Getting to the bottom of the Swiss fondue paradox – philosophically

Swiss_fondueWe review the history of the philosophy of fondue since Aristotle so as to arrive at the formulation of the paradox of Swiss fondue. Either the wine and the cheese cease to exist (Buridan), but then the fondue is not really a mixture of wine and cheese. Or the wine and the cheese continue to exist. If they do, then either they continue to exist in different places (the chemists), but then a fondue can never be perfectly homogenous (it is a French fondue). Or the wine and the cheese continue to exist in the same place (the Stoïcs), but then wine and cheese have to be, oddly, penetrable and spatially expansible.”

Philosophers Alain de Libera (Professor, Collège de France; Professor Emeritus of History of Medieval Philosophy, University of Geneva) and Olivier Massin (maître assistant at the Philosophy Department of the University of Geneva) examine the Swiss fondue paradox in their paper ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une fondue?’ [in French]. The team note that:

“Aristote attempted to solve this paradox by arguing that the cheese and wine continue to exist, but only potentially in the fondue. [see note below]

– and go on to sketch an alternative answer, with reference to Aristotle’s ‘On Generation and Corruption’. The answer, which they sketch, is:

“The wine and the cheese continue to exist, but only non-spatially in the fondue. Wine and cheese, once mixed, become non-spatial constituents of the fondue, a bit like character traits are non-spatial constituents of persons. The wine and the cheese are in the fondue, but only the fondue is there in the fondue pot.”


[1] Perplexingly, Improbable has not been able to locate any mention of either ‘cheese’ or ‘fondue’ in this renowned version of Aristotle’s ‘Generation and Corruption’, as translated by Professor Harold Henry Joachim and provided online by the University of Adeleide, Australia.

[2] The English translation of the paper’s abstract, as quoted above, is here.

Also see [cheese and paradox related] : Cheese solution to French Paradox?


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