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What Makes Food Good? The Terrain of Food Ethics and the Agrarian Tradition

The potential scope for food ethics extends from questions about diet, health and the safety of foods to broader issues that connect cultural identity to farming methods and native soils.
When Aug 05, 2011
from 1:15 PM to 8:45 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library
Contact Name
Contact Phone 8148635911
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W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics, Michigan State University

Paul B. Thompson received a Ph.D. in philosophy from SUNY Stony Brook in 1980, and has held joint appointments in philosophy and agricultural departments at Texas A&M and Purdue before the joining the faculties of philosophy, agricultural food and resource economics and community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies at Michigan State University in 2003. He is a founding member and former President of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society and has served on advisory boards and committees for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Research Council, Genome Canada, Wageningen Agricultural University and Research Institute in the Netherlands and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. He is a two-time winner of the American Agricultural Economics Association Award for Excellence in Communication, and was a Nobel Conference lecturer at Gustavus Adolphus College in 2010. His most recent book is The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics (Lexington, KY: 2010, The University Press of Kentucky).

"What Makes Food Good? The Terrain of Food Ethics and the Agrarian Tradition"

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The potential scope for food ethics extends from questions about diet, health and the safety of foods to broader issues that connect cultural identity to farming methods and native soils. After reviewing the complex interconnections between such diverse questions, we will take a deeper dive into past philosophical traditions that have seen food and farming as performing unique integrative functions. An agrarian view presumes that unlike other sectors of an economy, food and farming pull together a diverse set of social goals that promote personal and community health while reinforcing virtues and habits of character that are deeply responsive to the preservation of the natural environment. Although aspects of traditional agrarianism were sometimes tied to racist and paternalistic cultures, the pattern of moral thought indicated by an agrarian view remains deeply attractive to many, even in post-industrial societies that provide little formal support for agrarian philosophy. We can take a comprehensive view of food ethics by asking how the value-orientation of an agrarian view can be purged of retrograde elements while retaining its capacity to provide a rich sense of place and community integrity through farming and food practices.

Harold K. Schilling Memorial Lectureship