I have read some of Pythagoras' commandments; they are strange. Any idea why he considered that eating beans was a sin?

The book from which I took the data is 'history of western philosophy' by Bertrand Russell, p 50&51 and 74.

  • I don't think he actually called eating beans "sinful".
    – Semaphore
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:33
  • I haven't found anything more than Bertrand Russell's history of western philosophy..@LangLangC
    – user29606
    Mar 7, 2018 at 21:54
  • 3
    It was because farts were thought to be souls. Mar 7, 2018 at 23:30
  • 2
    @santimirandarp "Abstain from beans" doesn't imply it's "sinful" to eat them. Even the eating part is inferred by you; there's a theory that by "beans" Pythagoras meant politics, for instance.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 7, 2018 at 23:47
  • 2
    All those precisions / references in the comments would be better placed in the body of the question (where Russell doesn't even appear).
    – Evargalo
    Mar 8, 2018 at 8:46

1 Answer 1


Beans were anciently used in casting votes by balloting, the white beans for affirmative and the black ones negative. When Pythagoras said to his disciples, "Abstain from beans," he had no reference to them as an article of diet, for he ate them himself. What he did mean, and what his immediate followers already understood, was that they should abstain from the intrigues of politics as being antagonistic to a philosopher's pursuits.

It also couched a warning of the danger of criticising the popular government.

HL Sumner, "The Beans of Pythagoras" The Path – February 1888


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