Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

The Philosophy of Food

Edited by David M. Kaplan
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of Food
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95197-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: The Philosophy of Food
    (pp. 1-23)
    David M. Kaplan

    Philosophers have a long but scattered history of analyzing food. Plato famously details an appropriate diet in Book II of theRepublic.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,...

  4. 1 Real Men Have Manners
    (pp. 24-32)
    Roger Scruton

    “Manners makyth man”—the old adage reminds us of an important truth: that people are made, not born, and that they are made by their relation to others. Of course, a human being might exist in a state of nature—savage, speechless, solitary. But he would not have our distinctive form of life; in an important sense, he would not be a person.

    Manners were once described asla petite morale,meaning all those aspects of morality left unspoken by the judges and preachers but without which the preachers would have no one to speak to. The Ten Commandments are...

  5. 2 Down-Home Global Cooking: A Third Option between Cosmopolitanism and Localism
    (pp. 33-51)
    Lisa Heldke

    A snapshot: The municipal council of Lucca, Italy, rules that, “with a view to safeguarding culinary traditions and the authenticity of structure, architecture, culture and history, establishments whose activities can be tracked to different ethnicities won’t be allowed to operate” in the center of the town (quoted in Krause-Jackson). The ban affects all restaurants serving foods not considered a part of the region’s heritage cuisine, which runs to rabbit, salt cod, and beans. A discussion of the ban on the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) e-mail list finds me initially arguingforit, in the interest...

  6. 3 Hunger Is the Best Sauce: The Aesthetics of Food
    (pp. 52-68)
    Kevin W. Sweeney

    We live in a blossoming age of gastronomy. The interest in cuisine, culinary innovation, and regional traditions of cooking has never been greater. Of course, we are under attack by the forces of fast food and industrial mass production, but those threats are opposed by a growing slow food movement that champions flavorful, healthy, and carefully prepared meals. The number of restaurants that offer innovative cuisine keeps expanding. Fine dining is not limited to a few restaurants in major cities and the three-star restaurants in theMichelin Red Guidefor France. Culinary instruction is vigorously supported both by professional institutions...

  7. 4 Smells, Tastes, and Everyday Aesthetics
    (pp. 69-86)
    Emily Brady

    Sniffing and savoring are central to human life and the lives of many other animals. Eating, drinking, and navigating environments and the objects within them depend upon these senses. Yet, despite this importance, the study of smells and tastes is neglected in philosophy, more generally, and in aesthetics too, where one might expect to see proper attention paid.¹ This neglect stems at least in part from the belief that smells and tastes are improper objects of aesthetic judgment, a belief traceable to the philosophical distinction between the higher and lower pleasures. A more general reason arises from the predominance of...

  8. 5 Ethical Gourmandism
    (pp. 87-102)
    Carolyn Korsmeyer

    To this epigraph from a naturalist, who arrived at his grim generalization from the study of spiders, I add a supplement that is lighter though no less macabre: ANew Yorkercartoon by Charles Barsotti depicts a scene in a high-class restaurant. A respectably dressed lion, eyeglasses nestled into his mane and wine glass by his paw, sits at a table bedecked with a linen cloth and a small vase of flowers. Inspecting the menu, he concludes his order to the equally proper lion-waiter with the instruction: “And I’ll have that lightly sedated, please.”¹

    The contrast between gourmet sensibility and...

  9. 6 Two Evils in Food Country: Hunger and Lack of Representation
    (pp. 103-121)
    Michiel Korthals

    Hunger is for nearly all human beings an evil. The fact that a lot of food in the world is not fairly or equally distributed, either because of lack of resources or because of lack of access and management, is widely seen as shameful. The ethical issues around hunger are easy to identify: food is simply not equally and fairly divided, which means that principles of equality and fairness are distorted and that some people are fat and have at least normal bellies and others are extremely thin, undernourished, or even starving. Although there are many different interpretations of the...

  10. 7 Ethics and Genetically Modified Foods
    (pp. 122-139)
    Gary Comstock

    Much of the food consumed in the United States is genetically modified. Genetically modified (GM) food derives from microorganisms, plants, or animals manipulated at the molecular level to have traits that farmers or consumers desire. These foods often have been produced using techniques in which “foreign” genes are inserted into the microorganisms, plants, or animals. Foreign genes are genes taken from sources other than the organism’s natural parents. In other words, genetically modified plants contain genes they would not have contained if researchers had only used traditional plant-breeding methods.

    Some consumer advocates object to GM foods, and sometimes they object...

  11. 8 The Ethics of Food Safety in the Twenty-First Century: Who Keeps the Public Good?
    (pp. 140-160)
    Jeffrey Burkhardt

    A safe and secure food system is a public good: this means that an individual benefiting from a safe and secure food system does not reduce availability of the benefit for others and that no one can be effectively excluded from receiving these benefits (Samuelson 1954). Although individuals and private entities have a role to play in ensuring a safe and secure food system, governments are the primary agents to secure, or “keep,” this public good (Caswell 1998). Identifying food safety as a public good also means that governments have ethical obligations to their citizens to protect, or “keep,” that...

