Towards a Philosophy of Digestion


Essays on Belly and


Peace of Soul with Plato

Life with Aristotle

Celebration with Philo

Decadency with Seneca

Sex with Hieronymus

Hope with Montaigne

Vital Energy with Helmont

Love with Descartes

Laughter with Kant

Conscience with Nietzsche

Thinking with Wittgenstein

Beauty with Mayr

Teeth with Perls

Breast-feeding with Winnicott

Art of Life with Foucault












Belly and Peace of Soul

To whom do we owe a cock?

World-wide 312 million people are considered obese, 1.7 billion over-weight. Statistically, overweight is associated with the following effects: lower self-esteem, less career opportunities, partnership problems and economic weakening. Should Plato be right in pleading for suppression of dispensable food instincts?

His reflections on medicine are based on a positive attitude towards death, as an exit of the un-destroyable soul from earthly imprisonment. Death appears as a recovery of soul from its disease: the body. In this sense, Plato’s dying teacher Socrates asks for a cock to be sacrificed to Asclepius, a god of medicine and healing to whom offerings were made after recovery from disease, but not after death. This devaluation of the body has consequences for a philosophy of digestion. For Plato, hunger and thirst are an evidence of emptiness in our body. Like the body desires meat and drink, the soul is hungering for know- ledge and wisdom. Learning is a kind of filling up. Also physical processing of meat and drink appears to be a basically joyful process. Indeed that is only half the truth, because for Plato bread, water and anything that contributes to feed the body is less true and less real than the immortal things which feed the soul. The desire of physical food is dubious: Who despises mental food and surrenders to physical pleasure, will stray his whole lifetime between pain and absence of pain, will never taste pure desire nor face the true Beyond. However, the hypothesis of a strict antagonism between body and soul is invalid in case of their harmonic interaction. Accordingly, the question regarding the benefit of food does not only concern the salvation of our soul but also the development of our social situation. What matters is the involvement of well-being in an inter- personal togetherness which intensifies the reunion between body and soul. We owe a cock to those who contribute to solve the worldwide discrepancies between hunger and obesity.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




*427 BC, † 347 BC in Athens, is one of the most influential philosophers of the occidental civilization. Selected works: Apology, Kriton, Protagoras, Phaidros, Phaidon, Politeia, Timaios, Kritias, Laws.




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Philo: Belly and Celebration

Ritual celebrations as a means of moderation

According to Philo, life can be a continuous feast, as long as tongue, stomach and genitals are not abused. The belly is the foundation of lust, and the mother of evil, who puts it in the place of the head, will become his slave.

The belly brings continuous danger to righteous men. The arts of the Greek- roman elite favour the pleasure of the belly and banish music, philosophy and culture from the souls. Philo observes with disgust how exhausted pagans leave their semi-finished meals in order to start drinking. They fill themselves with unblended wine, then pounce on each other between table and bed like wild animals. In contrast, Philo praises the Therapeuts, a group of Jewish hermits, who spend their meals in deep silence and spiritual lectures. Only for „dessert“ do they serve bread and water. Therefore the therapeutic meals give no inducement to indulge the belly. Rather than regress into a dissolute lifestyle, they encourage purification through simplicity and self- control. However, the merit of therapeutic dietary law led to dissention between Hebrews. Philos contemporary Jesus of Nazereth declared that impurity can‘t enter a person through the mouth? „Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?“ Many a person understood this as an invitation to a culinary „anything goes“. Another contemporary, Paul the Apostle, opposed the inclination for sumptuous meals with polemic riposte: „let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.“ Philos challenge against the belly took new verve in the Early Christian resistance against the warship of the belly.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Philo of Alexandria

(* about 15-10 a. C., † after 40 a. C.) tried to mediate between Jewish religion and Greek Philosophy. He tried to defend the interests of the Alexandrian community in meeting with Emperor Caligula in Rome. Questions of good digestions caught his attention in the context of pagan habits that tempted his fellow believers: his own cousin Tiberius Julius Alexander took a leading role in the siege of Jerusalem that led to the destruction of the Temple.




