Philosophy and Food

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Discuss homework answers.

Philosophy and Food:

 Point 1: Branding drives our food preferences more than anything else. Show Lights, Action, Burger! Video:

An emotional connection to branded food. “Gastroporn” phenomenon – show food ads that air on TV, including Hootie and the Blowfish BK commercial and truth in advertising fast food images. Review studies found in Food & Philosophy book in Taste and the Power of Branding.


We know more about nutrition but are eating worse than ever before.


Point 2:  Developing taste – example of how I grew to enjoy coffee, reference to Hume on the standards of taste.


Point 3:  Eating food allows us to understand other cultures. What we eat is almost always tied to our family heritage. America is slowly getting more foreign cuisine that is moving closer and closer to being authentic.


Each group will then take turns cooking their dish to share with everyone else. Upload photos of finished dish to class Flickr account.


While they’re not cooking, they should work together as a group to answer the following questions:


  • Michael Pollan writes that “If nature won’t draw a line around human appetites, then human culture must step in.” Are there certain foods you won’t eat for moral, philosophical, or environmental reasons?
  • Pollan believes that Americans are particularly subject to food fads and anxieties because we have “no strong, stable culinary tradition to guide us.” What are your family or community traditions, if any, and how do they (or the lack of them) affect your relationship with food?
  • Have you ever grown, fished, or hunted your own food? How does the experience of eating it compare to eating something from a grocery store or restaurant?
  • Pollan writes that the pleasures of eating are “deepened by knowing.” Do you agree, or are there some things you’d rather not know about your food?
  • “If I wanted to taste a dish from the end of the earth, I would rather seek it out there than have it brought to me. For the most exquisite dishes always lack a seasoning that cannot be brought with them and that no cook can give them: the air of the climate that produced them …it is only at great expense that some rich man in Paris succeeds in having bad vegetables and bad fruits on his table the whole year round.” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau,“Emile,” in Oeuvres Completes, eds. Bernard Gagnebin and Marcel Raymond [Paris: Bibilioteque de la Pleiade, 1969] 4:679–80.)
    During Rousseau’s time, French cuisine went through a phase in which the new Asian spices from global trade (like saffron, ginger, and passion fruit seeds) were rejected in favor of popular local native herbs—tarragon, basil, and thyme. Can you think of similar culinary trends today?


Homework: Imagine you’ve been captured by scientists while traveling in another country. They want to perform medical experiments on you that will be extremely painful and result in your death, but they tell you these experiments are justified because they will result in life-saving drugs that will benefit thousands in their country. Further they say that this is legal in their society and your outrage over it is just personal opinion. What argument would you make to them that they should not do these experiments on you?


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