The Philosophy of Food

The Philosophy of Food

The Philosophy of Food

The Philosophy of Food

Synopsis

This book explores food from a philosophical perspective, bringing together sixteen leading philosophers to consider the most basic questions about food: What is it exactly? What should we eat? How do we know it is safe? How should food be distributed? What is good food? David M. Kaplan's erudite and informative introduction grounds the discussion, showing how philosophers since Plato have taken up questions about food, diet, agriculture, and animals. However, until recently, few have considered food a standard subject for serious philosophical debate. Each of the essays in this book brings in-depth analysis to many contemporary debates in food studies--Slow Food, sustainability, food safety, and politics--and addresses such issues as "happy meat," aquaculture, veganism, and table manners. The result is an extraordinary resource that guides readers to think more clearly and responsibly about what we consume and how we provide for ourselves, and illuminates the reasons why we act as we do.

Excerpt

David M. Kaplan

Philosophers have a long but scattered history of analyzing food. Plato famously details an appropriate diet in Book 11 of the Republic. The Roman Stoics, Epicurus and Seneca, as well as Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, Marx, and Nietzsche, all discuss various aspects of food production and consumption. In the twentieth century, philosophers considered such issues as vegetarianism, agricultural ethics, food rights, biotechnology, and gustatory aesthetics. In the twenty-first century, philosophers continue to address these issues and new ones concerning the globalization of food, the role of technology, and the rights and responsibilities of consumers and producers. Typically, these philosophers call their work “food ethics” or “agricultural ethics.” But I think they sell themselves short. Philosophers do more than treat food as a branch of ethical theory. They also examine how it relates to the fundamental areas of philosophical inquiry: metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, political theory, and, of course, ethics. The phrase “philosophy of food” is more accurate. We might eventually come to think of the philosophy of food as a perfectly ordinary “philosophy of” if more philosophers address food issues and more colleges offer courses on the subject—or at least that is my hope.

But why is this subject—a footnote to Plato just like the rest of the philosophy— not yet fully entrenched as a standard philosophical subject? Why do philosophers only occasionally address questions concerning food? The subject is obviously important and the scholarship on food has real pedigree. So why does “philosophy of food” have a novel ring? Some have argued that food is eschewed because of the perception that it is too physical and transient to deserve serious consideration. Others have argued that food production and preparation have conventionally . . .

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