“Shepherds, …fishers, and hunters have increase of food spontaneously from nature, not from barter or commerce…Domestic animals are for both the use and the food they provide, and most but not all wild animals are for the sake of food and other uses… Therefore, nature, if it produces nothing incomplete or in vain, necessarily has done all these things for the sake of human beings.
Therefore, one natural kind of acquiring [what is needed] is part of household management…”
Aristotle’s notion of the household gives a different perspective on some basic aspects of human life. The whole realm of providing for people’s nutritional needs tended to give form and character to much of the life of a household.
One thing that Aristotle often emphasizes, in all areas of his philosophical reflection, is the beneficent character of the order of nature. “Nature produces nothing incomplete or in vain.” These are powerful words, full of implications. Perhaps this is nowhere more apparent than in how the earth yields up sustenance of various kinds for human life.
Layers of commercial and technological intermediaries in food production, distribution and preparation can hide from us a basic truth: we can feed ourselves only because the earth feeds us. Every kind of food is at root an amazing gift, grounded in mysterious processes well beyond our ken or control—such as the sprouting of seeds.
Anything that reconnects us to the mystery and the gift of food can bring us closer to realizing who we are, and where we stand.
Done well, hunting is such a thing. As all human activities it can be abused and mis-practiced: we can be selfish and careless. But there is precedent almost as old as human life itself, for hunting as a way of stewardship, and a way of acknowledging and receiving the gift of food.
This time of year, when a good number of people turn to some kind of hunting of wild animals, we might think again about the foods we eat, and where they come from, and how best to receive these gifts of life.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Politics is one of his major ethical works.
SPECIAL NOTE: Today I am doing a VIDEO presentation of the Wednesday Quote. My intention is that the video complement the written post. I am very interested in any feedback from you on this. Thank you.
Image: Father and Son Hunting. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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