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When Jesus of Nazareth was born, ascetic abstinence was highly appreciated, at least by Philo of Alexandria, and some Greek Philosophers. On the contrary, some early Christians showed tendencies to culinary greed, especially during feasts. That led to sharp critic and debates on the distinction between healthy appetite and sinful fulfilment. We can advocate a life of moderation, practice radical abstinence, burden ourselves with gastric fulfilment or take pleasure in good taste, one thing is certain: EUCARBON®, the coal tablets produced by Trenka, calm down bellies, all around the world, since 1909.






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Seneca: Belly and Decadency

Seneca warns of digestive disorders caused by hedonism.

In Seneca ́s opinion, the art of healing required much less effort back in those, when the physical bodies were strong and the meals were low in calories. According to him, those, who try out this and that bespeak their rotten stomach. Besides that, he is convinced that all culinary treats that don ́t satisfy your hunger, but even increase it, are damaging to the health “Oh, all those unfortunate ones, whose taste buds only find delight in valuable food!“, the philosopher sighs.

A crude mixture of food is hard to digest and the cause for many diseases. The chef who covers peeled Venus shells, thorn oysters, and oysters by means of a layer of urchins and goatfish filets, does actually the job, which is supposed to be done by the stomach. The last straw would be that he manages the business transactions or applies obsolete things.

t ́s not the famine-stricken people, who deserve our pity, but the decadent society, whose dilated stomachs can, as a result of their ravenousness, no longer cope with their tasks. Paleness, trembling nerves, bloated stomachs, pale gall bladder, and grumpy faces characterize the fading of those individuals who suffer from inner rottenness, those ones who have quit appreciating the digestion of their food intake. In fact, they throw up in order to continue eating and eat so as to throw up. As soon as they got rid of the contents of their stuffed guts, they eat snow to take the edge off their sour stomach.

Seneca refuses to include people addicted to “their binge eating behavior“ into the category of the humans, but rather into that of the animals, whereas he distinguishes even some of them and categorizes them to the dead ones. There is nothing that could satisfy cravings that do not result from any shortage of food, but from the craving for it. Every craving, he says, is insatiable, unless it ́s caused by a lack and won ́t bring about the ending but the increase of a craving.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.



Lucius Annaeus Seneca named the Younger

(*1 AD in Corduba, † 65 AD near Rome), was a philosopher, script editor, statesman, and educational theorist (tuition through Imperator Nero) dealt with questions concerning life choices in relation to the stoic tradition. Selected papers: On the happy life; On the tranquility of mind; On the shortness of life; On clemency Letters from a stoic - Lucilium.




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Hieronymus: Belly and Sex

The father of church Hieronymus advocated retraction

At the beginning of the 3rd century, Christian monks started to settle in the Egyptian desert in order to work, pray and experience hunger. The fear of starvation was their constant companion. They struggled hard to conquer the urge for food that led Adam into sin, and they imagined a changed mankind that could rule over the desire for nutrition.

Hieronymus longed for hunger, poverty and effort. The „old fanatic of asceticism“ led frontal attacks on the pleasures of the belly regarding both sexuality and digestion: virginity seemed to be better than marriage, fasting better than the intake of meat. Nothing was more disturbing for the spirit than a full stomach that produced gas in all directions. As the model of a ruler over the belly he described Saint Hilarion of Gaza. Sexual and digestive lust had tempted the hermit, and the devil himself flamed up his desires.

Lovely pictures appeared in the mind of the young man such as a naked woman who was ready to serve him sumptuous meals. Hilarion was sturdy. Later on he received the visit of hungry men, who implored him for rain. Hilarion raised his hands and the dry and sandy earth was fertilized by water that fell from the sky. Now, snakes appeared just about everywhere! Many people were bitten. Hilarion sheltered them and healed their wounds with holy oil.

