The word “picnic” first appeared around 1740 and was derived from two French words: “piquer” which meant “to pick at food” and “nique,” meaning “something small of no value.” But they were even popular before Georgian era. During the Medieval era, picnics were included as an important part of hunting parties. They featured rich foods such as cooked hams, roasted meat, poultry, pies and tarts.

    Picnics became most popular during the Queen Victoria’s reign in England. Victorians delighted in picnicking and made it quite fashionable. Picnics were held at families’ homes or other scenic locations. Although servants often attended wealthy families on picnics, they were casual gatherings, and only a few servants were required to be present.

    What a dork.

  24. As I read this entry, and was reminded of the Pinker piece it mentions and which I recommended on my own blog, I wondered how Kass might defend his moral aversion to eating in public. I am not sufficiently motivated to actually seek out whatever justification he might offer, but I guess that it’s based on Christian dualism: soul good, body bad.

  25. a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

    If it doesn’t offend people it’s not offensive, by definition. Or am I missing a nuance here?

  26. I could see this a lot more in a society where food was scarce; it’s rude to eat in others’ view when they’re hungry and can’t get some for themselves. In modern America, though, this isn’t as much of a problem.

  27. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he put six scoops or only five on that cone?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is Carmel, the most artsy-fartsy community in California and I got elected mayor here just so I could eat ice cream in public despite punks like you, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, Kass?

  28. Truly, Leon Kass, it IS a catlike activity! Mwrowr! It’s SAFE to be a FURRY now! It’s SAFE to be a FURRY now that people eat ICE CREAM in PUBLIC!!!!!!

  29. If it doesn’t offend people it’s not offensive, by definition. Or am I missing a nuance here?

    The all-important “Leon Kass is the center of the universe” nuance, yes. He does not like to watch people eat ice cream; therefore, nobody should do it.

  30. I’m extremely offended by Kass’ offense at my eating ice cream in public.

    As for furries, I guess nobody listened to the warnings back in the 1920s when fuzzy slippers first became available, and now look where we are.

    -jcr

  31. Oh, and for the record: I hate cats as much as the next guy. They are allergenic vermin.

    -jcr

  32. I wonder what he thinks of watermelon.

  33. Actually, does he mean licking an ice cream cone itself, or licking the ice cream on top of the cone? Cause I’d agree that you’re seriously disturbed if you’re licking the cone itself. Though I’ve never seen a cat do either.

  34. I wonder if Kass was raised as a religious Jew. Isn’t this thing about animal eating in public some kind of Talmudic reference?

  35. Ron, that’s a horrible 3d graphic. If you ever need something like that again. Please send me an email.

  36. I get my own ice cream in a cup or bowl and use a spoon, but I’m not offended by anyone else eating ice cream on a cone.

  37. Eating in public? This dude walking down the street offends me. Get him off my planet.

  38. I remember being in Japan about 15 years ago. A woman I was walking down the street with was put off by my eating an apple as we walked. Then again, it was just fine to slurp your noodles as loudly as humanly or caninely possible. I wonder if things have changed.

    I also spent some time in China. If Kass knew how they ate, he’d have conclude they were a feline species.

  39. Human beings have shit in public for most of the species’ existence. We really need to get passed our namby-pamby pastel modernism.

  40. A lot of intelligent people have obsessive-compulsive disorder or suffer from low-grade solipsism. :::cough:::Leon Kass…

  41. Back in the day, in the UC at UTK, there was this very attractive young lady who turned ice cream cone consumption into a work of art rivled only by that bannana scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    She was awsome with popsicles too.

  42. They came first for the public ice cream eaters, and I didn’t speak up because I was lactose intolerant…

    It is a slippery slope and a Rocky Road.

  43. “I am not sufficiently motivated to actually seek out whatever justification he might offer, but I guess that it’s based on Christian dualism: soul good, body bad.”

    That’s an interesting theory, but:

    (a) Kass is Jewish, and

    (b) Traditional Christianity doesn’t teach mind/body dualism.

    “341 *The beauty of the universe*: The order and harmony of the created world results from the diversity of beings and from the relationships which exist among them. Man discovers them progressively as the laws of nature. They call forth the admiration of scholars. The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.”

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, Loyola University Press, 1994

  44. “1015 ‘The flesh is the hinge of salvation’ . . . We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.”

  45. Mad Max,

    That may be true – I am less familiar with it. However, most Christian philosophers have tended to dualistic arguments when talking about God or salvation, even if written doctrine doesn’t agree precisely. I imagine Kass is probably more deeply influenced by the philosophical arguments than the more purely religious ones, as a “bioethicist”.

  46. Is ice cream kosher?

  47. Condescendingly licks chocolate ice cream cone in front of Mr. Kass

  48. J,

    No, they haven’t, at least the mainstream theologians haven’t — the Gnostics and such are another matter. You’re talking about the modernist caricature of Christianity, not the real thing. “Soul good, body bad” kind of conflicts with the idea of the resurrection of the body, collecting body parts of saints, not to mention the very fact that due to the Incarnation, God himself has a body.

  49. LI wonder if this guy also finds the cat-like activity of cunninglingus offensive.

  50. This is hardly unprecedented.

    I always thought that “the tongue” was a metaphor for speech, especially spiteful or devious speech, but maybe not.

  51. So, we finally found Bushes most intelegent appiontee

  52. Leave it up the Aztlan dupes at Reason to avoid talking about the dangers of icecreamcones sold from unsanitary trucks owned by IllegalImmigrants.

    Uh, oh, I just made in my pants again.

  53. So many worthy contestants. Our three finalists are…

    Lick n’ Learn @721
    Pangolin @908
    cranberry cynic @758

    Vote now!

  54. Urrrrr. I am offended that the Kass-primate thinks that catlike activities are innately offensive. I hereby challenge the get of a sthondat to a duel. I shall tear the Kass-creature to gibbets, then eat the gibbets. Urrrr-urrrrr.

  55. i have the feeling mr. klass sees all ice cream eaters as this:

    http://www.viceland.com/int/dd.php?id=1238

  56. Art pog:
    I vote for Cranberry cynic!

    and I would say, “They can take my ice cream cone whey they pry it out of my cold, dead, sticky fingers.”

  57. I have it from a person who knows Kass on a personally competitive basis, that Kass thinks eating an ice cream cone looks like licking pussy.

    No kidding.

  58. Based on that, can I assume that Leo Kass has never actually seen a woman’s genitalia?

  59. Based on that, you can assume that Kass is one twisted fuck.

    Who probably does it in the dark, if he does it at all.

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