March 22, 2004
A WHILE BACK, I mentioned Leon Kass's views on eating ice cream in public (uncivilized, offensive, and animalistic, he says). Now Elisabeth Riba notes that Miss Manners feels otherwise. As I noted earlier, Kass's views on this subject, while not specifically relevant to bioethics, "suggest a more generalized discomfort with the messy, physical side of life" that may explain his views in the bioethics arena. And it's a discomfort that puts him to the right -- if that's the proper characterization -- of Miss Manners, no less.
UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost says that I'm being unfair to Kass by not noting that his objections to eating ice cream in public are religious in nature.
But Kass doesn't say that, and EO's claim is rather thinly sourced. Anyway, I'm not sure it matters. Assume it's true: Does the President's Council on Bioethics gain in credibility if it turns out to be headed by a man who has religious objections to eating ice cream public? Somewhow, I doubt it. And, regardless of whether Kass's views are informed by religious or personal idiosyncrasy, this whole issue seems to call into question Kass's core argument: "The wisdom of repugnance." Kass finds eating ice cream in public repugnant. Hardly anyone else does. Sounds like aesthetics masquerading as moral reasoning to me.