Danger is hidden inside a hungry belly much like sand in a dry desert. He who stuffs himself with wine, soup, milk, honey and eggs risks his chastity. Only the contempt for gluttony can save virgins and widows from the greedy snakes that are willing to inseminate moist bellies that might even take pleasure in this! Sex and digestion are companions of evil. Hieronymus puts it directly: „What gives pleasure is poison for you!“

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus

(* 347 in Stridon, † 420 in Bethlehem) translated the Old Testament, commented on the Bible, and wrote letters and polemics. According to him, Christians are challenged all the time by their bellies. He was a candidate for the title of Pontifex Maximus, but after his aristocrat pupil Blaesilla starved herself to death, he was forced to leave Rome in order to found monasteries in the desert.




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Montaigne: Belly and Hope

Hope increases joy of life

Montaigne was interested in the development of his soul and mind. And he cared about the situation of his body, too: May we not say that there is nothing in us, during this earthly prison that is purely either corporal or spiritual. Lest the digestive faculties of the stomach should grow idle, it were not amiss once a month to rouse them by excess. What happens in the case of illness?

Due to his problems of digestion and with the hope to reform his sensation of life, Montaigne star- ted in summer 1580 on a bathing trip. In his diary he describes in detail the development of his sickness. There are only short phases of amelioration, but Montaigne succeeds to safe his hope and his joy. For this reason the philosopher is able to continue his fortunate sociability: he ate, partied, bathed and rode from town to town meanwhile he wrote on art, fashion, dance, music, women, architecture, trappings, the price of food and local bath regulations.

A sickness does not always lead into sad perturbation. The unity of body and mind is not based on good health. More important is the capacity to enjoy ones life, a capacity that is particular helpful in the case of bad health. A happy mind strengthens the body!

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

(*28.02.1533 in Saint-Michel-de- Montaigne, +13.09.1592 ibidem), was a politician, philosopher and editor. The sceptical and liberal thinker became famous for his capacity to question his own convictions, for instance in his Essays (1580) and in The Diary of Montaigne‘s Journey to Italy (1581).




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Helmont: Belly and Vital energy

Johan Baptista van Helmont conducts research on the cause and long-term effects of digestive problems.

The soul touches our body like the sun touches the Earth, Van Helmont explains. Distinctions are made between three intertwined aspects, i.e. the sensitive, the rational, and the intellectual aspect. According to him, the soul is the ruler of each and every man, like a king reigns supreme over his servants or a God over his world. This reign revolves around one center point: The duumvirate which is formed from the stomach and spleen. Van Helmont affectionately refers to it as the Princess of Digestion. She is surrounded by the vital energy, which infuses every individual living on Earth. A proof of the immense significance of the digestion process within the time of our physical being on Earth is reflected in the feelings and sensations that can be perceived in the epigastric regions of our bodies.

It is said, that the digestive system of Eva and Adam had worked perfectly fine, before they got stuck in the sin. The mankind was deemed to be immortal, provided that the sovereignty over the digestion hasn ́t been impaired by any disease. However, after the expulsion from Paradise and the shattering of the soul into its million pieces, the digestive system has been limited. Remains of the “average life” have been no longer digestible since then. As an example of such remains, van Helmont refers to the smell of butter in the milk of cows that were fed with garlic.

On another note, van Helmont considers the liver, heart, and various other parts of the body as organs which are linked to the digestive system. According to him, an incomplete digestion is causes the outbreak of diseases that may affect every region of the body. Besides that, it is not only the body that may be affected, as van Helmont considers the duumvirate as the center of the emotional movements. Therefore, he ties emotional disharmony to digestive problems. It ́s an inadequate and incomplete digestion, which is according to him, the cause of all vices and confusion!

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.


