24.03 | Spring 2017 | Undergraduate

Good Food: Ethics and Politics of Food


Course Meeting Times

Lecture: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitation: 3 sessions / course, 1 hour / session 



Course Description

Our choices about what to eat are expressive of different sorts of value. Some choices are expressive of our aesthetic values: they concern which foods are or are not tasty, appealing, delicious, revolting, etc. Some choices are expressive of our moral values: which foods we are morally permitted to eat; which kinds of food production are permissible, or not, due to forms of labor required, and the environmental impact, or health implications. Some food choices are expressive of our cultural or religious values: which foods are culturally or religiously required or forbidden, which are high- or low-status, etc. All of these sorts of values are tremendously important to the ways we live our lives.

In considering our food choices, we will discuss several specific moral issues:

  • What sorts of moral obligations, if any, do we have toward non-human animals?
  • How are our personal choices e.g., about what to eat, related to global justice?
  • What is the state’s responsibility to provide reliable information to consumers?
  • Are we each individually morally required to take action to reduce global warming?

We’ll look at questions both about individual food choices and about food policy — at questions both about what we should, as individuals, decide to eat, and what actions we, as a society, ought to take in order to influence how our food is grown, processed, marketed, sold and consumed.

Course Objectives

The course is designed to improve students’ ability to

  • Identify moral and political issues and interpret arguments relevant to food choices and policies.
  • Gather and evaluate information relevant to these issues.
  • Become familiar with normative frameworks for making moral decisions, and apply them to food choices and policies.
  • Develop a more sophisticated moral perspective on their own food choices.
  • Communicate information and engage in moral discussions about controversial topics.


Reading, discussing, and writing about the assigned readings are the central activities of this class. There is a reading assignment for each lecture. Some are quite difficult and demand careful study. You should complete the assigned readings before each lecture, as the lecture will often resuppose familiarity with the material in the texts.


Assignment Grade
Recitation 20%
Short Assignments 10%
Papers 1, 2 and 3 60%
Final Communication Project 10%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2017
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments