Hating bodies

Hating bodies is a form of self-hatred and leads to hatred of others, human and (non-human) animal. Hating what you yourself are is already pointless and makes for unhappiness. But it is worse still when we know that projective disgust is almost certain to follow. Body-haters are bound to find some surrogate for the animal, the bodily, in themselves, whether it be a racial group, a gender or sexual group, or the aging, who come in for a tremendous amount of body-hatred all over the world.

One particularly significant reason to avoid the projective form of body-hatred is the way it has distorted and poisoned our relationship to the other animals …

With the fiction of the incorporeal driving a wedge between us and all other animal species, we can all the more nonchalantly treat them as if they were nothing. Since I think our torture and exploitation of other animals is a great moral evil, I would like to point out that things would almost certainly not have reached the present stage of cruelty and neglect but for our lies about who we are — our erroneous view that we are not their fellows and family members, but some spiritual stuff floating around somewhere, in or with a body but essentially not of it.

However. However. One big reason to despise the body remains: it is mortal and vulnerable, it is the very seat of our mortality. All the other things that disgust us are not so much “animal reminders” as “pain-and-death reminders.” What is found ugly and disgusting is, first, pain; and, second, death and decay, and whatever reminds us of them. The fiction of the incorporeal is above all a fiction of (painless) immortality. Socrates’ friends surround him in prison, mourning his imminent demise. You are mistaken, he says cheerfully. The real me will not die, because it is not bodily at all, but an incorporeal substance merely trapped in the body. The students cheer up — and those that do not, including Socrates’s wife, are made to leave the room’.

– Martha C. Nussbaum, ‘On Not Hating the Body’. Liberties 2, no. 2 (2022).

I should very much like to have met Socrates’ wife.