As Brillant-Savarin remarked in 1825 in his classic text Physiologie du Goût, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” Philosophers and political theorists have only recently begun to pay attention to food as a critical domain of human activity and social justice. Too often these discussions treat food as a commodity and eating as a matter of individual choice. Policies that address the global obesity crisis by focusing on individual responsibility and medical interventions ignore the dependency of human agency on a culture of possibilities.The essays collected here address this lack in philosophy and political theory by appreciating food as an origin of human culture and a network of social relations. They show how an approach to the current global obesity epidemic through individual choice deflects the structural change that is necessary to create a culture of healthy eating. Analyzing the contemporary food crises of obesity, malnutrition, environmental degradation, and cultural displacement as global issues of public policy and social justice, these essays display the essential interconnections among issues of social inequity, animal rights, environmental ethics, and cultural identity. They call for new solidarities and new public policies to ensure the sustainable practices necessary to the production and distribution of wholesome and satisfying food.Lévi-Strauss located the origin of ethics in table manners. By learning what and how to eat, humans learned respect for others, for the earth, and for the other forms of life that sustain human existence. Lévi-Strauss fears that in our time this “lesson in humility” coursing throughout the mythologies of “savage peoples” may have been forgotten, so that the world is treated as a thing to be appropriated and the extinction of species and cultures as an inevitable result of the ascendancy of global capital. This volume makes clear the need to change the way we eat, if we are to live on the earth together with what Lévi-Strauss calls “decency and discretion.”
Mary C. Rawlinson is Professor and Chair in the Department of Philosophy at Stony Brook University. She is the author of Just Life: bio-ethics and the future of sexual difference, as well as the editor of the Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics. Rawlinson is the editor of IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics and the co-director of The Irigaray Circle.Caleb Ward is an instructor and doctoral student in Philosophy at Stony Brook University. He previously worked on engaged pedagogy and curriculum design at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. His current focus is on feminist and queer ethics.