On Coffee, Parmenides and Anaxagoras: was the “first cause” coffee?

I’m quite particular when it comes to coffee; friends have lovingly, let’s say, referred to it as “snobbish” behavior. My ideal cup is a premium French roast brewed in a single serving stovetop espresso maker, taken black. No other method than this yields the superb balance of smoky cedar and pine wood chips, dark chocolate and an acidity reminiscent of cherries, over a nutty base that I look for in a cup of joe. But among those who share my love of coffee I am ridiculed for drinking any decaf coffee.

Now I love my caffeine as much as the next person, or more, as the case may be, as I become quite miserable without two cups of over brewed coffee in the morning (see this entry on how I use coffee to stave off existential anxiety and to continue to live inauthentically). The problem is that I have grown fond of the flavor of a cup of coffee that is sludgy in being more than the recommended ratio of water to grounds. For some idea, the coffee scoop I use says that one scoop makes two cups of coffee, but I use six scoops to make two cups of coffee (more than one person has called my coffee “motor oil”). The point it that after 8 at night I can’t have coffee that is that strong without difficulty of falling asleep, but my palate requires a full-bodied cup of coffee. So I turn to decaf coffee, which allows me to have strong flavored and non-watery coffee in the late evening. But I am at the, enviable as it may be, age where decaf coffee is viewed as unhip, being as it is, as one person told me, a bastardization that fifty year olds drink with dessert at dinner parties.

But one wonders what basis there might be for making such a distinction between regular and decaf. After all, if, per Parmenides, what is is, and what is not cannot be, there can be no void, no gap, between entities, as this would entail the existence of what does not exist. There is but one, unchanging plenum. It might seem as if there are two classes of coffee, regular and decaf, but alas there is not, there is but one entity and regular and decaf are naught but illusions.

Or, per Anaxagoras we might think that in the beginning, “all things were together, infinite both in number and in smallness; for the small also was infinite. And when they were all together, nothing was clear and distinct because of their smallness”. At the dawn of existence all was one, such that everything was in everything, except for Nous (also called Mind), which is, “infinite, and self-powerful and mixed with nothing, but it exists alone itself by itself”. Anaxagoras reasons that Nous must have nothing else in it, because it could not have one other thing in it without having all other things in it, and “things mingled with it would prevent it from having power over anything in the same way that it does now that it is alone by itself”. Because Nous has power over everything else it is it that sets the whole in rotation, such that things are separated from the whole by being propelled out by the swift rotation of the whole. Though things are separated from the whole everything is still in everything because Nous casts off things in this certain way because it is a force of Intelligence. So even though Nous created the appearance of regular and decaf coffee, because everything is in everything, there is no actual separation in space or concept between regular and decaf because everything is everything.

Yet a new question presents itself: if Nous is Mind, or Intelligence, how could it have done all of this without regular coffee? It seems the first cause, that which gives power to Nous which was originally thought to be first cause, must actually be regular, strongly brewed, coffee. But if the first cause cannot be mixed with anything else in order to be a force that can act on the whole, it follows that regular coffee cannot be in the plenum. But this of course means that regular coffee does not exist in our world, and so again, there is no distinction between regular and decaf coffee. This gives us reason to be optimistic about the ideal cup of coffee, because surely our coffee is somewhat caffeinated, so if what we think is regular coffee is in fact decaf coffee then that means there is a cup of coffee that is caffeinated beyond comprehension. Perhaps attaining enlightenment is coming to comprehend this cup of coffee in such a way that taps some of that boundless caffeine, and thus provides the cognitive clarity that only coffee provides, enabling enhanced brain functioning through which one can understand the mysteries of existence.


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  1. #1 by bloggingisaresponsibility on November 13, 2014 - 8:32 am


    I sadly mock people who drink decaf, and I shouldn’t. I should just go into a corner and weep quietly for them.

    • #2 by ausomeawestin on November 13, 2014 - 9:14 pm

      Not you too! lol

      I suppose my writing a mock philosophical defense of decaf coffee betrays the fact that I don’t think there are good reasons to drink decaf. Don’t weep for me, for I weep for myself.

  2. #3 by rung2diotimasladder on November 14, 2014 - 10:24 am

    Every time I go to Oklahoma I get to enjoy my buddy’s coffee, which is the closest I’ve ever come to the Platonic idea of nous-empowering coffee. He roasts his own to perfection according to the region, then weighs the beans, then uses a Technivorm to brew (which brews at, according to him, the perfect temperature). It is truly deeevine.

    I’ve worked at many coffee shops throughout the years and when someone ordered a “Skinny decaf latte” we all had a special name for it—”What’s the point?” Soon customers walked in and ordered a “What’s the point?”

    I actually see the point in decaf. It’s like that nacho cheese you pump out on stale chips at the convenience store—sometimes you just gotta have it. So maybe these “foods” should be placed in a special category as an entirely different entity. Decaf is not coffee, it’s something else, relegated to a lower form of being.

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