This is 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? Is the concept of “food” one that is at least to some extent dependent on our social practices?

  • What are the major economic and political structures governing food production and consumption 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?

The course syllabus is available here: PDF | HTML

Much of our discussion focuses 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 or Gregg Segal’s project Daily Bread.

All course materials are on the course website on Canvas.