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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Undergraduate Course: Food for Thought: The Ethics of Food Choices (PHIL10163)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe purpose of this course is to consider and discuss some of the ethical challenges related to current food production practices, food consumption, and food policies. The course will cover issues such as (a) the moral status of non-human animals, i.e. whether non-human animals have rights, (b) arguments in favor of adopting vegetarian or vegan diets, (c) environmental and health related costs of food production and the recent focus on local, organic, and "sustainable" foods, (d) food policy choices that have disproportionately negative impacts on minorities and children.
Course description The purpose of this class is to consider and discuss a range of ethical issues broadly related to food, e.g. how food is generally produced, how to make ethical food choices, and what the consequences are of current food policy. In the first half of the class, we will focus on questions relating to non-human animals. For example, do non-human animals have moral rights? Is it permissible to cause harm to non-human animals and, if so, under what circumstances? Should we always seek to reduce animal suffering even if that suffering is caused by other animals in the wild? Are there decisive moral reasons for adopting vegetarian or vegan diets or is it possible to be an ethical omnivore? If one opposes current meat production methods, is it irrational to continue to buy meat products?
In the second half of the class, we will focus on issues generally concerning food policy. For example, how (and in what ways) should poor working conditions for workers in the food industry influence our behavior as consumers? What are the environmental costs of current food production? Should we stick to locally produced and organic foods in order to offset the environmental and health related costs of food production? Do current food policies have a disproportionately negative impact on e.g. children and minorities?
This lectures will be primarily discussion based, so students are expected to have prepared critical questions and to engage in discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Morality and Value (PHIL08015)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Class participation: 10%
Short Writing Assignment 1: 20%
Short Writing Assignment 2: 20%
Final Essay: 50%
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. An understanding of the principal arguments in current philosophical debates about the moral status of non-human animals. An understanding of the arguments for (and against) only buying local, organic and sustainable food products.
  2. A broad understanding of the most prominent general theories in normative ethics, e.g. ethical subjectivism, cultural relativism, ethical egoism, utilitarianism, and deontology, and their bearing on the issues discussed related to food.
  3. A general understanding of environmental, health and societal costs associated with the production various types of meat and dairy.
  4. The ability to succinctly and critically state the main arguments for and against the consumption of meat
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsApplied Ethics,Food,Animal Rights,Vegetarianism/Veganism.
Course organiserDr Thomas Baker
Tel: (0131 6)50 3655
Course secretaryMiss Ann-Marie Cowe
Tel: (0131 6)50 3961
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