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Food for the Mind about Food for the Body

You are what you eat, the expression goes, but philosophers have, until recently, given little thought to questions related to food, though our eating has ethical implications, certainly. In this session, we are going to take a philosophical look at various approaches to eating and their ethical consequences. Let’s start with a few definitions.

Omnivore. One who consumes plant foods, meat, and dairy.

Locovore. One who consumes whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) produced locally.

Vegetarian. One who consumes plant foods and dairy (milk, eggs, and products made from these) but not meat.

Vegan. One who consumes plant-based foods but no meat and no dairy.

There are many other possibilities, of course. There are raw foodists, who eat only food that has been prepared without cooking. There are fruitarians, or frugivores, who live only on fruit. There are pescetarians, who eat plant foods, dairy, and fish but not other meat. There are people who live on low-carbohydrate diets, ones who live on so-called “paleolithic” diets consisting of foods that they believed to have been eating by our hunter/gatherer ancestors, people who eat only plant foods that can be harvested without killing the plant, and so on. All these will be open to discussion, though we’ll try to focus on the major groups listed above.

We shall discuss the ethical implications of these various food choices, which include matters related both to

A. direct benefits and harm to ourselves and to other creatures and

B. indirect benefits and harm to ourselves and to other creatures via effects on the environment.

A little task in preparation for our discussion at the next Meetup:

___________________________________

Most Imaginative "Invent an Extraterrestrial" Contest


I've long been a fan of corny classic science fiction: the 1950s and '60s stuff like The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Attack of the 50-foot Woman, the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Forbin Project, and so on

It's amusing to look at the alien extraterrestrials envisioned by those early sci-fi filmmakers. They have arms and legs and heads and speak English and sometimes even sport bouffant hairdos and hotpants. And they have telephones inside the cockpits of their flying saucers--the kind your grandmother used to have, with the rotary dial and the attached handset.

Similarly when L. Ron Hubbard (who wrote bad sci-fi space operas before he went into the religion biz), invented his Scientology story about Xenu the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, he had the dictator dropping H-bombs out of DC-8-like airliners.

In other words, many of those sci-fi auteurs suffered from serious failures of imagination. They couldn't think far beyond their own noses.

For this task, I want you to come up with a description of a sentience that is TRULY alien--obviously highly evolved but RADICALLY different from humans. This is an exercise in stretching your imagination--in trying to envision the generally unenvisionable, to imagine the unimaginable.

What sort of alien would be so truly alien that on encountering this being (singular?), humans would at first (and perhaps for a very long time or forever) have no notion what they were dealing with--that is, that they were dealing with a highly evolved entity?

Put on your sci-fi hat for this one, folks, and at the Meetup, after we've heard everyone's cool ideas, I'll explain what the hell this assignment has to do with our topic, though you will have probably figured that out beforehand. Try to limit your description to a hundred words or less so that we can have time to hear from several of the budding Douglas Adams's among us.

Warm regards to all,

And may the Muse have her way with you!

--------------------------------------------------



P.S. Years ago, I write a grammar and composition textbook series for a state textbook adoption in Texas. The adoption committee asked the publisher to ask me to take all variants of the word imagination of the text, because it is evidently commonly believed by many in Texas that imagination is a code word for some kind of nefariousness because it has the word magi, or sorcerer, as its root.

Heaven forbid that kids actually use their imaginations!

I'm not making that up. Really happened. Bizarre bunch of Homo ignorans. . . .

Bob

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  • Wayne S.

    There was a complaint that discussion degenerated into too much "chit chat". Perhaps a moderator or facilitator or someone from leadership team could gently steer discussion back to topic and make sure that a few folks don"t eat up all the time if there are others who want to participate. My opinion is that presenter did an excellent job with a very controversial, emotionally charged topic.

    November 23, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I was disappointed to not hear discussion about the immorality of total inhumane conditions and handling of animals on factory farms. No suggestions were made on how to address this by those who feel they will continue to eat them no matter what consequences the animals suffer. I suspect some people were uncomfortable with the subject and chose to make light of the topic and/or paint all vegans as religious fanatics. Intellectually, one must know that is not true. To care passionately about alleviating suffering is not religious, but spiritual. I truly hope some present had a consciousness awareness experience.

    November 22, 2011

  • Brent

    W had a great deal of fun, if you're starving for lively debate, satisfy your appetite here!

    November 22, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Very glad to see that this discussion had been postponed, so now I can attend. I will bring a couscous bean salad.

    November 20, 2011

  • Windy A.

    http://youtu.be/cp9MwjW5QX0
    This is the video about milk consumption I was talking about.

    November 18, 2011

  • Brent

    I'll bring cookies, as usual, something decadent...lol

    November 17, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Remember, fellow thinkers, we do potlucks at our gatherings. Please, put here the name of the dish you plan to contribute to the table, so that we don't get any duplicates. I myself will bring stuffing.

    November 17, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    See the thought experiment in preparation for the next meetup, posted as part of the Meetup description, above. Thanks.

    November 14, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ironically, I may have to miss this discussion as I am attending a series of classes at Whole Foods on following and maintaining a vegan diet! Pity, I was looking forward to it. To throw something into the mix, there are those of us who follow this diet primarily for health reasons. Because of this a moral imperative may not necessarily apply.

    October 13, 2011

  • Brent

    On the notions of Regan et al, I would contend that conferring moral status on the basis of animals feeling pain ignores the pain I would feel being forced to eat broccoli - and who are you to say which pain carries more weight? True Vegan arguments aside, there are many, many vegans whose main argument is "I do it, so should you, and if you don't you're a bad person." If a thousand chimpanzees had to die so you could live, would you die in their stead? 10,000? 100,000? How many?

    September 25, 2011

  • Brent

    I can tell this is going to be a fun discussion. I'll save most of it for the meetup, however, I'll just put a couple more thinking points out there. First, let me clarify that it is not the ACTING ethical that makes one self-righteous, but assuming that only those actions are ethical, making a point of letting everyone else know that you are acting that way, and looking down on others not acting that way, that makes one self-righteous - and I never said that was unethical, just ineffective.

    September 25, 2011

  • Brent

    increasing the consumption of meat so vegans can have more people to look down upon?

    September 25, 2011

  • Brent

    No ad hominem intended, Mr. Bob, simply an observation that among many their discussion of dietary choices takes a tone of less objective discourse and more moral superiority, which for someone such as myself has the result of making it far less effective, in fact often has the result of encouraging contrarian behaviors. Perhaps, as part of our discussion, we might include the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of using tactics which produce negative results - unless the desired result is ...

    September 25, 2011

  • Brent

    I think "Fundamentalist Vegan" is more accurate, since it becomes like a religion, in their mind allowing them to comment on other people's dietary choices and giving many a self-righteous attitude that bears more than a little resemblance to religion - as Tool pointed out.

    Of course, honesty forces me to admit there is a similar satisfaction in downing a bacon cheeseburger in front of them as I might get blaspheming in front of a priest, though I have less respect for priests.

    September 25, 2011

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