Johan Baptista van Helmont

(*12.1.1580 Brussels, †30.12.1644 Vilvoorde) was a Flemish all-round scientist, teacher, and physician. He Vilvoorde) was a Flemish proved various doctrines based on Aristoteles ́ Scholastic philosophy physician. He proved various doctrines wrong. Selection of his works: Ortus Medicinae (1648); Oriatrike, philosophy wrong. Selection of his Or, Physick Refiend (1664); Les Oeuvres (1670), Die Morgenröthe, Aufgang der Artzney-Kunst (1683).


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Descartes: Belly and Love

According to Descartes, stomach and intestines warm up the heart

Descartes considers love to be a pivotal point of connection between spiritual and physiological activities. In his treatise Passions of the Soul he links antic theory on gastric pleasure with the attitude of modern science. In order to keep up the conveyance between head and belly is kept up by „animal spirits”.

The brain sends “animal spirits“ (fr.esprits animaux“, lat. “spiritus animales“) to the stomach and intestines when we think about something we love. Then, the organs of digestion send enriched juices via the blood. This warms up the heart. The heart sends up „animal spirits“ to the brain. The circuit closes up: the original thought of something loved is reinforced by organic activity, the soul feels invited to stay with this loved thing, new „animal spirits“ are activated, and passion is ignited.

According to Descartes, love and digestion are already related when human life starts to develop. The digestion of loved things gives strength, brings nutrition into the blood and preserves warmth in the heart. Food is the first love of the foetus. When we love, this means that we want to digest the object of our love, both in a metaphorical and in a literal sense.

Does this also correspond with people? Do we risk being devoured head over heels if someone really loves us? According to Descartes, love includes a decision to digest the power of the loved person. But the decision doesn‘t lead to cannibalism, because love is always good willing. Whether or not sexual desire is involved, we want our loves to exist under the best circumstances. When we want to possess a loved person - as is usually the case - the person doesn‘t become a means of nutrition. The wish for well being prevents this.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




René Descartes

(* 31. March 1596 in La Haye; † 11. February 1650 in Stockholm) developed his philosophy referring to mathematical methods based on the conscience of ourselves: „Cogito ergo sum“ His theory of „animal spirits“ inspired the explanations of Nobel Price laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller on irrational decisions in economy.




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Kant: Belly and Laughter

Kant ́s recommendations on a well-balanced digestive system: Cheerful company at the table, playful imagination, and laughter from the heart.

As for Kant, the “mighty ruler of the animal nature of man“ is the stomach. Despite the fact, that the root of all thinking can be found in the mental capacity, the process of thinking has always been organic and is thus dependent on the perception of feelings: “Apparently, it ́s the gut that is first affected by all kinds of feelings (whether positive or negative)”.

It is a common fact, that laughing has a particularly positive effect on the stomach, as it enhances the vibration of the muscles associated to it. Gasping for breath while exhaling sets the midriff into a healing motion, and this, in turn, results in an overall improvement of the vitality. Especially loud and hearty laughter is said to have positive effects on the stomach. It has shown that laughter may improve the processes digestive system even more than many a medical recommendation. A good laughter should be part of every abundant meal and preferably consist of three stages: Chatting, discussing, and joking.

In order to further improve the effects of laughter on the digestive process, it is recommended to avoid poring over particular things, as this double activity distracts the stomach from doing its job. If you consider contemplation as essential food for your soul, Kant recommends a differentiation between the thinking activities. The time spent on the “restoration” is supposed o be dedicated to our very own imagination. Applying this principle can be the remedy for a lack of mental vigor (invita Minerva)

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Immanuel Kant

(*22.04.1724 in Königsberg; 12.02.1804 ibidem) and his papers on the epistemology, ethics, and esthetics had a lasting impact on the contemporary philosophy. Selected publications: Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781); Was ist Aufklärung? (1784); Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785); Kritik der praktischen Vernunft (1788); Kritik der Urteilskraft (1790); Anthropologie inpragmatischer Hinsicht (1798).




