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Understanding Eating DisordersConceptual and Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa$
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Simona Giordano

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269747

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0199269742.001.0001

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The Value of Lightness

The Value of Lightness

Chapter:
(p.109) 6 The Value of Lightness
Source:
Understanding Eating Disorders
Author(s):

Simona Giordano (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199269742.003.0007

Lightness and fasting are often associated with positive feelings and with beauty. Arts, music, and literature testify the value that is attached to lightness in Western culture. Lightness and food restriction are also thought to be morally valuable, as an instrument to asceticism and spirituality. This chapter discusses the body-mind split and its repercussions on the value of lightness. It traces the origins of this split in ancient Greece, and looks at how such metaphysics of the human person spreads in the Latin world and in Western religion and philosophy. It shows that food restriction becomes valuable in the light of this metaphysics and of the ethics that follow from it. Food restriction corporealizes self-government, self-discipline, willpower and control, all of which are praised within such an ideology. The body is corrupted and corruptible, and needs to be controlled and transcended. Lightness and slenderness are the emblem of the person’s self-control and discipline. Concomitant denigration of fat reflects the low conception of the body, which is found in all eras in Western culture. Lightness and thinness are normative, moral ideals that reflect the body/mind juxtaposition and the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit or mind.

Keywords:   lightness, moral integrity, spirituality, Christian asceticism, food restriction, body/mind split, Kant, mortification of the flesh, hunger

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