Kainer, John Michael (2017-05). More Please: Food and the Infinity of Desires. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This dissertation might best be described as a discussion and analysis of the tendency towards excess at the heart of modern American culture. In studying excess, the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer--whose writings on the limitless desire of the will had such a profound influence on the writers and thinkers at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century-- is linked to Emile Durkheim's theory, which informs much of this study. Durkheim's conception of anomie is examined using a combination of etymology and hermeneutics culminating in the understanding of anomie as derangement, or, as rules that are lack of rules. To illustrate this tendency in a concrete way, food is employed as a vehicle for discussion. I outline and critique the various definitions of food, and offer my own definition of food as something that sustains life, but does so through the utilization of the collective constituent elements (vitamins, minerals, calories) that naturally occur within a material substance. Defining food holistically and in terms of nature allows me to also identify unnatural foods by employing Durkheim's concept of derangement. I trace the origins of excessive willing in modern American culture back to the Protestant religious doctrines of predestination and the calling, arguing that tendency towards worldly asceticism has been removed--replaced by an insatiable desire to consume more--and resulting in the formation of what I am calling the consumption industry. Recontexualizing Mestrovic's postemotional theory, I contend that the food industry in particular, and the consumption industry in general, rely on prepacked ideas as well as prepacked emotions to sell their foods in modern American society. This includes the consumption industry's research on human biology and neurology--which has led to the production of deranged foods that actually induce hunger in consumers. Finally, the rise of monopoly capitalism is examined in light of Eros' unitive power--highlighted through a comparison of Plato, Freud, and Durkheim-- leading to the conclusion that the modern spirit of capitalism is postemotional Eros - a drive towards greater unity, divided against itself, fueled by recycled emotions and inflamed desires.

publication date

  • August 2017