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

Postgraduate Course: Food for Thought: The Ethics of Food Choices MSc (PHIL11163)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all 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.

Shared with undergraduate course Food for Thought: The Ethics of Food Choices (PHIL10163)

For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
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 behaviour 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?

The 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 Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand 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
  2. Understand the principal arguments in current philosophical debates about the moral status of non-human animals.
  3. Understand the arguments for (and against) only buying local, organic and sustainable food products.
Reading List
Alastair Norcross, 'Puppies, Pigs, and People', Philosophical Perspectives (2004)
David Foster Wallace, 'Consider the Lobster' in Consider the Lobster (p.235-254)
Peter Singer, 'Speciesism and Moral Status', Metaphilosophy (2009)
Peter Singer & Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat (p.15-83)
Thomas Nagel, 'Death', Nou's (1970)
Fred Feldman, 'The Enigma of Death' Philosophia, (1992)
Elizabeth Harman, 'The Moral Significance of Animal Pain and Animal Death' in The Oxford Handbook on Ethics and Animals
Peter Singer & Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat (p.241-270)
Michael Pollan, 'The Ethics of Eating Animals' in The Omnivore's Dilemma (ch. 17)
James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (p.16-57, p.76-136) (cultural relativism, subjectivism, ethical egoism, utilitarianism, deontology)
James Rachels, 'The Basic Argument for Vegetarianism'
Tristam McPherson, 'Why I'm a Vegan (and You Should Be One Too)' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.4)
Elizabeth Harman, 'Eating Meat as a Morally Permissible Mistake' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.12)
T. Cuneo, 'Conscientious Omnivorism' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.1)
Ted A. Warfield, 'Eating Dead Animals: Meat Eating, Meat Purchasing, and Proving too Much' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.8).
Tyler Cowen, 'Policing Nature', Environmental Ethics (2003)
Jeff McMahan, 'The Moral Problem of Predation' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.15)
Robert Gottlieb & Anupama Joshi, Food Justice (p.11-39)
Andrew Chignell, 'Can We Really Vote With Our Forks: Opportunism and the Threshold Chicken' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (ch.10)
Peter Singer & Jim Mason, The Ethics of What We Eat (p.83-170)
Anne Barnhill, 'Does Locavorism Keep It Too Simple?' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.13)
Vasile Stanescu, 'Green Eggs and Ham: The Myth of Sustainable Meat and the Danger of the Local' Journal of Critical Animal Studies (2010)
Marion Nestle, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and winning) (p.89-231)
Carol J. Adams, 'The Sexual Politics of Meat' (chap.1-2) (1990), Continuum Books
Christina Van Dyke 'Manly Meat and Gendered Eating: Correcting Imbalance and Seeking Virtue' in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (chap.2)
Additional Information
Course URL See Learn website
Graduate Attributes and Skills Writing skills, interpreting texts, evaluating arguments and theories
KeywordsFood ethics,moral philosophy,animal rights
Course organiserDr Anders Schoubye
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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