Atheists, quaffing wine

I mentioned two edited collections of articles in recent posts, Louise M. Antony’s Philosophers without Gods and Barry Smith’s Questions of Taste. Having now read them both, let me just very warmly recommend the first, but suggest that you might perhaps buy a moderately decent bottle of Rosso di Montalcino instead of forking out for the second … (in part because you’ll find a summary of some of the papers for free here).

The atheism volume is a serious affair, put together — it seems to me — with considerable tact and finesse, the papers (nearly all worth reading) arranged to draw in but then get under the guard of the sort of intelligent religious reader who might simply put up the shutters against (say) Dawkins’s more direct attack. Let’s hope that there is a cheap paperback in every student bookshop soon.

As to ‘the philosophy of wine’, there is indeed a nice piece by Barry himself but also some mildly daft provocations (Roger Scruton). Let me add a provocation of my own. A certain kind of English obsession with a somehow absolute category of “fine wine” seems to me an odd distortion — a thought prompted more than once in the past at college feasts, where indeed wonderful Bordeaux was served with frankly awful bland food, so the wine had to stand by itself and provide all the interest, making complexity a great virtue, while the food was little more than mere padding. I suspect an Italian, say, would find that imbalance, making the wine stand on its own, most peculiar — and think of excellence in wine as something much more relative to an occasion and a kind of meal and even the company.

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