GE 2074
Philosophical Perspectives:
Food and Culture

Syllabus Information


Welcome to the Spring 2015 edition of Philosophical Perspectives. The topic for this quarter's course is Food and Culture, which I have only had the opportunity to consider once before (in the Summer of 2014). I don't want to inflate anyone's hopes, but I've never had as much fun or learned as much in a class at any other point in my fifty years of college teaching and learning as I did last summer.

As the subject of food becomes ever more present in our lives, various aspects of food consumption (growing, obtaining, eating, and even disposing of leftovers) have risen to public consciousness in ways that have probably never occurred before in history. In fact, our historical consciousness about food seems to have increased in proportion to the number of present-day problems appearing on our socio-political, biological, ethical, aesthetic, and economic "radars."

This course is structured somewhat differently from what you may have encountered so far. Instead of lectures and exams, we will talk, write, and share information with one another. And then we'll talk and write more. After a couple of weeks of introductory material which I'll present as visually as possible, we will immediately embark on preparation for the two major graded components of this class: group presentations on topics each group selects, and an individually chosen and prepared creative project of your own design. We will, therefore, be conducting a great deal of research, which should add measurably to your information fluency and documentation skills.

Detailed instructions on all assignments will be posted on appropriate links as soon as I have complete any revisions. I will also discuss them in some detail during class week 1.

As a rule, written assignments will be short (approximately 350-500 words), or will be carefully directed to enable students to deal with them thoughtfully in a short amount of time. Readings are based on philosophically important texts (such as a selection from Book 2 of Plato's Republic) or topically significant web, print, or visual materials--all of which will either be linked to the Weekly Schedule or distributed in class. In order for class to progress successfully, you will be expected to have read through any assigned material before the topic is discussed in class.

In essence, we are not going to talk about philosophy; we are going to do philosophy. This process should allow each of you to develop or enhance a wide range of skills: critical and analytical thinking; written, visual, and oral communication; cooperative and collaborative learning; creative planning; historical understanding. Over the quarter I hope you will also be able to articulate a philosophically grounded moral perspective on food choices.

I expect students to interact respectfully and courteously, because some questions we explore are fraught with conflict: what and how we should eat, the exploitation of the natural world (for good or for ill), and the plight of the hungry throughout the world, etc. And while I respect everyone's right to hold views different from my own, you must support those views with acceptable and relevant reasons, and develop those reasons into cogent arguments. You may be entitled to opinions on any number of things, but unless you can back them up with solid reasons and good research, please keep them to yourself. Doing philosophy requires an open mind and a willingness to put beliefs at risk of change. We will not solve the world's problems in this class, but perhaps we can begin to understand the questions that these problems pose, and to locate pathways toward potential solutions.

Revisions to this website is ongoing, but here's the course syllabus (it's also available on e-Companion): GE 2074 Philosophical Perspectives Syllabus Spring 2015

Almost immediately we will be discussing an alternative whole-class project (with individual or small-group components) in lieu of the individual projects, so please try to make sure you attend class faithfully.

last update: 04.02.15