Monthly Archives: March 2014

A recent report in The Independent about the Chocolate Digestive reported as follows on a passage from a United Biscuits email (United Biscuits are responsible for producing the prestige brand of Chocolate Digestive):

“For your information,” a spokesperson wrote, “the biscuits go through a reservoir of chocolate which enrobes them so the chocolate is actually on the bottom of the biscuits and not on the top.”

The Independent reported the story as “serious snack news.” And if the report were substantiated, they would be right. For the biscuits have ordinarily been presented and consumed chocolate-side up since they were first produced in 1925.

However, further reflection reveals that the report goes beyond the evidence in significant ways. Crucially, it does not follow from the fact that chocolate is applied from below that the side to which chocolate is applied is the base. Suppose, for example, that cars had their roofs painted by the same method; that would not lead us to accept that we had been driving them upside down. Additional grounds would be required, therefore, before it could be established that the biscuits are chocolate bottomed rather than topped. Furthermore, it does not follow merely from the decision of United Snacks, or individual employees thereof, that the biscuits are chocolate based. Compare again: were Toyota to claim that their cars are being driven upside down, it would—happily—not make it the case.

However, despite its indecisiveness, the report raises interesting and delicate issues. First, could there be a fact of the matter about the correct orientation of the Chocolate Digestive? Second, if there could be, could we be universally, or near-universally ignorant, of the facts? (The aficionado will recognize that an affirmative answer would sustain a form of epistemicism about correct biscuit orientation.) Third, and related, are Chocolate Digestives handed: that is, could universes differ only in that one universe contains only chocolate-up Digestives, while the other contains only chocolate-down Digestives? (The issues are recognizable related to those about incongruent counterparts that were discussed by Kant in his 1768 essay, ‘Concerning the Ultimate Foundation of the Differentiation of Regions of Space’.)

(For further information about the Digestive biscuit, and Chocolate Digestive, see the Wikipedia entry. The entry cites the following passage from Encounter, volume 50: “A government-appointed group of scientists, the Food Standards Committee, is to study the term “Digestive biscuit”, which has been used since the reign of Queen Victoria. The committee is to decide whether the term should be banned on the ground that it implies that the biscuit eats itself.”)

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