Environmental Philosophy

Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2021

Christopher Cohoon
Pages 173-197

Eating the Good: Plumwood’s Trophic Extensionism

Plumwood’s late work articulates two intertwined “historic tasks”: re-situating “non-human life in ethical terms” and “human life in ecological terms.” Her well-known thesis of “weak panpsychism,” an explicit rival to moral extensionism, represents her primary approach to the first task. Her approach to the second task, however, is less conspicuous. My aim is to identify and develop this approach, which, I suggest, mobilizes the fraught idea of human edibility into a certain mimetic and critical mode of extensionism that I call trophic extensionism. Inverting moral extensionist logic, it extends not moral considerability to animals but literal edibility to humans. Plumwood’s trophic extensionism both revitalizes weak panpsychism—re-vealing an unexpected link between food and mind—and generates a bold new conception of food: no longer an ontological category, food becomes an ecological relation defined by epistemological vulnerability.

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