This is the homepage for PHIL 105 — The Philosophy of Food.

Food is a central part of human life, both in its production and consumption. Food is closely tied to the values that we hold, and the cultural identities that we endorse (e.g. the sorts of things that we eat vs. the sorts of things that they eat). Our choices about food, both as individuals and as a society raise a variety of moral, political, and economic questions. Some of the questions we shall pursue include:

  • What is food? Not everything we eat we can digest. Moreover, some of the things we could eat and digest (such as other people), we don’t. Why not?

  • What are the major economic and political structures governing food production and comsumption in the United States and other western countries? How do these structures impact developing countries?

  • What are the environmental and social consequences of various sorts of eating habits? For example, do food choices contribute to environmental degradation and social injustice?

  • How should we treat the animals we eat? Do we have ethical obligations to treat them in particular ways?

  • In what ways does food connect to religious and cultural identities? To what extent can a society legislate for or against food practices that impinge on such identities?

If you’d like to take a look at the syllabus you can find it here: HTML | PDF

Much of our discussion focusses on the modern industrial food system. For a sense of the scale of such operations you might look at this New York Times Magazine article.