The Philosophy of Food

Have you heard about The Philosophy of Food project at the University of North Texas?

David Kaplan’s The Philosophy of Food covers a fascinating range of topics (including: Food metaphysics, Food epistemology, and Food ethics). The questions raised by food metaphysics (food as nature? food as culture? food as spirituality? as aesthetic object?) seems especially interesting to me.

The introduction to The Philosophy of Food certainly piqued my interest:

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

I was going to insert a comment somewhere about food for thought, but, sometimes those kinds of puns just aren’t worth it (and thanks to The Daily Beast for this very interesting find).


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