Should a philosopher be vegetarian? This question had been famously answered in the affirmative in a classic work on philosophical vegetarianism: On Abstinence from Eating Animals, written by the Neoplatonist Porphyry in the third century AD. This study traces the rekindling of interest in On Abstinence in the Renaissance. It shows that long before the term ‘vegetarianism’ emerged, philosophers, physicians and religious figures discussed the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a meat-free diet. As On Abstinence circulated, via editions and translations, the key questions posed by Porphyry stimulated new debates: is vegetarianism compatible with religious piety? Does a vegetable diet promote or endanger health and longevity? What can be learnt from observing the diets of other, geographically distant populations, such as the vegetarian Brahmans of India, or the cannibals in America? And finally, is it ethically justifiable to eat beings to which sentience and rationality may be attributed?
Cecilia Muratori is Research Fellow at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, Queen Mary University of London, and Tutor in Philosophy at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge.
‘The meticulously researched study of the generation and Renaissance receptions of Porphyry's On Abstinence in Cecilia Muratori's Renaissance Vegetarianism is well worth attention from Romanticists, alongside the Early Modern scholars, Classicists, and Animal Studies scholars that will comprise its main audience... Literal and figurative translations of ethical, philosophical, and dietary ideas upon vegetarianism and veganism connect ancient and Early Modern thought in Muratori's admirable study, with glimpses of Thomas Taylor and Shelley suggesting the future of Porphyry's reception in the Romantic period.’ — Amanda Blake Davis, The Coleridge Bulletin 57, Summer 2021, 141-46
‘Muratori’s work provides us not only with an overview of philosophical thinking on vegetarianism from ancient authors to their reception by Renaissance but also with interesting keys to understand the issues that worried intellectuals of those times. Her analysis gives the main clues of the reception of Porphyry’s work and shows how crucial it was for the evolution of vegetarian thinking that is still strongly present in our days. The rigor of the research and the excellent way the contents are presented with a simple but accurate drafting make this work accessible and fascinating for scholars as well for curious readers.’ — Monica Durán Mañas, Mediterranea 7, 2022 (full text online)
‘The most celebrated work on animals to emerge from ancient philosophy, Porphyry’s On Abstinence from Killing Animals, argues at length against the Stoics that animals have reason or “inner logos,” in part on the basis of their behavior but also on the basis of the claim that some animals can understand and produce language, or “outer logos.” And this was one of those texts that really was recovered and read avidly in the Renaissance. Just how avidly, and with what consequences, is shown by Cecilia Muratori’s Renaissance Vegetarianism, a wide-ranging, fascinating, and frequently entertaining survey of ideas about animals in this period.’ — Peter Adamson, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie Published online, 2023 (full text online)
‘To add to the many merits of Muratori’s accomplishment, the book includes a bibliography that is comprehensive as well as carefully selected. The index of names and subjects is thorough and extremely helpful. The many philosophical discussions never read stiltedly and are always recounted in a thought-provoking and engaging style. Above all, this tour de force on the history of vegetarianism makes the reader reflect on a central question that remains unanswered to this day: can a being that is sentient and rational be legitimately consumed and turned into food?’ — E. Giada Capasso, Modern Language Review 118.3, July 2023, 403-05 (full text online)