The Ethics of Eating

PHIL 1440

We all face difficult moral decisions on occasion. This course introduces students to the idea that we face such a decision several times a day in deciding what to eat. How should facts about animal life and death inform this decision? Is the suffering involved in meat, egg, and dairy production really bad enough to make the practices immoral? How do our dietary choices affect local and non-local economies, the environment, and other people generally? Finally, given the deep connections between eating practices and various ethnic, religious and class identities, how can we implement a reasonable food policy for an expanding world population while also respecting these important differences?  The goal of this course is not to teach some preferred set of answers to these questions. Rather, the goal is to give students the tools required to reflect clearly and effectively on the questions themselves. These tools include a working knowledge of the major moral frameworks developed by philosophers, and an understanding of basic empirical issues related to food production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. In addition to readings, lectures, and film screenings, the course will involve trips to some local food-production facilities and farms, visits by experts from Cornell, Ithaca, and elsewhere, and even some actual cooking and eating.

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