Bioethics - Purdue Lectures in Ethics, Policy, and Science

Dr. David Kaplan: Ethical Food Tastes Better

February 22 @ 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM - Morgan 121

Abstract: The arguments in support of wholesome, environmentally-friendly, and humane foods would be more convincing and more likely to change dietary practices if these foods were as inexpensive and/or tasted better than conventional food.  Although the cost of food might be immune from moral judgment, the taste of food is not.  Moral facts about food should affect how it tastes.  They might not, but they should.  I will argue that ethical food tastes better and anyone who prefers the taste of unethical foods is at best insensitive, at worse irresponsible – and has bad taste! 

Such a strong argument depends on a theory of gustatory aesthetics that is social and contextual in order to account for how moral facts can affect judgments of taste.  Neither an objectivist nor a subjectivist theory of gustatory aesthetics can explain how knowledge influences tastes.  Only a contextualist theory can makes sense of how facts about food that are neither properties of objects nor immediately felt and experienced by subjects can nevertheless affect how things taste.  According to a contextualist theory, information about food should bias how we experience it.  Moral facts are among the relevant background conditions that inform aesthetic judgment.  Knowledge of wholesomeness should make food taste better; knowledge of unwholesomeness should make food taste worse.  If this argument succeeds, then we can bridge food ethics and food aesthetics and, perhaps, help make the case that it is not only better to eat wholesome foods but also tastier.


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