GE 2074
Philosophical Perspectives:
Food and Culture


Plans for an alternative final project will be discussed during the first two weeks of class; otherwise, what follows applies until further notice.

Grades in this class will be earned on the basis of participation (class attendance, workshops, discussions, etc.), and two major assignments with several components each.

Initial Philosophical Statement

In a short (500-750 words) essay, try to articulate as clearly as possible what you think about the importance of food in human culture. 

Consider the following questions. Apart from the obvious (we need it to stay alive), how does food take on significance for individual lives and cultural institutions?  How does food come to mean something more than simple sustenance?  How do peoples’ cultural lives influence the ways in which they interact with food itself, and with one another?

Compose your essay into topical paragraphs, answering as many of these questions as you like, or posing others that occur to you. A minimum of three paragraphs will be necessary for you to address even one issue, so plan accordingly.

Once you have written the essay, set it aside to “rest.” Revisit it at least a few hours later, after you’ve had a chance to reflect on what you have said. Then return to the work and revise it as necessary.

Please be sure to proofread and edit your work. I’m really good at spotting hasty responses, and because of the contemplative nature of this class, the first thing that lands on your computer will undoubtedly not address the assignment sufficiently.

If you have time, please consider sharing your response with someone else and then discuss it with him or her.  If this leads to another rewrite, great—but take the time to polish your work. The Academic Success Center can be helpful if you need structural or editorial help, but the tutors will not write the paper for you.

All essays for this class must follow the Style Guide. And while this essay will not be graded, it will contribute to your participation score and may provide fodder for later discussions. Give it your best shot, and if your writing skills seem to need work, I can help you build better ones over the quarter.

This essay is due no later than the beginning of class week 3.

Final Project

Each student is responsible for completing a research-based project with a creative focus. Depending on the complexity of the proposed project, students may choose to proceed individually or in small groups (of no more than three), but each project will require the following:

  • A proposal and preliminary bibliography, due week 4. The proposal must describe the parameters of the project and its philosophical focus. The bibliography must include sources suitable for an upper-level humanities course, and must be formatted in current MLA documentation style. Proposals should run about 350-500 words and include information on why the project is appropriate, a plan for how it's to be accomplished, and the creative medium in which it will be expressed. See the assessment rubric for my expectations. Proposals may be re-written once, but rewrites are due no later than week 6.
  • The project itself must focus on a suitable philosophical aspect of the course topic: Food and Culture. We will discuss a variety of possibilities in class, but these could include a visual exploration of food issues, an advertising campaign or PSA, a restaurant or food-service plan designed to address an issue (such as food deserts, malnutrition), an artist's book devoted to some aspect of food in human culture. The creative component requires an artifact, but it can be expressed in a very wide variety of media.
  • An annotated bibliography of sources consulted. The annotations for each entry must describe how it was used, and evaluate the quality and suitability of the source.
  • A concept statement of approximately 1000 words that describes the focus and purpose of the project, the process undertaken to complete it, and assesses the success of the final product.

A research and project development workshop will be held week 3, during which time we will explore the research process (including accessing and evaluating sources) and discuss possible approaches. We will also engage in the essential philosophical practice of asking questions in order to develop meaningful projects.

A project completion workshop will be held week 9, and will be devoted to polishing and preparing a suitable end product. Students can critique one another's work, offer suggestions, and refine their bibliographies before the project is submitted week 10.

A short oral presentation of each project will be held week 10 for graduating students and week 11 for the remainder of the class. Students will describe the philosophical perspective that underlies their work, and briefly outline its process and purpose. This presentation is informal but necessary as a final step in fulfilling the objectives of this course.

Needless to say, participation in the workshops is mandatory, and necessary for the successful completion of the assignment.

Final project timelines:

  • Week 3: project development workshop
  • Week 4: proposal and preliminary bibliography due. (10 points)
  • Week 9: project completion workshop
  • Week 10: project due at the beginning of class; graduating students present their work (30 points)
  • Week 11: presentation of project results (10 points)

Total points available: 50. Assessment rubrics for each component will be distributed in class.

If clarification of any portion of this project is necessary, I will add it here; however, I have tried to minimize specific demands in hopes of generating some creative energy in the class, allowing each student to pursue his or her specific interests and to engage program skills whenever possible.

Group Presentations

As AiDallas students prepare to enter the workforce, faculty are encouraged to locate ways in which students can refine their communication skills. All programs in the college also require the ability to present information effectively, and to work cooperatively. In view of these needs, students in this class will engage in a collaborative project focused on an important question in the study of food and culture.

On the Schedule I have listed three general areas: Food and Ethics, Food and Aesthetics, and Food and Cosmology, but others (including the Future of Food which I've designated for week 9) are also possible, and I'm open to suggestions. I strongly suggest taking a look at the list of Arguments on the UNT Philosophy of Food Project site for ideas.

The presentations will be primarily visual, but must also provoke some discussion of the issues involved among classmates. Presenting groups should prepare a list of discussion questions and submit these with a print of their slides, and a bibliography of the sources they consulted. The presentations themselves must use PowerPoint or another PC compatible application, but must not include large amounts of text on slides. Effective and creative use of the software will factor into assessment.

A workshop devoted to preparing these presentations will be held week 4, and the first group(s) will present week 5. During this workshop, groups (which will be designated week 2) will discuss approaches, media, and strategies for successful engagement in their topic. We will also talk about how to formulate questions that successfully generate discussion.

I strongly suggest that each group elect a team leader from among those students with strong design skills. Each student in each group will be responsible for specific tasks, which will be outlined and discussed in class week 2.

The final component of the group presentation assignment is peer assessment. After each presentation, all students will answer a guided set of questions designed to help them reflect on the information discussed by the presenting group. I will grade the presentations themselves on the basis of a rubric distributed in class, but the peer assessments will be graded separately and according to their own criteria. As always, students will know the parameters well ahead of time. Collectively, these evaluations will earn up to 20 points.

Remember that your evaluations of your peers will be graded by your instructor. It benefits everyone, therefore, if your evaluations are as thoughtful as possible, and answer my questions completely and fairly.

Because of the short time involved between the workshop and the first presentations, week 5 groups will earn 2 bonus points each.

Group presentation timeline:

  • Week 2: groups assigned
  • Week 4: preparation workshop
  • Weeks 5-7: presentations
  • Weeks 5-7: peer evaluations

Total points available: 40 (20 for presentations, 20 for peer evaluations). The evaluation rubric for peer assessment (what I will use to grade your evaluations of your peers' presentations) is available at the link; the template for peer evaluations is linked here.

Here is the schedule for evaluations; remember, however, that if you do not attend a presentation, you may not evaluate it, and forfeit the points. In order to score the maximum number of points, you must review four separate presentations.

A note on collaborative work: these presentations require the active and involved participation of all group members. Any student who fails to meet with or keep in contact with his or her group will forfeit the points earned by the peer evaluation--in addition to losing participation points involved with any missed workshops.


As I mention in the syllabus, this class depends strongly on discussion. Missing class limits the possibilities for philosophical inquiry not only for the missing student(s) but for those present as well. Every student begins with a participation grade of 5 before midterm, and 5 after. For every class missed, .5 points will be deducted; for every late assignment, .5 point per week will be deducted. Students who fail to submit the initial philosophical statement by week 3 will lose a point, and failure to attend workshops will cost .5 points each (on top of the deficit for absence). Perfect attendance and timely submission of assigned work will maintain the ten-point total.

last update: 04.05.15