The Coffee of Philosophy


By: Will Blasingame, Editor


I know what you’re thinking, “The coffee of philosophy? Don’t you mean the philosophy of coffee?” No. I mean the coffee of philosophy, or more specifically, how coffee influenced western philosophy.

About four hundred years ago, coffee was introduced into Italy and began to spread across Europe. Coffee houses sprang up, first in 1645 in Italy and in 1651 in England. In England, coffee houses became a popular place for public intellectual discussions and they even became known as “penny universities” with the penny referring to thf price of a cup of coffee. Soon, coffee replaced beer as the beverage of choice.

The cultural change of the beverage of choice from a depressant (alcohol) to a stimulant (caffeine) has lead some to speculate that coffee is was the cause of the enlightenment. I don’t know about THAT (maybe it was a contributing factor), but coffee was loved among many philosophers, and some of them had interesting ways of consuming coffee.

Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th century philosopher, would take a bag of sugar and poured it into the coffee cup until the pile was higher than the rim. He would then pour the coffee until it it dissolved the pile of sugar.

Voltaire, the famous enlightenment thinker, was said to consume 40-50 cups of a coffee/chocolate mixture each day! He most likely drank a form of turkish coffee that uses rather small cups and a very frothy texture. While that number is probably exaggerated, that is still a lot of coffee.

Voltaire frequented a coffee house in Paris known as Café Procope. This was the same cafe that Rousseau went before the premiere of his last play, Narcisse has even finished (he said that seeing it on stage, he realized how boring it was). Café Procope also hosted such philosophers/founding fathers as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Since this time, coffee and philosophy have worked symbiotically. I guess you could call it, philosOFFEE. (I’m sorry)

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