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Nietzsche: Belly and Consciousness

Digestion takes part in the “supreme reason“

Nietzsche distinguishes the “supreme reason“ (“große Vernunft“) of the physical body from the “little reason” (“kleine Vernunft“) of the conscientious mind. His reflections on the topic digestion are characterized by his remarks concerning the priority of the “supreme prudence” over the intellectual cognition.

Those, who hold their body in contempt, condemn the entire intellectuality to turn into “morbidity“. According to Nietzsche, the awareness is the cause of nothing. This is drawn from the comparison of the digestion process and our emotional attitude toward it. From a rational point of view, we are hardly able to grasp the diversity of the intelligent interaction related to the digestion processes, not to mention, to bring them forth.

As for Nietzsche, a mental obstipation is not less physiologically-related than that caused by other things and most often ascribable to a physical disorder. The better a strong and vital man digests his food, the better he ́s capable of digesting his experiences, good and evil deeds, as well as really tough things. From a mental point of view, our mind is not in the position to grasp  “supreme prudence“ of the physical body from the “little prudence” of the mind. His reflections on the topic digestion are characterized by his remarks concerning the priority of the “supreme prudence” over the intellectual cognition. Those, who hold their body in contempt, condemn the entire intellectuality to turn into “morbidity“.

Even if man would have recourse to a multi-fragmented source of cognition, he wouldn't be able to comprehend the purposes of the digestion process, which is due to the rich diversity of the digestion process that is as multi- faceted as the processes related to all living existence. Those who don ́t agree with the latter, can as well do without the former for what it is.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

(*15.10.1844 in Röcken near Lützen, †25.08.1900 in Weimar) The philologist, philosopher, and writer subjected morals, religion, philosophy, and science to harsh criticism by comparing them with the richness of life. Selected publications: Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872), Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen (1873–1876), Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (1878–1880), Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–1885), Jen- seits von Gut und Böse (1886), Ecce Homo (1908).




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Perls: Belly and Teeth

The significance of dental resistances for the therapeutic practice is linked to digestion.

For psychologists, digestion is of fundamental importance. Already Freud distinguished between oral, anal and genital graduations of infantile personality development. Perls extends this approach to include dental aspects. Thus, the vital quality of hunger and crushing of food finds its way into psychotherapeutic practice.

Hunger and aggression are not easily explainable on a purely sexual basis. Therefore, for Perls, the source of aggression lies neither in anal traits nor in suicidal drive but rather in the development and use of teeth. A cause may be found in the desire for more action of the bowel, the associated hyperacidity and the increased mental metabolism. A dog snapping at a sausage does not follow his genital drive but rather satisfies his simple desire of food. The wolf of Little Red Riding Hood would have eaten up the grandmother to be full rather than to feel desire and love.

Perls recognizes the „right“ attitude towards digestion as a factor for our psychological development beyond childhood. Someone who perceives defaecation as annoying and who constrains his bowels to unquestioning obedience, abuses his Ego function which should ensure a maximum of organic functionality at a minimum energy expenditure. „Introjects“, i.e. indigestive stomach contents, should be avoided. „Good“ dental crushing is helpful in this regard. The physical process goes hand in hand with the psychical. Our personality and our organism are likewisely dependent on supply of digestive food. Perls’ psycho- logical analysis of the dental resistances supports the philosophical claim of good nutrition for body and soul.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Frederick S. Perls

Frederick S. Perls (*8..06.1893 in Berlin; †14.05.1970 in Chicago) psychiatrist and psychotherapist, was, together with Laura Pearls and Paul Goodmann, founder of the Gestalt therapy. Selected publications: Ego, Hunger and Aggression (1942), Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (1951), Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (1968), The Gestalt Approach and Eye Witness to Therapy (1973), In and Out the Garbage Pail (1981).




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Winnicott: Belly and Breast-feeding

Donald W. Winnicott ́s advice on the infant development of the frequency of bowel evacuation.

