Monday, December 09, 2019

The Coffee Must Flow

Do you ever wonder how the small but pervasive details we take for granted, such as foods, subtly shape our lives and our world? I've been thinking about coffee lately. How much is it responsible for the modern world? How much of the modern world is it responsible for?

This page claims that it was discovered in Ethiopia in the 11th century. Wikipedia puts that discovery before the 15th century, and says it was introduced to Europe in the 16th century. Of course that time frame is the rise of the so-called Enlightenment.1

Caffeine is known to boost cognitive function and alertness. So people before the advent of coffee were less alert and functioned on a lower cognitive level. My question is: to what extent is that "lower" level of performance more essential to what it means to be human? To what extent does we humans being little lost dummies put us more in touch with the reality of our status as interdependent social beings, creatures dependent on God? To what extent does the improvement of focus that caffeine enables foster the illusion that we are autonomous masters of our own destiny?

For that matter, which cognitive faculties does caffeine promote? And which, by comparison, does it weaken? And how do these faculties compare with the list of human characteristics that have taken command since the Enlightenment?


1. Cf. Peter Ramus (1515-1572), Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Rene Descartes (1596-1650).