4 U Blue

July 21, 2013


Blueberries are high in anti-oxidants.

You should consume anti-oxidants because the newspaper says that it is good for you to do so.

The blueberries are “in”. This is the time of the year for you to get enough anti-oxidants into your diet to tide you over for the next twelve months of darkness and despair. So head on down to your local farmer’s market and buy some anti-oxidant rich blueberries this morning at the earliest opportunity, or this afternoon at a somewhat later opportunity, or before the end of the week at the absolute latest opportunity. Anti-oxidants will not hang around waiting for you to decide that it is convenient to go down and get some. Anti-oxidants are nature’s way of saying “He who hesitates is lost.” The Internet says that this proverb goes back to Cato, but does not indicate whether it was Cato the Elder, who expelled the usurers from Sardinia, or Cato the Younger, known for stubbornness. Neither do we know whether Cato, who clearly did resist the machinations of Julius Caesar and Pompey, also resisted oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is known to figure in a number of human disease processes.

The dative is a grammatical case used to indicate to whom or to which something is given. Oxidative would thus be various forms of the dative that are predominantly associated with Western (e.g. European) thought. Something given is colloquially something that may be presumed or taken for granted. In epistemology, it is the indubitable and undeniable experiential substrate of knowledge—the cogito for Rationalists and sense experience for Empiricists. Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989) was famous for his work on “the myth of the given,” making Sellars the grandmaster flash of anti-oxidative philosophy. Unfortunately, history does not record what Sellars thought about blueberries. Many of Sellars students and followers are among the most influential of contemporary philosophers, so however doubtful it is still possible that one or more of them will weigh in below in the comments section to share what they know about Sellars and his taste (or lack thereof) for blueberries.

In a similar vein, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten. We can receive anything from love, for that is a way of receiving it from ourselves; but not from anyone who assumes to bestow.” We also know that Emerson was contemptuous of Henry David Thoreau’s penchant for organizing huckleberry parties. The huckleberry is more widely known as the bilberry, a shrub that grows throughout Europe and in Western North America. It thus appears likely that Thoreau was actually seeking blueberries in his spontaneously organized excursions into the wilder climes surrounding Concord, Massachusetts. From which we may infer at least one disturbing strand of inconsistency in the anti-oxidative musings of Emerson.  Still and all, we rather suspect that however contemptuous he might have been for Thoreau’s enthusiasms, Emerson would not have turned up his nose at Frosted Flakes with fresh blueberries or a blueberry pie.

And neither should you.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University


3 thoughts on “4 U Blue

  1. Happy Birthday!

    You are really confused. “Red” Cato was a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs.

    Off to Andy’s to get a blueberry concrete.. just for the anti-accidents in the berries and the rich nutritional bounty of Andy’s frozen custard.

    A regular reader.


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