Donald W. Winnicott ́s advice on the infant development of the frequency of bowel evacuation. Self-awareness is a “common“ challenge in the philosophical realms. It involves questions about our coming-into-being and such that simply boggle our mind with respect to our self, as they relate our early days of existence as an infant. The very first indicators of a developing self are usually closely linked to the development of the digestion ability. What promotes the delightful development of these abilities in infants?

Winnicott suggests to consider breast- feeding as a part of a particular relationship between mother and child. According to him, the delight and pleasure of this relationship is of vital importance in the healthy development of the infant digestion. If everything works out fine, the breast- feeding will be pleasure for the baby. The increased blood circulation promotes the active body regions, a pleasurable warm sensation sets in and the infant feels well. When it comes to the development of the digestive system of infants, there ́s no such thing as attention, stimuli, and tenderness, pediatrician and artist Dimitri Dourdine from Brussels adds. Neither is a baby a digestion tube nor are its intestines a car ́s fuel tank. The baby enjoys the experience of discovering the passage of excrement on its own and should develop its individual frequency of evacuating its bowel in a casual way.

Excessive toilet training may not only result in unnecessary stress regarding the child ́s digestion system but may also affect the pleasure of the parenthood in general. Winnicott explains, that the pleasure felt during the intimate exchange between mother and child may become so intensethat it might be impossible for both to allow said feelings. Stress or disturbance can, however, lead to a feeling of discontent or a fast transit of the food, which in turn might cause obstipation. Yet, if everything takes its normal course, the infant defecation is said to be an “extremely satisfying experience.”

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Donald W. Winnicott

(*7.4.1896 Plymouth, †28.1.1971 London) was a psychoanalyst and pediatrician. He is regarded to be one of the most important representatives of the object relations theory. A selection of publications: Clinical Notes on Disorders of Child-hood (1931); The Child and the Family (1957); Playing and Reality (1971); Deprivation and Delinquency (1984).




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The healthy and happy development of the infant ́s self requires nothing but love, patience, and serenity. But what to do, if changing table trouble affects your stomach?

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Foucault: Belly and Art of Living

Is good digestion is an aspect of a succeeding life?

Life should cause pleasure when we organise our household, care for our health or train our body. Is pleasure a moral value? In his research on antique dietetics Foucault talks about the moral and physic signification of digestion. A “good” digestion is decisive for every diet that helps us to take control over our selves and that can inculcate principles into our soul.

Digestion is a link between us and the world, the temperament and the climate, the body and the seasons. In a regulative economy of pleasure, digestion is a part of our aesthetic existence. When we digest with intelligence and reflection, the transformation of our existence into a work of art can succeed. What happens, if something goes wrong? What if we suffer, when we go beyond the limits of our own ability to enjoy?

Foucault understands our life as an aesthetic creation of our self. The transgression of our own limits becomes desirable, because aesthetic creation is a dynamic procedure. If we want to understand and to control this procedure, we have to experiment it and we have to avoid any determination that falsifies the result beforehand.

The “right” diet is often the wrong one, because it does not provide new information about the needs of our body. If we want to involve the construction of our self, we have to experiment. Our moral feelings don’t have to suffer if we choose the wrong diet. If our digestion needs stabilisation, body exercise and EUCARBON® will help.

Further reading and reference:
Christian Denker, Vom Geist des Bauches, Bielefeld, transcript-Verlag, 2015.




Michel Foucault

(*15.10.1926 Poitiers, +25.06.1984 Paris) studied knowledge as a discoursive and social practice in his Madness and Civilization (1961). Other works: The Birth of the Clinic (1963), The Order of Things (1966), Discipline and Punish (1975), The Will to Knowledge (1976), The Use of Pleasure (1984) and The Care of the Self (1984).




EUCARBON® for Foucault and the art of living!

If we understand life as a great work of art, a time to enjoy the fruits of pleasure, do we not have to fear that we do not find the limits of our capacity to digest?

Since 1909 the enterprise TRENKA takes care for harmonic propositions in the belly and for contemplative pleasure. Party people all over the world rely on the stabilizing effects of EUCARBON®.