An Intellectual History Of Cannibalism

Justin E. H. Smith interviews Catalin Avramescu, author of a book on cannibalism:

Philosophy was once the art of asking extreme, dangerous questions. The task of the philosopher is not simply to argue, as much of contemporary academic philosophy would want us to believe, but also to convince, to move, to stir and, eventually, to shake us to the core.

This is the point where the cannibal enters the scene. He asks questions about the identity of the individual when the subject is on the verge of dissolution. He explores the possibility of an ethics without morals. He is the operator of anarchy on the background of social order.

Philosophers have often entered the city under different guises, as foreigners, travelers, cynics, or unbelievers. The cannibal is just a part of a larger and complex history. He is not pleasant to look at. Yet, he opens for us the possibility of thinking anew about our values. To be on the cutting edge of thinking: that was the uncomfortable trade of the philosopher. That, I imagine, is to be a free spirit. It is to find food for thought where no one is looking. Or where everybody has been turned away.

Montaigne's essay on the subject, still shocking in its way, is here.