Volume 17, Issue 2, 2014
Special Project: Political Theory and Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration
Ileana F. Szymanski
The Metaphysics and Ethics of Food as Activity
The many ways in which we interact with food, e.g., eating, cooking, purchasing, farming, legislating, etc., are intersected by ethics and politics. The terms of our interactions with food are dictated in a significant way by how we understand its metaphysical underpinnings; that is to say, by how we define “food.” When food is understood as nothing more than it becomes easier to dismiss our political and ethical obligations since, after all, food is only a thing. This obscures the others who make our interactions with food possible, and who are affected by our choices and those of our communities. In order to revitalize our engagement with the ethical and political responsibilities that we both inherit and produce in our interactions with food, it is helpful to refocus our understanding of what food actually is. I propose that food is better understood as a transformative . Building on metaphysical theories by Aristotle and Emmanuel Levinas, I explain this new understanding of food, and use examples to show how this view of food enhances our political and ethical responsibilities.