We are excited to present the second issue of the Public Philosophy Journal, a special issue dedicated to exploring “The New Ethics of Food.” In this issue, you will find essays first developed at the PPJ’s Collaborative Writing Workshop in 2017. That year’s theme was “Collegiality and Public Life,” and the composers have lived that theme in their working together—before, during, and since the workshop—as academics, activists, and community members. Featuring an introduction by guest editors Zachary Piso and Gretel Van Wieren, who also co-facilitated Formative Peer Review for each piece, this is a special issue of the PPJ not only because it focuses on a special topic (Food Ethics), but also because it epitomizes the PPJ’s core values of thick collegiality and diversity, equity, and inclusion. We hope it inspires as much as it models the PPJ’s commitment to producing scholarship shaped by the public.

The New Ethics of Food

Gretel Van Wieren, Zachary Piso

Cultivating a new ethics of food requires the inclusion of diverse voices from well beyond the circle of professional philosophers and ethicists. Further, it requires engaging in reciprocal dialogue with members of the communities for whom these food/ethical issues are living concerns. In other words, a new food ethics must work for everyone, not just professional ethicists.

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A Critical Conversation on Paul B. Thompson's From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone

Zachary Piso, Ray Boisvert, Lisa Heldke, Erin McKenna, Per Sandin, Gretel Van Wieren, Paul B. Thompson

In three “Author Meets Critics” sessions over the course of 2016, food ethicists discussed Paul B. Thompson’s From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone. Science magazine’s review summarizes the book as follows: In From Field to Fork, Paul B. Thompson applies the methods of philosophy and ethics to the choices individuals and societies make about food. The book considers a variety of topics, including: hunger and food insecurity in a land of plenty; the impact of the Green Revolution and genetically modified crops on food production, famine, and the environment; the ethical, health, and environmental rationales for vegetarianism; and the human cost of cheap food. Although Thompson leaves two key players—global food companies and government—out of his analyses, reviewer Nicholas Freudenberg praises the book as a 'sensible and engaging introduction to food ethics.'" Thompson met with critics at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) in February, Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP) in March, and European Society for Agriculture and Food Ethics (EurSafe) in September. This article includes selections from the critiques of the book offered by Ray Boisvert, Lisa Heldke, Erin McKenna, Per Sandin, and Gretel Van Wieren at those sessions, followed by a response from Paul B. Thompson.

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Getting Wasted

Stephen Rachman, Robert Chiles, Gretel Van Wieren, Tiffany Tsantsoulas, Renee Wallace

For Walt Whitman, as for us today, food takes the side of life, nourishment, and nurture. As such, it opposes waste, which is associated with death, pollution, and poison. Yet Whitman connects food and waste, and our culture has scaled up these myriad connections to such an extent that we are paying increasing attention to macroscopic food-waste connections as part of a system. In this paper, we deconstruct commonsensical understandings about food waste from humanistic and experiential perspectives. We provide an overview of two contrasting paradigms of the concept of waste: the industrial and the agrarian. Waste, we propose, is best conceptualized in terms of binary tensions and opposites, as represented by nodes on Griemas’s semiotic square: food/not-food/waste/not-waste. Opposition of the two paradigms, which differ with respect to where organic materials should be located in this typology, exacerbates the tensions between them. We conclude by reflecting upon the characteristics of an “ideal” food waste system.

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Constructing a New Food Ethics

Tiffany Tsantsoulas, Robert Chiles, Stephen Rachman, Gretel Van Wieren, Renee Wallace

This paper examines ways beyond the epistemic limits of our current public narratives of food ethics. We contend that a new food ethics paradigm must transcend the fraught history connecting food waste with discriminatory figurations of race, gender, and class in our social imaginaries in order to build opportunities for representation and agency in hitherto silenced marginalized communities. Thus, we suggest a new food ethics incorporate strategies adapted from standpoint epistemologies and intersectional feminism to construct a multivalent “bottom-up” approach to ethical narratives about food and food waste.

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Taking Back the Narrative

Gretel Van Wieren, Stephen Rachman, Robert Chiles, Tiffany Tsantsoulas

This paper is based on an interview with Renee Wallace, executive director of FoodPLUS Detroit and CEO of Doers Consulting Alliance. The interview was a guided conversation led by three members of the Humanities Without Walls/New Ethics of Food project team as a way to better understand the on-the-ground, lived experiences of community-based composting activists in Detroit. The paper analyzes four themes that emerged from that conversation (systems thinking, consciousness raising, barriers, and change making) to suggest that they are important to consider in educating communities about the significance of food waste composting.

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Flavors of Meaning

Tannya Forcone, Glennon Sweeney

Principled and engaged scholarship must develop not only prepositional knowledge, but also personal and procedural knowledge that can transform policy solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our food systems. We begin by discussing the meaning of food and engagement in the context of understanding complex lived experiences of food environments. We then discuss the significance of engagement in informing transformative policy solutions. Finally, we discuss the value of employing principled civic engagement practices to collaborate with communities to co-create transformative change.

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