Philosophy

Quotations concerning pigs,
reflection and meditation

Hamlet pig

Observe, reflect and verify… a process as fit for any study room as farmyard. Beyond all appearances, you’ll find reflection and meditation are as proper for any pig as for any man or woman. And for all three the world will unmask itself, even if some have never been closer to a farmyard than the Piggly Wiggly.


I look at the strangeness in them, and the naturalness they cannot help, in order to find some virtue in the beast in me.
    HOG
Oh you brown bacon machine…
your eyes as soft as eggs,
hog, big as a cannon,
how sweet you lie… moving on the shuttle towards death
just as my mind moves over for its own little death.

Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
U.S. poet. “Bestiary U.S.A.” from 45 Mercy Street (1976).

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
British philosopher and economist. Utilitarianism (1863).

What men call social virtues, good fellowship, is commonly but the virtue of pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Journal entry, 23 Oct. 1852.

If utility were indeed the cause of beauty, then on that principle, the wedge-like snout of a swine, with its tough cartilage at the end, the little sunk eyes, and the whole make of the head, so well adapted to its offices of digging and rooting, would be extremely beautiful.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
British political writer (b. Ireland) and member of the House of Commons. The Sublime and Beautiful (1756).

Perhaps say some, the hog artfully mirrors the pathos of the country itself: huge, maladroit, and always straining toward some elusive dream beneath yet another clod of dirt.

William B. Hedgepeth
U.S. journalist, author and playwright. The Hog Book (1978).

In this world, pigs, as well as men,
   Must dance to fortune’s fiddlings.

Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
British poet and editor. “The Lament of Toby, the Learned Pig” (1820).

The Zen Pig Farmer went out to slop the hogs one day. He poured the slop into the trough, and the pigs came quickly and started eating. He stood and watched. After a bit, one pig looked up at him. Licking slop from its chin, it said, “You know, every day you come here and bring us our food. All we do is lie around and eat; yet you see to all our needs. Why do you do this?”

The Zen Pig Farmer stroked his beard slowly and said, “They call me The Zen Pig Farmer because of what I do.” The pig went back to eating.

A little later the pig looked up again. It said, “Did you ever consider that maybe you are called The Zen Pig Farmer because you are a pig farmer and I am the Zen Pig?”

The farmer said, “Um… no…”

Timothy J. Weber
U.S. computer consultant and student of Zen. Tales of the Zen Pig Farmer, 5 June, 1996.

Little pig, big pig, root hog, or die.

Anonymous
An expression of the certainty that human life depends upon personal exertion. Versions of this maxim exist back to ancient times.

Eternity… is two people and a ham.

Dorothy Rothschild Parker (1893-1967)
U.S. writer and critic.

Imagine every man who is grieved at anything or discontented to be like a pig which is sacrificed and kicks and screams. Like this pig also is he who on his bed in silence laments the bonds in which we are held. And consider that only to the rational animal is it given to follow voluntarily what happens; but simply to follow is a necessity imposed on all.

Marcus Aurelius Antonius (121-180 BC)
Roman Emperor (161-177 BC) and Stoic. Meditations (167 BC).

I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig.
You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

Attributed to George Bernard Shaw (1856-1850)
Irish-born British playwright who was critical of traditional social ideas and institutions. Also a winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for literature, and a founder of the Fabian Society.

Too rigidly we divide mind from body, privileging mind as the human observer that must police the base, slovenly flesh involved in its own piggish desires. Every intellectual hides a partitioned pig whose enjoyments can only be seen through a thick barrier and at a distance.

Richard Shusterman (b. 1949)
A former officer in the Israeli Army, with a Ph.D. in Philosophy from St. John’s College, Oxford University. A House Divided (1997), a commentary on the Haus fü Schweine und Menchen, a work by Rosemarie Trockel and Carsten Hoeller.

Babe illustrates a different kind of success, one in which the “it” (of “Just Do It,” “making it,” “going for it”) is interrogated and challenged… Babe’s world is the one we live in; heroic moments are temporary and connections with others are finally what sustain us. This is a reality we may be inclined to forget as we try to create personal scenarios that will feel like Olympic triumphs and give us the power and “agency” over our bodies and lives that the commercials promise. But we still feel the emotional tug of abandoned dreams of connection and intimacy and relationships that will feed us in the open-hearted way that the Boss feeds little Babe and Babe’s eating feeds him.

Susan Bordo
Professor of Philosophy at the University of Kentucky and feminist philosopher of contemporary life. Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. (1997).

Deep hemorrhagic infarcts — the phrase began fastening its hooks in my head. I had assumed that there could be nothing much wrong with a pig during the months it was being groomed for murder; my confidence in the essential health and endurance of pigs had been strong and deep, particularly in the health of pigs that belonged to me and that were part of my proud scheme. The awakening had been violent and I minded it all the more because I knew that what could be true of my pig could be true also of the rest of my tidy world.

E. B. White (1899-1985)
U.S. author and essayist. “The Death of a Pig”, one of White’s essays in The Atlantic Monthly and collected in Essays of E. B. White (1977).

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A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.