  12. 9 The Myth of Happy Meat
    (pp. 161-168)
    Richard P. Haynes

    While the idea of transferring the happiness of a live animal to its dead body—the meat—may seem absurd, the real message here is that animals raised under certain conditions are happy (well-off, have a high quality of life, have good welfare) and that their premature death does not affect this happiness. This thesis is common to what is often referred to as the “animal welfare movement” as opposed to the “animal rights” or “animal liberation” movement.¹ Animal welfarists, while advocating the reform of current practices in the use of nonhuman animals in research and for food, argue that...

  13. 10 Animal Welfare, Happy Meat, and Veganism as the Moral Baseline
    (pp. 169-189)
    Gary L. Francione

    The dominant position on the matter of animal ethics, at least in the United States and most Western countries, is that although animals have some moral value, they have less moral value than do humans, and, therefore, it is acceptable to use animals for our purposes as long as we treat them “humanely” and do not inflict “unnecessary” suffering on them. This position is known as the “animal welfare” approach to animal ethics. The animal welfare approach is also the position most often promoted by large animal advocacy organizations, including by many that call themselves “animal rights” organizations. These organizations...

  14. 11 Animal Ethics and Food Production in the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 190-213)
    David Fraser

    The use of animals to create human food has been a controversial issue since classical times. In ancient Greece the followers of Pythagoras (born about 580 B.C.) saw strong bonds of kinship between humans and animals, and on this basis they rejected the then-common practice of killing animals for food or religious sacrifice.¹ The philosopher Porphyry (232–309), in a culture where animals were widely used for food production, wrote a book-length treatise arguing that the purity and self-discipline of a vegetarian diet are important for an intellectual life, and that animals deserve moral consideration because they have the capacity...

  15. 12 Nature Politics and the Philosophy of Agriculture
    (pp. 214-232)
    Paul B. Thompson

    The word “environmentalism” is often used to describe a loosely organized social movement that emerged in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, leading to the formation of national parks and wildlife preserves. The most active early period in the United States coincided with the terms of President Theodore Roosevelt. The movement enjoyed a resurgence during the 1970s with the passage of key environmental legislation such as the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It has reemerged in recent times in connection with opposition to globalization and response to climate change. The idea of sustainability...

  16. 13 The Ethics and Sustainability of Aquaculture
    (pp. 233-249)
    Matthias Kaiser

    Seafood isen vogue.Modern consumers think of seafood as a healthy supplement to a traditional meat-based diet. Supermarkets offer frozen seafood of great variety and some even fresh seafood. Good restaurants the world over have a variety of seafood on offer, even if they are not located in a coastal area. Typically, a consumer will associate fishermen and fishmongers as suppliers of this food. Yet, chances are that some if not most of what is on offer in restaurants and supermarkets originates from some form of aquaculture. Does that make a difference? And if so, in what respect?


  17. 14 Scenarios for Food Security
    (pp. 250-268)
    David Castle, Keith Culver and William Hannah

    Food insecurity is a devastating reality for people around the world despite ongoing development and aid programs. There remain those idealists who believe that the global food security problem is no more than a matter food distribution, a perspective based on a misguided extrapolation to global scale of Amartya Sen’s analysis of food distribution in India. Such idealism takes the total caloric content of food produced around the world, divides it by the number of people, and—presto!—food security with appropriate redistribution. This view is, on the face of it, too optimistic, and it is increasingly contradicted by evidence...

  18. 15 Nutritionism and Functional Foods
    (pp. 269-291)
    Gyorgy Scrinis

    From the 1960s through the 1990s, dietary guidelines and nutritional advice were dominated by negative messages regarding the dangers of consuming too much of the wrong types of nutrients and foods. Nutrients were divided into “good” and “bad” types, and the main aim was to reduce consumption of bad nutrients and of the dangerous foods that contained them. Fat in particular was vilified, and low-fat diets were universally promoted as a means of minimizing the risks of a range of chronic diseases. The food industry eventually adapted and responded to these nutritional guidelines with a flood of reduced-fat and reduced-calorie...

  19. 16 In Vitro Meat: What Are the Moral Issues?
    (pp. 292-304)
    Stellan Welin, Julie Gold and Johanna Berlin

    Looking back in human history, there was a time when hunting was the most common method for getting meat to eat. Gradually, agriculture was established and with this the domestication of animals. Hunting was no longer necessary in agricultural areas but could be used as a complementary way of obtaining meat. Of course, in populated and industrialized areas, there are no longer many wild animals to hunt. Where there are big animals, like the moose in Sweden, hunting is strictly regulated to keep the stock sustainable and to hinder overpopulation. Even if it is popular to hunt moose in the...

    (pp. 305-306)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 307-312)